Civil War Book Reviews

keeganstory_1508760fI’ve often been fascinated how reviews can vary so much in regards to American Civil War books. Reviews for The American Civil War: A Military History, by renown British author/historian John Keegan perhaps represents one of the finest examples of such variety in reviews. I understand that every reviewer is not equal, and that some have an agenda. Still, the recent remarks concerning Keegan’s book differ wildly.

Reviews for The American Civil War range from flat out glowing remarks such as:

Chris Patsilelis declares that Keegan’s “assiduously researched and comprehensive new work …gives us a vivid, panoramic overview of dynamic, mid-19th century America.” Not to be outdone, John M. Taylor, notes that “Mr. Keegan’s fine book will find its way to many a bookshelf, especially those north of the Mason-Dixon line.” The Brits chimed in declaring, “Keegan’s most original contribution to his subject…”

To the other extreme, there have been some rather scorching reviews, such as:

James M. McPherson, who found that the “analytical value of Keegan’s geostrategic framework is marred by numerous errors that will leave readers confused and misinformed.” And yet even more blunt comes Steve Raymond, “Moreover, Keegan’s narrative is shot through with errors. Examples: He attributes a Ulysses S. Grant quote to Robert E. Lee, then 40 pages later attributes it correctly to Grant. He locates the Battle of Champion’s Hill on the wrong side of the state of Mississippi, says Confederates surrounded at Vicksburg planned an escape to the east side of the Mississippi River when they were already on the east side, and has Confederate General James Longstreet wounded in the arm on one page (wrong), in the throat (correct) on another.”

I will say that the reviews of Keegan’s book have been mostly positive.

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