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Thursday, December 13, 2012

Shenandoah County in the Civil War

Shenandoah County in the Civil War: Four Dark Years, Hal F. Sharpe (History Press, 2012) 156 pages, illustrations, ISBN 978-1-59629-760-9, $19.99

The Civil War publications released by the History Press continue to be rather hit or miss. One of the most recent additions to the line, Shenandoah County in the Civil War by Hal Sharpe, falls more into the latter category. In his defense the author states that his purpose is not to recount the major battles (New Market, Fishers Hill, Cedar Creek) which took place in the eponymous county in the central Shenandoah Valley but rather to look more at the effects of the war on the population.

As with nearly all books of this series, there is no index, nor are there any citations – only a bibliography at the end, and of the works listed at least ¾ of them are secondary sources. Many of the battle descriptions are muddled and error-filled, which is surprising considering the overall lack of detail the author uses for the battle descriptions.

The cover art is Keith Rocco’s painting showing the Virginia Military Institute cadets in the Bushong yard at New Market. With New Market being one of the largest engagements in the county as well as one of the best-known, one would hope for more attention devoted to this engagement, not to mention more accuracy. (And as a personal aside, this reviewer’s book on New Market is not among the works in the bibliography.)

Sharpe’s book is an ample introduction to the war in the central Shenandoah Valley but unfortunately is little more. The military detail and accuracy simply is not there while many of the civilian accounts he gives are readily available elsewhere. Its strength is in the photographs included of the residences and locales which he mentions.

1 comment:

  1. My thoughts exactly. To make matters worse, my work about the Summers-Koontz Incident is in the biography... and yet... the passage in the book still sings the "same old song" about the incident that existed prior to my book. Not impressed.