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Battlefields of Honor: American Civil War Reenactors Hardcover – September 18, 2012

4.6 out of 5 stars 11 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Elson's images are genuinely beautiful. The feel of authenticity is never less than impressive — Amateur Photographer

Fresh and illuminating photography and insightful and engaging text — James Lighthizer, President Civil War Trust, Washington D.C

Captures the drama and pageantry of restaging battles — Huffington Post

Mark Elson's expressive images, themselves evoking the look and style of nineteenth-century photographs, capture the attention to detail that goes into such re-enactments — Sir Read A Lot Reviews Books

If not for the title of the book, I would have thought I was gazing into the richly colored past, such are the quality and beauty of the photographs … simply stunning — AmoXcalli

About the Author

MARK ELSON is a Los Angeles-based photographer and film-maker who specializes in wet-plate processes.

JEANNINE STEIN has been a journalist for more than 20 years, and has written for major daily newspapers and magazines. She is also the author of two books on book arts.

JAMES LIGHTHIZER is President of the Civil War Trust.

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Merrell Publishers (September 18, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 185894578X
  • ISBN-13: 978-1858945781
  • Product Dimensions: 10.5 x 8.6 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,561,294 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Robert Mosher on December 11, 2013
Format: Hardcover
As a reenactor or living historian of the American Civil War since 2000, my first reaction upon seeing this work on the bookstore shelf was skepticism. I have seen and a read other volumes presenting images of modern reenactors and too frequently found the images presented not to actually be historically authentic. The books that present reenactors and living historians reflect the full spectrum of that community, which at its fringes includes both `civil war theme campers' (a label often used for those who adopt a few accoutrements and little of the reality of civil war life) and `stitch Nazis' at the other extreme (those who harp upon the physical appearance of their fellow reenactors rather than offering encouragement and sharing knowledge).

This book, however, is a snapshot history of 21st Century reenactors of the American Civil War. The authors focus upon the reenactors and the experience of reenactment and living history presentations in the United States, Britain, and Germany. While the real value here is in the many great images presented, the authors examine the motivations and experiences of the reenactors themselves. Most of the 175 pages of the book feature multiple photographs of reenactors and reenactments, some in color, some in sepia tones, and modern images captured using wet plate cameras based upon the technology commonly used during the Civil War. However, what the authors are presenting here is not a recreation of the war and wartime experience - but a portrayal of the modern activity of reenacting and living history in a number of its forms and manifestations. The reenactors appearing in this collection of images include numerous quality portrayals.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
A very atmospheric book. While many of the photos are clearly modern, some are incredibly convincing & could almost pass muster as having been taken during the conflict. All the photographs are of excellent quality & bear up well to frequent scrutiny. Clearly a lot of effort has gone into getting the feel of mid nineteenth century photography & the result is highly successful. One of the most enjoyable Civil War books I have seen. Visually fantastic. I love the book.
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Format: Hardcover
Text by a Los Angeles-based journalist gives an inside view of Civil War enactments which enhances the reader's appreciation of them, although they are magnetic enough on their own with their realistic uniforms and gear and the effort the participants put into them. While a Los Angeles-based photographer and filmmaker specializing in wet-plate photography, the main process during the time of the Civil War, has created many photos for seeing the uniforms and details of them and other Civil War articles.

As the reader learns, there are two kinds of enactments--public, which are usually advertised, and others known as "immersions" where participants go out to unpopulated, relatively remote areas for days to recreate the daily life and combat of Civil War soldiers as closely as possible. Civil War enactments actually started during the Civil War as recruitment aids. The scale, location, and degree of authenticity of reenactments can vary widely--from small groups to small armies sometimes including cavalry; from local parks to actual Civil War battlefields; from use of store-bought imitation clothing made of synthetics to uniforms and weapons from the Civil War. Though describing the variety of reenactments, the book's interest is mostly authentic reenactments and immersions replicating Civil War military units with officers leading and participants using weapons and equipment from the Civil War or the era as much as possible. To replicate the experience of the War as much as possible for the enjoyment of the participants, other figures such as wives, surgeons, and reporters and at times famous generals and occasionally Abraham Lincoln himself are represented with clothing, mannerisms, and actions to match the circumstances.
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Format: Hardcover
The American Civil War continues to fascinate people all over the world, 150 years after its end. The most enthusiastic students of the war are the reenactors, not only in the United States but in England, France, Italy and other European countries.

The reenactors include black and white, men and women. They step out of their modern lives and into the past, often paying painstaking attention to the details of dress, mannerisms, and speech.

In Battlefields of Honor, Mark Elson provides amazingly authentic-looking photos of reenactments and reenactors. Often he uses cameras which were specially built and uses period lenses to create wet plate photographs, which is the way authentic Civil War-era photographs were made. The results are often misty, ghostly, and very fitting to these trips into the imagined past.

Of course, this is a cleaned-up version of history, with no real hunger, blood, and fear of death. Nevertheless, the reenactments and these photos bring us closer to history, and you will learn as much here about the real Civil War as you will about the reenactors.

Elson has provided not only incredibly interesting photographs, but a unique way of looking at history as well in this highly-recommended book for history buffs and photography fans alike.
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