Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Giambrone: "AN ILLUSTRATED GUIDE TO THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN & NATIONAL MILITARY PARK"

[ An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign & National Military Park by Jeff Giambrone (Communications Arts Company, 2011). Spiral bound softcover, maps, photos, appendices, bibliography. 290 pages. ISBN:978-0-615-35410-1 $34.95]

Civil War campaign and battle guide studies come in all forms and Jeff Giambrone's An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign & National Military Park is not a touring aid akin to the old U.S. Army War College books or the more recent This Hallowed Ground series published by University of Nebraska Press. Giambrone's well photographed work is part historical narrative part site catalog, the latter including points of interest such as forts, batteries, houses, public buildings, grave sites, state monuments, unit monuments, and battlefield sculpture.

The first third of the guide encompasses the history of Vicksburg, from first settlement through Civil War and Reconstruction. The town's regional maritime importance and traditions are strongly presented, and the chapter also includes short pieces on the ships that plied their trade to and from Vicksburg. The section dealing with the Civil War years in and around Vicksburg covers the 1862 and 1863 campaigns broadly, as well as listing, describing, and photographing the major federal battery positions and the Confederate fort sites currently under park stewardship. A chapter also deals with the post-siege Union occupation and Reconstruction years.

The heart of the book and its most impressive feature is its extensive registry of antebellum buildings and houses, cemeteries, battlefield monuments, and sculpture. A typical listing from the historic homes guide is composed of a black and white photograph, physical address, date of construction, and a bullet point history of the building and its owners. Churches, cemeteries, and prominent public buildings in the city are given similar treatment. Numerous Confederate and Union state monuments are present on the battlefield (one dedicated as recently as the late 1990s) and Giambrone has cataloged those as well, providing additional information such as location, cost, artist responsible, art medium, and dedication date. A selection of regimental and battery monuments is also included. The book's largest compilation is its register of Confederate and Union officer memorials in the form of bust and relief sculptures. In addition to monument details, the author also provides short biographical summaries for each subject.

In terms of a wish list, there could have been far more maps. Only a simple campaign drawing and a reproduction of the NPS park brochure map are included. Also, GPS coordinates are increasingly important in modern guides of this type, but are absent here. An index would have been helpful, too. These flaws aside, An Illustrated Guide to the Vicksburg Campaign & National Military Park is a well presented work that includes much visitor information that cannot be found in any other publication. Those with an interest in the park's monuments and artwork will find Giambrone's book especially useful.

1 comment:

  1. Joel ManuelMarch 24, 2011

    I believe there was one other book of this nature (Vicksburg Battlefield Monuments: A Photographic Record, 1984), but it focused solely on the state memorials. Should be available through interlibrary loan.

    I don't like a lack of maps either, but I will get this book and I'm guessing that its price will relegate it to the enthusiast who has some working knowledge of the battlefield already. I once emailed the fellow from Trailhead Graphics to see if he was working on a Vicksburg map and he said he was; but this was well over a year ago and I don't know what stage that project is at.

    Joel Manuel
    Baton Rouge LA

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