Do you have ten pounds of books in your backpack? (And an additional twenty pounds of books in a box in the back of your car?) I had a good laugh at myself last weekend when I was at Manassas Battlefield. After hiking about a mile and hauling the Official Record volume in my backpack and carrying a large packet of detailed maps in my hand, I got to the point that I wanted to explore. I looked at the land, then I compared to the ORs. Of course the book I needed with a little more information to compare was in the back of my car. Ugh!
Why share this silly tale of an unprepared researcher? Because I’ve found another book that you may want to carry with you on your Civil War journeys. Seriously! And it’s only one pound. (I just weighed it.)
Honoring Their Paths: African American Contributions Along The Journey Through Hallowed Ground
Deborah A. Lee, The Journey Through Hallowed Ground Partnership, 2009.
First, it’s a reference book designed to be used while traveling. You don’t have to read this volume cover-to-cover before starting to use it. Just take a look at where you’re headed next and see if there are travel and history notes.
Second, the book keeps its focus very nicely. This is not the book for understanding the entire history of Harpers Ferry (or some other site), but it is a quick guide to Black History at the locations and features specific sites you can visit.
Third, it helps visitors take a new look at familiar places. If you’ve been to Brandy Station a half-dozen times to see it as a cavalry battle site, you still might have missed the location’s ties to Black History. I’ve enjoyed reading about familiar historic sites and learning about the diverse history connected to these places. The book has been a helpful and quick guide to getting a better appreciation of the more complete story.
Ms. Lee has divided the book into detailed sections with an easy-to-use table of contents. You could plan a road trip based around the book, or you can use it for quick reference as military/battlefield studies take you to these locations. Sites and touring history is available for Adams County, Pennsylvania, and numerous counties in Maryland, West Virginia, and Virginia. Not all the history in the book is tied to the Antebellum, Civil War, or Reconstruction and the historical horizons will be expanded, though there is a nice focus on accounts related to the 1850s-1870s.
If you’re seeking ways to explore more diverse stories at historic sites, this is definitely a book to add to your travel resource collection. I’ve enjoyed referencing it and will definitely be looking for a copy to be added permanently to my “in the car for my historic weekend road trips” collection!