January 27, 2008

The Annals of the War

In 1879, the Times Publishing Company published a fat 800+ page collection of fifty-six articles that had originally appeared on the front page of the Philadelphia Weekly Times beginning in 1877. The book was titled The Annals of the War, Written by Leading Participants North and South, as the articles had been penned by various well-known and not-so-well-known veterans of the "late unpleasantness." According to editor Alexander McClure, "the series of contributions contained in this volume were furnished as special articles with the view of correcting many of the grave errors of the hastily compiled, heedlessly imperfect, and strongly partisan histories which appeared during and soon after the close of the war."

Historian Peter Cozzens wrote in his New Annals of the Civil War that McClure's "lofty claims were largely justified." Most of the books appearing up to that time were heavily biased crap. Cozzens notes that McClure's Weekly Times became the first prominent publication to feature quality articles on the war. The National Tribune for Union veterans did not run war-related articles on a consistent basis until 1881. Confederate Veteran did not commence until 1893 and Century Magazine did not begin its famous Battles and Leaders series until 1884.

In addition, the chosen topics were "written by soldiers and civilians of both sides, presenting the same battles and the same results from entirely different standpoints" and therefore "proffer antagonistic conclusions." Historians James I. Robertson and Gary Gallagher deemed the Annals articles to be "of greater reliability and more provocative than those in the more famous Battles and Leaders series.

This important primary source book has been reprinted numerous times and is easy to come by if one just wants a reading or research copy. First editions in fine shape are a different story as the immense size of the book along with its brown, gilt-laden cover precluded it from wearing well over the years. Expect to pay in the $200 range for a copy in collector's condition. Copy pictured is available for sale here.

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