Tuesday, November 13, 2012
Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide 2nd Ed. Rev. and Updated
The Civil War Florida bookshelf remains comparatively small, with many standard works now fifty years old or more, but there has been a recent uptick. One of the newest releases is Paul Taylor's revised and updated Second Edition of his introductory survey Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide (Pineapple Press).
With most Civil War Florida books focusing on Pensacola or the far NE corner of the state, one of the strengths of Taylor's work is its geographical inclusiveness. He divides the study into four sections: Northwest, Northeast, Central, and South Florida, with chapters under these main headings dealing with the major military events associated with key towns within these regions. They include Marianna, Pensacola, Tallahassee, Gainesville, Jacksonville, Olustee, St. Augustine, Palatka, Cedar Key, New Smyrna, Tampa, Fort Myers, and Key West.
As the subtitle suggests, Discovering the Civil War in Florida is not a narrative history. Taylor provides a brief introduction to each chapter (usually around two pages in length), its focus on associated campaigns, skirmishes, and battles. Taylor's reader selections include official reports; book excerpts; magazine, journal, and newspaper articles; and other previously published documents. In terms of relevance and value of information provided (in places, quite detailed), the elements of the reader are uniformly well chosen. Residing at the end of each chapter is a section listing one or more sites for readers to visit. In addition to several paragraphs of descriptive text, photos, visitor hours, directions, entry fees, and website data are provided.
An appendix lists the Florida military engagements previously arranged inside Dyer's Compendium. The bibliography and reader's guide are up to date and together offer readers a good sense of the available literature. Discovering the Civil War in Florida is not an exhaustive record of military events in the state, nor is it meant to be. What is does do, and does well, is offer readers of all levels a sense of the scale and extent of the fighting in Florida, a broad introduction that will hopefully inspire readers to delve deeper and prospective authors to help fill remaining gaps in the historical record.
* - The 2nd Edition adds new sites and updated visiting information. There are also new documents, maps, and photographs.