Friday, December 25, 2009

CWL---Guide to Historic Virginia

Historic Virginia: Your Travel Guide to Virginia's Fascinating Historic Sites, Emily J. Salmon and John S. Salmon, Trade Paper Press, 240 pages, 2009, $24.95.

Virginia has much to offer historically. For the immersed Civil War enthusiast this book is not exhaustive. For the new visitor to the state, the guidebook has is a fine first guide that will generate further interest. Not organized by region except for a simple site by region index, Historic Virginia might baffle the reader who gives in a quick glace. The sites are organized by topics: African-American and Civil Rights sites, art,/literature/music.sports, battles and conflicts, business and commerce, higher education, historic cemeteries, historic homes, historic and scenic drives, infrastructure, justice and confinement, house museums, natural wonders, politics, religious history sites, settlement and exploration, native American sites.

As the guidebook says, “Some of these sites are very old, while others are of more recent vintage. Some are of national importance, while others are of local or statewide significance. Some are located on the main highways, others are on roads less traveled. Some of the historic places are, in fact, roads—and bridges, and airports, and natural wonders, and jails, and churches, and battlefields, and museums.” Many of these historic hideaways are right next door to the bigger, more heavily publicized attractions.

For example take polics. The guide lists Colonial Williamsburg, Hanover Courthouse, Red Hill, the 1861 restored state capitol building, St. John's Episcopal Church, and the state manison. Reading the entries, one gathers quickly a brief history of the evolution of colonial, antebellum, Civil War and Reconstruction history of Virginia governmnment, and their major sites with their contact information. Yet there is a disconnect between the sites. The site-by-region index is helpful but doesn't get beyond what the book covers.

Checking the battlefields category, one may quickly ask: if Fisher's Hill is represented how could Cedar Creek a few miles away be ignored? Belle Grove plantation is on/adjacent to the Cedar Creek Battlefield and the house museum is covered. There are plenty of sites offered and organized by topic but some absences are glaring. Could the section on historic jails leave out the Appomattox Courthouse with it's first and second floor jail below the third floor courtroom? Yes.

Filled with brief historical essays and side notes, photos, driving maps, an index and listing of sites by region, and contact information, Historic Virginia: Your Travel Guide to Virginia’s Fascinating Historic Sites is a fine guidebook that will generate lists of destinations for those who want to explore the historic byways of bygone Virginia but the user will have to connect-the-dots and use a AAA guide book to do it. Ideally, the book is suited for Virginia civics teachers who wish to organize lesson plans on themes.

About the Authors:

Emily J. Salmon and John S. Salmon have written or edited several books and articles together, including Franklin County, Virginia, 1786–1986: A Bicentennial History. Emily has B.S. and M.A. degrees in psychology and history, respectively. She is senior copy editor in the Publications and Educational Services Division at the Library of Virginia in Richmond, and co editor of The Hornbook of Virginia History. John has B.A. and M.A. degrees in American history. A former archivist at the Library of Virginia, he is retired from the Virginia Department of Historic Resources, where he was staff historian and wrote The Official Virginia Civil War Battlefield Guide. Their knowledge of local and regional history and literary skill have also yielded looks at the Civil War in Historic Photos of Gettysburg and Historic Photos of the Siege of Petersburg, and a look at Virginia, in Historic Photos of Greater Hampton Roads, Historic Photos of Richmond, and Historic Photos of Virginia, along with Historic Photos of the White House.

Source (Authors' Biographies) Turner Publishing Inc.