Review: The Confederacy’s Secret Weapon: The Civil War Illustrations of Frank Vizetelly

by James Durney on March 23, 2010 · 1 comment

The Confederacy’s Secret Weapon: The Civil War Illustrations of Frank Vizetelly
(Civil War Sesquicentennial Series) (Paperback)
by Douglas W. Bostick

Product Details

  • Paperback: 160 pages
  • Publisher: History Press (November 20, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1596295929
  • ISBN-13: 978-1596295926

Small books have a special set of delights unique to them.  Unlike their huge detailed conspicuous footnoted brothers, another special set of delights, they are quick enjoyable reads.  This book is one of the better small histories I have read.

Frank Vizetelly is not a common Civil War name but his illustrations are instantly recognized.  This book introduces the man behind these illustrations.  At the same time, the reader gets a glimpse of 1860s journalism and the cutthroat competition between the illustrated weekly papers.  Toss in a look at living in the Confederacy, problems in sending material to England and being a war correspondent to spice the story.  The result is a quick, fun and informative read that will please Civil War readers, students of journalism and history buffs.

The author has a clear narrative style that easily links Vizetelly’s dispatches together.  We get just enough of the author to place Vizetelly within the war and cover the problems he faces.  However, Vizetelly’s dispatches and illustrations tell the story.  In 1860, four newspapers featured topical woodcut engravings.  The Illustrated London News dispatched an experience war correspondent to cover the war in America.  His reporting upset Washington and denied his accreditation.  These circumstances caused him to cross into the Confederacy providing us with “pictures” of the Civil War from that viewpoint.  He became a Southern supporter and at Chickamauga carried messages for Longstreet during the battle.  Very well liked and trusted, he had access to the CSA high command.  This extended to traveling with Jefferson Davis after the fall of Richmond and “loaning” him money to aid his escape.

The best part of the book might be the woodcuts.  This is the war in the South as seen by a sympathizer of their cause.  They range from portraits of Lee, Jackson and Stuart to battlefields and slave churches.  Highly detailed, they stopped my reading to look at them and view the war as he saw it.

Editor’s Note: Jim is a highly ranked reviewer of American Civil War histories on many book seller’s sites.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Tom Gann August 28, 2010 at 10:27 am

at Chickamauga carried messages for Longstreet during the battle.

According to Longstreet’s chief of staff,Moxely Sorrel,in Recollections of a Confederate Staff Officer,Frank Vizetelly did not arrive at Chickamauga until ……..”long after the battle.”

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