Civil War battlefields are consistently popular tourist attractions. They are richly layered with history and emanate a reverential and eerie air that honors the deeds of thousands of soldiers who gave their lives for the North and South. Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields: Discovering America's Hallowed Ground is a marvelous volume with a two-prong purpose: It provides authoritative accounts of what happened at 10 important battlegrounds (covering 12 different engagements) and also offers essential you-are-there tips for on-site visitors. Shaara has a deep personal connection to the war his father, Michael Shaara, wrote the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Killer Angels (made into the feature film Gettysburg), and Jeff Shaara himself has confirmed the family legacy by producing his own series of acclaimed books on the subject.

His insights here on how to make the most of a battlefield visit are golden, with advice on which landmarks are can't-miss stops, when to traverse the sites on foot or by car, why particular areas of the terrain are historically vital, etc. Handy maps provide good aerial views of general campaigns and the battles themselves, a list that includes Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, Chancellorsville and Cold Harbor. Throughout, Shaara promotes the importance of the preservation of the battlefields, reminding his readers that the ongoing encroachment of real-estate development poses a serious threat to their existence.

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