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Friday, November 23, 2018

THE BLUE and the GRAY: THE CONFLICT BETWEEN NORTH and SOUTH by Martin F. Graham, Richard A. Sauers and George Skoch.

Published in 1997 by Publications International, LTD.

Union General Ambrose Burnside (1824-1881)
At first glance, this is a typical coffee table book about the Civil War. There are tons of them - I ought to know, I own several myself. They are all over-sized, hardback and full of great pictures. Most have lots of details about the battles and the strategies of the war and a little about topics such as the daily life of the soldier, medicine of the time, the use of spies or daily life in camp. This book is set up exactly in the reverse. It is all about those other topics, discusses the overall strategy and offers very little about the specifics of any actual battles. There are literally no battle maps.

But, that doesn't stop this from being a great book. It is a great book precisely because it doesn't treat those other topics as interesting filler - it treats them as topics that can stand alone and are worthy of exploration. 

Every page is colored either blue or gray. If it is a blue page, it discusses something about the Union, if it is gray, it discusses the Confederacy. Almost always, they go back and forth on the same theme, such as: Lincoln's Cabinet vs. Davis's Cabinet; manufacturing; the Union Strategy vs. the Confederate Strategy; the New York Draft Riots vs. the Richmond Bread Riots; Prison Camps; Uniforms; Northern Weapons Technology vs. Southern Weapons Technology; Newspapers on both sides; Artists on both sides; the two First Ladies; Spies; and how Reconstruction affected both sides. 

I particularly enjoyed the story of the Memphis Appeal, a successful newspaper that was forced to flee (printing press and all) from from advancing Union troops who wanted to shut it down. It fled from Memphis to Grenada, Mississippi to Jackson, Mississippi and then on to Atlanta. They fled to Montgomery, Alabama and were finally caught , after nearly three years of flight, in Columbus, Georgia after the war was over. The Union General the editor had a drink and within 6 months the paper was once again publishing in Memphis (with that same much-traveled press). 

I found this to be an exceptionally balanced and well-written collection. It is an excellent choice to give to a student of the Civil War or to keep in a classroom as a resource. Really, the only problem I saw was on a general map on page 111. My adopted hometown of Indianapolis is placed about 50 miles too far to the south.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5. It can be found on Amazon.com here: THE BLUE and the GRAY: THE CONFLICT BETWEEN NORTH and SOUTH.

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