Monday, May 30, 2011

"An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments"

Perhaps in anticipation of a hoped for uptick in local historical site visitation inspired by the Civil War Sesquicentennial, a number of well produced guide books have appeared in recent months and years. The latest is Timothy Sedore's An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments (SIU Press, 2011).

The book documents 360 outdoor monument sites and organizes them geographically into five regions. Inside its covers one finds a great variety of memorials, from the ubiquitous courthouse statuary and battlefield tablets to sculptures, plaques, obelisks, columns, and cemetery shafts. Omitted for obvious reasons of scale are individual gravesites, but a conscious decision was also made to leave off state roadside markers and modern private and state sponsored heritage markers like those from the Civil War Preservation Trust (now Civil War Trust) and Virginia Civil War Trails.

In terms of supporting text, Sedore begins the book with a useful introduction that explains the author's selection methodology. It also provides brief historical overviews pertaining to the various memorial traditions, ceremonies, and period design and inscription conventions. Each monument entry is accompanied by a black and white photograph. Also included is its physical address [alas, no GPS coordinates], a full transcription of the memorial inscription, and listings of monument type, construction date, and medium/media used. Short background histories of persons and/or events associated with the monument are presented for most sites, along with corrective notes as needed.

On the downside, some readers will lament the lack of supporting documentation for the informational claims made in the text*. Many of the monument photographs are also a bit indistinct and quite small in size, a situation undoubtedly necessitated in part by the layout of the book. Minor flaws aside, An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments is a very useful photographic register and historical guide to the Old Dominion's Confederate monuments.

* - The author does offer a bibliography, hosted by the Southern Illinois University Press website [www.siupress.com].

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