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Publisher's Summary

The Civil War represented a momentous change in the character of war. It combined the projection of military might across a continent on a scale never before seen with an unprecedented mass mobilization of peoples. Yet despite the revolutionizing aspects of the Civil War, its leaders faced the same uncertainties that have vexed combatants since the days of Thucydides and the Peloponnesian War.
In a masterful narrative that propels listeners from the first shots fired at Fort Sumter to the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army at Appomattox, Williamson Murray and Wayne Wei-siang Hsieh bring every aspect of the battlefield vividly to life. They show how this new way of waging war was made possible by the powerful historical forces unleashed by the Industrial Revolution and the French Revolution, yet how the war was far from being simply a story of the triumph of superior machines.
Murray and Hsieh paint indelible portraits of Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, William Tecumseh Sherman, and other major figures whose leadership, judgment, and personal character played such decisive roles in the fate of a nation. They also examine how the Army of the Potomac, the Army of Northern Virginia, and the other major armies developed entirely different cultures that influenced the war's outcome.
©2016 Princeton University Press (P)2017 Tantor
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Critic Reviews

"A genuinely fresh, persuasive perspective on the Civil War.... A book that will make even readers with a strong knowledge of the war think about how it was fought and why it ended as it did. A winner for Civil War history buffs." ( Kirkus Starred Review)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful
2 out of 5 stars
By Terry Masters on 10-18-17

A Book about Conclusions

This purpose of this book is to present and support the conclusions of the authors. The cherry-picked facts included (and omitted) serve only that purpose: this is not the broad, unbiased survey of military history suggested by the title.

If you're inclined to agree with the authors' take on the War, you may be able to enjoy this book, assuming you tailor your expectations appropriately. The book emphasizes slavery, criticizes scholars who talk of the states' rights role in the war and generally sets up a north-protagonist, south-antagonist narrative, though it portrays both sides as predominately inept. I'm sure that had such wise men as the authors been around in the 1860's to explain things to the cretans, the Civil War might never have taken place or, at least, been a quick and easy process.

The authors are clearly teachers because they repeat the same conclusions over and over
and freely pass judgment on the actions and decisions of every government official and soldier described, on both sides. If you are enamored with college professors and veiled condescension from on high, this book is for you. For me, such style is a hallmark of commentary, not what this book purports to be -- a "history" should not be so judgment-heavy. Keegan's history of the Civil War is far and away superior in this regard.

I found it particularly off-putting that the authors repeatedly use the third person to reference their own previous writings as support of some of the claims in this book. Accordingly, I question whether there is an underlying agenda here, though I do not care to speculate on what it may be. I would rather read a book of facts/information etc. and draw my own conclusions, rather than rely on someone else to tell me what to think, repeating it over and over to be sure it sinks into my thick head.

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8 of 15 people found this review helpful

4 out of 5 stars
By Michael on 05-22-18

Alternate view

Lots of good information presented. However though the authors express the view that the wars conclusion was not in the end predetermined, they take the view that the need for the Union was predetermined. There are no other alternatives to force and bloody conflict in the eyes of these historians. Those politicians making the decision to use force and in this case to bring the focus on civilians is to be exalted. The authors do not consider this at all perverted, but include war as just one other respected activity of men. I disagree and think that alternatives deserve to be included in a moral discussion as to the progress and utility of war.

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