Civil War Book Review: The Battle of First Bull Run: An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide

Hines, Blaikie. The Battle of First Bull Run Manassas Campaign – July 16-22, 1861: An Illustrated Atlas and Battlefield Guide. (American Patriot Press, 2011). 224 pages, over 500 photos and illustrations, 82 maps, bibliography, index. ISBN: 978-1-61364-129-3 $39.50 (Oversized Paperback).

Battle atlases are some of my favorite Civil War books.  Well done maps which accentuate text can cause a well-written book to become a classic.  Well done atlases are invaluable to those wishing to go battlefield stomping.  In The Battle of First Bull Run…An Illustrated Atlas and Guide, author and First Bull Run aficionado Blaikie Hines has created an over sized battlefield atlas to guide those wishing to see the battlefield first hand.  In addition, the book in its own way synthesizes modern historians’ views on this often confusing first battle of the Civil War.

Blaikie Hines is rather new to the Civil War Battle of First Bull Run, having visited it first in 2003.  With that said, he has studied the Civil War most of his life, and his background as a fine artist and fine arts conservator helped him in the creation of this book.  Over the intervening years the author has become an avid student of First Bull Run, visiting the battlefield many times and becoming very familiar with the various trains of thought on exactly what happened along the banks of Bull Run on July 21, 1861.

The Battle of First Bull Run is an over sized paperback in a coffee table format.  The book consists mainly of photos, illustrations, and maps, with the accompanying text sticking to the basics and tying it all together.  If you’re curious as to what some of the profuse number of illustrations look like, I encourage you to visit the publisher’s site and click on the sample pages at the right of the screen.  I’ve never seen anything quite like it in terms of giving prospective readers such a large taste of what the book is like.

As with all atlases, the maps are the meat of the book.  I’m pleased to be able to share with readers two of those maps.  The author Blaikie Hines has graciously allowed me to reproduce these two maps in their entirety. The first covers the approach of the Union flanking march across Sudley Ford, led by Burnside’s Brigade of Hunter’s Division:

Sudley Ford – Morning of July 21, 1861

BLAIKIE HINES – AERIAL MAP SUDLEY page 101. This map is used with written permission by the author and may not be reproduced without his written consent.

The second is Hines’ rendering of the famous stand of Stonewall Jackson’s Brigade on Henry Hill at the critical moment in the battle.

Henry House Hill – Climax of the First Battle of Manassas

BLAIKIE HINES – AERIAL HENRY HILL page 175. This map is used with written permission by the author and may not be reproduced without his written consent.

As you can see, the maps are modern day aerial views of the battlefield with troop positions and movements superimposed.  They help readers walking the battlefield get their bearings and better understand just where the Union and Confederate troops were in relation to modern landmarks located there.  Places names are rendered in a striking yellow for ease of reading, with the Union and Confederate units in the familiar blue and red, respectively.  Unit names are white.  Battlefield trails are marked in purple, yet another way to identify exactly where on the ground units were in relation to your position on the trail.  The only major downsides to the modern day aerial views are that the maps lack elevation detail and the ways in which the land has changed since 1861.

Readers are probably wondering how this book differs from Savas Beatie’s The Maps of First Bull Run.  First, although both books go into great detail and contain dozens of maps, this book uses modern day aerial views as the map base, while the Savas book uses maps based on the ground as it was on July 21, 1861.  I actually enjoy this since each book’s focus is slightly different.  Hines’ book is more for the battlefield stomper, while The Maps of First Bull Run is better for the wargamer or stay at home historian.  It was a bit curious that a book designed to be taken to the battlefield was produced in only a paperback version.  The wear and tear of a battlefield hike means a paperback is just not going to hold up all that well.  This book also focuses solely on First Bull run and the small engagements preceding the battle.  The Savas Beatie book also covers the Union debacle at Ball’s Bluff.  Hines’ book contains more illustrations and photos, while Brad Gottfried’s effort focuses solely on the maps and accompanying text.  Taken together these two books actually complement each other very well, a fact I’m sure will please fans of First Bull Run.  Get them both since they bring slightly different advantages to the table.

While Blaikie Hines’ new Bull Run battlefield atlas does not break any new ground in terms of interpretation, a fact the author freely admits, it DOES offer readers and battlefield stompers a whole new presentation on the battle.  This over sized book is profusely illustrated and, as expected in an atlas, packed full of maps down to the regimental and battery level. For what the book offers, it is reasonably priced at $39.50, though a hardcover edition would have been nice as an additional offering.  Fans of First Manassas will want to own this book, even if they already have a copy of The Maps of First Bull Run.

UPDATE: It looks like Drew Wagenhoffer reviewed this one last night. Good timing!

This book was provided gratis for the purposes of this review.
The links to the product reviewed in this article are affiliate links. If you buy this product after clicking one of my links, I’ll make a small amount of money.  The possibility of earning something from the affiliate link has not influenced the objectivity of the review and my opinions are honestly offered.


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