Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection, Neil Kagan & Stephen G. Hyslop (eds.) (Smithsonian 2013): Take one look at Smithsonian Civil War and you will quickly see that the art of bookmaking is alive and well. This handsome publication contains 150 entries on Civil War-era topics ranging from Bleeding Kansas to Abraham Lincoln's assassination. (And that number is not coincidental -- Smithsonian Civil War is intended as a publication in honor of the Sesquicentennial.) Curators have thoughtfully selected over 500 objects from the Smithsonian's collections and built a concise yet informative narrative around them. Some items, such as Alexander Gardner's "A Harvest of Death," will appear very familiar to readers. Others, like Confederate postage stamps or Thaddeus Lowe's binoculars, are somewhat obscure, but just as captivating in their own right. I particularly enjoyed the full-color spreads of original uniforms, weapons, and accouterments, including militia headgear, Confederate belt buckles, side arms, and Zouave jackets. Owning this beautiful coffee table book is like having a private Civil War museum at your fingertips. Thanks to the good people at Smithsonian, we now have another worthwhile souvenir of the Sesquicentennial years.
The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns: An Atlas of the Battles and Movements in the Eastern Theater after Gettysburg, Including Rappahannock Station, Kelly's Ford, and Morton's Ford, July 1863-February 1864, by Bradley M. Gottfried (Savas Beatie 2013): As students of military history know, maps are critical to a full understanding and appreciation of events. Lucky for us, Savas Beatie has published yet another excellent battle and campaign atlas. I already have Gottfried's atlases for First Bull Run, Antietam, and Gettysburg. (Savas Beatie also published a Chickamauga atlas by David Powell.) The decision to focus on Bristoe Station and Mine Run may seem like an odd choice at first glance. But writers have neglected events in the Eastern Theater between Gettysburg and the Overland Campaign for far too long, making this atlas a welcome and much-needed addition to the Civil War literature. Readers of the other atlases will find the format familiar. Gottfried has assembled thirteen map sets, translating into 87 full-page color maps in all. Thirteen maps alone cover the November 27, 1863 fighting at Payne's Farm during the Mine Run Campaign. The page opposite each map describes the corresponding action in detail, along with useful endnotes. I had never spent that much time studying the long interlude before U.S. Grant's appearance in the East. The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns is sure to change all of that.