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The American Civil War


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This major and long-awaited work will be the definitive history of the American Civil War by our greatest military historian.

About the Author

John Keegan is the Defence Editor of the Daily Telegraph and Britain's foremost military historian. The Reith Lecturer in 1998, he is the author of many bestselling books including The Face of Battle, Six Armies in Normandy, Battle at Sea, The Second World War, A History of Warfare (awarded the Duff Cooper Prize), Warpaths, The Battle for History, The First World War, and most recently, Intelligence in War. For many years John Keegan was the Senior Lecturer in Military History at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, and he has been a Fellow of Princeton University and Delmas Distinguished Professor of History at Vassar. He is a Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature. He received the OBE in the Gulf War honours list, and was knighted in the Millennium honours list in 1999. John Keegan died in August 2012.


Award-winning British war historian Keegan brings his enormous talents for understanding the "face of battle" and the shape of war to what he calls "one of the most mysterious great wars of history." The American Civil War, to Keegan, was in many ways unique, especially because of the sustained intensity of combat, the importance of infantry and relative insignificance of artillery and cavalry in deciding battles, the voluntarism of the soldiers and their persistent willingness to fight, the complications of geography and topography, and the inability of either side to deliver a decisive military victory. Keegan follows such writers as T. Harry Williams and James McPherson in assessing generalship, and he offers little new about the place of the home fronts and politics in defining and sustaining the war effort, but he moves confidently across military terrain. VERDICT His emphasis on the role of military training, geography, the importance of entrenchments, the use of firepower and infantry tactics, and the technology of war gives Keegan's book a primary place in the annals of modern warfare. With only a few missteps, Keegan provides the single best one-volume assessment of the military character and conduct of America's ordeal by fire. In doing so, he shows why war was so terrible but also, in this case, so necessary. Highly recommended.-Randall M. Miller, Saint Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

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. (Oct. 21) Copyright 2009 Reed Business Information.

"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 *

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