[ Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862 by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher White (Savas Beatie, 2012). Softcover, 6 maps, photos, illustrations, appendices. 167 pp. ISBN:978-1-61121-146-7 $12.95]
Unlike the other guides, Simply Murder does not reproduce extensive quotes from official reports or break the battle down into a large number of segments pregnant with tactical detail and analysis. What readers get is a popular style narrative of the events of the battle and the major personalities involved, with frequent short quotes from participants, geared to an 11-stop driving tour that can be easily completed in an afternoon.
In terms of presentation, the volume is attractive with multiple illustrations in the form of current and contemporary photographs [individuals, landscapes, buildings, etc.] and lithography. The six maps are relatively few, selective of key moments in the battle, and future volumes might consider at least creating one for each stop. Numerous appendices offer additional information that will interest many. Background information about the national cemetery and the town is located here, as well as a handful of essays dealing with the civilian experience of the battle, slavery at Fredericksburg, and some of the mysteries and interpretive themes that arose in the wake of the fight and evolved over time. The decision to separate this information from the main text is a good one, as much of it is not immediately related to the tour and can be perused with equal effect after the tour is over.
For those with a moderate or greater understanding of the battle, Simply Murder is not an essential tool, but placement in the park bookstore would be an ideal situation. Novices and more general interest visitors will find the book to be a thoughtful companion to their introductory experience of the Fredericksburg battlefield, helped by the fact that, for these readers, it is priced right and strikes a largely satisfying balance between specialized information overload and oversimplifying complex events.