Digital Topographic Maps of Civil War Battlefields, Digital History Corporation, Oakton, Va., $49.95 plus $5 shipping and handling.
Digital Topographic Maps of Civil War Battlefields gives scholars a valuable resource that frustrated field generals probably wished for time and time again–accurately drawn, detailed renderings of almost every major Civil War battlefield.
From Fort Sumter to Sayler’s Creek, 36 battlefields are represented by full-color digital topographic maps and accompanied by a summary of each battle. The CD-ROM also comes bundled with Adobe Acrobat Reader, which allows users to easily view each map without time-consuming downloading. Map renderings are highly detailed and based on those compiled by the U.S. Geological Survey. While some land features may have changed since the Civil War, the mid- to late-20th-century maps still provide a much more complete picture of each field of battle than any wartime rendering. They also display modern features, such as roads and current landmarks, that allow users to orient themselves while visiting the battlefields today.
Navigating through the maps is simple and self-explanatory. Battlefields are organized both chronologically and geographically; a simple point and click sends the user immediately to an overall view of the map in question. With Acrobat’s zoom function, users can enlarge any section of the map up to 800 percent, where the digital picture is still clear and easy to read. The Acrobat Reader program contains its own printing function, which allows users to print any size map on 8 1/2-by-11-inch paper.
Some may wish that Digital History had included battle lines and troop positions on the maps, but the CD’s programmers opted instead to link the battle summaries directly to an enlarged and unobstructed view of the area being described. Just click on any red word in the summary.
The only drawback to Digital Topographic Maps is that some of the summary information is faulty. A few descriptions of battles are downright incorrect, such as Lt. Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine beating off the Confederate assault on Little Round Top by themselves and having Maj. Gen. Henry W. Slocum–instead of Maj. Gen. Oliver O. Howard–commanding the corps routed by Lt. Gen. Thomas “Stonewall” Jackson’s flank attack at Chancellorsville. But the summaries are not the main attraction of this CD. The maps themselves are wonders, and the detail of the images is striking. The CD-ROM is compatible with either Windows or Macintosh.
Timothy R. Sniffin