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BOOK REVIEWS Travels to Hallowed Ground: A Historian's Journey to the American CivilWar. By Emory M. Thomas. (Columbia, S.C: University of South Carolina Press, 1987. Pp. ix, 155. $19.95 and $9.95.) Those who sup at the table of Civil War history have been of late consuming full course meals, heavy fare on how the North won and the South lost, how misplaced Celtic ardor killed a generation of Southern youth, how such giants as A. P. Hill andJ. E. B. Stuart fought their battles and leaders. Emory Thomas, one of the most accomplished chefs of the "full course meal" (he has written four books), has given us in Travels to Hallowed Ground a light snack, a watercress sandwich of Civil War history . It is a personal, delightful book about a professional historian's visits to the places about which he has written and the memories the sites evoke. Travels is a great deal more than a tour guide of National Park Service historic sites, for Thomas reflects upon the history of the battlesites and the connectiveness of those events to the character of the war and to contemporary Southern culture. One shares his bemusement at whether the cavaliers would have fought for a future of Chevrolets and condos. Nevertheless, Thomas's descriptivenarrative and his reflections show the same high literary quality, keen insight, and patience with the human condition that grace his other books. His vision is gray, and his favorite sites are in the Eastern theater, not surprising for a Virginian who teaches at the University of Georgia. (What about a trip to Andersonville, Emory, where two of my ancestors savored Southern hospitality?) Some of the sights are well-known: Shiloh, Harpers Ferry, Gettysburg, Petersburg, Mobile Bay, Manassas. Others, principally around Richmond and central North Carolina, require close reading of the included maps. However great or small the place, Thomas finds some way to tie the site with the people and issues of the war, most often with just the right touch of elegiac recall. In one of the best pieces in the book, Thomas tells how those who photographed the bloated and disemboweled corpses of the Civil War (and he shows one famous example from the Petersburg campaign) believed that the preserved realism of the horrors of war would truly sicken people into pacificism. He then reflects upon the desperate exhaustion of both armies in Virginia in the spring of 1865, a sort of fatalistic apathy that affected the commanders and troops on both sides. The numbing the soldiers felt was no less possible for civilians, then and now. BOOK REVIEWS173 No matter how many gruesome photographs one examines, one can only be so naked and dead in the abstract. The whole field of American military history is populated with two generations of scholars who began their intellectual interest in their specialty as Civil War buffs. For them—as well as the loyal legion of Civil War devotees— TraveL· to Hallowed Ground is a welcome remembrance of the centrality of this one war to the American historical experience , especially for those Americans whose forebears—likemine—still rest at places like Antietam and Marietta, Georgia. Allan R. Millett The Ohio State University Lincoln in Text and Context: Collected Essays. By Don E. Fehrenbacher . (Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1987. Pp. x, 364. $37.50.) Reading (and re-reading) these essays on Abraham Lincoln and his times, written by Don Fehrenbacher over the past thirty years, is an exercise in nostalgia. In a day of narrow monographs, rampant (and often silly) specialization, and interdisciplinary faddishness, Fehrenbacher remains the master historian at work. Over the years his books and articles have exemplified the classical virtues of the craft—critical weighing of evidence, imaginative interpretation, and narrative drive, all produced in a graceful style. Along with his late colleague David M. Potter, Fehrenbacher has displayed an uncanny ability to creatively reexamine overworked questions and periods. The nineteen essays in this volume also reveal the range of Fehrenbacher 's intellect. From the close reading of texts to thoughtful historiographical pieces, many characteristics of the virtuoso scholar appear. In a field of study still littered with myths and half-truths...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1533-6271
Print ISSN
0009-8078
Pages
pp. 172-173
Launched on MUSE
2012-01-04
Open Access
No
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