Monday, April 11, 2016

Weeks: "THE COMPLETE CIVIL WAR ROAD TRIP GUIDE: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition"

[The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition by Michael Weeks (The Countryman Press, 2016). Softcover, 10 maps, photos, bibliography, appendices, index. 688 pp. ISBN:978-1-58157-337-4. $19.95]

Though the first edition of Michael Weeks's The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide was published only a short time ago in 2009, the country's transportation landscape is always changing and Civil War parks and sites remain in a constant state of flux in terms of preservation and interpretation. Though welcome when preservation victories are the source, unplanned obsolescence is the order of the day when it comes to Civil War touring guides. At nearly 700 pages, The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide: More than 500 Sites from Gettysburg to Vicksburg - Second Edition is quite substantial, covering among many other places all 394 principal battles classified A through D by the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission. Those who can recall Alice Cromie's A Tour Guide to the Civil War, a popular publication that went through four print editions, will get a similar vibe here but will also find Weeks's book to have far more breadth, superior modern presentation, and much richer historical background detail.

The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide is organized into four parts (I-The War in the West, II-The War Along the Coasts, III-The War in the East, and IV-The Wide Ranging War) further subdivided into ten "tours". It should be mentioned off the top that those expecting detailed turn-by-turn directions will not find them. Instead, a general road map (with Class A battles marked by stars) is offered and, although loops and circular courses are suggested for convenience, readers are left to their own devices for specific route planning and are encouraged to see as little or as much as they wish. With universal availability of modern travel aids in the form of driving apps and GPS-capable mobile devices, mapping out a personalized tour is as simple as it's ever been (though we've all been let astray one time or another!).

Each tour begins with a narrative overview, a note on important historical figures involved, a brief practical advice section, and a loosely suggested trip outline. The main part of each tour is a catalog of "Can't-Miss Sites," each assigned anywhere from several paragraphs to several pages of historical background narrative. The quality of the text is generally quite good, much better than the cursory effort typically found in similar volumes. The sites themselves (battlefields, museums, historical homes, farms, forts, parks, monuments, memorials, cemeteries, and more) are all described in handy sidebars. Each discusses site preservation, interpretation, access, and available touring resources (for walking, biking, and driving) as well as visiting hours, a mailing address, website URL, GPS coordinates, and admission (free vs. paid) information. A whole host of alternative sites, presented in the same full manner as the others, are also included for each tour.

With untold thousands of Civil War related locations recognized across the country, no book like this will every be truly "complete" and experienced readers and local history enthusiasts will always find opportunities to quibble about particular omissions. However, in including hundreds of places both famous and obscure and stretching all the way from California to Vermont, The Complete Civil War Road Trip Guide's impressive coverage renders the book's proud title no idle boast. The guide will undoubtedly be best utilized when accompanied by extensive home preparation, but it should prove useful to prospective road trippers. One might be tempted to think that the great abundance of resources available on the internet has made books like this superfluous, but Weeks's work here provides a fairly strong argument to the contrary.


  1. I do want to buy this book. Thank you for bringing it to my attention.

    You have a typo in the book's name in the last paragraph.


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