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The American Civil War: A Military History (Vintage Civil War Library) [Paperback]

John Keegan
3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)

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Book Description

7 Dec 2010 Vintage Civil War Library

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, 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.

Product details

  • Paperback: 396 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage Books USA; Reprint edition (7 Dec 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780307274939
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307274939
  • ASIN: 0307274934
  • Product Dimensions: 7.2 x 11.7 x 0.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (38 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,458,573 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"Vivid and compelling" (Sunday Times)

"It is hard to see how Keegan's masterful and thought-provoking book could be beaten" (Daily Telegraph)

"In its range and sweep, this book is difficult to better and promises to become the definitive account of the conflict" (Daily Mail)

"One of our finest military historians, Keegan brings a shrewd and discerning eye to [the] conflict... compelling" (Literary Review)

"The best military historian of our day" (New York Times) --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Book Description

This major and long-awaited work is the definitive history of the American Civil War by our greatest military historian. --This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

Inside This Book (Learn More)
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Front Cover | Copyright | Table of Contents | Excerpt | Index
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
54 of 57 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A good military history - but not more than that 30 Sep 2009
By bookelephant TOP 1000 REVIEWER
I am afraid I must beg to differ from the previous reviewer. This book is (of course) very good as a military history. However, despite its title it really does not aspire to be more than that (as the notes and bibliography reveal) - and there is a great deal more than that to the Civil war. So it is far from being a definitive book about the war - and if you are looking for that you may well be disappointed.
However it is excellent on the real military history aspects. Keegan has conveyed more clearly to me the impact of geographical factors, both generally and in relation to specific battles, than anything else I have read. He is excellent on identifying and keeping track of the planning of the war on each side. He is also wonderful at evaluating the individual generals, and drawing speaking parallels with generals of other wars. Frankly, I could have used and enjoyed more detail on each of these facets, but particularly the last.
The two big problems with the book are (1) the title, which conveys a false sense of the ambit of the book - it should more properly be called "A Military History of the Civil War" or "The Geography, Battles and Generals of the Civil War" (2) the introductory chapters (and to some extent parts of the concluding chapters too) where Keegan goes outside the military history remit; these sections are frankly somewhat carelessly written and edited (so much repetition - including the same phrase twice within two paras -that I came close to throwing the book across the room) and say nothing illuminating at all. He would have been much better to drop these, cut to the chase, and give us some more of what he is really good at.
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30 of 33 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A disappointing book 5 Jun 2010
The number of books on the American Civil War is huge. To write a new work that is worth reading is very difficult, requiring perceptive scholarship of the highest order, good illustrations, clear detailed maps, et. I had expected much better from an historian of the calibre of John Keegan. The book is not well written (it starts with a paragraph lasting almost three pages and is plagued by irritating repetitions that his editor should have corrected), the maps are about the worst I have seen in a modern work of serious military history and it is not until the final third of the book that the author says anything worth reading. I can only think that the author was pushed by his publisher into writing a book that did not interest him.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
This is my first foray into the history of the American civil war (my usual haunt is WW1 and WW2 military history.) Having visited several sites of importance during a recent holiday to America, I decided to find out more about it, hence my purchase of this book.
I cannot comment on the academic accuracy of the contents, but for my wargaming interests it covered well how the conflict began, its military conduct and the overall progress and end of the war, with a short and interesting discussion of its legacy. The language is somewhat overextended in places (I prefer a more business-like use of language to the academic ability to construct sentences seeming to last for whole paragraphs), making it necessary to concentrate your attention to follow some of the arguments being expressed. There are twelve black and white maps and a selection of photographs.
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Poorly edited, Keegan usually does much better. 15 Aug 2010
As one who both admires Keegan and has a lively interest in the American Civil War I, like others, siezed this book eagerly, only to finish it disappointed. The book does not achieve the standard that we have come to expect from this writer. As others have written this book is surprisingly repetitious due, I imagine, to poor editing. Expectations, said in my case with hindsight, must be tempered by the realisation that this is a short book about a big topic. It therefore could not be other than limited in its scope and coverage. This adds but little to an already rich literature on this conflict. For a fuller account, albeit in a slightly more journalistic style, see Shelby Foote. Those wanting something less massive that Foote's three volumes should try McPherson's "The Battle Cry for Freedom".
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8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars A poor book from a respected authority 12 Feb 2011
I sense that the reason so many people disparage this book is because, like me, they expected something much better from such a respected author. The book has all the feeling of something rushed out for the 150th anniversary to meet a marketing need, rather than a need to explain the complex issues of the war. Despite this it has some virtues, particularly for a reader seeking an overview when meeting the subject for the first time. The book does contain factual errors, but many of these are not significant to anyone except the keen student who will recognize them anyway. More dangerous in my view is that the book seems to expound the authors own views on a range of issues including slavery versus state rights and the relative merits of the military leaders without considering or barely acknowledging other viewpoints.
To the keen student, it is worth a read, but it cannot be considered a vital book when so many are available elsewhere. The keen student will probably note the lack of references and citations in the text and the very few appendix notes and draw their own conclusions
Since writing this review I have re-read James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" - Overall it is a much better one volume guide than Keegan's, and I readily recommend McPherson's as the better buy
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
3.0 out of 5 stars Good read.
Thorough in its coverage. Deals well with the characters of the combatants, and their generals. An excellent assessment of the strategic problems facing both armies.
Published 1 month ago by Ken jones
4.0 out of 5 stars You want facts?
This book certainly has lots of them. Like most books about military campaigns, it is more favourable to the winners, but not overly so. Read more
Published 3 months ago by Clifton
5.0 out of 5 stars Gettysburg, before and after
An excellent very informative book giving a informed insight into the causes, struggles and aftermath of the American Civil War
Published 5 months ago by CLOACAS MAXIMVS
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced and scholarly
As the descendant of Confederate soldiers, I always dread reading a history of the War Between the States, for I can count on a Yankee bias. Read more
Published 5 months ago by DixieAl
4.0 out of 5 stars good overview
This book is very suitable for those, like myself, who know next to nothing about the subject matter and who want to get a good overview without having to wade through 1000s of... Read more
Published 10 months ago by M. Baerends
4.0 out of 5 stars what are you expecting?
This book is not a definitive and (for those who are "true" historians may they be students or professionals no book is nor should it be the final say). Read more
Published 11 months ago by Mr. R. J. Ellis
1.0 out of 5 stars Not typical Keegan
This is not Keegan at his 'Face of Battle' best. The book would have benefited from decent editing to remove the repetition.
Published 16 months ago by Ronald Allanach
2.0 out of 5 stars Original?
Perhaps the worst feature of this book is the fact that so many other good books have been used as sources and that Keegan has failed to synthesise these into a good overall... Read more
Published 17 months ago by oldhexmap
4.0 out of 5 stars American Civil War
An enjoyable read though it took me some time to sort out the combatants initially. The maps were too small to be really helpful. Read more
Published 17 months ago by AJD Smith
2.0 out of 5 stars A Poorly Edited Discredit to its Author
I have to add my voice to those who have commented that this book has been rushed out in an attempt to exploit the anticipated peak of interest in the civil war surrounding the... Read more
Published 20 months ago by Mr. T. J. Potter
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