Sunday, August 29, 2010

Book - The American Civil War - August 29, 2010

John Keegan's The American Civil War may have been the first Civil War book I have read that was not written by an American. I enjoyed his one-volume history of the First World War and I enjoyed this book, too.

The European point of view shows up first in the title. We Americans often forget that our was not the only Civil War, although as Keegan points out, ours was the only one so far to occur in a functioning democracy.

I was amused by his comments on uniforms ("The armies of the Civil War were the worst tailored of any great conflict.") and facial hair (He points out that the fashion started in the Crimean War - I thought it started with the Gold Rush).

He made some interesting comparisons (Stonewall Jackson = Erwin Rommel) and some that were startling (George McClellan = George Patton).

Over-all I liked his approach as a military historian. He gives a thorough picture of the military geography of the United States in the two major theaters of the war. He gives a clear-eyed view of the situation throughout the war. He says that Grant and Sherman were the only first-rate generals among the many created during the war. I think his best efforts are an investigation of how the war consisted of at least one good-sized battle a day, and yet soldiers kept fight.

I felt that the end of the book was abrupt and it lacked a conclusion.

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