The greatest military historian of our time gives a peerless account of America’s most bloody, wrenching, and eternally fascinating war.
In this magesterial history and national bestseller, John Keegan 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 a fascinating 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 the conflict 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 greatest conflict.
American scholars tend to write the Civil War as a great national epic, but Keegan (The First World War), an Englishman with a matchless knowledge of comparative military history, approaches it as a choice specimen with fascinating oddities. His more thematic treatment has its shortcomings his campaign and battle narratives can be cursory and ill-paced but it pays off in far-ranging discussions of broader features: the North's strategic challenge in trying to subdue a vast Confederacy ringed by formidable natural obstacles and lacking in significant military targets; the importance of generalship; the unusual frequency of bloody yet indecisive battles; and the fierceness with which soldiers fought their countrymen for largely ideological motives. Keegan soars above the conflict to delineate its contours, occasionally swooping low to expand on a telling detail or a moment of valor or pathos. Some of his thoughts, as on the unique femininity of Southern women and how the Civil War stymied socialism in America, are less than cogent. Still, Keegan's elegant prose and breadth of learning make this a stimulating, if idiosyncratic, interpretation of the war. 16 pages of photos, 12 maps.