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Magazine Review: Blue & Gray

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The concept of this bimonthly, published in Columbus, OH, is to devote most of each issue to one campaign, battle, or region of the Civil War, supplying copious historical detail as well as providing present-day students of the war with the information, maps and color photos to find surviving landmarks of the period while traveling on modern roads through towns with new names. It works! I’ve been reading the Winter 2006 issue, and about 60 percent of the pages are about the interesting and confusing campaigns that centered on the little West Virginia town of Romney, a few miles west of Winchester, VA.

Historian Richard A. Sauers estimates that Romney changed hands some 60 times during the five years of war, as Union forces tried to protect the nearby Baltimore & Ohio Railroad from efforts by the Confederates to disrupt and destroy it. Dr. Sauers writes of nervous Union forces fearful of being “bushwhacked” by Confederate sympathizers if they wandered out of their fortified camps; at other times the Union and Confederate forces seemed to have an unspoken agreement to leave each other alone for months at a stretch. His account includes prominent generals such as Stonewall Jackson, Lew Wallace and John C. Fremont, as well as local people who figured in the struggle.

A nice feature in each issue of Blue & Gray is an article examining letters written by soldiers during the war. The one in this issue is from a sergeant in the 1st Arkansas unlucky enough to endure four bloody Union charges against his lines at the “Hornet’s Nest” in the Battle of Shiloh. “Miss Bettie,” he wrote his sweetheart a week later, “I have often thought that I would like to get into a fight, but this battle has satisfied me. I am willing to play quit with them.”

Another article examines the legend of Union sympathizers captured in the mountains of North Carolina by Southern troops at the very end of the war. One of them, a fiddler, was asked to play a tune just before he was executed. It’s a story reprised in both the novel and film Cold Mountain.

There are plenty of ads for Civil War books, tours, re-enactments, and memorabilia in Blue & Gray. A couple of the ads stood out for me: one for type fonts reproducing 19th century penmanship, another for a new book called The Confederate Book of Arguments, which insists that you “never attend a ‘Lincoln Worship Service’ without it.” The Civil War is definitely not over for everybody.

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