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Book reviews: Illustrating the Civil War

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Published in The Courier-Journal, Nov. 25, 2011

Is there anything new to say about the American Civil War? You might be surprised.

A quartet of new large-format books commemorate the 150th anniversary of the war with a freshened collection of stories, photos and documents. Each one retells the stories of the war’s most significant battles, from Shiloh and Perryville to Gettysburg and Cold Harbor. But they also look beyond the battlefields to tell the stories of the people and personalities.

For example, in “Discovering The Civil War,” by the National Archives Experience’s “Discovering the Civil War” Team, we meet Sarah Edmonds, one of several women who passed as men in order to enlist and fight with the men. Edmonds fought for two years with a Michigan regiment, then had to fight the federal government to qualify for a soldier’s pension.

The book is the companion to a traveling exhibit created by the National Archives. It’s stocked with images of Civil War documents, including enlistmen…