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The Devil Soldier

3.5  ·  Rating Details ·  361 Ratings  ·  34 Reviews
The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China...

A courageous leader who became the first American mandarin, Frederick Townsend Ward won crucial victories for the Emperor of China during the Taiping Rebellion, history's bloodiest civil war. Carr's skills as historian and storyteller come to the fore in this thrilling account of the kind of adventurer the world n
Paperback, 384 pages
Published April 11th 1995 by Random House (first published 1992)
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Jun 09, 2011 John rated it liked it
Recommends it for: Those interested in the Taiping Rebellion, 'Chinese' Gordon, Colonial History, or Military History
An intruiging bit of obscured history within a greater event largely forgotten in the west. I knew extremely little about the Taiping rebellion, and was utterly clueless that western officers played a notable role - let alone that Fredrick Townsend Ward raised, trained, and led a large force of Chinese soldiers in the western model which, operating independently, played a significant role in the downfall of the Taiping cause. I have enjoyed Caleb Carr's historical writing, as well as his fiction ...more
Dec 13, 2007 Patrick rated it really liked it
Well researched and well written. Caleb Carr has written a couple of well known historical crime novels, THE ANGEL IN DARKNESS and The ALIENIST. However, prior to writing those he was best known as a military historian, and this book on an American mercenary operating in Imperial China during the 1860's falls in that category. Fans of his two novels moentioned above may not enjoy this book.

That said, this is an enjoyable read. Frederick Ward Townsend was a controversial figure in his own day who
Beth Cato
Nov 08, 2015 Beth Cato rated it liked it
My reaction to this is mixed. First of all, that subtitle "The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China" is horribly cringe-worthy and misleading, and is contradicted by the explanation within the book. The publisher should not have used such a sensational subtitle.

The events here are absolutely fascinating: the true historical escapades of an American man who ventures to China as a freelance soldier, battled the rebellious pseudo-Christian Taipings on behalf of the Manchu governmen
Dec 11, 2011 Ensiform rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, war, china
("The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China." A rather over-dramatic and not exactly true subtitle...) This often engrossing work is a biography of Frederick Townsend Ward, the first commander of the Ever Victorious Army. Carr does an excellent job, considering that the Chinese Communists downplayed Ward’s role in history, even paving over his gravesite, and that a distant relative of Ward’s destroyed all his personal papers after his death. Carr is no Sinologist and thus the Tai ...more
Raegan Butcher
Apr 12, 2008 Raegan Butcher rated it really liked it
Fascinating true story of an american soldier of fortune who went to china during the taiping rebellion and made himself into the leader of the "Ever Victorious Army". I have a keen interest in men like this, men like Charles George Gordon (who inherited the Ever Victorious Army from Ward after he was killed in battle) James "Rajah" Brooke,real Lord Jim stuff and TRUE to boot. You can't beat it.
Zeke Chase
Dec 23, 2012 Zeke Chase rated it really liked it
Shelves: china
A fascinating biography one of the most interesting figures in the Taiping Rebellion, Frederick Townsend Ward. Ward was the American mercenary that formed the Ever Victorious Army in Shanghai and held the city by facing off against numbers several times his strength and became an indispensable piece of Li Hongzhang's Anhui Army that ultimately squeezed the Taipings back to Nanjing

I'm going to approach this review as though my reader has little knowledge of the Taiping. So, the Taiping Rebellion
Jan 29, 2013 Bruce rated it liked it
As civil wars go, the Taiping Rebellion was a more sordid, bloody mess than most. Pitting two corrupt, incompetent, ill-equipped, stumblebum regimes against one another, it dragged on for about 15 years in the mid-19th century and succeeded only in slaughtering tens of millions of Chinese peasants. Given this, it's but testament to mutual distrust that the Western colonial powers didn't conspire to carve up the Sino-shoreline into personal fiefdoms. Against this backdrop of anarchy and stalemate ...more
Mar 30, 2016 Kim rated it it was amazing
The Devil Soldier is a biography of an American soldier of fortune, Frederick Townsend Ward, who commanded an army for the imperial Chinese government during the savage civil war known as the Taiping rebellion. As I was reading, I found Ward's story to be both exciting and inspiring; the odds that he faced were astounding, and as a result his achievements were remarkable. As one customer on Amazon wrote, "If this story were fiction it would surely be dismissed as too far-fetched to ever be belie ...more
David Buchan
Feb 22, 2015 David Buchan rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
Interesting account of Fredrick Townsend Ward's formation, training and leadership of China's Ever Victorious Army. While it never exceeded 6,000 soldiers due to Manchu paranoia, their adoption of western weapons and tactics allowed them to defeat much larger forces of poorly armed and led rebels. Working with British, French and Imperial Chinese troops, Ward cleared a 30 mile buffer zone around Shanghai, thwarting the Taiping Rebellion's last chance to gain a seaport as a vital source of suppli ...more
Aug 02, 2007 George rated it really liked it
Non-fiction. The story of Federick Townsend Ward, an American soldier of fortune in the 19th century, who founded and led into battle a private army of European, Filipino and Chinese mercenaries in Shanghai that became known as the Ever Victorious Army and helped end the Taiping Rebellion, the bloodiest war of era. Travelling in Asia and China in the mid-19th century, Ward missed the American Civil War, but became a central figure in the far bigger Taiping Rebellion. He eventually became a princ ...more
Aug 16, 2008 Gouty rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
This is the biography of Frederick Townsend Ward. He was one of the truly larger than life characters of the Victorian era. As a young man he got his start a s filibuster with Walker in Mexico. In later life he went to China where he was hired by the Emperor as a mercenary to put down the Tai-Ping rebellion (in which 20 million people were killed, 2nd only to WWII, and nobody ever mentions it). It is a fascinating book about an incredible time and place. A look at a slice of history not many peo ...more
Chris Doherty
Mar 29, 2010 Chris Doherty rated it really liked it
Great book about the little known role of an American on the Taiping Rebellion. The one thing I found missing were maps. Whenever I read a book with military tactics described in it, I need maps. Not just geographical maps, but maps that show the military tactics the author has spent so much time describing. Personally I think it would make a great movie.
Dec 15, 2008 Sarah rated it did not like it
i thought this would read more like a story or novel than like a military history. it was very dry. this isn't bad, but it's hard to concentrate on all of the small details and all of the names when you're half-asleep (i read before bed). so, i'm putting it aside in favor of something that isn't quite so dry.
May 01, 2009 Morris rated it liked it
Ward was a 19th century American expatriate in China who raised and trained a small but effective Chinese army to fight for the imperialists against the Taiping rebels. Much of his story had to be reconstructed from letters and papers of colleagues, since his own letters were destroyed. Somewhat slow going. Best in small doses. I finished several other books while reading this.
Andrew Post
Jul 31, 2015 Andrew Post rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction, war, biography
I never thought nonfiction could move me as much as fiction could, but this book did. A highly personal topic for me, and something not many others will understand. But I was deeply moved. I'm right sorry I never got to meet this Frederick Townsend Ward in real life. He seemed like a rare character.
Christopher Hagen
Aug 01, 2013 Christopher Hagen rated it it was amazing
One of the most fascinating biographies I have ever read. Who would ever have imagined a little-educated foreigner almost became a god in China in the 19th century? Reads almost like a thriller, although it is a historical biography, precise and well researched. I would have been proud to stand beside this man in 1860.
Sheldon Lehman
Dec 17, 2011 Sheldon Lehman rated it liked it
Not everyone could have told this story. Carr's narrative style makes this sound almost fictional. It takes some discipline if you're not particularly interested in this era, but hey! everyone needs to build some character right?
Feb 12, 2008 John rated it really liked it
Well-written, solid, and interesting bit of history. I only picked this up because of my respect for The Alienist, and wasn't disappointed. Carr uses this single historical figure to illustrate the time period, including England starting a war in order to sell more opium to the Chinese.
Savinipop Savini
Nov 30, 2008 Savinipop Savini rated it it was amazing
For history buffs, this is really a gem. I've read several books on the subject and this was by far the best researched and executed. It gets a bit long, but Caleb is also a fiction writer, so he is able to keep our interest, while not distorting the facts and the history.
Jul 04, 2011 Sonia rated it liked it
Shelves: have
I didn't actually realize this book was a biography. I really expected it to be more in the vein of The Alienist, but it was informative and mostly entertaining. It was a bit difficult at times, the Chinese naming conventions, but still a fairly good, and informative, read.
Jul 15, 2008 Randi rated it did not like it
Shelves: could-not-finish
I so enjoyed reading the thrilling "Alienist" by Caleb Carr that I was excited to find this book. Was a dreary follow up. Nothing like the compelling novel he crafted.
Aug 10, 2011 Caitlin rated it it was ok
Very boring at the beginning.. I couldn't finish it. I think I'll try it again sometime since it has some potential.
Jan 17, 2015 Valerie rated it liked it
This was extremely interesting, but I found the writing incredibly dry. The cover made it sound like it might be written in an active voice, but it was not.
Dec 31, 2011 Birch rated it liked it
I had heard that Carr's non-fiction was as compelling as his fiction. Not quite, but still a good history read.
Mary Meiklejohn
Jun 24, 2013 Mary Meiklejohn rated it did not like it
I actually didn't finish this book; without being at all memorably bad, it just put me to sleep. Carr's fiction is much better.
Kelly Anderson
Jan 21, 2015 Kelly Anderson rated it liked it
A fascinating subject with a surprising if not stifling amount of detail for a subject that the author acknowledges has a lack of historical record.
Rick Smeaton
Feb 03, 2010 Rick Smeaton rated it really liked it
It was an interesting read of a period of time that does not get a lot of coverage in the history books.
Peter Teague
Peter Teague rated it really liked it
Jan 19, 2017
Krait rated it liked it
Aug 26, 2009
Doug rated it liked it
Jan 31, 2008
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Caleb Carr is an American novelist and military historian. The son of Lucien Carr, a former UPI editor and a key Beat generation figure, he was born in Manhattan and lived for much of his life on the Lower East Side. He attended Kenyon College and New York University, earning a B.A. in military and diplomatic history. He is a contributing editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History an ...more
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