Sunday, January 18, 2009

Ahlstrom: "Texas Civil War Artifacts: A Photographic Guide to the Physical Culture of Texas Civil War Soldiers"

[Texas Civil War Artifacts: A Photographic Guide to the Physical Culture of Texas Civil War Soldiers by Richard Mather Ahlstrom (Univ. of N. Texas Press, 2008). Hardcover, photos, notes, appendix, bibliography, index. 555 pp. ISBN: 978-1574412512 $60]

Texas Civil War Artifacts is a comprehensive and detailed visual guide to the clothing and equipment that the state of Texas produced for its Civil War fighting men. Author Richard M. Alhstrom devoted eight years to the research, compilation, and photographic presentation of these materials. The effort shows, and the range of material items is exhaustive. Chapters are devoted to insignia, belt buckles and plates, horse equipment, pistols, shoulder arms, swords, knives, buttons, leather accouterments, canteens, uniforms, and headgear.

Each chapter begins with a brief (1-3 page) annotated introduction. Each artifact or artifact group is presented by two pages, the right face is a full page photograph, while the left documents the artifact. The documentation, also annotated, provides information on the item's provenance, type, dimensions, and construction, as well as additional remarks.

Noting the rarity of photographs of uniformed Texas soldiers, Ahlstrom provides a chapter length image gallery, with enlarged photograph on the right and caption on the left. The captions note the name of the subject, plus commentary on his clothing and equipment. An appendix comprises a Texas regimental order of battle, arranged by state, and sub-categorized by campaign. A bibliography and index round out the volume.

The book is well constructed with quality materials. Spine and boards are cloth-covered, and, as with the better photographic studies, a heavy gloss paper was used throughout. Durability, an important concern for an exceptionally heavy reference book of this type, will likely not be an issue for this robust, thread-bound book.

Texas Civil War Artifacts will be valued by a wide range of readers, from historians, researchers, and museum curators to collectors, auctioneers, antique dealers, and photography enthusiasts. 2008 was a bit of a banner year for the publication of useful reference works, and this one was a worthy addition.

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Other CWBA reviews of University of North Texas Press titles:

* Spartan Band: Burnett’s 13th Texas Cavalry in the Civil War

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