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Posted June 29, 2009
In this hobby, maps are essential! You need maps as a reader of a battle history or as a walker on the battlefield every bit as much as the participants did. Once lost, it can be almost impossible to orientate yourself on the field. As a reader, this can require rereading several pages and constantly say, "NO, it is over here!" As a battlefield walker, you will have to retrace your steps and lose time better spent learning. In either case, your frustration level increases and you enjoyment level falls.
Maps are expensive! Every author, every publisher will be quick to tell you how expensive maps are. In the next breath, they will tell you about the relationship between price and sales. While I understand this, I have seen more than one good history ruined for a lack of maps. "Sufficient", being defined as the minimum number of maps possible without producing major complaints seems to be the goal. However, it seems to be a dream more often than not. As a reader of history, my position is good maps and footnotes are a requirement. If that increases the price, so be it.
Given this attitude, a book of battle maps is going to be a popular item with me. Based on the author's excellent "The Maps of Gettysburg", I had high expectations and was not disappointed. The format is simple: on the left hand is a page of text, on the right hand is a map. The text is literate, easy to read and well footnoted. The maps have a scale of about 100 to 600 yards per inch depending on the view.
First Bull Run has 37 maps. Six cover the approaches to the battle, laying out initial positions, marches and positions on the field. The July 18 skirmish at Blackburn's Ford has three excellent maps, scaled at 500 yards per inch, covering the action from noon to 3 PM. Three maps cover the finial movements onto the field and preparation for battle. Maps 13 through 36 cover the fighting on Matthews Hill, Henry Hill, Chinn Ridge and the Federal retreat. A small detail but a vital one, scale is consistent within a map set. This means that the battery you want to follow will not be moving because they changed the map's scale.
Maps 40 through 51 cover the Battle of Ball's Bluff. The maps dealing with initial positions, movement to the field and the retreat have a scale of 450 yards per inch. The maps dealing with the fighting have a scale of 105 yards per inch. This gives us both the overview and detail needed for this important action.
The book works on several levels it is an excellent military atlas, the narration is a fine introduction or review of the battles or for walking the battlefields. First Bull Run and Ball's Bluff have an order of battle complete with losses. A full bibliography, index and notes complete the book.
This book solves my libraries' problem with maps for First Bull Run and Ball's Bluff.