civilwaradventureThis collection of stories, including additional information about the Civil War in prose, was originally published in 2009 and has been edited and republished by Dover Publications in 2015. Civil War Adventure opens with context, including a historical map of the United States and a timeline of the Civil War, before plunging into a series of stories.

There are several continuing tales about an ordinary soldier and his son, who both joined the Confederate army. They both have a different view of the war; the experienced father is skeptical about the use of fighting and the results while the son at first has visions of glory that are quickly destroyed by the everyday horror and misery of the war. They are wounded, see friends die, and finally risk hanging when the father deserts to save his struggling family at home. Their ultimate fate is left a mystery. Some of the vignettes are poignant: one story about a soldier, who fantasizes about returning home a hero to reunite with his family and marry his sweetheart, finishes with his death and burial. Some are intended to be humorous: a trouble-maker’s constant pranks and refusal to follow orders leads to his death and a little ironic remembrance by one of his victims, Winslow Homer; a medic dreams of leaving his horror-filled life and marrying an educated and wealthy woman, but gets a nasty surprise when he shows up at her door. 

The black and white art in Civil War Adventure does little to soften the dirt, misery, and horrors of war, although it doesn’t have the gory impact of full-color blood and death. While some characters, like George Custer, are instantly recognizable, most blend into the panorama of scruffy, weary soldiers, making it difficult to follow the different vignettes and tell which are connected and which stand alone. Without color, it can be difficult to track which side is which, although the bulk of the stories feature Confederate soldiers. This could also be deliberate, showing the confusion between the two sides, as there are several vignettes showing how little the common soldiers knew of their enemies.

Although other reviews and publication information refer to “meticulous research” behind Civil War Adventure, there are no sources listed and the line between fact and fiction in the stories is very blurry. Some brief comics are labeled “a true story” while others have accompanying information that seem to be expanding on the events of the story, like Colonel Cocke’s suicide. Overall, there is no explanation as to whether the events shown in the comic are true or the creators’ interpretation. A reader who is well-versed in the history of the Civil War would probably recognize which stories are embellished and which are factual, but those history buffs would be unlikely to pick up what is basically a rather scattered introduction to a major historical event. I would be reluctant to hand this to teens, Civil War buffs or not, because of the lack of sources and the stereotypical representation of the war. There are only a few African-Americans pictured or referenced; one story focuses on some mountain solders who have never seen an African-American before and a few servants, slaves, and workers are occasionally shown. Women are only seen in one family, holding together the farm while the men fight, and in the “humorous” story where a medic hopes to marry a rich woman and is horrified by meeting her ugly maid and assuming her to be the mistress of the house. There is very little character development of the different soldiers, except glimpses of the officers who seem to be portrayed with both inspiring bravery and, in private, bowed down by the weight of command.

The book ends with suggestions of further reading, namely two books that offer different perspectives on General Stonewall Jackson and a page listing Civil War museums and landmarks in the Shenandoah Valley. Adults interested in the Civil War are more likely to find in-depth nonfiction works to be of more interest while younger readers would do better to start with graphic novels like Nathan Hale’s Big Bad Ironclad. This is a distinct niche interest book, probably of interest only to fans of the author and artist.

Civil War Adventure
by Chuck Dixon
Art by Gary Kwapisz
ISBN: 9780486795096
Dover, 2015

  • Jennifer Webb

    Past Reviewer

    This reviewer is not longer actively working on our site, but we would not be here if not for our many dedicated contributors over the years. We thank all of them for their reviews, features, and support!

Liked it? Take a second to support us on Patreon!
Become a patron at Patreon!