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Book Review - Atlas of the Civil War

Atlas of the Civil War
by Steven E. Woodworth and Kenneth J. Winkle

List Price: $75.00  Hardback: 400 Pages
Publish Date: November 26, 2004

Review by Brian Williams 

The Oxford Atlas of the Civil War is a wonderful coffee table-sized book full (and I mean "full") of maps, charts, illustrations, and photographs.  The numerous maps cover all topics from social history (showing industry, population, wealth, slaves, etc. by state), to political history (showing the elections of 1852, 1856 by state, Missouri Compromise, Kansas-Nebraska Act,  to name a few), to, of course, the maps of the battles themselves.

Opening the book to a random page, one sees the U.S. as of January 1st, 1860 broken down by state on the left side, and the Secession Vote (1860-1861) broken down by county (very telling) followed by a map showing the dates the states seceded on the right side.  Since the book is large, most of the larger maps are a little over 8 inches wide (some are even larger).  So, as someone who loves maps, I love this book.

Don't be mistaken, there is a lot more to this book than just maps -- there is also plenty of narration to go along with the maps.  In addition, period photographs and illustrations are abundant throughout.  Once again choosing a random page in the book, on the 2 open pages, you'll often find 3 battle maps and 1 photograph/illustration.  What I found especially refreshing about the photographs was that I had not seen most of them before.

Now onto to the heart of the book -- battle maps.  The maps of the battles are what makes this book what it is. Major battles and campaigns are covered well - covering both land and naval engagements.  As mentioned above, the maps in the book are abundant in number and most are quite large in size.  Troop movements are chronicled by numbered events found in the legend and the typical movement arrows on the maps.  The maps themselves are wonderfully detailed, colorful, professionally drawn and labelled without too much clutter.  For understanding the battles at a high level, they are more than adequate.  They tend to deal with the corps and division level units and although, brigades are shown, they tend to not be labeled with the brigades' commanders.

The last sections of the book are dedicated to Reconstruction, Post-war politics, and various topics such as sharecropping and segregation.  Here again these topics are dealt with an endless number of maps.  Also, it is great to see a huge map of Virginia battle sites and a 2-page map of the U.S. major battle sites.  Near the very end of the book troop strength for the major battles is given, as is a Chronology, a Glossary of Civil War terms, and the bibliography, and an Index.

Overall, if you're a Civil War enthusiast and especially if you love maps, then this book is for you.  It gives the reader the understanding of not only the climate of the economic/political pre-war situation, but also a strategic and tactical understanding of the battles.  That is, the battles themselves really come to life with the use of these wonderful maps.  And that holds true with every battle covered in this book.  Besides being great for the Civil War enthusiast, this book would be great for a beginner to get an immediate grasp on a battle.  Or even for someone who wants to get a good overview of the battlefield before they visit a battlefield.  It will especially be useful for anyone trying to get a better understanding of the battles and their movements and participants.  You can easily visualize all the battles and their tactical and strategic movements - something that has always been instrumental in my understanding of the war.

Review by Brian Williams (militaryhistoryonline@hotmail.com)



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