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The American Civil War: A Military Historyby John Keegan
Synopses & Reviews
North and South Divide
AMERICA IS DIFFERENT. Today, when American exceptionalism, as it is called, has become the subject of academic study, the United States, except in wealth and military power, is less exceptional than it was in the years when it was to be reached only by sailing ship across the Atlantic. Then, before American culture had been universalised by Hollywood, the technology of television, and the international music industry, America really was a different place and society from the Old World, which had given it birth. Europeans who made the voyage noted differences of every sort, not only political and economic, but human and social as well. Americans were bigger than Europeans—even their slaves were bigger than their African forebears—thanks to the superabundance of food that American farms produced. American parents allowed their children a freedom not known in Europe; they shrank from punishing their sons and daughters in the ways European fathers and mothers did. Ulysses S. Grant, the future general in chief of the Union armies and president of the United States, recalled in his memoirs that there was never any scolding or punishment by my parents, no objection to rational enjoyments such as fishing, going to the creek a mile away to swim in summer, taking a horse and visiting my grandparents in the adjoining county, fifteen miles off, skating on the ice in winter, taking a horse and sleigh when there was snow on the ground. It was a description of childhood as experienced in most prosperous country-dwelling families of the period. The Grants were modestly well-to-do, Jesse Grant, the future president's father, having a tanning business and also working an extensive property of arable land and forest. But then most established American families, and the Grants had come to the New World in 1630, were prosperous. It was prosperity that underlay their easy way with their offspring, since they were not obliged to please neighbours by constraining their children. The children of the prosperous were nevertheless well-behaved because they were schooled and churchgoing. The two went together, though not in lockstep. Lincoln was a notably indulgent father though he was not a doctrinal Christian. Churchgoing America, overwhelmingly Protestant before 1850, needed to read the Bible, and north of the Mason-Dixon line, which informally divided North from South, four-fifths of Americans could read and write. Almost all American children in the North, and effectively all in New England, went to school, a far higher proportion than in Europe, where literacy even in Britain, France, and Germany lay around two-thirds. America was also becoming college-going, with the seats of higher education, Harvard, Yale, Columbia, Princeton, the College of William and Mary, established and flourishing. America could afford to fund and run colleges because it was already visibly richer than Europe, rich agriculturally, though it was not yet a food-exporting economy, and increasingly rich industrially. It was a newspaper country with a vast newspaper-reading public and a large number of local and some widely distributed city newspapers. Its medical profession was large and skilful, and the inventiveness and mechanical aptitude of its population was remarked upon by all visitors. So too was the vibrant and passionate nature of its politics. America was already a country of ideas and movements, highly conscious
The greatest military historian of our time gives a peerless account of America's most bloody, wrenching, and eternally fascinating war.
In this long-awaited history, JohnKeegan shares his original and perceptive insights into the psychology, ideology, demographics, and economics of the American Civil War. Illuminated by Keegan's knowledge of military history he provides afascinating look at how command and the slow evolution of its strategic logic influenced the course of the war. Above all, The American Civil War gives an intriguing account of how the scope of theconflict combined with American geography to present a uniquely complex and challenging battle space. Irresistibly written and incisive in its analysis, this is an indispensable account of America's greatestconflict.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
Analyzes conundrums attributed to the war from its mismatched sides to the absence of decisive outcomes for dozens of skirmishes, in an account that offers insight into the war's psychology, ideology, and economics while also discussing the pivotal roles of leadership and geography.
About the Author
John Keegan was for many years senior lecturer in military history at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and has been a fellow at Princeton University and a visiting professor of history at Vassar College. He is the author of twenty books, including the acclaimed The Face of Battle and The Second World War. He is the defense editor of The Daily Telegraph (London). He lives in Wiltshire, England.
Table of Contents
North and South divide — Will there be a war? — Improvised armies — Running the war — The military geography of the Civil War — The life of the soldier — Plans — McClellan takes command — The war in middle America — Lee's war in the East, Grant's war in the West — Chancellorsville and Gettysburg — Vicksburg — Cutting the Chattanooga-Atlanta link — The overland campaign and the fall of Richmond — Breaking into the South — The battle off Cherbourg and the Civil War at sea — Black soldiers — The home fronts — Walt Whitman and wounds — Civil War generalship — Civl War battle — Could the South have survived? — The end of the war.
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