The American Civil War: Book summary and reviews of The American Civil War by John Keegan

The American Civil War

A Military History

By John Keegan

The American Civil War
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  • Published in USA  Oct 2009,
    416 pages.

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Book Summary

For the past half century, John Keegan, the greatest military historian of our time, has been returning to the scenes of America's most bloody and wrenching war to ponder its lingering conundrums: the continuation of fighting for four years between such vastly mismatched sides; the dogged persistence of ill-trained, ill-equipped, and often malnourished combatants; the effective absence of decisive battles among some two to three hundred known to us by name. Now Keegan examines these and other puzzles with a peerless understanding of warfare, uncovering dimensions of the conflict that have eluded earlier historiography.

While offering original and perceptive insights into psychology, ideology, demographics, and economics, Keegan reveals the war's hidden shape—a consequence of leadership, the evolution of strategic logic, and, above all, geography, the Rosetta Stone of his legendary decipherments of all great battles. The American topography, Keegan argues, presented a battle space of complexity and challenges virtually unmatched before or since. Out of a succession of mythic but chaotic engagements, he weaves an irresistible narrative illuminated with comparisons to the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and other conflicts.

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Reviews

Media Reviews

"Some of his thoughts...are less than cogent. Still, Keegan's elegant prose and breadth of learning make this a stimulating, if idiosyncratic, interpretation of the war." - Publishers Weekly

"Though James McPherson is still the preeminent Civil War historian, no reader should pass up the chance to read Keegan." - Kirkus Reviews

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Author Information

John Keegan Author Biography

John Keegan was for many years senior lecturer in military history at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst, and has been a fellow at Princeton University and a professor of history at Vassar College. He joined the Daily Telegraph as a Defence Correspondent and remains there as Defence Editor, also contributing to the American website, National Review Online.He is the author of over a dozen books, including The Iraq War, Intelligence in War, The Battle for History, The Masks of Command, A History of Warfare, and the acclaimed The Face of Battle and The Second World War. He lived in Wiltshire, England up until his death in early August 2012 at the age of 78.

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