Additions to The American Soldier in the Civil War: A Pictorial History

The American Soldier in the Civil War: A Pictorial History is different than most books because it cannot be completely classified as a picture book or a book predicated around text.  About two thirds of the book is made up of large murals, often taking up two pages depicting battles of the war. The other third of the book is large blocks of text giving biographical information about important figures in the war, such as generals and other important officers, or giving historical accounts of what occurred during the battle.  So, while the majority of the book is pictures, the book cannot be completely classified as a picture book, and the text cannot be referred to as an addition.

Instead, both parts of the book, the picture centered part and the text center part have their own types of additions.  In terms of the picture centered part, under each picture is a blurb of a about forty to one hundred words describing what is going on in the picture.  In the blurb will be a description of the outcome of the battle, a description of what is going on in the battle in that specific picture, whether it be a famous cavalry charge, artillery barrage, or other important action taken during this battle.  These captions help the reader to understand the historical importance of what was going on in the battle, where the battle was taking place, and why the battle was taking place. These little blurbs are similar to what we see in textbooks when helping to understand a picture.  The captions, while few in words are integral to the meaning of the book, because without them, the reader is simply looking at a landscape with a battle occuring on it. For the reader, there is no meaning to the pictures and the book in general without these captions, making them an integral part of the book.

The other third of the book is extremely different than the other two thirds.  Where the main two thirds of the book are large pictures big enough to take up two pages at a time, the other third is massive blocks of a text that look more like text out of a textbook than a regular book.  This makes sense because the book is meant to be read like a textbook, but this is a concept I will go i into later. These blocks of text, as previously explained are meant as short biographies and accounts of the actions taken by the important figures, both for the Union and Confederacy, during the important moments in the war.  

Now, since this part of the book is text driven, the additions will be vastly different than that of the pictorial driven section of the book.  In this section of the book, instead of having captions, which would make no sense, the text is accompanied by portraits of the men being discussed in the book.  These pictures, obviously, allow the reader to have some understanding of what the men looked like. While a biography can tell you a lot about a person, seeing a picture of them helps the reader to visualize what they would have looked like leading their men in a cavalry charge, giving orders to his officers, or taking a heroic action.

There are two more very important additions to this book as a whole that must be discussed when dsicerning this books function.  The first of these is the table of context in the beginning of the book. The table of contents lists the names of the pictures that are drawn throughout the book, and the important people that the book gives bibliographies on.  It also lists what pages these individual items can be found as a guide to help the reader find these specific images and biographies. This table of contents says a lot about the function of the book as it shows that it is not a book that is meant to be read front to back like a novel.  This is a book that is meant for people to find specific things they would like to learn about and read a section at a time rather than just reading the book front to back.

The other major addition to the book that I found very interesting was the timeline that is added in the very beginning of the book.  This timeline recounts the war and shows a definitive progression of the battles and major political events that took place during the Civil War between 1861 and 1865.  Again, like the table of contents, this helps the reader to pinpoint certain events they would like to learn about. Also, it adds a level of greater historical context to the book that tells the reader exactly what was going on when the depictions occurred in real life.  This addition, along with the Table of Contents show this book isn’t necessarily meant for pleasure, but as a utility also.