I recently read The Civil War: Strange and Fascinating Facts, by Burke Davis. It is a collection of short stories and musings on the Civil War. It is one of those books that is a hodge-podge (I love that word) of random information that the author came across while researching for another book, and couldn’t use. But of course, us history nerds don’t want random trivia to go to waste, so what better place to compile a bunch of random facts than a book about random facts!?
Davis does a great job of choosing some of the more obscure trivia from the war. He details friends of men from north and south, and one horse who had four brothers shot and killed on his back. He tells stories of military inventions, and descendents of famous Civil War figures who went on to their own fame.
However, some of his stories are widely known. Like the fact that the Civil War began on Wilmer McLean’s farm in Manassas, Virginia, and ended on the same man’s farm at Appomattox Courthouse (the man moved after the first battle to get away from the fighting). Or the story of the H.L. Hunley, the first submarine to sink an enemy vessel. Of course at the time that Davis wrote this book, in the 1960s, the Hunley had not yet been found on the seafloor, recovered, and placed in a museum. So I can give him a break for that one, since the story of the Hunley was probably not as widely known 40-some years ago.
That leads me to a few problematic time references. Several times in his stories, Davis makes reference to Civil War descendents (usually sons, but once a widow) who are still alive. It took me aback several times thinking “but the war was 150 years ago”! Once I realized that the book was first published in the 1960s, the references made more sense. And it would be difficult to update them to modern day, since the story explores these Civil War connections in the modern day (by modern day, I mean the 60s, when the book was written).
All in all, it’s an interesting book for the Civil War buff. You aren’t going to learn anything deep about a battle or a man, but it’s worth a read for the interesting trivia that he has uncovered. Enjoy.