4.9.06

ABOVE OUR POOR POWER TO ADD OR DETRACT. Civil War novelist Jeff Shaara has written Civil War Battlefields: Discovering America's Hallowed Ground, which I am pleased to recommend to Civil War historians and casual tourists alike in this Book Review No. 28. The book combines capsule sketches of twelve battles with his own interpretation of the significance of events, and suggestions to the visitor. I have no evidence that he's getting a percentage each time a visitor hires a National Park Service guide, which is his advice to visitors.

Families with pre-teens might do well to entrust the research to their kids. Mr Shaara remarks favorably on his observations of "children who already know impressive details of the history of [Gettysburg], some leading their parents on a tour of their own, the child as historian." Guilty as charged, the same year he was first there!

His selection of battlefield parks to visit: Shiloh, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga (which includes Lookout Mountain and Missionary Ridge), The Wilderness and Spotsylvania, New Market, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg (including the Rebel withdrawal to Appomattox.) He offers a mild apology for leaving out a few sites, which is inevitable in any tractable-sized book. I'd only note that a student of the Mississippi and Tennessee Rivers campaigns visit Belmont and Columbus, perhaps in preference to Fort Donelson. Shiloh is a must. Do take the time to walk the U.S. position in the sunken road, then walk the Rebel position facing it, where the greatest concentration of artillery assembled to that time was aimed at that road. Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, The Wilderness, and Spotsylvania are part of the same park site, and it is easy enough to visit those sites in the order they were fought over a day or two.

One gripe: the battle maps show insufficient geographical detail for my taste, and a bit more subtlety in the halftones to distinguish the units (or perhaps the official military unit symbols) would help.

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