Thursday, September 17, 2015

Graham: "ON THIS DAY IN WEST VIRGINIA CIVIL WAR HISTORY"

[On This Day in West Virginia Civil War History by Michael B. Graham (The History Press, 2015). Softcover, photos, bibliography. 191 pp. ISBN:978-1-46711-791-3 $21.99]

As the title suggests, On This Day in West Virginia Civil War History discusses a historical event associated with each day of the calendar year (not be confused with a day by day accounting of the entire war). Military actions dominate the entries but political occasions related to the region's divisions and ultimate break from Virginia to form an entirely new state are also sprinkled about. Length varies greatly and runs from a single sentence to a maximum of around 250 words, and for the latter the author is generally effective at packing as much 'who-what-where-when-why' information as possible into the limited space available.

Author Michael Graham does a fine job of evenly selecting events from each year of the war. Readers that might believe that little happened in trans-Appalachian Virginia after Union forces seized control of the region in 1861 will find themselves quickly disabused of the notion. Graham also conveys the full range of violent activities that defined the war in West(ern) Virginia, from regular campaigns to cavalry raids and guerrilla/counter-guerrilla actions. Militarily, West Virginia's inner war was similar to that of other Border States. Appropriate thought was also put into geographical spread, with historical events from all corners of the state included in the book.

There are no maps in the volume [at the very least, a single county and city/town overview map would have been helpful] but photographs are relatively abundant. Footnotes are absent but the bibliography indicates that a broad range of source materials were used. In addition to the O.R. and other government documents and publications, many books (including a nice selection of published firsthand accounts, biographies, battle histories, and unit studies), articles, newspapers, and periodicals were consulted. Manuscript collections and other unpublished resources are also listed in the bibliography.

Designed to be consumed in short bits, the book's content arrangement serves as a nice introductory aid for historically inclined West Virginia readers of today. No matter where they live in the state, something is bound to attract their interest and hopefully inspire them to delve deeper into the many facets of West Virginia's rather underappreciated Civil War history.

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