The Civil War, A Visual History: Rare Images and Tales of the War Between the States, Paragon Press, 225 pages, $14.95.
This new work by Parragon Publishing is a beautifully laid out book of artwork, sketches, and photographs from the Civil War period. The book is a change from the normal coffee table book, which are quickly becoming a thing of the past. Oddly the book itself has no true author nor does it have a defined text telling a story from start to finish. Instead the editors allowed the illustrations to take the reader from the opening of the Civil War through the days following the Lincoln Assassination.What text there is comes from first hand accounts in letter, diaries, articles from the period; including a letter from sketch artist Alfred Waud. It is an interesting and refreshing way of allowing the men and the images to tell their own tale.
The illustrations themselves are well laid out. The images are not the run of the mill photos that populate most illustrated histories of the war. The images are those that are rarely seen or published. The few more familiar works that appear in the book are worth looking at again because the editors did an outstanding job enlarging and enhancing the quality of the image. One picture, featuring the officers of the Army of the Potomac’s Horse Artillery is so clear that the muzzle markings can actually be read on the 3-Inch Ordnance Rifle.
The crowning jewel of the book is the Confederate Seal Proof Lithograph printed by the King of England’s Master Engraver. Again this image is rarely seen and is a highly detailed image.
The book is not the only work being offered by Parragon. The publisher also has accompanying apps that can be downloaded. The apps include video interviews about rare images of Abraham Lincoln, the Gettysburg battlegrounds, and the history of photography in the Civil War. For myself a more interesting part of the app will be a look at Charles Wellington Reed’s sketchbook from the war. Reed was the bugler for the 9th Massachusetts Battery. At Gettysburg Reed’s battery came under severe attack from Joseph Kershaw’s South Carolina Brigade and William Barksdale’s Mississippi Brigade. Reed’s commanding officer Captain John Bigelow was wounded in the assaults and Reed aided his commander off the field. For his actions at Gettysburg Reed was awarded the Medal of Honor. His sketches should make for an interesting addition to the app.
This book and its accompanying apps would be a great addition for those who think they have seen all there is to see when it comes to the images of this time period, as well as those looking for interesting first hand accounts.