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Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Curiosities of the Civil War: Strange Stories, Infamous Characters, and Bizarre Events by Webb Garrison

Too scattered for this student of the Civil War.

Webb Garrison's Curiosities of the Civil War: Strange Stories, Infamous Characters, and Bizarre Events is a well-researched , hefty book that does deliver what it promises - a collection of odd things about the Civil War.

I read a lot of history and it seems to me that there are two main ways to organize a book about history. You can go with the more traditional timeline approach - tell the story in the order that it happened (narrative history). Or, you can go with themes - study the themes of the history as the writer sees them. For example, a Civil War historian can look into the evolution of military technology and techniques or focus on civil rights in the North and the South. Most historians try for a combination of the two and pick several themes and follow them as they tell a narrative history.

John Wilkes Booth (1838-1865)
 Curiosities of the Civil War goes with the less popular "bathroom reader" style. It is literally a collection of facts, interesting as most of them are, with only the barest of themes to hold them all together (for example, the theme "Supporting Members of the Cast" consists of several chapters about non-famous Civil War personalities such as John Wilkes Booth's one-eyed horse (and nearly everyone else's horse), soldiers, wives and various weird animals that became regimental pets.

For me, the randomness was too much. I like a story to be told as I am learning my odd and interesting facts. This style just could not hold my interest for more than two or three pages at a time.

This is not a book for the Civil War novice - this book will teach you nothing but a series of facts with no analysis, no interconnecting themes, no narrative (It does, however, have a very nice index). If you are looking for a book to pick up, read a couple of pages and then put back down, this is it. Otherwise, well, find something else.

I reviewed this book in conjunction with Thomas Nelson's BookSneeze program. I was not compensated for this review. The opinions expressed are mine.

I rate this book 3 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Curiosities of the Civil War

This book was reviewed on March 9, 2011.

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