Look to the Earth

Historical Archaeology and the American Civil War

  • Author(s): Geier, Clarence R., Jr., and Susan E. Winter, eds.
  • Series:
  • Imprint: Univ Tennessee Press
  • Publication Date: 1996-10-23
  • Status: Active
  • Available in Paper: Price $19.50 | Buy Now

Look to the Earth is the first compilation of historical archaeology research devoted solely to Civil War period sites. Bringing together twelve essays, the book demonstrates how the material remains of the past can illuminate aspects of the war that have previously lain outside the traditional methods of historical inquiry.

As the editors point out, archaeological research can be used alongside historical documentation to verify or discount events referred to in the printed record; it can also provide physical details of events that may not be available in written reports. In some cases, historical archaeology may provide the only documentation of particular events and effects of the war. This is especially true with regard to those segments of society—freed slaves, poor whites, farmers, and rural millers, among others—whose voices have been lost in the filtering process of history. By recovering the material vestiges of their lives, archaeology can help us reconstruct the fabric of the communities that were ravaged by, or that benefited from, the dynamics of war.

Among the purposes of this volume are to look beyond the Civil War as a strictly military event and to consider its impact upon the larger cultural landscape. Thus the book includes research that departs from traditional studies of battlefield tactics and military histories. The wide range of sites and topics it encompasses—from shipwrecks to cannon foundaries to Midwestern farms—reflects this perspective.

Representing a variety of theoretical backgrounds and approaches, the essays in Look to the Earth mark first steps in an exciting new area of Civil War research.

The Editors: Clarence R. Geier is professor of anthropology at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

Susan E. Winter is chief of the Branch of Cultural Resource Management for the C & O Canal National Historical Park in Sharpsburg, Maryland.

Contributors: Janet G. Brashler, Clarence R. Geier, Joel D. Grossman, William B. Lees, Samuel Margolin, W. Stephen McBride, David G. Orr, Charles E. Orser, Paul A. Shackel, Samuel D. Smith, Steven D. Smith, Susan E. Winter