Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History

Image of Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History
Release Date: 
March 13, 2017
Reviewed by: 

“an excellent resource for anyone interested in visiting one of America’s numerous Civil War battlefield parks.”

Civil War coffee table books typically run the gamut from collections of artwork and contemporary photographs to detailed explorations of certain battlefields and National Parks.

This new collection of photographs, produced in association with the Civil War Trust, takes a slightly different approach to battlefield cinematography. While it provides the expected catalog of well-traveled battlefields in Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania, it also provides a marvelous collection of pictures from some less traveled national battlefield parks in Tennessee, Georgia, Mississippi, and even the westernmost battle of the war at Picacho Peak, Arizona.

As the title suggests, the focus of the book is the author’s descriptions of the walking and hiking trails at each park. The maps shown with each battlefield are modern roadmaps, showing the various hiking trails at each park, which the author then describes, each in a short paragraph. For readers wanting to get the most from a visit, these descriptions are very useful, showing the length and highlights of each trail.

The accompanying narrative provides a short and readable overview of the battle fought at the particular park, and while most of these are fairly brief, they are a sufficient introduction for less familiar readers. The author does include a comprehensive set of links for those parks with websites and a brief but serviceable bibliography for readers wanting to learn more.

The photography is absolutely magnificent, as one would expect from a photo journal on Civil War battlefields. What makes this book stand out is the author does not focus solely on the numerous monuments and marks you would expect to see in a volume on this topic. While those photos are included, and are well done, the author provides more sweeping photographs showing the topography and scenery of the battlefield, giving the reader a better sense of the terrain where the battles took place and how the landscape might have appeared to the armies of the time.

In particular, there are many remarkable photos taken during either sunrise or sunset that make brilliant use of lighting and shadow. Several of these landscapes have also been shot during winter months and the snow and ice clinging to the monuments is an interesting contrast to the usual summer photography found in many battlefield photo books.

Altogether, this is a very useful and attractive book both for someone wanting to plan their first visit to a Civil War park or the experienced visitor who may want to hike a lesser known trail. The stunning photography and useful trip planning information make this an excellent resource for anyone interested in visiting one of America’s numerous Civil War battlefield parks.