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This Great Struggle: America's Civil War

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  • Posted May 24, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    YES, this is a book to read!

    Write a one-volume history of the American Civil War. Be sure to consider the politics on both sides, the home fronts, personalities and objectives. Do not forget to include Great Britain, the blockade-runners and the rams. We want you to include chapters on Reconstruction and on causes too. This must be a military history that covers all the major campaigns and make sure to mention the more important secondary campaigns. Oh, by the way, the text must be under 400 pages, we need about 40 pages for the index, sources and notes. Most authors would have tried to nicely say, "This is impossible!" so as to not upset the publisher. The excellent social history "Battle Cry of Freedom" is 952 pages while the best military history "The Longest Night" is 992 pages. This book cannot offer the depth of information found in those book BUT it provides an intelligent overview of the subjects.
    Woodworth manages an inclusive narrative that is well paced and constantly moving. We effortlessly move from theater to theater, from war to politics to social issues and back to war throughout the book. The organization is so logical that each move seems natural and necessary. We receive enough information to attain a basic understanding of a subject and place it in the overall context of the war. This is a history of American Civil War from the 1850s through the 1870s. The design is to be inclusive but not detailed. A detailed book like this would run thousands of pages and require a body builder to carry it.
    Woodworth stays with the modern interpretation of the Civil War history placing slavery as the central theme. He is honest enough to fairly note different interpretations and not be dismissive of them. This is a stalemate in the East, victory on the Mississippi and cautious advance in Tennessee military history. The treatment of the personalities is fair and no one walks on water. This is not a story of heroes and villains but of people at war. Leaders make mistakes and fail throughout the book. The Trans-Mississippi is important in 1861 and early 1862. After the Battle of Pea Ridge, very little happens that changes the course of the war. The book reflects this by looking at what is important and what is not.
    Is this book worth reading? YES! For those new to the Civil War, this is the best general history of its' size. For the experienced reader, this book is an enjoyable review. It puts the vital, very important, important and not important events into place and keeps this perspective. One of the best things is Woodworth's ability as a writer. His prose is clean, direct and very intelligent. He can lecture while seeming to talk and make anyone enjoy history.

    3 out of 3 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted August 29, 2011

    A very well-written one volume history of the Civil War

    Steven Woodworth does a very good job of writing an engrossing and surprisingly complete one volume history of the Civil War. He focuses clearly on the salient historical events and their significance and has a good ability to sift through the hero worship and controversy surrounding many of the figures of the time to put their actions into a proper perspective.

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    Posted January 19, 2014

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 25, 2011

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