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Oxford Atlas of the Civil War

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  • Bob Huddleston
    I am a sucker for maps and atlases. Years ago I remember reading about a visitor to Bernard DeVoto s house telling about how he and the visitor spread large
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2004
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      I am a sucker for maps and atlases. Years ago I remember reading about a
      visitor to Bernard DeVoto's house telling about how he and the visitor
      spread large maps out on the living room floor and crawled across them
      tracing something of interest in American History. I have the reprint of the
      Official Record's atlas and any number of other map collections about both
      the Civil War and other aspects of American history. So when I saw the
      History Book Cub was offering a new general atlas of the war I splurged and
      ordered it. After all, Stephen Woodworth and Kenneth Winkle are respected
      scholars of the middle period and McPherson is the dean of Civil War
      historians.

      _The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War_ is big and heavy, of glossy paper. And
      there are some good features in it, especially on the slavery antecedents
      and Reconstruction problems before and after the Civil War.

      However the book is more pictures than maps: think the forty year old
      _American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War_: graphics, contemporary
      illustrations from Civil War era magazines and paintings, with a minimum of
      maps. The all too few battle maps are heavy on color and very light on
      details, with blue and red rectangles for the units and huge arrows for the
      attacks and retreats. Again, think of the American Heritage maps. The
      political and economic maps are usually ones of the United States with
      circle graphs showing the map's topics.

      One of the positive sections concerns the Emancipation Proclamation, with a
      table showing the estimated number of slaves per county in 1862. Using the
      Proclamation and examining the counties under Union control on News Year's
      Day, 1863, this would be the perfect spot to show the number of slaves
      immediately freed, as well as the number excluded, but the table just sits
      there, with no conclusions or analysis.

      All of these can be excused if the book itself were accurate.

      When I opened the volume to the table of contents I was pleased that it
      distributed its sections by chronology, instead of the usual Everything
      Important Happened in Virginia until Gettysburg then suddenly we are back in
      1861 in Missouri. Woodworth and Winkle intersperse Eastern and Western
      battles, including New Mexico's Glorieta Pass, as they occurred, providing a
      good picture of what the Americans of the 'Sixties were hearing and reading
      about.

      But as I scanned the table of contents I discovered that, immediately after
      "Northwest Arkansas," which includes Pea Ridge and Prairie Grove, the reader
      discovers "Grant's First Vicksburg Campaign," which allegedly covers January
      11 to December 29, 1862. However the text starts with "Fall 1862" and there
      is no mention of any earlier activities - which, of course, there could not
      be.

      And the next section is "Fort Henry and Donelson" (and shouldn't that be
      "FortS Henry and Donelson"?). Did the "authors and the writer of the forward
      not look over the text before it went to press?

      The section on the Thirteenth, Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments talks
      about the states that approved and disapproved the amendments, but there is
      no mention of Ohio's failed attempt to withdraw its initial ratification of
      the Fourteenth Amendment.

      And this same section has a map of the United States with the CS and US
      states separately colored. However the map is not about the various
      ratifications of the Civil War amendments - instead it is about the
      Exodusters. An excellent topic - but one that should have been in the
      Reconstruction sections.

      A cursory examination of the battle maps shows that they are too few and too
      brief. One example will suffice: the single map on Chickamauga seems to
      indicate that there was one continuous battle - and does not show why or how
      Thomas got his nickname.

      For a retail price of $75 (cheaper on Amazon as well as the History Book
      Club), I wonder what the intended market could be: grandpa buying a coffee
      table book for the grandchild interested in the Civil War - with grandpa
      having no interest or knowledge in the War?

      Don't waste your money or time on it. Definitely not one for the Christmas
      list!

      Stephen Woodworth and Kenneth J Winkle, _The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War_
      with an introduction and forward by James M. McPherson, Oxford University
      Press 2004 $75


      Take care,

      Bob

      Judy and Bob Huddleston
      10643 Sperry Street
      Northglenn, CO 80234-3612
      303.451.6376 Huddleston.r@...
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