Civil War Adventure Book One

Writer / Artist
Civil War Adventure Book One
Alternative editions:
Civil War Adventure Book One review
Alternative editions:
  • North American Publisher / ISBN: Dover Books - 978-0-48679-509-6
  • Volume No.: 1
  • Release date: 2015
  • Format: Black and white
  • UPC: 9780486795096
  • Contains adult content?: no
  • Does this pass the Bechdel test?: no
  • Positive minority portrayal?: yes
  • CATEGORIES: Education, History, War

Originally published by History Graphics Press in 2009 as Civil War Adventure 1: Real History Stories of the War that Divided America, this marvellous monochrome tome is crafted primarily by comics veterans Chuck Dixon and Gary Kwapisz. It switches between detailing actual historical events – with handy maps, diagrams and found writings – and a fictionalised thread of tales depicting how the 1860s American Civil War affected one poor Southern family.

The graphic re-enactments are preceded by a ‘Map of the United States’ detailing the division of the States in 1860 and a‘Civil War Timeline’, which marks key moments and battles, sensibly linking them directly to the stories that follow. Text features precede each story, and the opener explaining the development of snipers and sharpshooters is counterpointed by a pithy moment during the Battle of Gettysburg in 1863 when opposing marksmen find themselves in a life-or-death duel.

‘Berdan’s Sharpshooters’ is a short cartoon lesson on the inspired Union soldier who invented the concept of snipers, and is promptly followed by a chilling and heartrending incident of battlefield misfortune in ‘Home Again’.

All-Kwapisz affair ‘Mosby Bags a General’ combines a potted history of the South’s most successful raider. It’s a compelling strip revealing how bold Lieutenant John Mosby infiltrated far behind Union lines to capture 58 horses, thirty prisoners and their captain, plus sleeping General Stoughton, all in one night.

‘Tempered in Blood’ introduces the narrative strand as the modest Campbell clan are torn apart when, after heated family discussion, both father and first son Tybalt sneak away to enlist in 1861. Each confidently assures themselves that the shooting will be over long before harvest as they unknowingly individually abandon Mrs. Campbell and the little sisters to link up with overconfident volunteers massing for what everybody believes will be one fast knockout blow.

‘The Devil’s Due’ delves into the atrocity of total warfare as a Bluecoat patrol diligently follows orders to “turn the South into a wasteland”. Rising star and flamboyant self-aggrandiser George Armstrong Custer’s rash adventuring leads ‘The Boy General’ (Dixon and Enrique Villagran) into desperate straits against overwhelming rebel opposition, resulting in Custer’s First Stand.

An account of the duel between ironclad naval vessels and the brilliant countermeasure devised by Colonel Charles Ellet features in ‘Ram Squadron’ (Dixon and Silvestre), capped off by a Kwapisz segment detailing ‘Hell on the Mississippi’, as a Union flotilla horrifically fails to sneak past the naval guns established above Vicksburg.

‘Tempered in Blood II’ returns to the troubled Campbell clan as Ty wakes in the bloody aftermath of battle to discover his best friend Seth has absconded. However, that’s not Ty’s biggest shock.

The tragic true tale of ‘Colonel Cocke’ and his unseemly death gives way to the ribald eccentricity of ‘Darnel Dingus is a…’, revealing the insane ends by which some States ensured manpower obligations were met. The tale includes war artist Winslow Homer and a practical joking jackass who learns the hard way that war isn’t funny.

The strip section closes with a sobering and ironic tale of comeuppance in ‘The Letter’ (by Erik Burnham and Kwapisz) wherein a burned-out sawbones steals a missive from one of his less-lucky patients and chases a dream to a woman he’s fallen for based solely on her handwriting and prose.

This introduction to the birth of modern warfare is similar in tone and style to the best of Harvey Kurtzman’s 1950s magnificent anti-war classics. It’s a rousing, evocative, potently instructive collection amalgamating history and horrific entertainment – and not a little grim wit and actual belly-laughs – to bring a pivotal time to vivid life.