MYSTIC CHORDS OF MEMORY: CIVIL WAR BATTLEFIELDS AND HISTORIC SITES RECAPTURED
Photographs and text by David J. Eicher
Foreword by John Y. Simon
167 pp., hardcover, Louisiana State University Press, Baton Rouge, 1998, ISBN 0–8071–2309–9
“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.” These are the impassioned words of longtime Civil War aficionado David Eicher.
Through his stunning photographs in Mystic Chords of Memory, Eicher presents many of the historical sites that evoke that “magical feeling” for him and thousands of other Civil war scholars and buffs. In this captivating pictorial work, Eicher not only visits the most famous Civil War battlefields — Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Antietam among them — but also introduces readers to an array of lesser-known battle sites as well as monuments, forts, houses and farms, cemeteries, and museums.
The breathtaking color photographs, chosen from Eicher’s vast personal collection, are supplemented by powerful, historical black-and-white photographs that propel readers back to the Civil War era. The resulting richly illustrated work 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. Peppered with more than 150 quotations from the journals, letters, and diaries of Civil war participants, the narrative allows readers to absorb the human aspects of the greatest of America’s national tragedies.
Eicher details the firing on Fort Sumter, the shock of First Bull Run, the carnage of Shiloh, the transformation of the war at Antietam, the turning points at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, the decisive, grueling campaigns of 1864, and the surrender at Appomattox. Contributing to the book‘s charm are dozens of images of forgotten places 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, trenches along a Virginia county highway, 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.