Virginia Military Institute

Virginia Military Institute
Virginia Military Institute in Lexington Virginia.

Monday, July 24, 2017

Touring Virginia's and West Virginia's Civil War Sites by Clint Johnson

I wanted to find a good, complete resource for Virginia's Civil War sites. 

I picked up Clint Johnson's "Touring Virginia's and West Virginia's Civil War Sites" some time ago, and I believe it is the most complete reference for someone wanting to visit places connected to the Civil War in the Virginias.

This PACKED book clocks in at over 350 pages with no filler.  I wonder how much time the author spent in his tireless research on this one....

The book is divided into 18 separate road trips that one could take around the Virginias.  So it is divided into sections by geography instead of chronology.

For most of us, that is the perfect way to organize a book like this.  You have a good idea of what sites are in an area.

And honestly- this isn't a new idea.  I have many books like this.

BUT, Johnson's book is very unique.  It reads just like you are on a road trip with him.  He gives very specific directions about how to get to a battlefield or monument.  He suggests side trips.

ALSO, he gives a great description of what happened at a site, and why it is important to the Civil War tourist.  You could skip over the travel info in this volume, and you would still have a great book about the Civil War in this area.

AND he writes like someone who cares about these sites and their history.  His writing is electric and enthusiastic.

I quickly realized after I started reading, that this was not a book to skim.  This is a book to read slowly and enjoy.  It is also a perfect book to read with a note pad handy.

There are some very interesting facts I learned from Clint Johnson's book.  For example, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee, and John Wilkes Booth were present for the hanging of John Brown.  The designer of the Confederate battle flag is ironically buried in Union West Virginia.  An inn in Middleburg Virginia was a favorite of John Mosby... and JFK and Jackie.

You know I have added some of those sites to my list of places to see.

I also think that any good book should answer questions.... but it should also spark more curiosity.  Johnson does that in this book.  He mentions several places with rich Civil War history, but with statuses that don't look good at the moment.  For example the former Albert Jenkins house museum currently sets vacant.  He brings up the fact that the burial site of Lee's other horse, Lucy Long, remains a mystery.  He also discusses a child named Jim Limber who, "disappeared into history."  Limber's story (and the fact that so little is known of him) is one of the more interesting tales in the Civil War.

I could go on and on.  This is an informative book that is simply good reading.  It gets my highest possible recommendation and I will be reading more books by Clint Johnson.

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