Monday, November 3, 2014

"Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History"

Ohio University Press's Civil War in the Great Interior series does fine work in presenting readers with all-embracing selections of published and unpublished Civil War documents on a state by state basis, the whole accompanied by expert editing. From the same publisher and similar in presentation style, Civil War Chicago: Eyewitness to History edited by Theodore J. Karamanski and Eileen M. McMahon (Ohio University Press, 2014) narrows the documentary subject focus even further. The editors, both professors at nearby universities and published authors of Chicago history, are well placed to know where to find interesting materials (obscure or otherwise) as well as interpret them.

The volume is packed with newspaper articles, letters, diaries, memoirs, speeches, government papers and more related to every conceivable home front and military topic directly related to Civil War Chicago. Among the many themes addressed are the 1860 election, early war enlistment fever, Chicagoans and the battlefield, Chicago as Confederate prisoner of war camp, opposition politics in the city, labor and management in Chicago industry, class and ethnic tensions, and, finally, events surrounding the end of the war. There's even a select history and photographic tour of Chicago's Civil War memorials and other sites. In addition to curating the documents, Karamanski and McMahon also contributed book and chapter introductory essays that are substantive enough in their own right to together comprise a quite comprehensive short form Civil War city history.

This is a really impressive documentary immersion project. With no shortage of Midwestern candidates, perhaps Civil War Chicago can be the first title in a new city series.

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