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Civil War Battlefields: Discovering America's Hallowed Ground Paperback – 25 Apr 2006

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Product details

  • Paperback: 270 pages
  • Publisher: Ballantine Books Inc. (25 April 2006)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0345464885
  • ISBN-13: 978-0345464880
  • Product Dimensions: 17.8 x 1.7 x 22.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 507,123 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Whether it is novels or books like this, Jeff Shaara is so readable. There is always something new to learn about the Civil War and I just wish that I had this book with me when I visited the battlefields.
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By MJATILLETT on 8 Sep 2014
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Jeff Shaara writes with film makers eye,
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 79 reviews
60 of 62 people found the following review helpful
A well-written overview of 10 major Civil War battlefields 25 Jun 2006
By Roy E. Perry - Published on
Format: Paperback
"In the summer of 1964, a twelve-year-old boy followed his father across a mile of open grassy fields that separated the Union and Confederate lines at Gettysburg. They walked in the footsteps of the men who crossed this same ground on July 3, 1863, Confederate soldiers who made one of the most tragic attacks in our history. . . . That boy was me. My father, Michael Shaara, was so inspired by the experience of walking the ground at Gettysburg that he spent the next seven years writing a novel about what happened there. That novel, published in 1974, was titled The Killer Angels."

So writes the author in the introduction to Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields. He goes on to say that his father died in 1988 without being able to see the Ted Turner film "Gettysburg" (1993), which was based on The Killer Angels. But the torch of inspiration had already passed from father to son, and Jeff Shaara has gone on to write two novels, Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure, which added to his father's Killer Angels, completes a trilogy of Civil War novels.

Jeff Shaara's passion for studying, and writing about, history shows no sign of abatement, for in the present volume, he guides us in discovering America's "hallowed ground" by selecting ten key Civil War Battles.

In ten chapters, Shaara discusses the battles of Shiloh, Antietam, Fredericksburg/Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, The Wilderness/Spotsylvania, New Market, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg/Appomattox Court House. He divides each chapter into three sections: (1) "What Happened Here?"; (2) "Why Is This Battle Important?" and (3) "What You Should See?"

For Civil War buffs such as myself, this book brings back memories of battlefields visited (and I have had the privilege of visiting eight of the ten that he describes). Numerous maps and photographs scattered throughout the volume illustrate the text.

The reader revisits three beautiful battlefields: Shiloh (the Hornet's Nest, the Peach Orchard, the Bloody Pond, and the place where Albert Sidney Johnston was killed); Antietam (the Dunker Church, the Bloody Lane, and the Burnside Bridge); and Gettysburg (Culp's Hill, the Devil's Den, Little Roundtop, and the wide, open field across which "Pickett's Charge" was made.

One also reads of the terrible slaughter at Cold Harbor and in the Wilderness/Spotsylvania, especially at "the Bloody Angle"; the heroic stand of George Thomas, who earned the moniker "The Rock of Chickamauga." Chickamauga, which remains today the largest of the Civil War battlefield parks, covering nearly 5,600 acres, is a name derived from the Cherokee language, and means "River of Death"), the Crater at Petersburg, and the McLean House at Appomattox Court House, where Robert E. Lee surrender the Army of Northern Virginia to Ulysses S. Grant.

Although not exhaustive or comprehensive (for example, battles in Tennessee (other than Shiloh)--Stones River/Murfreesboro, Franklin, and Nashville--get short shrift), Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields offers an insightful bird's-eye view of the Civil War. The best way to understand "what happened here" is to make a personal visit to these battlefields. For the armchair historian, however, this book is a welcome and fascinating guide.

Roy E. Perry of Nolensville, Tennessee ( is an advertising copywriter at a Nashville publishing house. He is an amateur philosopher, Civil War buff, chess enthusiast, classical music lover, and aficionado of fine literature.
27 of 28 people found the following review helpful
Certainly Much More Than A Battlefield Tour Guide 18 Jun 2006
By Alan Rockman - Published on
Format: Paperback
Jeff Shaara opens his latest - and - Non Fiction - Civil War work with the poignant story of his first visit, at age 12, with his late Father, Michael, author of "The Killer Angels", to the Gettysburg Battlefield.

They stop before the marker where Lew Armistead fell at the very apex of Pickett's Charge, adorned with Confederate flags, and young Michael notices that his father is crying.

That visit sparked two seeds - the one Michael wrote in - and I sincerely disagree with Jeff - the SUCCESSFUL "Killer Angels" which I first read when it came out in paperback in 1974! - and the second being the legacy that Jeff carried on with after his father passed on.

In "Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields" Shaara returns with the gift of his flowing narrative in an overview of pivotal Civil War Battlefields including those he and his Father spotlighted in their fictional works (Gettysburg, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Wilderness and Spotsylvania, and Petersburg) and three in the "west" only mentioned in their works (Shiloh, Vicksburg, and Chickamauga). Shaara walks over these hallowed grounds, bringing to the reader the very small things, including the spot where a Union Colonel at Gettysburg, John Brooke, marked an "X" on a stone where he had been hit, so that he would remember where it was that he had been wounded. He talks about the ranger stations, how informative and helpful the staffs are, the bookshops nearby where interested travellers can pick up additional information on the battle sites. There are also the personal poignant vignettes of the men and boys caught up in the maelstorm of battle. All written with an eloquent "you were there" feel.

I did find myself in disagreement with Shaara over his brief and almost Cattonesque contention that the fierce cavalry fight on July 3, 1863 between Jeb Stuart and George Custer 3 miles from the main battle at Gettysburg was "merely a sideshow". I think Tom Carhart has all but proven this to be a fallacy, and that Stuart's attempt to ride around the Union lines was an integral part of Lee's grand plan to sweep the Union Army off the field.

Having said that, and while also acknowledging that this work does not cover other important battlefields for reasons provided by Mr. Shaara, this reviewer does believe that this engaging and very useful Civil War Battlefield work is worth the five full-stars. A Legacy, A Labor of Love, a Historical treat useful today, and a great Father's Day Gift.
19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
Well researched, a complete package 8 Sep 2006
By E. Johnson - Published on
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Having personally visited three of this book's advertised ten sites last summer, I only wish that I would have known about this 2006 publication before I had flown away that July 4th. This is the type of material that ought to be read in the car going from one site to the next. Shaara is interesting as well as factual, and I saw nothing here that contradicted anything else I had read or observed during my time at the three parks. In fact, the information I had was confirmed in this book. Shaara includes maps of the battles--nicely done!--as well as pictures of some of the more important sites to look for. I plan to return to the south in a couple of summers so I can hit another three or four of his sites, and I definitely will be taking this book along for company.
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
A treat! 6 Jun 2006
By Armchair Interviews - Published on
Format: Paperback
In his latest book Jeff Shaara, well known for previous Civil War works, takes you on a journey through ten of the key battles that took place during the Civil War era, between 1861 and 1865.

The book is mostly a historical reference to these battles, but also recounts Shaara's recent visits to the individual sites. In chronological order you are taken to: Shiloh, Antietam, Fredericksburg and Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, The Wilderness and Spotsylvania, New Market, Cold Harbor and Petersburg.

Each chapter begins with the battle itself. You are given the background, circumstances and conditions that led the opposing forces onto the ground in which the battle was fought. If you want to know what the mitigating forces behind the battles were, the land, or the ground, as generals of the era called it, always, always, played a key role.

This of course is the encapsulated version of events that took place at these now-hallowed sites, but you get the feel and the intensity with which each of the battles was fought.

Following each battle, Shaara explains why that battle was significant and even goes to some length to extrapolate out what might have happened had the battle been fought slightly differently, had one regiment arrived on the field thirty minutes sooner (A.P. Hill at Antietam), had a General only taken precautions of a cavalry screen (Hooker at Chancellorsville), had forces been able to be combined (Johnston and Pemberton at Vicksburg) what might have happened.

Then you are treated to Shaara's "what to look for" section that details what you will see at each location. This presents some interesting and not-so-often landmarks that infrequently, if ever, are pointed out on the canned walking or driving tours of these massive national parks.

The book is filled with excellent battle maps, photos taken shortly after the battles and those from Shaara's recent visits.

Armchair Interviews says: If you, or anyone you know, are planning on visiting any of these national parks, this book should be safely stowed in your backpack as you walk through history.
12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
Excellent Book to take with you, or just to enjoy 3 Nov 2006
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
I live in Virginia and have been to many of the battlefield sites described in this book. I plan to return to some of them with book in tow. Jeff Shaara's book is much like having a guide in that he points out physical landmarks, describes the battles and points out the historical significance of the ones highlighted in the book. He suggests getting a regular guide but this is the next best thing. I highly recommend this book for anyone interested in learning more about civil war battles, even if they aren't planning to visit a battlefield site.
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