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Don't Know Much About the Civil War: Everything You Need to Know About America's Greatest Conflict but Never Learned (Don't Know Much About)

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3.82  ·  Rating Details  ·  763 Ratings  ·  78 Reviews
“Highly informative and entertaining…propels the reader light years beyond dull textbooks and Gone with the Wind.”
San Francisco Chronicle

It has been 150 years since the opening salvo of America’s War Between the States. New York Times bestselling author Ken Davis tells us everything we never knew about our nation’s bloodiest conflict in Don’t Know Much About the Civil Wa
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Paperback, 544 pages
Published March 15th 2011 by Harper Paperbacks (first published 1996)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,451)
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Joe
Feb 25, 2016 Joe rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: listened-to
A must read for those of us who don't know their Mason from their Dixon. It got a little repetitive and I've never been a big fan of reading about battles, but Davis ultimately did a great job of showing what led to the Civil War, who all the players were, and, most delightfully, what happened to many of the surviving players after the fact.

I'm glad that Davis acknowledges what the Civil War was really about (Slavery), and what it wasn't (States Rights). It was about one State right: The right t
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Jay Connor
Jul 25, 2012 Jay Connor rated it liked it
I'm pretty well read on the Civil War, but I'll have to say that I picked up some nuggets here.

Perhaps the most interesting is to upend my "conventional wisdom" understanding of the Impeachment of Andrew Johnson. Elementary and High School history left the impression that Lincoln's assassination was all the worse because it left the Presidency in the hands of the disreputable, Andrew Johnson. He was so disreputable that he was impeached.

As the new novel "The Impeachment of Abraham Lincoln" by t
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Susan
Aug 10, 2012 Susan rated it really liked it
Shelves: kindle, 2012
Some of you might know I'm on a trivia team. We do okay, but we were a little light on military knowledge. We assigned each member a war, and my war was the Civil War, so I picked this up as my 'beginner book' on it. It turns out, it was a pretty good beginner book, and it also turns out that I'm starting to get into learning *everything* I can about the Civil War.

If you want to bob in and out of what happened where, getting deeper at times, this is the book for you. This book starts well befor
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Mom
Feb 03, 2013 Mom rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I am really torn on this one. I love finding out any information on the Civil War but this book had a very argumentative tone that put me off. And then I was unsure if this information was actually factual. I couldn't wait to get to the end so I could read something else.
Bart Breen
May 23, 2012 Bart Breen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Entertaining, but somewhat Shallow

I listened to this book on tape and enjoyed it overall. I confess, I had some issues as I listened to the book as I am apparently in that class of people who actually does enjoy and study history. I found the anecdotes entertaining and overall found the book appropriate for its purpose as a primer for a majority of the populace who apparently doesn't have even a cursory grasp of the keystone event in American History. It does have a tendency however to oversimpl
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Elena Timofeeva
Mar 02, 2013 Elena Timofeeva rated it it was amazing
Hello, I'm Elena Timofeeva from Moscow, Russia.
In Russian schools we never learn deeply American history, so generally speaking, all the information we have comes from Hollywood movies, in fact I was the one who knew about the American Civil war only from "Gone with the Wind" movie/book.
Well what I can say, my English is pretty intermediate as you can see from my comment,)Even though I enjoyed that book, and it was quiet easy to read even for me, so I'm a bit surprised to read some comments here
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Grace
Jan 10, 2012 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I read this book in conjunction with several other books in order to gain an in-depth knowledge of the Civil War through several authors’ perspectives. I like that this book contained so many primary sources so that I could understand what people were thinking and feeling. Davis sometimes includes light-hearted and humorous stories, which makes this book even more interesting and fun.

In addition, I like the timelines and the fact that they include events, which were occurring outside of the Civ
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Rebecca
Jan 01, 2011 Rebecca rated it it was ok
Zzz...zzzz....zzz....Oh, I'm sorry, I was reviewing a book? Yeah, the thing about this book was, it was so boring, even thinking about it puts me to sleep. Dry and dull, it's full of disconnected factoids that read like so many lists rather than an overall coherent narrative. Although the author acts like he's digging deep into history, anyone who reads this without a good prior understanding is going to walk away with the trite and oft-disproved overview that the war was fought only over slaver ...more
Lisa Houlihan
My own fault for reading such a book. I can forgive someone being "find" $50: that could be a typesetting error. But "On December 20, 1865, a special convention met in Charleston, and South Carolina became the first state to leave the Union" is a ludicrous oversight that makes me doubt the author's validity.
Mallory
Nov 01, 2011 Mallory rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This is a really helpful book in better understanding the Civil War, not only because the author goes through all the events chronologically, but also because he starts at the very beginnings of America itself to provide a full look at what ultimately brought the country to that divisive point. I liked Davis’ continued insertion of relevant quotes, songs, and documents throughout the book. His way of writing is certainly not boring or dry. He presents the human side of the war, as well as the ba ...more
Elise
Aug 21, 2015 Elise rated it it was amazing
I could have saved myself a lot of time in high school if I had had this book instead. Of course, it wasn't written when I was in high school. But, if it had been it would have been the perfect book for learning about the civil war. It was a concise yet substantive look at the reasons for the war, the run up to the war and how it took place plus the aftermath.
Tony and Leslee
Sep 04, 2015 Tony and Leslee rated it really liked it
As a person intrigued by American Civil War battles, politicking and personalities, I thoroughly enjoyed the backgrounds, causes and enmities of this war that tore a nation apart. Kenneth Davis has meticulously researched the subject, and, in the style of documentary maker Ken Burns, given voice to the primary, secondary and tertiary protagonists.

Slavery was obviously the key issue where abolitionist northern states were in conflict with those from the agricultural south where cotton was king an
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Michael
Jun 09, 2007 Michael rated it really liked it
I really didn't know much about the Civil War before picking up this book. I had vague shapes in my head, rumors about battles, ideas that one side wore gray, the other blue. Basically crap I'd picked up from terrible John Jakes miniseries watched with one eye open in the eighties. So this book really did put a lot of information in context and fired me up about a topic that before then I'd given little care to.
Kristin
Sheesh, I don't even know where to start with this. I listed to this on audiobook because I "had to" for the Book Riot 2015 Reader Harder Challenge. Full disclosure: I hate audiobooks. I like to be able to read faster, I like to imagine pauses and voice in my own head... Let's just face it: I like to be in control! But I figured that I like listening to stories on NPR, so nonfiction might be the way to go. So, that said...

Problems with the book

Let's just jump right in. This was clearly written b
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Chris D'aquin
Jun 19, 2014 Chris D'aquin rated it really liked it
I really liked this. Instead of starting with the beginning of the war or a few years before the war starts, Davis kicks off his book with a long travelogue of how vitally important slavery was to much of Colonial and early American business. By doing so, he makes a convincing argument that the Civil War was really about slavery. All other issues take a second or third seat.

He then builds his way up to the Civil War, trying to pull in many of the social, political, and military reasons behind wh
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Jen
Dec 17, 2007 Jen rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-history
Though I am from Richmond, I feel I completely missed out on learning about the civil war. I really knew NOTHING about it, but this book helped. A lot. It also sparked an interest and may actually get to me to learn more about this. It's a sad thing that I know more about British history than American, but I'm trying to change this.
Belinda
Jun 04, 2008 Belinda rated it really liked it
Loved it....lots of tidbits that I never knew! Doesn't get too bogged down in the details of the battles like some history books do. Talks more about the thought processes behind the Generals and Lincoln and the politics of the time. Very interesting. I must say that I did listen to it on audio...that may have made some difference.
Sparkie Allison
Dec 22, 2012 Sparkie Allison rated it it was amazing
I have read dozens upon dozens of books on the Civil War. This is a great overview and has some fun facts probably not in other books. Every student should read this book. Excellent.
Richp
Jan 31, 2015 Richp rated it liked it
This is a good book on the subject. It suffers from the (necessary in USA) long opening dissertation on why slavery was the real reason for the war, with other disagreements requiring not more than ordinary politics. As a military history, it is weak, but this is intended as a general history, so that is OK.

Davis's other two books I've read, DKMA(tm) History (just US), and Geography, make better bathroom books because their segments are shorter. This book needs more continuous attention, which I
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Alex
Oct 23, 2012 Alex rated it it was amazing
A brilliantly written history. He let's the people of the era do most of their own talking.
Ben
A great book of facts but not a great audio book.
Dale
Apr 03, 2013 Dale rated it really liked it
A great introduction to the Civil War

First, I need to tell you something about me. I am a Civil War buff. I can go into long expository speeches about nearly any topic of the war at the drop of a hat. I think it is a great moment in TV when the local PBS station shows Ken Burns' Civil War mini-series. The movie Glory is my favorite movie and I personally own more than 80 books on the Civil War. I love to debate any number of topics about the war and I truly believe that it is the pivotal moment
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Kristi
Mar 08, 2012 Kristi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Accessible history of the Civil War with some interesting insights by Davis. Like his other books he breaks up the topic into manageable spans, in this case a year or 18 months of events, and provides insight into the character and humanity of the players - fascinating stuff in some cases. I am ashamed to admit that a lot of my perception of the Civil War was influenced by the epic Gone with the Wind and other movies (ones probably truer to the horror of war, like Cold Mountain) and to understan ...more
Caroline
Jan 20, 2013 Caroline rated it liked it
Shelves: history, civil-war
Don’t Know Much About the Civil War
I picked this up because although I do know much about the Civil War, I thought it would be fun to go over it again. However, this book is not as entertaining as the title would lead you to believe. In fact, it is quite dry at times. I thought there were a few minor errors, but did not note them down and I do not remember them now.

The author is operating under the assumption that his readers don’t know much because they got all of their information from Gone Wi
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Dave
May 06, 2015 Dave rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Those wanting to learn the basics of the Civil War.
Shelves: history, audio
This was very informative about the course of the Civil War. The author seemed to get so focused on slavery and the wrongs that it did and perpetuated, that I think information about some of the other aspects of the war were lost. For example, while slavery may have been the main driver of the war, there were other issues that contributed to it, and these are all but ignored. But it was still informative.
Also, some of the information seems to be contradicted by other sources. For example, his al
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Tom
Mar 15, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it
No. Really. I swear! I know what you're thinking but even an ollllde history type like me learned some things from Davis' quirky approach. Almost too simplistic at times and even if occasionally a wee bit too full of slang and cliches, this tome will engage every reader from
raw recruit to seasoned general
Carianne Carleo-Evangelist
Much like my foray into his geography one, I'm not going to finish this the first time. One) the ebook is formatted awfully making for a hard read. There's no clear cut division between his historical documents and his commentary. Two, it's too long & repetititve. I'm sure I'll come back to it at some point.
Kevin
Nov 11, 2012 Kevin rated it liked it
Shelves: history
Good information but a bit strangely organized. Felt like it jumped around a bit. The author would discuss a specific topic, which might take you through a few years, but the next topic would start before the last one. I suppose when one is used to the traditional format of learning history, in one year sequential increments, it can take a bit to get used to. Not sure if I favor that or not though.

The information itself was great, no complaints there. Had many ideas and events that I never knew
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Kendra
Jul 23, 2015 Kendra rated it liked it
Shelves: audio-book
I should have read it rather than listened to it. It got a bit tedious in audio version, especially when the narrator was reading off timelines or the list of notable people in alphabetic order. I did learn quite a bit though.
Jerry Smith
Oct 20, 2010 Jerry Smith rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, 2010-read
Entry level, easy to read book about the Civil War. Basically runs chronologically but takes a novel approach of picking out the major events and explaining them. Therefore retains a lot of interest although probably not for the purist in terms of in depth analysis or true historical insight. However that is not the aim of the book and for those like me who were looking for an overview so we can pick avenues to explore further this certainly fits the bill.

To it's credit, but again aiming at the
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Kenneth C. Davis is the New York Times bestselling author of the Don't Know Much About series of books and audios for adults and children. The first title in the series, Don't Know Much About History became a New York Times bestseller in 1991 and remained on the paperback list for 35 consecutive weeks. It has since been revised several times and now has more than 1.6 million copies in print.

He is
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