Thursday, December 29, 2011

Civil War Northern Virginia 1861 by William S. Connery

When I began reviewing Civil War books, I realized that I might be faced with giving some of my reads less than a glowing review.  Sadly this is the case with William s. Connery's Civil War in Northern Virginia 1861.

There are several things I liked about the book.  It is obvious that Mr. Connery knows a great deal about the area's involvement in the Civil War.  I found his information on Mount Vernon and the efforts to maintain it fascinating.  I also liked his description of the Battle of Dranesville.  The book has a number of fine photographs that add to the narrative.

I present the following criticisms/suggestions in the hope that the author and publisher might consider a revised second edition.  What I found lacking was a good readable map of Northern Virginia.  The map included is impossible to read.  Yes, I could have opened a Virginia state map, but that kind of defeats the purpose of a self-contained book.  Maps would help me locate the various places described in the book.  A driving tour in an appendix would be a great addition. 

I wish the author had included a time line of events in Northern Virginia during 1861.  This would have provided a reference point for the events and places described. I had trouble finding a unifying format in the book. A county-by-county or a month-by-month framework would have helped immensely.

The most disturbing point of the book was the absence of footnotes.  True there is a bibliography, but the historian/scholar in me wanted to know exactly where these morsels of information came from. For example, I would have liked a reference for the casualty numbers for Ball's Bluff.

It is for the above reasons that we limit our recommendation to the rank of Brigadier General.

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