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Customer Review

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars A Poorly Edited Discredit to its Author, 19 Aug. 2012
This review is from: The American Civil War (Paperback)
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 150th anniversary. Keegan's is unquestionably an authoritative voice, yet this book is plagued with so much repetition that it reads like a first draft. This infuriating habit operates at all levels of the text's organisation: for example, the story of the assault on Fort Wagner by the 54th Massachusetts Regiment is recounted in full not once, but twice in the course of the narrative; we are told no fewer than three times that General McClelland was a curious mix of the personally self-assured and the militarily timorous; at other times whole sentences are repeated almost verbatim just paragraphs apart. I lost count of the number of times Keegan explained that the the Confederacy hoped to achieve international recognition by fomenting discord among the cotton-importers in the North of Europe.

Furthermore, the book is lamentably myopic in scope. Other reviewers have commented that it concerns itself with very little beyond the events of the battlefields of the war. I would add that even within this limited remit, it further reduces its scope by focusing almost exclusively on the generals, strategies, soldiers and condition of the Union army. We learn almost nothing of the plans and concerns of Jefferson Davis and other Southern politicians and strategists; a general reader would be forgiven for concluding that Jackson and Lee were the only men obtaining to the rank of General within the entire Confederate army, as influential figures such as Stuart, Longstreet, Hood and the two Johnstons are mentioned only in the briefest of asides. Time and again, the book leaves the impression that Lincoln's forces were fighting against a vacuum. Was Davis concerned by Union gains in the West? Did he have plans to counter-attack? Was he contemplating surrender in 1863-64? Was he impeded in his ability to make strategy by the issue of States' rights? On these subjects and many others Keegan is silent.

While this book undoubtedly contains much worthwhile research and credible reportage of the major battles of the civil war, it is too limited in scope and too poorly pieced-together to be anything like the definitive single-volume account that it claims to be. A great shame.
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