Monday, March 13, 2017

Book Review - Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History

Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History by David T. Gilbert, Rizzoli New York, 2017
Hardcover 10" x 10" 336 pages/230 color and black -and -white photos

I can't even begin to tell you how excited I was to review this book.  I have held a long fascination with all things relating to the Civil War.  When we travel we often seek out battlefields, museums and cemeteries, and proceed to soak up as much information as we can.  Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History contains in depth information on 32 key battlefields at 12 sites located in 12 states.  I couldn't wait to crack it open and I was not disappointed!

(Henry Hill and Henry House)

The book is broken down into 6 regions, with each region dedicated to individual battlefields.  Every battlefield then has a specific narrative and the author goes into detail on dates, strategic positions, the key players, and the reasons behind their maneuvers.  Spanning from the Battle of First Manassas to Lee's surrender at Appomattox Court House you will get a new perspective on the historical significance and pivotal points of each battlefield.  That was one of the things I enjoyed most about this book.

Along with each narrative is a large map that shows where the Visitor Center is located -this is usually a good starting point for when you actually visit the battlefield.  Each map is also clearly marked with the different battle engagement locations, points of interest, cemeteries, auto tours and current hiking trails.  Another feature of the book that I really liked was the hiking trail information.  Included in the book are 124 battlefield hikes that range in length from 0.2 miles to 14 miles and differ in terrain from easy to strenuous.

(Stonewall Jackson Monument)

Civil War history oozes from the pages and you will almost feel and hear the roar of cannon and the crack of rifle.....
  • Learn how Lee's "Lost Orders" fell into the hands of the Union 
  • "The Battle of the Crater" and why Grant called it the saddest affair he witnessed in the war.
  • How Lincoln's Gettysburg Address transformed a brutal battlefield into a symbol that gave meaning to the sacrifices of the dead and inspiration to future generations
  • Grant's term's of surrender at Appomattox
  • The tunnel of Thayer's Approach
  • Why the war reached as far west as Picacho Peak in Arizona

(Stone Fort ruins)

Today fog and early morning mist envelope ghosts of the past.  The best way to get up close and personal with the history of each location is to get out and walk the trails.  The trail names, lengths, and levels of difficulty are all listed, as well as descriptions of the areas of interest, buildings, and monuments you will see along the way...
  • Chickamauga was the first national military park and provided the framework for preserving other Civil War battlefields.  The 9 mile trail here hosts 666 monuments and markers on the battlefield
  • Hazen Brigade Monument is the oldest Civil War monument still standing in its original location
  • Pickett's Mill Battlefield is the best preserved of the 1864 Atlanta Campaign.  The roads, earthworks and terrain have barely changed since the May 27, 1864 battle
  • The Kennesaw Mountain Trail climbs to an elevation of 1808 feet and features rocks where soldiers had etched their names

(Union artillery position)

Civil War Battlefields is laid out so the battlefields are described in geographical order instead of chronological order so you can attempt multiple hikes when you reach each location.  There is an extensive list of the chronology of the battles on page 27 and it includes the name of the battle, the date of the battle and the site name.  This makes it easy to plan a visit based on locations.

(Artillery piece on Lookout Mountain)

Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History offers a new viewpoint on this important time in United States history.  Black and white photographs taken during the war are a sharp contrast to the colorful photos taken now.  Both are scattered throughout the book and often give a different perspective to the same landscape, separated by a century and a half.   Showcasing the trails gives you a better idea of the sacrifices made by the soldiers who fought on each side.   Walk the trails and breathe the air, touch the cannons, stare across an open field and imagine a wall of soldiers advancing towards you.  Look at the monuments and put a face to the name.  Walk the trails of history.

Civil War Battlefields: Walking the Trails of History publishes tomorrow.

(I was given an advance copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  All opinions are my own.  Photo images are the property of the publisher and cannot be reproduced without consent.) 


  1. This would make such a great gift for my son, fan of all things history.
    Unfortunately, I paid little attention while in school, but if I'm fortunate to retire in good health I'd love to visit some or all!

    1. I'm with you - I'm ready to load up my car and leave now!

  2. Sounds like an interesting read. Especially if you live near some of these battlefields.

    1. I have actually been to a couple of them but now I want to visit more.

  3. Here's another interest we share...the Civil War! I'll have to check this book out. Great review, Kim!

    1. Darn, we could have talked about that at dinner. It's a fantastic book!

  4. This sounds like a great gift for a girlfriend, believe it or not, who just loves anything history. She would read this beginning to end in no time!

    1. I highly recommend this book - it was fascinating!


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