Review: The Maps of First Bull Run by Bradley Gottfried

TheMapsOfFirstBullRunBradleyMGottfriedGottfried, Bradley M. The Maps of First Bull Run: An Atlas of the First Bull Run (Manassas) Campaign, including the Battle of Ball’s Bluff, June-October 1861. Savas Beatie LLC (June 10, 2009). 144 pages, 51 maps, appendices, notes, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-1932714609 $34.95 (Hardcover).

What do you get when a publisher long known for its excellent maps actually creates a “Maps of …” series of books?  The answer, one example of which is the The Maps of First Bull Run, is absolute heaven for wargamers and students of the Civil War who are into strategy and tactics.  Bradley M. Gottfried, the author of several Gettysburg books, including the “Maps of …” series premiere with The Maps of Gettysburg, continues that format here in a smaller book which brings full color to the series.

The Maps of First Bull Run contains 51 full color maps rendered in great detail, both in the lay of the land and in the regimental and battery level data in recording troop movements.  Union divisions, brigades, and regiments are rendered in blue while Confederate units are shown in red.  Roads are typically a beige color with forest and fields drawn in green.  Text showing the names of towns, homes, forts, and other features of the terrain are clearly shown in black font.  Scale is also detailed on each map, as is the direction of north (which is not always up).  Arrows are often used to show the thrust of various attacks and important areas of combat are labeled with circled numbers tied to the text.  Speaking of the text, each map includes a full page of text clearly describing the action on the opposite page.

The only area which could use improvement is in modeling the elevation.  Topographical lines of elevation would better reflect the respective heights of various hills rather than the “hash mark” method which was used.  I suspect this was a decision which was discussed quite a bit, so I look forward to Savas Beatie’s response as to why they went in this direction with the elevation model.


An example of the maps found within the book.  Used with the written permission of Savas Beatie.  All rights reserved.  For more information on Savas Beatie titles, visit

The Battle of First Bull Run was an often confusing affair, with wildly varying descriptions of what happened and when.  I own quite a few books on the battle, some with many maps.  Never before have I felt so sure of what actually happened on this first major battlefield of the war than after reading The Maps of First Bull Run.  These maps are not usually overly zoomed in on a key piece of the action, allowing the reader to see what was transpiring behind the front lines.  This trend in typical Civil War books is not generally followed in the “Maps of …” series and is a refreshing change of pace.  Bull Run expert Harry Smeltzer (founder of the First Bull Run site Bull Runnings) aided Gottfried with proofreading, fact-checking, and otherwise vetting the information contained in the book.

Readers need to delve deeper than the title to see how much is contained in this book.  The subtitle gives a clearer picture of what else is included, in this case the Battle of Ball’s Bluff.  Ball’s Bluff expert Jim Morgan was consulted heavily on this portion of the book, with his interpretation of this confused fight being used.  Although not mentioned in the subtitle, the skirmish at Lewinsville on September 11, 1861 is also represented on one map.

Each map and its accompanying text have endnotes associated with them.  Areas of disagreement among the sources are discussed to allow readers to recognize portions of the map which are in dispute, and there are more than a few.  In any case, Gottfried backs up his maps with plenty of annotation and explanation.

This book, like The Maps of Gettysburg before it and like future volumes in this series, is a wargamer’s dream come true.  Numerous scenarios tied to the various maps in this book can be created.  The large number of maps combined with the orders of battle for First Bull Run and Ball’s Bluff give wargamers a wealth of information at their fingertips in one book.

The Maps of First Bull Run is a worthy addition to what is shaping up to be a massive series of map-based books on all of the major battles of the Civil War.  Bradley Gottfried is planning to do the entire Eastern Theater on his own!  Savas Beatie has also announced the upcoming Maps of Chickamauga by wargame designer, tour guide, and all-around Chickamauga expert Dave Powell, who has recently started the new Chickamauga Blog.

Readers for whom there can never be enough maps will love this book.  The Maps of First Bull Run thoroughly covers the surging action on the slopes of Henry Hill and the confused panic at Ball’s Bluff in amazing detail.  Presenting these battles as a series of full color maps allows them to come alive like never before.  Wargamers, battlefield trampers, and those interested in the tactical minutiae of Civil War combat will find this book to be a more than worthy addition to their Civil War libraries, as will anyone remotely interested in the military aspects of the Civil War.  I will be looking forward to each and every volume in this series and I cannot recommend this book highly enough.


I would like to thank Sarah Keeney and Ted Savas at Savas Beatie LLC.

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2 responses to “Review: The Maps of First Bull Run by Bradley Gottfried”

  1. Gil Renberg Avatar

    You nailed it. An excellent volume, and one that I am very glad to own, but the way elevation is handled is too simple. Most importantly, Henry Hill has undulations that affected line of sight, but there is no indication in the maps. Of course, something like the map in “The Civil War Battlefield Guide,” which has contour lines every 10 feet or so, can represent an information overload that makes it hard to figure things out. An intermediate approach would be preferable. Or perhaps having one 3-D map of the whole battlefield, similar to what one finds in Osprey’s books, would help the reader to appreciate this element of the battlefield better.

  2. Tammy Hall Avatar

    Thank you for your review of “The Maps of First Bull Run,” by Bradley M. Gottfried.

    Copies with signed bookplates are available from:
    Savas Beatie LLC
    PO Box 4527
    El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
    or call us at:

    We appreciate your review and interest in this very worthy title.

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