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Tuesday, June 3, 2014

STONEWALL JACKSON (Landmark Books #86) by Jonathan Daniels



Published in 1959 by Random House
Illustrated by William Moyers

In the 1950's and 1960's Random House created an extraordinary history series for children called Landmark Books. There were 122 books in the American history series and 63 in the World Landmark series. A very solid description of the series can be found here: link. When I was a kid my little hometown library had what seemed like an endless shelf of these books (I even remember where it was in the library nearly 40 years later). Undoubtedly, these books are part of the reason I am a history teacher.
Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson (1824-1863)

So, when I found one of these volumes, Stonewall Jackson, sitting all by itself at a book sale my heart leapt like I was seeing an old friend that I have not spoken to for years. It had been purged from a school library, which is very sad in my mind because this entire series is excellent.

This short history (184 pages of text and illustrations, including a six page index) is short on Jackson's youth and long on his experiences in the Civil War. It also includes his service in the Mexican War and his famed appointed to the Virginia Military Institute as an instructor. To put it mildly, he was as poor a teacher as he was an excellent officer during the Civil War.

The description of Jackson's famed Valley Campaign is explained in this book as well as I have ever read and better than in most of the books I have read (I have read well more than 100 books on the topic). I found the illustrations to be solid and nothing more, but I remember staring at similar illustrations when I was a kid, coming back to them again and again, trying to absorb what people wore and carried back in those days.

This book is short on causes of the war. Slavery is barely mentioned. States' Rights gets one mention (p. 44) and Virginia seceding because of Lincoln's intent to use the military to keep the Union intact is given a brief mention (p.45). This oversight points to the greatest strength and the greatest weakness of the series. It is long on action and short on analysis. If you are looking for an well-rounded biography of Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, this book will disappoint (thus, the reason for the 4 star rating). However, if you are looking for a solid introduction that kids will want to read and will give a solid foundation for future learning, this book and this series fits the bill, for kids and adults.

Bottom line: I will keep this book in my personal collection and if one of my kids wanted to learn about the war or about Jackson in particular, I would gladly put this book in their little hands as a place to start.

The Landmark series is being re-printed. I do not know if this book is among those that are being re-printed.

Reviewed on June 3, 2014.


1 comment:

  1. I think the Landmark series does appeal to the younger set. Analysis doesn't factor into the picture at this age. Soaking up details does. My boys have enjoyed the Landmark books they've read, and I grab them up at used book sales when I see them (as long as they pass the sniff test).

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