Thursday, May 19, 2016


[Washington County in the Civil War by Stephen R. Bockmiller (Arcadia Publishing, 2016). Softcover, photos, illustrations. 127 pp. ISBN:978-1-4671-3476-7. $21.99]

Washington County in the Civil War, authored by Stephen R. Bockmiller, is a new volume from Arcadia Publishing's popular Images of America series of local photographic histories. As is the long standing custom, narrative history does not accompany the photo collection, but rather the Washington County, Maryland story immediately before, during, and after the Civil War is told through a variety of images and their captions. Photographs of persons, buildings, and landscapes predominate, but there are also numerous reproductions of sketches, woodcuts, document images, archival maps, and the like.

In keeping with the consistent Images of America look and feel, Washington County in the Civil War is printed on heavy, high-gloss paper stock, the kind that makes for better image reproduction. It's apparent that a great deal of thought and effort went into Bockmiller's selection of images. They are sourced from both public and private collections (author and Antietam enthusiast Stephen Recker must have quite a personal archive). It would have been easy to fill the book with Antietam (by far the most famous Washington County wartime event) photographs and the CDVs of famous officers that fought at that battle and other places nearby. There is some of that, but the author largely went in a different direction. Of the entire body of photos and illustrations in the volume, there is a substantial percentage that will be unfamiliar even to those that regularly read about Civil War events that occurred in the county.

A pair of chapters bookend the Civil War coverage. The first of these covers persons and places prominent during the antebellum period and the second post-war commemoration in the county, including reunions, parades, and monument dedications. Large numbers of photographs are grouped by theme. Thus there are collections of images related to John Brown's Raid (to include sites, like the Kennedy Farm, and persons related to Harpers Ferry Raid preparations on the Maryland side), Antietam, the retreat from Gettysburg, and the ransoming of Hagerstown during the 1864 Confederate invasion. There is some geographical neglect. The town of Hancock and the rest of the far western sliver of the county does not get the attention that the middle and eastern sections receive. It also would have been helpful if author and publisher had been able to squeeze a county map into the volume so that readers of all backgrounds might readily locate the many sites mentioned.

Washington County in the Civil War should garner the local appeal that its series is designed to foster, but the book's selection of fresh images should also interest a wider audience of Civil War photography enthusiasts.

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