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The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference Hardcover – September 3, 2002

4.7 out of 5 stars 22 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

For a broader crash course in Civil War history, the Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference offers a lucid summary of political rifts that led up to the war, extensive chapters on battlefields and the home front, state-by-state details about the armies and much more. Edited by LOC writer/editor Margaret E. Wagner, University of Virginia history professor Gary W. Gallagher (Lee and His Army in Confederate History) and University of Tulsa College of Law professor Paul Finkelman (An Imperfect Union), the book also has a chapters on "Civil War in Literature and the Arts" and "Studying the War: Research and Preservation," as well as bibliographies, filmographies and lists of other resources and organizations. (Sept. 13)
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

This work's highly credentialed editors and contributors were able to draw on the vast and rich Civil War resources of the Library of Congress, which include unpublished letters from soldiers and nurses, Union and Confederate maps, speeches by Frederick Douglass, photographs by Matthew Brady, and well over 50,000 published books and pamphlets. The resulting work is not arranged alphabetically; instead, the 13 chapters cover broad topics or themes, including military intelligence, medicine, prisoners of war, wartime politics, the home front, war on the water, battles and battlefields, and weaponry. Additionally, topics appear here that are not usually detailed in overviews of the Civil War, such as antebellum America, the Civil War in literature and the arts, researching the war, preservation, and Reconstruction, giving the actual years of conflict a broader context. Selected sources end each chapter. Although the book can be read as a narrative, the identification and location of specific information can be easily found through the index, the detailed subheadings in the table of contents, or the extensive cross references within the articles. Time lines in the opening chapter and elsewhere guide readers through the era's defining events. The eminently browsable text is profusely illustrated with charts, photographs, maps, drawings, and portraits. As a bonus, leading historian James M. McPherson provides the foreword. This resource is certain to be the definitive one-volume Civil War encyclopedia. Highly recommended for public, high school, and academic libraries. Kathleen M. Conley, Illinois State Univ. Lib., Normal
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 949 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; 1st. edition (September 3, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0684863502
  • ISBN-13: 978-0684863504
  • Product Dimensions: 7.7 x 1.9 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (22 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #343,741 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Thomas W. Robinson on November 27, 2005
Format: Hardcover
Even considering James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, I really think this book is the best single volume on the entire war. It has been exhaustively researched, but it is written very well and is a true page turner, even at nearly 1000 pages. If you wanted to get at least a closer look at topics regarding the war, this is the place to start. Chapters are devoted to antebellum America, wartime politics, battles, the armies, weaponry, the naval war, prisons and POWs, medicine, the home front, reconstruction, and even a chapter on preservation issues. And inside every chapter there are great looks at the personalities on both sides and major issues, whether military or political or personal. Because it is both entertaining reading and so thoroughly researched, this book is truly a must have for a Civil War buff or someone just starting out. As a history buff, I highly recommend it.
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Format: Hardcover
If one wishes to have a single volume of the civil war in all its various aspects, one would be hard pressed to find a better treatise than the nearly 1,000 page Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference.
It does not deal with the battles in depth as do so many other volumes on this epic struggle between North and South. Nevertheless, the battles on land and water are described and accompanied by many well executed maps. Descriptions of the armies and their weaponry are treated in detail, as is the treatment of prisoners of war. There are time lines on politics, slavery, naval encounters, and reconstruction.
The chapters that are most significant, from my point of view, are those that deal with nonmilitary aspects of the war: the economic differences of the north and south, the importance of religion in the lives of Americans, a brief account of slavery in the United states, a history of the beginning and development of the rift that led to the conflict. An excellent chapter of nearly one hundred pages deals with the politics the war. A rather grim, but enlightening, chapter discusses the treatment of the wounded (many amputations), the fight to control disease, and people important in establishing policy and organizing hospitals and field teams of doctors and nurses. A part of wartime history often relegated to the sidelines is the home front. A separate chapter on this subject corrects that neglected topic. A lengthy chapter considers the reconstruction following the end of hostilities. And where else but in this considerable tome would one find not only an account of the armies and battles but also one of the civil war in literature and the arts.
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Format: Hardcover
I had been looking for something like this for years. A brilliant compendium of information, attractively laid out. Parts of it are well-written enough to read as narratives; other parts are mostly useful as references (similar to encyclopedia entries). Not aimed solely at the hard-core Civil War buff, but useful in the library of anyone interested in American history who wants a solid and user-friendly overview of virtually every facet of the Civil War.
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Format: Hardcover
The Desk Reference contains more than 100 photographs, maps and numerous tables that provide interesting facts and information about the Civil War. It is well organized and contains an easy to use list of Contents. It covers all aspects of the war, from major armies and key battles to prisons, medical care and events occuring on the home front. It doesn't read as a novel because it's purpose is to become a good reference source. James MacPherson wrote in the Preface to the book, " You will soon be impressed. and you will soon be hooked. Your knowledge and understanding of this greatest of American wars will expand and deepen more than you thought possible from a single volume."
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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
I wasn’t completely sold on this book as being very useful until I started needing some quick answers for questions related to the Civil War. I was looking for some information on black officers and found it on pages 429-430. Over the next few weeks I used the reference for additional needs and found answers each time plus some little pieces of extra information that compelled me to do some additional research on them. Before I knew it I was hooked on the value of this book. As with any reference guide, the full story of the Civil War is not found within its pages. That simply is not possible. However, a short synopsis is found on many topics of the war.

That in itself makes this a valuable reference. As a reference work it does not contain any footnotes or endnotes, nor any references as to where the information in its pages came from. As such double checking the facts should be done, but then that is a standard applicable to any information from the past. I personally would have preferred to see suggestions on each article or subject for additional research as they were first brought up, but that was not done. Instead, a separate chapter at the end of the volume contains a very good list of sources both in print and on the Internet which definitely makes up for the earlier mentioned shortcoming. In addition, at the end of each chapter a list of sources is provided for additional research which mollifies my desire for footnotes.

For those that are new to the Civil War, this reference is good for them to look up quick answers to questions and to become familiar with some of the more common themes and details of the conflict.
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