Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bard: "The Civil War in the New River Valley , 1861-1865: 3 One-Day Driving Tours"

[The Civil War in the New River Valley, 1861-1865: 3 One-Day Driving Tours by David Bard (Quarrier Press - West Virginia Book Company, 2004 reprint) 8.5"x11" Softcover, 43 maps, photos, illustrations, source notes. Pp. 143. ISBN 1891852345 $19.95]

With his book The Civil War in the New River Valley, retired Concord College professor David Bard gives readers both an excellent introductory military history of the region and a detailed touring guide. It should be mentioned that these three day-long tours are extensive and not for the faint of heart. Here is an outline of what battles, campaigns, and other relevant historical sites you'll find in the book:

Day One Tour (155 miles) - covers the 1861-62 battles for control of the confluence of the New and Kanawha rivers. Sites include the Hawk's Nest, Gauley Bridge, Cotton Hill, Kessler's (Cross) Lane, Carnifex Ferry, Sewell Mountain, and Fayetteville.

Day Two Tour (221 miles) - covers military sites in the lower New River Valley and Greenbrier Valley, such as Meadow Bluff, Tuckwiller Hill, Lewisburg, White Sulpher Springs, Powell's Raid, Peters Mountain Raid, Webster's Huntersville Raid, Averell's Second Raid (incl. Battle of Droop Mountain), and Averell's Third (Salem) Raid.

Day Three Tour (205 miles) - covers 1862-1865 raids into southwest Virginia, including the battles of Pigeon Roost, Giles Court House, Cloyd's Mountain, Cove Mountain, Wytheville (Toland's Raid), and the battles for Saltville.

As you can see, the book covers a lot of ground. The campaign and battle narratives are quite good by tour guide standards, certainly in line with the best regarded published secondary works. The tour directions appear to be more than detailed enough for drivers unfamiliar to the area. However, it is a bit disappointing to readers interested in further reading that there are no footnotes, and the source notes at the end of the book are only a select few.

The 43 maps included in the book deserve special mention. Represented in full color and often at regimental scale, they alone are worth the price of the book. Operational maps showing both period and modern road networks are of great assistance. Color photographs of many of the tour sites further enhance the visual riches. Pages are printed on thick, glossy paper, and the book is an all around fine quality publication of sturdy construction.

This book is a valuable work on several levels: as a tour guide, an introductory military history, and a map study. Additionally, although his commentary is brief, author David Bard is perceptive in his analysis of the evolution of effective military strategy within such a difficult theater of operations (from one of traditional combined arms approaches dependent upon lengthy supply lines in 1861-62 to one of fast moving raids supported by numerous feints from 1864 onward). Without leaving my chair, I learned from and very much enjoyed reading this multifaceted guide to exploring the Civil War campaigns and battlefields of the New River Valley.

[ further reading: although it is marred by poor maps and an unorthodox citation method, readers may find Patricia Givens Johnson's The United States Army Invades the New River Valley, 1864 (1986) to be a useful companion. ]

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