If your interest in the Civil War has its roots in the early 1960s than chances are that it was American Heritage’s Picture History of the Civil War that sparked your imagination. It’s not just the frequency with which it comes up in conversation, but the way in which it is remembered. I’ve heard a number of historians reflect on the book’s influence on them at an early age. Whether it was the photographs, illustrations or the battle maps, the book clearly made an impact. [My own interest in WWII was sparked by reading the Time-Life Series when I was in grade school.] It serves as a reminder that a healthy and lasting passion for history begins with a youth’s imagination.
It’s worth asking whether there is anything equivalent to the American Heritage book that will stir the imagination of a new generation of Civil War enthusiasts. Kids today have more resources at their disposal than any previous generation – much of it in digital format. While I am a huge fan of the digital turn I do wonder whether these products will have the same impact. Than again, these may simply be the words of an old fogey, who can still remember a time before the digital age. I look forward to the day when we will learn, for example, that the technology contained in the Civil War Trusts Battlefield Apps has made its mark.