Battle-Fields of ’61 is Featured Book for July 2011


Battle-Fields of ’61:  a narrative of the military operations of the war for the Union up to the end of the Peninsular campaign.  Willis J. Abbott. 1889. New York: Dodd, Mead, and Company. 

Call Number: E470 .A13 1889 Special Collections

The book of the month, Battle-Fields of ’61, recounts the first troop engagements at the start of the American Civil War.  The name of the war varied within and between geographic locations, cultural and ethnic groups, political viewpoints, time periods and personal opinion.  For those north of the Mason-Dixon line during and just after its end, the war was known as the War of the Rebellion.  Below the Mason-Dixon line in the Southern United States, during the war  it was referred to as the War for Southern Independence.  However, after 1865, the American Civil War became known as the War between the States, or the War of Northern Aggression in the Southern United States.

A variety of names also exist for the forces on each side; the opposing forces named battles differently as well. The Union forces frequently named battles for bodies of water that were prominent on or near the battlefield; Confederates most often used the name of the nearest town. Historian Shelby Foote explains that many Northerners were urban and regarded bodies of water as noteworthy; many Southerners were rural and regarded towns as noteworthy.  As a result, many battles have two or more names that have had varying use, although with some notable exceptions, one tends to take precedence over time.

One of the best examples of battle field naming confusion is the Battle of Bull Run.  Considered to be the first battle of the American Civil War, the Battle of Bull Run was named by Union soldiers after a nearby stream.  However, Confederate forces instead named the skirmish, the Battle of Manassas, after the adjacent town.

The Battle-Fields of ’61 was published in 1889. The copy in Special Collections is a first editon. It has a blue/gray colored cloth binding.  On the front cover is a battlefield pictorial of advancing Union troops with sabres and gun drawn.  The pictorial is stamped in dark blue, and the title and author are stamped in a vivid red hue.