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Simply Murder: The Battle of Fredericksburg, December 13, 1862

 Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White, Savas-Beatie 2013, $12.95

Simply Murder is one in a growing genre of shorter Civil War titles that target general audiences and offer detailed GPS and battlefield visitation information. Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White provide detailed but visually intuitive maps; intimate knowledge about traffic, intersections and pedestrian obstacles; summaries and visual comparisons of changes in the historical terrain; and a basic primer on the battle, characters and related circumstances associated with it.

The Union defeat at the Battle of Fredericksburg is traditionally blamed on Union Maj. Gen. Ambrose Burnside and the senseless attacks launched against fortified Confederate positions on Marye’s Heights. Mackowski and White, however, deconstruct the traditional accounts and pay homage to more recent scholarship and sophisticated analysis of the battle, which partially interprets it as turning on events much farther south, at Prospect Hill. The authors also include interesting ancillary information, ranging from anecdotes about civilians in the city during the battle to the plight, and sometimes flight, of area slaves.

If there are any drawbacks to this format, it would be the lack of depth in the treatment of the subject matter. Taken as a whole, however, this evolving genre of “go there” short texts can only heighten general public interest in visiting Civil War preservation sites, and that must be seen as a good thing.


Originally published in the September 2013 issue of America’s Civil War. To subscribe, click here.