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The Civil War: An Illustrated History

4.24  ·  Rating Details ·  2,720 Ratings  ·  69 Reviews
"The Civil War defined us as whatwe are & it opened us to being what we became, good & bad things...It was the crossroads of ourbeing, & it was a hell of a crossroads: the suffering, the enormous tragedy of the whole thing."- Shelby Foote
When theillustrated edition of The Civil War was published, The NY Time hailed it as "a treasure for the eye & mind." Wa
Hardcover, 448 pages
Published September 5th 1990 by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. (NY) (first published January 1st 1990)
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Community Reviews

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Nov 29, 2008 Geoff rated it really liked it
You may have purchased this book when Ken Burns' classic and genre defining documentary was broadcast. And you may have relegated this book to your coffee table because it is a big, heavy volume. But please, get it off the table, sit comfortably, put it in your lap and read it. It has hundreds of pictures, many liner notes and loads of insightful essays so the actual text is not terribly long. In fact, despite is daunting size the actual history of the war can only really be a summary. If you ...more
Oct 21, 2015 Kinksrock rated it it was amazing
Fantastic. This and "Battle Cry of Freedom" are the best books I have read about the Civil War. This one will satisfy the part of you that wants visuals more, with lots of great old photos.
Wendy Lenore
Oct 07, 2012 Wendy Lenore rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was a great book, I also watched the series on PBS and to hear first hand the words from diaries,letters and the memories of the people still able to remember the events of the civil war was being there. It is like they are speaking right to you from beyond this earthly realm. The loyalty and faith great leaders on both sides inspired in their men who would follow them unconditionally stand up for their beliefs.... was inspiring. At times no food, odds against them,when it ...more
Tom Menner
Jul 04, 2012 Tom Menner rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This was the series that really made a name for Burns, and the coffee table book holds up as well - lavishly illustrated with photos, maps, etc. and liberally mixing history and personal stories, similar to Burns' documentary style. This is not the definitive written work on the Civil War, but it is an enjoyable work on its own merits.
This book gives a good overview of the Civil War era, touching on political, military, economic, and social developments. Purely an introduction, though--each battle is described in only a few pages and none of the events are truly flushed out, so more reading is necessary to get a deeper understanding.
Kelly B
Apr 17, 2008 Kelly B rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Well, Ken Burns is one of my heroes. He is amazing. I love this book, and haven't finished it yet, but of course I fully intend to. The losses sustained in these battles were immense. I mean, some towns lost all of their men!
Erik Graff
Mar 13, 2013 Erik Graff rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: Civil War fans
Recommended to Erik by: Fin Einar Graff
Shelves: history
For years my sole blood-brother (I've many step-brothers and a step-sister) lived in a small house on the outskirts of Sawyer, not far from Warren Dunes State Park alongside the western shore of Lake Michigan and a long walk south from where the ancestors had built a cottage during the first world war. The house had originally been purchased by his former wife, Miki, with whom he had become reconciled and with whom, indeed, he had had a daughter, without bothering to get remarried. Given the ...more
Jan 10, 2012 Grace rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This is an audio book that accompanies the PBS video series 'The Civil War,' by Ken Burns. It is abridged, so it doesn't go into as much detail as the videos, but it hits all of the high points. It is read by Ken Burns, who does a fantastic job reading it. I always feel that the reader adds or detracts a lot from an audio book.

I listened to this book and watched the PBS series simultaneously, as well as read several books on the Civil War at the same time. Even though this audio book is abridge
Aug 04, 2011 Burt rated it really liked it
If I were a high school teacher of American History, I would prefer this book as the text for the students to studt the Civil War. It is by no means a detailed history that delves into the politics and the battles, rather it is a concise account of both the politics and battles as well as the key politicians, key generals, and a smattering of the interesting "bit players" of the war. For my part, having read of our Civil War in some more serious detail, I found it interesting, well researched, ...more
I was not yet ten years old when I first saw Ken Burns's monumental documentary The Civil War on PBS in the fall of 1990. I am glad I finally took the time to read the book based on that documentary. Much of the book's text is based on the documentary's script. Overall I enjoyed reading this book because I learned several things which I did not know before reading it. While this book does not go in depth into any particular aspect of the war, I highly recommend it for anyone interested in a broa ...more
Jan 16, 2009 Karen rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone
Recommended to Karen by: Nancy Kersell
As someone who has never before been able to summon the slightest interest in the civil war, I find it's helpful to have an overview of this huge subject. The Civil War, largely the text to the Ken Burns documentary by that name, provides decent survey to the topic, and as well includes lots of great photographs and excerpts from personal documents: letters, diaries, etc. This is giving me, a former complete ignoramus on the subject, the framework of facts and generalized understanding. I would ...more
Kim McCabe
Oct 09, 2009 Kim McCabe rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
Fantastic overview of the Civil War that intertwined fantastic photos, letters, songs, etc to give you a feel for the times and the feelings circulating among "ordinary" people of the time. Half the reading time is absorbed in studying the wonderful photos. This is the book adaptation of the miniseries done by Ken Burns. Well worth a look if you enjoy history but aren't big on non-fiction reads.
ken roberts
Jun 17, 2012 ken roberts rated it it was amazing
Shelves: history, non-fiction
Like Ken Burns's PBS series, this does an excellent job in covering the breadth of The Civil War, in a relatively brief period of time. At the same time, it provides plenty of the personal interest stories and character analysis for readers who like that kind of thing.

The pictures and graphic design of the book is excellent.
Feb 06, 2014 Matt rated it it was amazing
This is definitely one of the best, most readable, and most enjoyable books on the Civil War. If you read just one book on the Civil War, this should be it. I've read it twice and enjoyed it the second time as much as the first.

An amazing piece of work that will be read for generations to come.
Rachel Coyne
May 25, 2014 Rachel Coyne rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
To me this book helped put all the pieces of the puzzle together - the chronology of the battles, their unique features, the movements of the separate armies. There was also a sense of the people and relationships involved. No one was spared - this is a warts and all narrative for both sides in this conflict over slavery.
Purple Country Girl (Sandy)
Nice companion to Ken Burns' excellent documentary. There is some additional information included in the book but most is taken directly from the film. While not a thorough account of the Civil War, it's a nice summary of major events of the war. A nice volume for anyone, not just enthusiasts.
Feb 18, 2011 Tamra rated it it was amazing
The Civil War was brought to life for me through this book. I was completely absorbed with the writing, artifacts and photographs. It was powerful, moving, fascinating and educational. Greatly enhanced the PBS documentary to which this is a companion book.
Dec 27, 2012 Darrell rated it it was amazing
This is the companion piece to the highly celebrated PBS miniseries made by talented filmmaker Ken Burns. The book is a wonderful revisit to this series that changed the face of the documentary film technique.
Nov 05, 2013 Scilla rated it liked it
This is a well done history of the Civil War with lots of pictures. There is a great deal of detail. I would have found it a little more enjoyable to read with a little less detail, but if you want the whole story, it is there.
Felicia Glaser
Jun 26, 2016 Felicia Glaser rated it it was amazing
Magnificient book. I read this from the library after watching Ken Burn's stunning Civil War documentary. So happy to now own it! Created by Ken Burns and the masters who created his documentary, this is top-notch history plus I love all the photos it provides.
Terry Cornell
Aug 24, 2016 Terry Cornell rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
The companion book to Ken Burn's PBS television series. I watched the series on dvd while reading Doris Kearns Goodwins 'Team of Rivals', and just today finished the book. The book follows the PBS series closely, with slightly more detail.
Read on a kindle with few pictures, but this still seems to be the correct edition.

This is a short, easy introduction to the background and major events of the Civil War. Highly recommended for people who, like me, have an interest in history but no familiarity with the Civil War.
A year by year analysis of The Civil War from the build up to the secession, the battles, the peace agreement and what happened to the main players after the war. There were good photographs, artwork, battle descriptions and although it lacked maps I very much enjoyed it.
Nov 07, 2015 Joanna rated it really liked it
I remember the series from high school and watched much of it again when they re-aired it this year. Much of the text is the same or v similar to the voiceover and interviews in the episodes, but I liked the opportunity to study the photographs and maps of the battles at my own pace.
Stephen Hughes
Aug 31, 2012 Stephen Hughes rated it really liked it
Great companion piece to the PBS documentary. However, one demerit for that idiotic section where the authors claim that the Battle of Gettysburg began as a battle over shoes. No such evidence exists.
Jun 12, 2013 Beth marked it as to-read
Not sure this is same the book (though the cover is the same). I'm reading "The Civil War: The complete text of the bestselling narrative history of the Civil War -- based on the celebrated documentary by Ken Burns"
Brian S. Wise
Jul 06, 2010 Brian S. Wise rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A superb companion to the Ken Burns documentary. The text consists of a greatly expanded version of the film's script, adding fine detail to every aspect of the war.
Sep 22, 2008 Chip rated it really liked it
The weight of that war fell on me as I read this book. When I started reading, I was a Civil War buff. I ended feeling like I was a survivor. It was terrible.
John Mayers
Jun 10, 2013 John Mayers rated it it was amazing
A wonderful book that brings the humanity and the tragedy of Gettysburg; together as a wonderfully woven story.
Mark Sims
Jul 29, 2013 Mark Sims rated it it was amazing
An excellent history with plenty of photographs and maps. This is the best history of the Civil War that I have read.
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Geoffrey Champion Ward is an author and screenwriter of various documentary presentations of American history. He graduated from Oberlin College in 1962.

He was an editor of American Heritage magazine early in his career. He wrote the television mini-series The Civil War with its director Ken Burns and has collaborated with Burns on every documentary he has made since, including Jazz and Baseball.
More about Geoffrey C. Ward...

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