Gilbert TaylorAssembling the principal vivid accounts from letter writers, diarists, and memoirists cannot be an overstrenuous editorial task for the Civil War chronicler, which Sears is many times over (e.g., "To the Gates of Richmond" ). Indeed the masses who absorb their history via TV might--on the debatable premise that they read closely--recognize herein the sources of many of the voice-over quotations from the PBS "Civil War" series. Sears lengthens the excerpts from Strong's diary, Grant's memoirs, et cetera; adds longer passages from novelists such as Stephen Crane; and reproduces the attraction nonpareil of this lush cache of images: more than 200 contemporary paintings of the war (120 are full-page 91/2-by-13-inch colorplates). In quality they range from folk pieces to masterpieces, but each image beckons the history buff, and perhaps the lover of pure artistry as well. Winslow Homer applied his famed palette to camp scenes generally, and when war came to the waters off Cherbourg, France, Edouard Manet was on hand to record the pre-impressionistic canvas "Alabama and Kearsarge". The folk artists are a wonderment in themselves, straining to convey, without benefit of color theory or lines of perspective, the battles they saw. Here is a treasury in which all will find a nugget to cherish.
- Levin, Hugh Lauter Associates
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