The American Civil War : a military history by John Keegan

Read: June 5 - June 28
Format: Paperback 623 pages
Source: Public Library
Subject: Civil War
Challenges: 11 in 11, 75 Book, TIOLI, SYLL
Category: The Engagement: this is getting serious
Genre: History
Stars: ★★★

In the past 18 months I have ready numerous books on the Civil War - mainly non-military - so I picked up this book to fill in all those blanks that were still empty. A few facts I hadn't gathered from other books were:
  • recent developments of the time in food preservation, especially canning led to the Union soldiers being best fed military force on record up to that point in time.
  • Southern strategy was to deny access to union invaders. This was a major difficulty with such a large perimeter to defend.
  • At Antietam, McClellan did not use all the forces at his disposal. He also lacked the killer instinct and refused to augment hatreds by confiscating property, living off the land, or freeing slaves.
  • inadequacy of the southern railroads with their non-strategic routes hampered the Union efforts after their invasion
  • The battle at Gettysburg is believed by many to be the turning point of the war. What is not surprising is that "both sides at Gettysburg were animated by belief in the justice of their cause and fought with greater determination because of that."
  • 10,000 battles took place during the ACW between 1861 and 1865 = 7 per day on average.
  • It is much easier to understand battles with great maps to illustrate - this book had them.
History also seems to conclude that with more talented leaders on the Union side the war would have progressed differently - ending sooner and with fewer casualties. It is also perceived "indecisiveness of battles is one of the great mysteries of the war." However, the most interesting point made in this book, for me, is the identification of the South's greatest ally and the North's greatest opponent -" the geography of the war". "The obstacles which most hampered the North's armies in their pursuit of victory were terrain and landscape, the enormous distances to be traversed, the multiplicity of waterways to be crossed, the impenetrability of forests, the contour of mountain ranges."

Lastly, I was surprised to read that Karl Marx studied the American War and yet as much as he urged and suggested that the ACW would lead to socialism the author concludes that "American socialism was stillborn on the battlefields of Shiloh and Gettysburg."

1 comment:

Anna and Serena said...

This review will be featured on War Through the Generations on Sept. 14.