Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Civil War Publishing in 2007: The Year in Review

Fortunately, each passing year brings more than enough solid, scholarly historical works to make the Civil War reading experience a positive one overall. Reflecting on the past 12+ months or so, I've assembled a number of personalized book and publisher "bests". Of course, the amount of time does not exist that would allow me to read every worthwhile 2007 book across all genres; thus, I will only be writing about books I've actually read from cover to cover. Obviously, this list reflects my own selective bias of interest, so take it as you will.

Best Book: Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor (Westholme). I must admit to having next to no prior interest in the Andrews Raid, but Stealing the General was a mesmerizing reading experience. Exceptional writing, research, and analysis by author Russell Bonds, in combination with Westholme's top-notch editing and presentation, made this a big winner. [Yes, I know this was technically a 2006 release, but backlogs mean I generally can't get to the late releases until the following year.]

Best Publisher (Private): Savas-Beatie - While there's certainly room for improvement in some areas, this publisher demonstrates a consistent ability to acquire some of the most fascinating, original manuscripts and at the same time allow the authors expansive freedom. S-B also maintains a sincere desire to go the extra mile in providing critically important aspects of presentation largely ignored or skimped upon by others (e.g. maps - thanks to Karen O. and the rest of the Yeah, Yeah, Yeahs for agreeing with me). Runner up: McFarland. Keep An Eye Out For: Westholme - Already tops in terms of editing and overall scholarly presentation, I look forward to seeing more Civil War-related publishing from them, and am particularly interested in finding out how they would handle a campaign or battle history.

Best Publisher (University): Tennessee - Though hardly obscure in their previous offerings, I appreciate Tennessee's expanding contributions to first-rate Civil War and regional publishing across the board (from original manuscripts to edited documents, essay collections, reprints, tour guides, etc.). See the Voices of the Civil War and the new Western Theater in the Civil War series. Honorable mentions to: Nebraska and University of Alabama Press.

Best Self-Publishing Effort: Dale Cox - for his books The Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida: The Confederate Defense of Tallahassee and The Battle of Marianna, Florida.

Best Social-Political History: The Road to Disunion, Volume II: Secessionists Triumphant 1854-1861 by William Freehling (Oxford); honorable mention to Nelson Lankford's Cry Havoc!: The Crooked Road to Civil War, 1861 (Viking).

Best Campaign History:
Shenandoah Summer: The 1864 Valley Campaign by Scott Patchan (Nebraska).

Best Tour Guide: Wilson's Creek, Pea Ridge, and Prairie Grove: A Battlefield Guide, with a Section on Wire Road by Hess, Shea, Piston, and Hatcher (Bison/Nebraska).

Best Naval History:
Civil War on Pensacola Bay, 1861-1862 by John K. Driscoll (McFarland).

Best Work of Analysis: Army of the Potomac: McClellan's First Campaign, March - May 1862 by Russel Beatie (Savas-Beatie). See also, Trench Warfare under Grant and Lee: Field Fortifications in the Overland Campaign by Earl Hess (North Carolina).

Best Edited Collection: “The Earth Reeled and Trees Trembled”: Civil War Arkansas, 1863-1864 ed. by Mark Christ (Old State House Museum). Runner up, Little to Eat and Thin Mud to Drink: Letters, Diaries, and Memoirs from the Red River Campaigns, 1863-1864 ed. by Gary Joiner et al (Tennessee).

Best Reference Work: Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, 1863 by Bruce Nichols (McFarland). See also, Bob Krick's Civil War Weather in Virginia (Alabama).

Best Local/Regional History: Earthen Walls, Iron Men: Fort DeRussy, Louisiana, and the Defense of Red River by Steven Mayeux (Tennessee).

1 comment:

  1. Hello Drew

    Many thanks for the kind tip of the hat and words.

    We look forward to continuing our climb, building on what we have learned from all our wonderful readers and supporters.

    Thanks again.

    Theodore P. Savas
    Savas Beatie LLC
    989 Governor Dr., Suite 102
    P.O. Box 4527
    El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
    916.041.6896 (phone
    916.941.6895 (fax)


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