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Mystic Chords of Memory

Civil War Battlefields and Historic Sites Recaptured

168 pages / 10.00 x 12.00 inches / 180 color photographs, 23 black-and-white photographs

Civil War

  Hardcover / 9780807123096 / November 1998

“The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.”
—Abraham Lincoln, from his First Inaugural Address, March 4, 1861

“When I set foot on ground where Lincoln, Lee, Grant, or others walked, where the great battles raged, an almost magical feeling infuses me. Capturing these places on film, hopefully, in some small way, allows us to preserve that magical feeling of the special places and people of the war in our everyday lives.” Through his stunning photographs in Mystic Chords of Memory, David J. Eicher presents many of the historical sites that evoke that “magical feeling,” not only for him but for thousands of other Civil War scholars and buffs. In this captivating pictorial work, Eicher visits the most famous Civil War battlefields—Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Antietam among them—but also introduces readers to an array of lesser battle sites as well as monuments, forts, houses and farms, cemeteries, and museums.

The breathtaking color photographs were chosen from Eicher’s collection of more than 10,000 images of Civil War sites. His modern images are supplemented by powerful historical black-and-white photographs that propel readers back to the Civil War era. The result is a richly illustrated work that captures the most important, unusual, and interesting places associated with the war as they stand today.

Eicher’s probing analysis of the arduous four-year struggle provides background on its origins, interpretations of its major battles, and a summary of the war’s aftermath. The narrative is peppered with more than 150 quotations from the journals, letters, and diaries of Civil War participants, allowing readers to absorb the human aspects of America's greatest national tragedy.

Eicher details the firing on Fort Sumter, the shock of First Bull Run, the carnage of Shiloh, the turning points at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, and the surrender at Appomattox. Contributing to the book’s charm are the dozens of images of forgotten places that were touched by the war, such as an abandoned graveyard in a Mississippi wood, the sandy strip of beach where some of the war's first black soldiers won fame, and a brick church in Virginia pocked by artillery fire.

Whether viewed as fields of death or fields of glory—and they were both—Civil War sites retain a commanding hold on the American imagination. In words as well as photographs, Eicher captures the poignant memory of our nation in conflict.

David J. Eicher , managing editor of Astronomy magazine, is the author of several books, among them Robert E. Lee: A Life Portrait and The Civil War in Books: An Analytical Bibliography.

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