From the Library of Congress's digital collection comes this mind-numbingly comprehensive visual summary of The War Between the States.

The chart hews to the informationally ambitious "Scaife Synoptical Method" (named after Arthur Hodgkin Scaife – an apparent data-visualization maven in post-Reconstruction America), which attempts to convey everything pertaining to the war – from its major battles and theaters, to casualty statistics, to the cost of war to local and federal governments – in one epic chart/graph/map/timeline... thing. It's beautiful, if, as Slate's Rebecca Onion points out, a little overwhelming:

In a 2010 New Atlantisreview of historians Daniel Rosenberg and Anthony Grafton’s book about timelines, Alan Jacobs pointed out that interacting with completist charts of history, reproduced at any scale, can be a trying experience:

"Figuring out how to view these charts properly would not be easy even for a person looking at the original. Get close enough to note the details and you lose sight of the overall pattern; stand far enough back to discern that pattern and you lose the details."

Jacobs' criticism certainly applies here. A war is a complicated thing, and the chart has tried to track so many factors—geographical, political, and financial—that it’s easiest to concentrate on one or two of these at a time.


More info – including the embiggened version of this chart – over at Slate.

[The Library of Congress via Slate]