The Civil War Monitor Almanac

Civil War Monitor Almanac-cover[Editor’s Note: Our current discussion on “turning points” reminded Steve Davis of something that caught his eye in the recent Civil War Monitor Almanac….]

“We hope that what follows will give our readers something substantial to ponder,” editor Terry Johnston writes in the introduction to the new issue of The Civil War Monitor. It’s actually a “special commemorative issue,” unlike the pub’s usual array of feature articles. In this one, the magazine presents “a book of compelling facts, figures, and expert opinions.” The contents are billed under the title, “Civil War Almanac.” 

 That’s pretty daunting, as there are plenty of “Civil War almanacs,” filled with all kinds of stories, summaries, fact sheets and anecdotes. But this one holds up well as a real keeper. It’s   divided into two parts: 1) “Facts and Figures about the Union and Confederacy” and 2) “An Expert Panel of Historians Offers Their Picks on the War’s Bests and Worsts.” 

Half the magazine goes to “Facts and Figures” on the war’s leaders, battles, weapons, soldiers and other topics. The fun (and usefulness) of an almanac is the handiness of the factual material–as in the big map which shows the number of recruits raised by both sides in each state or territory. Johnston and his staff don’t give sources for these numbers, but what the hey–they just look cool.

Even more fun is Part 2, in which ten authorities offer opinions on a number of subjects. “Most Underrated Commanders?” Kathryn Shively Meier, who teaches at Virginia Commonwealth University, picks Gen. Ben Butler, not for military prowess (duh!), but for helping the cause of emancipation. “Most Overrated?” Kenneth W. Noe of Auburn University chooses Nathan Bedford Forrest–I’ve got a lot of friends who would argue with the professor.

Differing opinions are welcome on “Best Movies,” but I quite agree with Matthew C. Hulbert of Texas A & M about Glory. I was also pleased that the Monitor asked Bob Zeller of the Center for Civil War Photography for his picks as to “Best Photographs.” Among them is George Cook’s photo of Union ironclads firing in Charleston harbor–“the first-ever combat action photograph.” Bob showed us this one recently at the CCWP’s annual symposium.

Turning Points of the War, as chosen by the panel include the fall of Forts Henry and Donelson, which strikes me as a bit early in the war for a “turning point,” but also the fall of Atlanta, with which I and a lot of others will agree. “Greatest Errors by a Commander?” I’ll keep you guessing on that one….

You can see there’s a lot here for just about everyone–which is another trademark of a good almanac. I’m glad I found this one at Barnes & Noble!


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