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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Campaigns of the Civil War: A Photographic History by Walter Geer

A very solid but one-dimensional look at the Civil War

Union General Lewis "Lew" Wallace (1827-1905)

Originally published in 1926
Photographic History edition published in 2009 by Konecky and Konecky.

Walter Geer's title for this book, Campaigns of the Civil War: a Photographic History, certainly describes it - this is a no-frills look at the battle action of the Civil War with little analysis of the political situation that led to the war or influenced the way it was prosecuted.  There is no chapter about the daily life of the typical soldier. There is nothing about home front difficulties or even much about the navies of either side. So, if you are looking for an in-depth history of the war, this is not your book. But, if you are a serious student of the war, especially the land campaigns, this is a very solid history.

The text is strong, but almost all of the original maps are too busy. They are clearly the style of map that was popular when the book was written, but the proliferation of detail makes them difficult to read. They are accurate, perhaps too accurate for their size and black on light gray color scheme.

On the other hand, the addition of more than 150 photographs to this book is a real joy (except for one detailed below). The book is large - each page is nearly the size of a regular piece of paper - and there are multiple pictures that fill or nearly fill an entire page.

Union General W.H.L. "Lew" Wallace (1821-1862)

But, the publisher made on regrettable error in the picture on page 51. The picture is of Union General William H.L. "Lew" Wallace of the 11th Illinois Volunteers who fought and died in the Battle of Shiloh. It is identified with the correct name but states that he was also the author of the famed novel Ben-Hur- the best-selling American novel of the 19th century. The author of Ben-Hur was Lew Wallace, but not that Lew Wallace. Ben-Hur was written by Union General Lewis "Lew" Wallace of the 11th Indiana Volunteers who fought at Shiloh (with controversy) as well but survived. In fact, he survived the war and I nearly stopped reading the book at that point, figuring that I could not trust the book if it had simple mistakes like listing generals as being killed when they were not. But, a little research cleared up the source of the mistake and I am glad to say that I did not find any more mistakes.

I rate this book 4 stars out of 5.

Reviewed on February 11, 2005.

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