Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Sheehy, Wallace, Goode-Walker: "SAVANNAH, IMMORTAL CITY: Volume I - Civil War Savannah"

[Savannah, Immortal City: Volume I - Civil War Savannah by Barry Sheehy & Cindy Wallace with Vaughnette Goode-Walker (Emerald Book Company, 2011). Cloth, maps, photos, drawings, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. Pages main/total:438/520.  ISBN:978-1-934572-70-2   $44.95]

Author Barry Sheehy's Civil War Savannah project initially had as its object the documentation of military sites in and around the city. This limited goal was soon transformed into a massive four-volume set, the first two of which have been published by Emerald Book Company. Although many war related persons and events are discussed inside, Savannah, Immortal City: Volume I - Civil War Savannah primarily examines the port's antebellum architecture. Volume II looks at slave economics [released as Brokers, Bankers, and Bay Lane: The Savannah Slave Trade and Business Model 1850-1865], while upcoming III and IV deal with Savannah's Civil War cemeteries and military sites located in Chatham and surrounding counties.

At its heart, Savannah, Immortal City is a wonderful photographic register of hundreds of antebellum structures (houses, business, churches, schools, etc.), organized around the port city's famous squares. An image of each building is provided by the series's skilled photographer Cindy Wallace. Additionally, caption information about each structure's building date, style, ownership, and use are provided, as well as Civil War contexts of interest. Twenty-one standalone chapters expand upon Savannah's wartime contributions in trade, manpower, and POW camps, while also highlighting the activities of individuals connected to the city [both well known (e.g. Phoebe Yates Pember) and obscure (e.g. Mother Mathilda Beasley, Father Peter Whelan, and Berrien Zettler)]. Contributor Vaughnette Goode-Walker adds her expertise to the book's features on the free black and enslaved populations of Civil War Savannah. The text is documented and the bibliography indicates a satisfying variety and depth of source material.

From its red cloth binding and quality glossy paper to the number and variety of illustration, Savannah, Immortal City is a classy production at a reasonable price. Both original and archival maps offer the reader a reasonably good view of the city layout and military defenses. The sections of street and square maps accompanying each chapter are also helpful visual aids. An epilogue explores the Civil War connection between Savannah and Montreal, and a trio of appendices offer an address conversion table, a list of Confederate camps in and around Savannah (courtesy of William Smedlund's pioneering work), and a list of Ladies Gunboat Society members.

Both readers and serious researchers looking for a detailed guide to Savannah's surviving antebellum structures and their role in the Civil War will want to add a copy of this book to their collections. Author Barry Sheehy also has gone to admirable lengths bringing to light many lesser known persons and events associated with Savannah's Civil War history. Savannah, Immortal City is an outstanding publication, and one looks forward to the completion of the series.

1 comment:

  1. On one of the maps in this book I was able to find the exact location where the 90th Illinois Infantry camped after they took part in capturing Fort McAllister. I had tried to find the site of the plantation named in the regimental records for several years, even visiting Savannah a couple of times to try to locate an old map that had the plantation named on it. I could find no record of the plantation or a map locating it. I wondered if the regiment had the correct name of the plantation. Finally, a map in this book gives me the exact location. Mystery solved!

    I agree that the book is very well presented, with a lot of detailed information about the town.
    James Swan

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