January 30, 2008

Under Both Flags

Two days ago I wrote about Annals of the Civil War, a collection of serious articles written by the war's participants that initially appeared in 1879. Today I'll examine a much lesser-known work and frankly, one that I still can't get a good handle on. Its title is Under Both Flags and was published in 1896. I've seen it listed as being published in both Philadelphia and Chicago. The former was done in a dark blue cloth with the latter bound in maroon cloth. Both had gilt lettering and designs on the spine and cover. In addition, I've seen it listed with a couple of different subtitles, one being Personal Stories of Sacrifice and Struggle During the Civil War and the other A Panorama of the Great Civil War As Represented in Story, Anecdote, Adventure, and the Romance of Reality. It's that last bit that concerns me as to the historical accuracy of much of the book's contents. "Anecdotes" and the "romance of reality" do not strike me as good descriptors of reliable history.

The editor writes in the introduction that every article, sketch, or vignette, was written by "the living actors or witnesses of the events related" and that "in no other from can these historical treasures be obtained." So, on the surface, this could be an important primary source collection. However, many of the articles and sketches included have, IMO, a very romanticized feel. Not surprising, considering that the recollections were written and published close to forty years after the fact.

One interesting point is the illustrations. Approximately 250 "superb illustrations from photographs and drawings accurately picturing the scenes described" adorn the book. It's a large book as well. A facsimile reprint of the original was published in 2003 in softcover and is easily had. The hardcover first edition is tough to find in good condition. Books of this type were handled heavily over the years leading to excessive wear. Those copies out there on ABE tend to to be priced in the $50 - $100 range. I'd love to hear from anyone who can add to the history and accuracy (or lack thereof) of this book. Pictured copy for sale here.

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