Book Reviews: Summer 2014

I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island: Life in a Civil War Prison, by David R. BushI Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island: Life in a Civil War Prison
By David R. Bush
Gainsville: University Press of Florida, 2011
269 pps., B&W illustrations, index
$34.95 hardcover

On July 22, 1863, Virginia resident Catherine “Kate” Makely finally received a letter from her husband, Confederate Captain Wesley Makely, after six weeks of silence following his capture by Union forces. From that moment through May 1865, researchers have been given a snapshot of life in a Union-operated prisoner of war camp through the letters sent between this husband and wife.

Written by anthropologist and archaeologist David R. Bush, “I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island” combines an analysis of material culture and archival holdings to examine this particular aspect of the American Civil War. Through descriptions and illustrations of the archaeological findings at Johnson’s Island, where Makely’s prison was located off the shores of Sandusky, Ohio, the author gives readers a glimpse of the physical life led by the Confederate prisoners housed there. Paired with transcripts of the letters between Makely and his wife, readers can also better understand the psychological implications of being a prisoner of war. “I Fear I Shall Never Leave This Island” gives the kinds of details that Civil War enthusiasts will appreciate, along with the historical context and anthropological theory that historians will find useful. These elements create an instructive volume on life for a Confederate officer in a Union prisoner camp during the Civil War.

Reviewed by Kelly Anderson Gregg, Assistant Editor, Heinz History Center

The Western Front Companion: The Complete Guide to How the Armies Fought for Four Devastating Years, 1914—1918, by Mark AdkinThe Western Front Companion: The Complete Guide to How the Armies Fought for Four Devastating Years, 1914—1918
By Mark Adkin
Mechanicsburg, Pa.: Stackpole Books, 2013
528 pps., color illustrations, index, bibliography
$69.95 hardcover

Painstakingly researched and thoroughly illustrated, “The Western Front Companion” is an exhaustive guide to World War I as it was fought in Western Europe. On June 28, 2014, the world will commemorate the 100th anniversary of Archduke Franz Ferdinand’s assassination and the beginning of the deadliest war the early 20th-century world had ever known. This volume serves as an excellent guide to understanding the war, with detailed information on the causes, the participants, and the strategies involved in the conflict.

Told mainly from a British perspective, “The Western Front Companion” excels in its ability to map and illustrate each battle and major offensive conducted in Western Europe. As the title indicates, information regarding operations elsewhere in Europe, as well as Africa, the Middle East, the Pacific, and American theaters, is out of the scope of its 528 pages. Author Mark Adkin sticks closely to military history in this volume, and his discussions on military technology, tactics, commanders and troops, support services, and the war’s causes and repercussions are instructive. Information on troop movements and battles is paired with stories from individual soldiers and support men and women, giving the volume a comprehensive look at the human impact of the Great War.

Reviewed by Kelly Anderson Gregg, Assistant Editor, Heinz History Center

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