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Book Review: Shiloh National Military Park (Images of America)

Shiloh National Military Park book cover

McCutchen, Brian K., and Timothy B. Smith. Shiloh National Military Park (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2012. ISBN 9780738591353. B/W photos. 127 pages. $21.99.

When armies under the commands of Ulysses S. Grant and Albert Sidney Johnston faced off on April 6 and 7, 1862, they could not have realized the carnage that would be left on the Tennessee battlefield. The Battle of Shiloh left almost 24,000 soldiers dead, wounded, missing, or captured, a staggering sum that included Confederate General Johnston.

In 1866, Pittsburg National Cemetery was established by the War Department; a name later changed to Shiloh National Cemetery in 1889.

Established on December 27, 1894, Shiloh National Military Park now serves as a reminder of those terrible two days of fighting that helped set in motion the events of the next three years. The park first operated under the guidance of the War Department but was moved to the National Park Service in 1933.

This 1894 legislation allowed for participating states to place monuments and memorials on the park grounds. The park as we know it today was beginning to take shape.

The Images of America series of books does an excellent job of providing access to usually older photos that the general public may not otherwise have the opportunity to view. In Shiloh National Military Park, authors Brian K. McCutchen and Timothy B. Smith achieve this standard, using images from the park collection.

McCutchen is a former park ranger at Shiloh and has served at other national parks. Timothy B. Smith is a professor of history at the University of Tennessee, Martin. He is a leading scholar on the Battle of Shiloh and has authored what many consider the definitive volume on the battle, Shiloh: Conquer or Perish.

In this Images of America title, the authors showcase just over 200 images, broken into seven chapters. As might be expected in a collection spanning longer than 150 years, some images have reproduced much better than others. Occasionally there are images that seem a bit fuzzy and hazy. This is not a major distraction however. Each image contains a caption with most being around fifty words. The captions are easy to read and bring additional life to the images. 

I particularly enjoyed the chapter titled, “Memories in Stone and Bronze: Monuments of Shiloh.” This chapter highlights just a few of the more than 150 monuments that are located throughout the 4,000+ acres of the park. As McCutchen and Smith state, “To the veterans of America’s first monster battle…the statuary was much more. It embodied full representations of the brave solders of North and South and thus told the stories that they wished to convey to future generations.: (p.57)

A little-known aspect of the battlefield that the authors cover is the cyclone of October 14, 1909. This storm, that appears to have been building throughout the day, killed seven and injured thirty-three. Damage to the park and cemetery were considerable with Congress ultimately allocating $8,000 for the national cemetery and almost $20,000 for repairs and reconstruction at the park. In just over a dozen photos, the damage to the park is shown, with trees uprooted, buildings destroyed, and monuments smashed.

The beauty of a book such as this is its simplicity. A reader can know nothing of the battle and still enjoy the rich history on the pages, the book serving as a potential gateway to further study. For those knowledgeable on the battle and the terrain of the battlefield there is still plenty to learn here. Chances are good that many of the images will be new, even to seasoned students of the battle.

This is not a new release, and the reality is, an expert such as Smith could probably release several similar volumes. Recommended for anybody studying the battle or planning to visit the Shiloh National Military Park.

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Book Review: Civil War Generals of Indiana written by Dr. Carl E. Kramer

Civil War Generals of Indiana

Kramer, Carl E. Civil War Generals of Indiana. Charleston: History Press. 2022. 140 pages, 136 pages of text. Bibliography, b/w images. ISBN 9781467151955, $23.99.

In his acknowledgements and introduction, author Dr. Carl E. Kramer, states that this book has been an off and on-again project for more than sixty years having started it while a freshman in high school in 1961. As with any student new to Civil War studies, the term “General” can be confusing at best, thus Kramer’s long-term quest for clarity.

Let’s count down the opportunities for use of the title along with Dr. Kramer. There are those who receive appointment to the rank of general (brigadier and higher). Of course, during the Civil War that could mean in the regular army or as a general of volunteers. Promotions to the rank of general were nominated by the President and confirmed by the Senate.

Second, you have Brevet Generals, those receiving a sort of temporary promotion to the rank but no real promotion. These brevets were often handed out based upon some noteworthy battle achievement most often made by a colonel or maybe even lieutenant colonel. You weren’t going to be made a brevet general from the rank of sergeant. Brevets to lower officer positions were also possible during the war.

The third opportunity for using the rank of general is from State Troops. These were most often militia groups and the appointment was made by the state governor.

Finally, you have those men who were just called general. They may have received the nickname for being a local leader, maybe it was sarcastic, or perhaps they gave themselves the moniker and it stuck for whatever reason. Needless to say, these men were not generals in the way Kramer is using the term.

As has been pointed out by Andrew Wagenhoffer, the issue of determining who is a Hoosier and who isn’t is a tricky one. Then, as now, people moved around. Family members often followed each other, at times following perceived economic or educational opportunities.

In determining if a “general” was eligible for inclusion, Kramer relied heavily on the standard work in the field, Generals in Blue written by Ezra Kramer. For state level generals, he relied upon Indiana in the War of the Rebellion, a multi volume report issued in 1869 and available in a reprint edition.

Determining a tie to Indiana became more difficult for Dr. Kramer as this can mean differing things to different people. Kramer settled on three criteria for inclusion in his book. The first is birth; anyone born in Indiana who met the other criteria is included. The second qualifying criteria is for men who were born elsewhere but relocated to Indiana and spent a significant part of their lives in the state. The term “significant” is not defined and so this criterion remains vague. The final criteria that merits inclusion is for men “who arrived in Indiana early in the war, played an important role in organizing the state’s military operations and maintained a significant presence after the war.” This criterion is again vague and open to interpretation as the terms important and significant are not defined.

Dover Books

Ultimately, Dr. Kramer has decided upon 121 men; including 44 full United States generals, 1 Confederate general (Francis Asbury Shoup), 62 Union brevet generals, and 14 state service generals. Twenty-one generals were born in Indiana as were 24 brevet generals.

Robert Huston Milroy courtesy Library of Congress
Major General Robert Huston Milroy
Image courtesy Library of Congress

Most of the biographies are one page long. A large number of the entries contain a photo, the majority of which are from the Library of Congress. The short length of each entry makes this book appropriate to pick up and put down at your leisure. Each biography can be read in a matter of a few minutes allowing readers the flexibility to read multiple titles without worries of being bogged down. Biographies can be read in any order with no concern about being confused.

One drawback I did note is that the book does not contain end/foot notes. There is a two-page bibliography however. For me, I would have found it helpful, or at least interesting, if Dr. Kramer had listed a recommended biography (if available) for each of the entries. Brief introductions to these interesting men could leave some readers wanting more. Overall, for a book of this nature these are minor quibbles. It is also possible that the author reached his word count limit. Arcadia/History Press try to stick to specific word counts in order to keep their titles within a page limit and thus helping control price.

For those interested in the role of Indiana in the Civil War this is a book that should be considered. Available at a budget friendly price it allows for a handy reference rather than trying to find Indiana generals at random in Warner.

Arcadia Publishing has generously provided a complimentary review copy of this book. Arcadia Publishing has also published five titles I have written as of the date of this post. This review has not been influenced by these factors and is based upon my reading of the work.

If you would like to read book reviews of other Arcadia/History Press titles, please click HERE. 

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.

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Book Review: Your Sheep are all Counted South of the Border Billboards

South of the Border

Capelotti, P.J. Your Sheep are all Counted: A Roadside Archaeology of South of the Border Billboards. Pelham, AL: Whitman Publishing, LLC, 2022. Foreword by Stephanie Stuckey. 266 pages, 253 pages of text, color photos, index, bibliography, ISBN 9780794849771, $29.95.

The road trip. It’s as American as well, a Stuckey’s pecan log roll. For travelers on US-301, now part of I-95, South of the Border was, and still is, a destination unto itself. Whether you were headed north or south, dozens of billboards bombarded your senses making it difficult to not stop at the Hamer, South Carolina attraction.


If the road weary family needed food, drinks (alcoholic or non), a hotel room, a campsite, gas, a place for the kids to run around and get some energy out, or maybe just a good laugh at the crass commercialism of the entire place, South of the Border made for the perfect stopping place.

South of the Border
Welcome to South of the Border

South of the Border was the brainchild of Alan Schafer, an entrepreneur with a mind for marketing that comes along only rarely. Schafer opened South of the Border in 1949 as a small outlet to sell beer in response to a ban on alcohol in Robeson County, North Carolina. Thus, the name “South of the Border.” The border of North and South Carolina.

Over the years the highway system around the business changed and South of the Border grew to fill the needs of travelers. Schafer added hotel rooms and camping sites, restaurants, souvenir shops, playgrounds, and more. Putting the attraction into perspective, Capelotti states, “At more than 1,200 acres, it is more than seven times the size of Walt Disney’s original Disneyland in Anaheim, California—a roadside empire built on a bottle of beer.” (Page 2)

In addition to the roadside attraction came the advertising, the focus of this book. In this excellent book, Capelotti presents the reader with a story of several hundred images of billboards that made South of the Border famous. These images have been captured from South of the Border archives, photos from the John Margolies collection at the Library of Congress, and finally searching for and photographing billboards still in the wild; an ordeal that is not without a bit of danger due to the increases in traffic.

In a forty-year career, John Margolies created what the Library of Congress calls “one of the most comprehensive documentary studies of vernacular commercial structures along main streets, byways, and highways throughout the United States in the twentieth century.” At nearly 12,000 slides, the collection is enormous in its depth and quality. You can read a bit more about the Margolies collection on the LoC blog.

You Never Sausage a Place
You Never Saw Sausage a Place Courtesy Library of Congress

Capelotti puts forth that a reason for the success of South of the Border and for the billboard advertising is that Alan Schafer never allowed the business to be taken too seriously. The author points out that one of Schafer’s billboard trademarks was to make fun of himself, his products, and at times, his customers. An example provided is “He abbreviated South of the Border as S.O.B. and left the passing motorist to attach whatever meaning as might come to mind.” (Page 7)

The author breaks his book into chapters by billboard theme which works very well, allowing the reader to see the evolution of SOTB design. In short, but heavily illustrated chapters, Capelotti allows his reader to explore the evolution, and importance, of the billboard. As we are reminded, advertisers have only a few brief seconds to catch the attention of a driver speeding along the interstate. It is important for them to grab your attention and leave a lasting impression. South of the Border has been an expert at that for seventy years.

The billboards went through various theme changes such as a black background, a yellow background, the use of sombreros and serapes, and changes to the beloved mascot, Pedro, who evolved in appearance throughout the years but continues to make appearances. While there were changes, there has been a consistency as well. The use of bright colors, a familiar and repetitive font style, a heavy reliance on puns (often with double entendre), Pedro, and the famous mileage counter. This mileage counter made sure travelers could not miss the attraction.

Camp Pedro
Camp Pedro Courtesy Library of Congress

Shafer was known for his word play with a great example pitting north versus south. An early example started life as “Southern Cookin’, Yankee Prices” playing on stereotypes of Southern speech and Yankee cheapness. When this slogan finally made it to the public sight it had been toned down a bit to “Southern Cookin’, Yankee Style.” The point was still driven home, and if you didn’t get it, the use of both Union and Confederate flags would reinforce the meaning. In one billboard that was still fighting the Civil War, a clearly nervous Pedro, in full Mexican regalia, stands to the left looking at the flags out of the corner of his eye with a concerned smile. (page 57)



This is a fun book, but one also with historical importance. The billboard has evolved and is now often the home of competing legal firms (For the People). Electronic billboards make what was never meant to be permanent, even more fleeting. South of the Border has a nostalgic feeling for anybody who travelled south (to an extent north, but mostly south), along the east coast of America. Those road trips to Florida would not have been the same without South of the Border. Both the book and the attraction are recommended!

For those interested in even more history of this cultural icon; the American Road Trip, I recommend the following titles:

Don’t Make Me Pull Over! An Informal History of the Family Road Trip  See my review here.

Ratay offers “an amiable guide…fun and informative” (New York Newsday) that “goes down like a cold lemonade on a hot summer’s day” (The Wall Street Journal). In hundreds of amusing ways, he reminds us of what once made the Great American Family Road Trip so great, including twenty-foot “land yachts,” oasis-like Holiday Inn “Holidomes,” “Smokey”-spotting Fuzzbusters, twenty-eight glorious flavors of Howard Johnson’s ice cream, and the thrill of finding a “good buddy” on the CB radio.




Beginning as a single roadside stand selling pecans in Eastman, Georgia, by the 1950s, the name Stuckey’s was synonymous throughout the South with candy, souvenirs, clean restrooms, and the other necessities of automobile travel. During the 1960s, the Stuckey’s stores moved into the new frontier of the interstate highways, where quite often they sat alone at the exits like oases in the middle of a desert. Their bright aqua-colored rooftops were a welcome beacon for those who had been driving long distances. Travel has changed a lot since then, but Stuckey’s can still be found along the nation’s highways, still providing dozens of types of candy and nuts, plus the same mix of souvenirs, as always. Anyone need a rubber alligator or a pecan log?

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.


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Book Review–Central Florida’s World War II Veterans

Central Florida's World War II Veterans

Grenier, Bob. Central Florida’s World War II Veterans (Images of America). Charleston: Arcadia Publishing. 2016. 128 pages, b/w photos. ISBN 9781467116794, $21.99.

The Greatest Generation, those who fought World War II in whatever function, is silently, yet rapidly, passing on to their reward. When you stop to think that the end of World War II was more than 75 years ago you can easily fathom that it will not be long until the last veterans from the war pass.

Author Bob Grenier, who wears many hats including historian, museum curator, Walt Disney World employee, politician, historical activist, and more, has written what I find to be a very fitting tribute to the common soldier. This is not a book glamorizing the Generals or the Colonels, or even the Lieutenants. This is not a book glamorizing war nor condemning the enemy.

Robert M. McTueous Marine Corps photo
Robert M. McTureous,  Jr., Medal of Honor recipient. Photo courtesy United States Marine Corps

Instead, this is a book that reminds us of the soldiers who went to serve in faraway lands they might not have been able to find on a map were real people. They were fathers, sons, brothers, uncles, husbands, or boyfriends. In some cases, they were daughters, wives, sisters, aunts, or girl friends who served in organizations like WAVES, or as nurses, or were part of the Red Cross. Many of these brave women led the charge from the home front, planting Victory Gardens, recycling materials, working in manufacturing roles, single handedly caring for families, and struggling to keep morale high at home and abroad.  Their importance and contributions should not be forgotten. Not all the men in the book survived. Some, like Medal of Honor recipient Robert M. McTureous, Jr., paid the ultimate price.

The book is broken down geographically into eight chapters with a concluding chapter titled Florida’s Gallant Sons and Daughters. The chapters feature soldiers who lived in or moved to an area and also highlights local markers or memorials to the War. Each chapter is loaded with photos; some contemporary, some from the war, some personal such as wedding photos, and some are memorials and remembrances. All tell a story though, and through the limited text allowed for each image, Grenier helps evoke a feeling of the image whether it be happy, sad, uncertain, confident, or scared.

This book reminds us how precious life is and that our time is fleeting. A generation called the greatest is rapidly leaving us. It will be left for us, the living, to remember them. With this slim volume, Bob Grenier has provided us a way to remember the men and women who helped stop Axis forces and allow the American way of life to continue. One cannot finish this volume and not be moved. Highly recommended.

To learn more about World War II, I recommend a subscription to World War II magazine. World War II magazine covers every aspect of history’s greatest modern conflict with vivid, revealing, and evocative writing from top historians and journalists

**For full disclosure: Mr. Grenier is a friend of mine, and this book is published by the same publisher I am published by. I did however purchase my copy of his book at full retail price, and Mr. Grenier has in no way asked for me to write a review. The review is based upon my own reading and viewing of the book.

If you enjoyed Bob’s look at World War II veterans, I recommend you find a copy of his similar book for Civil War veterans. This book covers both Union and Confederate soldiers and shows how the war and its aftermath played a considerable role in the future development of Central Florida.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.




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Book Review: London’s Blue Plaques 2nd Edition

Spencer, Howard, editor. The English Heritage Guide to London’s Blue Plaques, 2nd edition, revised, and
updated. Tewkesbury: September Publishing, 2019. ISBN 9781912836055, 528 pages, index, photos,
maps. $25.95 or £17.99.


Walk around London for even a few minutes and you cannot help but see a blue plaque attached to a building. These plaques are associated with London just as red double-decker buses, black cabs, Big Ben, and the Royal family. So just what are these and why are they there?

These plaques help commemorate not just individuals but the places that are associated with these persons. Curated by English Heritage, this program has been in existence since 1867. English Heritage is now the fourth organization to manage the program, following up on work carried out by the (Royal) Society of the Arts, the London County Council, and the Greater London Council. English Heritage took over management in 1986 and is now responsible for well over 900 plaques.


Plaque nominations are provided by the public (the criteria are on the English Heritage website) and go
through a vetting process. Traditionally, the person is the most important part of the selection process.
One of the most important selection criteria is the person must have “made a positive contribution to
human welfare and happiness.” (Page 8) However, some additional guidelines must be followed in order
for a plaque to be awarded.

In order to be recognized, a person must have been dead for twenty years. This allows the selection
committee to judge the impact and enduring legacy of the candidate. A second rule is that the person
may only have one plaque. This rule is more stringently enforced than in the past. Spencer notes that
William Makepeace Thackeray has three blue plaques. A building where a plaque is being proposed may
have no more than two plaques in place. This often rules out buildings such as churches, theatres, and
schools. In fact, there are currently only eighteen structures with more than one plaque.

The London Blue Plaque program helps bring together a person, a place, and a story. As such, you
cannot just nominate a person, there needs to be a structure standing that the commemorated person
would recognize. This means the building must be period appropriate. As Spencer interprets this, “the
thought being that once the original bricks and mortar have gone, so has the meaningful connection
between person and place.” (Page 9) If an imaginary plaque was placed at 1050 Blackstoneberry for Stan
Ridgeway, and the imaginary building was to burn down, a replacement plaque would not be issued to any new
structure built there. The newly constructed building and Ridgeway would have no association.

For the keen observer, you will note that not all plaques are the same. Some are not round and several
are not even blue. The key as to whether a plaque is part of this initiative is to pay attention to the
sponsoring organization. Other plaque sponsoring groups you might see throughout England include the
Westminster City Council Green Plaque, Nubian Jak Community Trust, Ealing Civic Society, and others.

Book editor Howard Spencer is correct to point out the value of this program in addition to name and
place remembrance. This program helps reflect the shifting perceptions of what is historically significant
and what society values and thinks is worthy of memory. History is an evolving field of study and this program is a prime example of this evolution. He points out that currently only fourteen  percent of plaques recognize women and less than five percent honor minorities. While continued efforts are needed on these fronts, Spencer states that these imbalances are being addressed and a wider diversity of people are being publicly commemorated.

Freddie Mercury Blue Plaque located at 22 Gladstone Avenue Feltham, London Burough of Hounslow Photo courtesy English Heritage

A book such as this has value but maybe not so much as a travel or tour guide. For most people, there are more user-friendly ways to learn about these plaques. English Heritage has an excellent search feature on their website allowing you to search by name, keyword, category, or borough. An example; for those interested in rock music, you can find plaques for Freddie Mercury, Jimi Hendrix, and John Lennon; certainly three of the biggest names in the field.

As a travel tool, I would recommend downloading the official app from your preferred app store. The app will allow you to find all plaques that are near you, search all blue plaques, or take guided tours. When I open the app today, there are two tours listed, Literary Kensington and Soho, Creatives, and Visionaries. Both take you to twelve stops and range from 45 minutes to an hour and a half estimated.


All those positives of other options aside, I still have a place on my shelves for this book. One being, I don’t live in London and don’t have the ability to regularly visit. This book gives me a “fix” so to speak. The reality is, most of us will know very few of the names on these plaques. The plaques themselves provide very little information, think “George Washington Slept Here.” Spencer provides a bit more background on each individual allowing readers to determine if they wish to learn more. Most receive about half a page of text. Unfortunately, the majority do not have a photo of their plaque included. This is no doubt a cost issue as including 900+ photos would become prohibitively expensive and the book would balloon from an already large 528 pages to nearly double the size.

For casual readers such as myself, the book is divided geographically into 36 chapters. Each chapter
contains a small-undetailed map. Numbers on the map correspond to listings in the chapter helping you
somewhat orient yourself but street names are not included. Tube stops and names are shown.

The book appears to be solidly constructed and the paper is good quality. Should you wish to throw this
in your backpack while walking the city it doesn’t take too much room but it does weigh a couple of

At around $20-$25 US, I have no problem recommending this title. It is a great addition to any armchair
traveler’s library.

If you are in the Covent Garden area of London be sure to find the Young Dancer sculpture. Learn about this great piece of public art in my blog post. 

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Book Review: Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee

Jones, James B., Jr. Hidden History of Civil War Tennessee. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing,
2013. Bibliography, endnotes, b/w photos.126 pages, 100 pages of text. ISBN 9781609498993,

The Civil War produced stories too numerous to ever be covered, no matter the number of
words. These stories range from the big picture issues of slavery and battles, all the way through local impacts on communities and individuals. Volumes in the Arcadia Publishing Hidden History series often focus on more localized stories. These may be more well-known events all the way through smaller locally recognized happenings. These stories are always of interest and help expand our knowledge of how the war influenced our country.

Author James B. Jones, Jr. served as a public historian on the staff of the Tennessee Historical
Commission and served as editor of their newsletter, The Courier.

Jones covers six major topics in his book; most of which I would propose are unknown to
readers. The first chapter discusses the safety and vigilance committees of west and middle
Tennessee in the early years of the war. In reality, these were really misnomers for those not
loyal to the Confederacy or those having the slightest hint of Union sympathies. Violence and
intimidation were common by these groups. Voter intimidation was a common tactic and even
those who were not drummed out of town often did not vote knowing their ballot would be

The following two chapters deal with public health issues. The topics of prostitution and
venereal disease were a major concern during the war years. Efforts to rid cities such as
Nashville of prostitutes failed. Rather than continue to fight this issue officials made efforts to
control the trade. It was mandated that prostitutes register and be licensed after being tested for
disease. These registration fees often helped cover the health care expenses of other workers. The
influx of military troops helped bring other public health issues to the fore. The city of
Murfreesboro suffered from smallpox in November 1863. Other cities, particularly large ones
such as Nashville suffered from poor sewage, inadequate waste removal, and vermin infestation.

James Negley: Photo courtesy Library of Congress

The next chapters are more military in focus. Jones tells the story of Colonel John M. Hughs, the guerilla leader of the twenty-fifth Tennessee Infantry. This is followed by a chapter dealing the several days long Negley’s Raid of 1862. This Union attack helped drive Confederate forces from Chattanooga. In the minds of many Union brass, the actions of the raiders helped turn many local Union supports to the Confederates.

In the final full chapter, Jones discusses the occupation of Memphis by Union troops under the command of William T. Sherman. Sherman faced multiple problems during this early stage of the war. His first method of keeping control was to control the press. Despite being able to control the local narrative there were logistical problems not so easy to solve. These included a swelling contraband population. He then faced feeding, housing, and clothing these new arrivals. Multiple currencies were in circulation and with it came problems in issues of trade. Illegal trade with enemy troops, especially in cotton, became so onerous that Sherman expelled the traders and speculators. Jones asserts that while Sherman was considered to have wielded a heavy hand he really had no choice.

The book closes with a short appendix of General Orders.

The book is a quick read coming in at 100 pages of text including many interesting b/w photos. It
can certainly be completed during an afternoon on the back porch in your comfortable chair. The
notes and bibliography are welcome additions for those interested in learning more on selected

While some may quibble with the topics Jones has chosen to include, I do not think that is really
the point of this series. This series is meant to bring the unfamiliar to readers. Perhaps a second
volume can be produced telling additional stories. Because different authors write the books in
this series, there is little continuity book to book other than the use of short vignettes.

For those seeking a short Civil War read that is not heavy on detail this may be for you.

You may read other reviews of Arcadia Publishing titles by clicking here.

An excellent guide to Civil War sites in Tennessee can be found here.

For an excellent archive of Tennessee Civil War materials visit the Tennessee State Library and Archives, located in Nashville.

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Book Review–Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Hidden History of Civil War Savannah

Jordan, Michael L. Hidden History of Civil War Savannah. Charleston: Arcadia
Publishing, 2017. ISBN 9781626196438, 159 pages, 131 pages text, b/w photos,
notes, bibliography, index, $21.99.

As author Michael L. Jordan describes Savannah, Georgia, “…Savannah is a Civil
War city, an epicenter of activity in the conflict that southerners like to call “the
War Between the States.” While I might take umbrage with this stereotyped
portrayal of southerners, there is considerable truth to this statement.

In his book, Hidden History of Civil War Savannah, Jordan tells nine stories
allowing readers an introductory, yet thorough enough for many readers, glimpse
of the role Savannah played during the Civil War. Savannah was more than just a
Christmas gift from General Sherman to President Lincoln.

The first chapter starts out with controversial Confederate Alexander Stephens and
his infamous “Corner-stone Speech” given in Savannah in March 1861. In this
speech Stevens leaves little doubt that slavery and white supremacy were the
drivers of the new Confederate government. He went further calling abolitionists
“fanatics” stating they “were attempting to make things equal which the Creator
had made unequal.” It appears that Stephens’s views were in the mainstream of
Georgia voters. Just twenty years later he served as Governor of the state.

In the following chapter Jordan treats us to the life of Francis Barton, a signer of
the Georgia Ordinance of Secession, who as a brigade commander in the
Oglethorpe Light Infantry was killed during the July 1861 Battle of Bull Run.
Bartow’s remains are interred in Laurel Grove Cemetery.

The life of Robert E. Lee and his strong associations with Savannah, especially his
time as a young engineer helping to construct Fort Pulaski are quickly covered.
The following chapter contains a thorough discussion of the CSS Atlanta and the
problems the ship’s crew faced before the vessel was eventually surrendered to
Union forces. The newly named USS Atlanta served in the Union navy during the
blockade of the James River.

The fate of Union prisoners of war in 1864 is a chapter that I enjoyed considerably.
It left me wanting more however. The next chapters cover the Confederate
evacuation of the city, including the arrival of General Sherman and concerns of
the local residents. The story of the capture of Savannah is followed by a
discussion of Savannah rejoining the Union. Again, the concerns of local residents
and businesses are discussed in detail.

While General Sherman didn’t put the torch to Savannah as he did to others, there
was a major fire in the city during January 1865. The fire is traced to a stable in the
northwestern part of the city. As the fire spread, it reached the naval arsenal
causing major explosions that rocked the city. Union forces helped in removing
shells when possible and in protecting citizens and property. The cause of the
blaze, and other small ones in the city, was not determined. Jordan does not put
forth an opinion or provide any evidence as to who may have been the cause.

The book concludes with a chapter on Savannah’s Confederate Memory. The
importance of the Ladies Memorial Association and their role in raising money for
a Confederate monument is detailed. The story of men taking over the lead on the
creation of the monument and the story of the monument itself are quite intriguing
and well worth the read. The 20th century myths about no “Yankee” products being
used in the creation of the monument is amusing.

This book is a quick and enjoyable read with each chapter standing on its own
merit. These brief vignettes provide an interesting background and introduction
into the role of Savannah before, during, and after the Civil War. The notes and
bibliography are appreciated and allow readers the ability to follow up and learn
more on subjects of interest to them.

This is not a travel guide. No maps, directions, or addresses are included. Rather, a
reader can use this as an introduction to places they may wish to seek out during a
visit to the “Hostess City of the South.”

A wonderful single day tour of the highlights of Civil War Savannah can be found
on the American Battlefield Trust webpage.

There are several guided walking tours of Civil War sites available. Savannah Walks
offers what looks to be an interesting tour readers might enjoy.

Some incredible Civil War era maps are available for viewing and download
through the Library of Congress.

You may read other reviews of Arcadia Publishing titles by clicking here.

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Book Review: Don’t Make Me Pull Over

Book Cover-Don't Make Me Pull Over by author Richard Ratay

Ratay, Richard. Don’t Make Me Pull Over!: An Informal History of the Family Road Trip. New
York: Scribner, 2019. 288 pages, ISBN 978-1501188756. $17.00.

I picked this book up at the recommendation of my social media friend Stephanie Stuckey. If you are not familiar with the Stuckey’s story, I recommend following their brand on Twitter.
Stephanie is doing amazing things toward bringing this American standard back to life.

Well, anyway, I thought this would just be a fun read and had no real intention of reviewing it.
By the time I was ten pages in, I realized I was on to something more than a casual read and I grabbed my notebook in order to make notes and take down page numbers.

In a book that is equal parts memoir, history, sociology, humor, and travel writing, author
Richard Ratay tackles the quintessential American vacation; the “road trip.” Immortalized in one
of my all-time favorite movies, National Lampoon’s Vacation, the road trip is that much looked forward to vacation
while also being that dreaded cooped up with the family in a car for long hours event. Ratay uses
this event to display family love and strife while highlighting changes in American life. Has
progress really been that great or have we lost something along the way that may never be

While not being a history book per se, readers will learn about New Deal construction projects
and the blueprint for the 1956 passage of the Federal-Aid Highway Act, which helped create
more than 41,000 miles of interstate highways.

The end of World War II led to a boom in travel fueled by an increase in disposable income, the
accrual and usage of vacation time, returning soldiers who were bitten by the travel bug, an
increased birthrate, and finally, an increase in personal automobile ownership.

This travel boom fueled developments such as the rise of the gas station, increased attendance at
national parks, and the creation of large-scale destination amusement parks leading to the decline
of the old-fashioned roadside attraction.

Readers take a veritable walk down memory lane throughout as Mr. Ratay recounts family trips
and things we all probably remember. I can distinctly remember two memories that the author
recalls in the text. The first being the idea of “making time.” This is described as “progressing
toward the day’s destination as quickly as we could.” The other is his father not wanting to stop
for gas until the last possible minute, as this would slow down our “making time.” I can
remember these times vividly as well.

Throughout, the book is filled with forgotten memories of things such as cb radios, fuzz busters,
billboard ads, playing family games on the road, budgeting candy and souvenir money, Howard
Johnson’s, arcades at hotels with games such as Space Invaders, 8-track tape players, wood
paneled station wagons, the rise of the mini-van, and I am sure you will find many more.

For me, I did not feel the editorializing about the failure of the 55 mile per hour speed limit to
either save gas or save lives really needed inclusion. It seems out of place and not something that
furthers the story. However, the author does show how his family turned the low speed limit into
a game by having the family be on high alert for law enforcement in order to avoid a potentially
costly and time wasting ticket. There is nothing worse when you are trying to “make time” than
having to explain to an officer why you were driving 20 miles per hour over the speed limit.

The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 is seen as the beginning of the end of the road trip as
Americans knew it. Ratay frames this Act as democratizing air travel, bringing flight prices
within the grasp of the average American. In addition to lower fares, new routes opened up
allowing travelers to either arrive at, or near, their final destination hours, or in some cases days,
before they could while driving. “Making time” took on a completely new meaning.

However, in our haste to arrive at our destination in a timelier manner did we lose something
along the way? Instant gratification became more engrained in our lives. The focus became the
destination and the journey was no longer important. As the author points out, we now miss the
“curious sights and amazing views, the unexpected delights and unanticipated dangers, the
colorful characters and unforgettable people who could only be encountered when travelling the
highways of America.”

This, I feel, is the most important idea you will take from this book. I can’t recommend this book
highly enough.

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Book Review: Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C.

Lincoln's Wartime Tours

Schildt, John W. Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C. Charleston: Arcadia Publishing, 2020. ISBN 9781467145718, 172 pages, 153 pages of text, index, bibliography, notes, b/w photos, $21.99.

Lincoln's Wartime Tours
Lincoln’s Wartime Tours from Washington D.C.

Has there ever been a more written about person that Abraham Lincoln? Ford’s Theatre houses a 34 foot book tower to the Great Emancipator, while estimating the number of titles published is more than 15,000. Moreover, every year more titles are released not even taking into account journal, magazine, and newspaper articles. Authors and publishers continue to find aspects of Lincoln’s life that have not been directly addressed, new interpretations are provided, and in some cases authors just rehash other secondary materials. The historiography is mind boggling.

Adding to the literature is John Schildt, a certified battlefield guide at Antietam National Battlefield, who has penned a new book discussing the travels made by Lincoln while he served as president. In total, Schildt covers nineteen wartime trips Lincoln made outside of Washington D.C. These trips became less frequent as the war dragged on; beginning with nine in 1862, five in 1863, four in 1864, and a single trip in 1865. (page 18) As would be expected these sojourns were made close to Washington D.C.; visiting Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and New York.

The author proposes that these trips were made for three specific reasons. The first was to confer with generals, second to plot military strategy, and a third reason was to visit troops in the field. (pages 16- 17). The president seemed genuinely concerned for the combatants whether they be Union or Confederate. An example being provided in a lengthy quote from the Donald C. Pfanz work Lincoln at City Point, where the president is seen moving through the tents of injured men, shaking hands, offering encouragement, sharing a tear, and telling them they had to live. When it came to Confederates, Lincoln was known to visit those who were confined to hospitals. Lincoln is shown to be a truly benevolent leader. (pages 141-145)

A continuing thread about family, in particular Mary Lincoln, runs throughout the work. Mary is often seen as difficult, jealous, and perhaps another reason for Lincoln to have tried to escape D.C. for these short periods. Tad is shown to be a boy, doing boy things, and having boyish reactions. During the 1865 trip to Virginia, the presidential entourage came across three pound bales of tobacco that some of the adults took for their own use. Tad joined in and grabbed some as well despite being too young to smoke. (pages 126-127)

Some of the visits are better known than others. The trip to Gettysburg is well documented and Lincoln’s “few appropriate remarks” is perhaps the most widely known speech of all time. Other tours are less well known and herein lies the value of the book. For those seeking a concise and easy to digest book outlining a unique aspect of Lincoln’s life this is recommended. The endnotes, more than 200 of them, are helpful for those looking for further documentation.

Thank you to Arcadia Publishing for providing a complimentary review copy of this book.

This post may contain affiliate links. If you click these links and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. This commission does not affect any price that you pay. All views and opinions provided are my own and are never influenced by affiliate programs or sponsors providing products.