Wednesday, November 7, 2018

Five Books on Civil War archaeology

1. Look To Earth: Historical Archaeology and the American Civil War by Clarence R. Geier, Jr. & Susan E. Winter (1994).
All of the contributors to my most recent read, Joan Cashin's War Matters (review to follow later this month), enjoin their still largely skeptical professional colleagues to incorporate material culture studies into their own work. Since modern historical archaeology offers us some of the best ways to facilitate this connectivity, I thought I would highlight some good representative examples from the book literature. The description to Look to Earth provides a nice summary of how and why this approach to history can be important: "archaeological research can be used alongside historical documentation to verify or discount events referred to in the printed record; it can also provide physical details of events that may not be available in written reports. In some cases, historical archaeology may provide the only documentation of particular events and effects of the war. This is especially true with regard to those segments of society - freed slaves, poor whites, farmers, and rural millers, among others - whose voices have been lost in the filtering process of history." The topical expansiveness of Look to Earth makes it a fine introduction to Civil War archaeology.
2. Archaeological Perspectives on the American Civil War edited by Clarence R. Geier and Stephen R. Potter (2003) [Review].
This is another great stepping stone into gaining an appreciation of Civil War archaeology. Exploring archaeological insights into the conduct of Civil War battles along with home front and army life, the essays cover a wide range of topics on and off the battlefield. The book also has a fascinating section on the use of new methodologies, technology, and equipment.
3. From These Honored Dead: Historical Archaeology of the American Civil War edited by Clarence R. Geier, Douglas D. Scott, & Lawrence E. Babits (2014) [Review].
Yes, Clarence Geier, one of the preeminent figures in Civil War archaeology, is a common thread on this list! Another anthology with a diverse range of essays looking at battles, battlefields, camps, fortifications, army life, and more, this one is unique in its emphasis (in Part 1 of 3 anyway) on Trans-Mississippi battles, where Douglas Scott has done much of his professional work.
4. Huts and History: The Historical Archaeology of Military Encampment During the American Civil War edited by David G. Orr, Matthew B. Reeves, & Clarence R. Geier (2006) [Review].
As the title suggests, this collection of essays explores a variety of methods for interpreting and preserving Civil War camps. These lived-in spaces are where soldiers spent the greatest amount of time during their military service and are some of the richest sources of artifacts.
5. Misadventures of a Civil War Submarine: Iron, Guns, and Pearls by James P. Delgado (2012) [Review].
In the marine archaeology arena much as been written about the famous CSS Hunley and USS Monitor, so I thought I would instead highlight a fine history and archaeological study of an obscure, technologically-advanced Civil War submersible, a diving bell-submarine hybrid its designer called the Sub Marine Explorer.

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