Oxford Atlas of the Civil War
- 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
_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
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
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
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
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
Judy and Bob Huddleston
10643 Sperry Street
Northglenn, CO 80234-3612