Thursday, August 04, 2011

New and Noteworthy----Explore Virginia's Confederate Memory By Armchair or Vehicle With The Illustrated Guide To Virginia's Confederate Monuments

An Illustrated Guide To Virginia's Confederate Monuments, Timothy S. Sedore, Southern Illinois University Press, 360 b/w photographs, six maps, 310 pp., appendix, index, $39.95.

Probably no state bore the brunt of the Civil War more than Virginia. Its communities and farmsteads, railroads and industries certainly were in the path of the war. The state bears a myriad of testaments to its losses. Timothy S. Sedore offers a guide to Virginia's Confederate monuments that helps readers and researchers to comprehend Virginia's sacrifices.

With An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments, Timothy S. Sedore presents volume that enumerates by region Virginia's Civil War memorials. Sedore's guide catalogs 360 of the state's famous and obscure commemorations. It provides both a compilation of their sites and a compelling vision of the public sense of Virginia's loss.

Sedore geographically sorts the memorials by region: The Shenandoah Valley/Northwest Virginia, Southwest Virginia, Richmond/Northern Virginia/The Piedmont,The Northern Neck/Middle Peninsula/Eastern Shore/Eastern Southside, Petersburg/Southside west of Petersburg/Central Virginia west of Richmond. He then sorts by county a then by city/borough/community. Each region has its own map with county borders shown. The entry number for each memorial is listed for each county that appears on the map. This arrangement easy access to the material any where in the book. Thus organized, the book is open to the casual reader, the county historian, or the community event organizer.

The familiar battles such as Manassas, Winchester, Fredericksburg are easily found as are the lesser-known locations such as Rude's Hill, Cedar Mountain, and Trevilians. Sedore offers 360 entries that include: the entry number, name of the group or individual honored,location,date of erection, medium [such as granite], the inscription, a paragraph of explanation and a black and white photograph. Tablets, statutes and monoliths located on courthouses lawns, cemeteries, town squares,and battlefields are cataloged.

Readers may view An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments as a photographic catalog, a tourist's guidebook, or researcher's compendium. It is all of those. Sedore's field research reveals these sites to be both monuments of remembrance and as public efforts to reconcile mourning with Southern ideologies during the postwar era in, what Drew Gilpin Faust has called, a republic of suffering. The memorials that are both intimate and aloof. Sedore analyzes in depth the nature of these attempts to publicly explain Virginia's sense of grief after the war. He notes that the use of the term 'Civil War' is uncommon. The phrase 'War Between the States' was the preferred expression.

An Illustrated Guide to Virginia's Confederate Monuments will appeal to the travelers, historians, and armchair enthusiasts. Sedore's fine Introduction covers three eras: 1861 to 1889[Bereavement and Funeral Era], 1890 to 1920 [Reconciliation and Celebration Era], and 1920-today [Commemorative Era]. He notes the commonalities of inscriptions, designs, and ceremonies for the eras. Sedore finds that there are no explicit mention of slavery on Virginia's monuments and that racial dominance is a principle theme. Sedore also leaves out tombstones though public shrines are included. Sedore's net is broad though. Southern born and Northern raised, Sedore is aware that the history behind these monuments is sometimes contentious and provocative. He has chosen not to address these issues in this book.

Sedore offers a list of what is not in the book: highways' historical markers, the Jefferson Davis Highway markers, the Civil War Preservation Trust's markers and Virginia Civil War Trails markers. Tributes to war horses are excluded. Plaques and iron markers describing the campaigns around Richmond are not in the book because they are essentially narrative guides. Sedore achieves his goal. His work is among the finest illustrated guides to Confederate monuments.

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