An autobiography written by a Union mapmaker who witnessed the worst of the Civil War firsthand, including an account of his experiences during a two-year stay at the notorious Andersonville prison.
"An unusual soldier's record of the Civil War has surfaced. Sneden was an ordinary volunteer in the Union army, but he could draft landscape views and maps, a talent gladly utilized by the Army of the Potomac. Sneden produced hundreds of maps and illustrations during the war, and afterward he tried to have them and his memoir published. No publishing house saw profit in it, until now, and the contemporary commercial confidence rests on the vivid impression made by the drawings and Sneden's personal story. He was attached to a headquarters staff during McClellan's failed peninsula campaign of 1862, and in surveying battlefields for his maps, Sneden records, without flourish, the gruesome sights of war. Although executed in a self-taught, naive style, Sneden's pictures are meticulously detailed and accurate--no wonder the brass valued him. Evidently, Sneden was given to describing matters rather than musing on them or himself. But what an extraordinary tale he has to tell: after the peninsula, he was captured and sent first to Richmond and thence to a place soon to become, and ever remain, infamous: Andersonville. In that Hobbesian hellhole, Sneden parlayed his drafting ability into various trading items (like forged passes) to keep himself alive, whilst also making context sketches of Andersonville and other Confederate prisons. There being nothing quite like Sneden's in the annals of Civil War memoir literature, most libraries should acquire this work for guaranteed goggle-eyed use by the Civil War buffs--and an exhibition touring big-city historical societies extends the exposure of this re-discovered treasure. --Gilbert Taylor"
From Booklist, Copyright (c) American Library Association. Used with permission.
Publisher's Weekly Review:
"Shortly after the firing on Fort Sumter in 1861, 29-year-old Robert Sneden joined the 40th New York Volunteer Infantry. Sneden's prewar career as an architect/engineer attracted the attention of higher officers, and the young Canadian was detached as a cartographer for most of his brief military career, seeing action in the Second Manassas and on a few other occasions. On November 27, 1863, Sneden was seized by rebel troops led by the famed John S. Mosby and hustled south to a Richmond prison. In early 1864, he was among the first batch of Union prisoners sent to Andersonville, Ga., where more than 13,000 prisoners died. After transfers to other Southern camps, Sneden was finally exchanged in December 1864. Throughout his army career, Sneden kept a journal and sketched numerous sites of his experiences. Although the journal itself has disappeared, a very journal-like postwar memoir of some 5,000 pages based on his wartime experience and heavily illustrated by him has been found. Editors Bryan and Lankford, of the Virginia Historical Society (which owns the Sneden collection), have excerpted the more important sections of this compellingly straightforward account and provided more than 70 color illustrations of battle fields, city layouts and other scenes that caught Sneden's precise, cartographic eye. Summaries fill in blanks from the larger work, and brief identifications of period people and terms are helpfully included, but it's really the pictures that tell the best story here. The end result is a pleasing palate of vivid (if not quite reflective) descriptions and terrific watercolors from a patriotic man. History Book Club main selection; BOMC and Military Book Club alternate; first serial to Civil War Illustrated. (Oct.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved"
(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved