This is the second book by Shaara I have read about Civil War Battles. The last one was about Shiloh and this one about Gettysburg. He does a fine job...moreThis is the second book by Shaara I have read about Civil War Battles. The last one was about Shiloh and this one about Gettysburg. He does a fine job. Now, more than 150 years after the evnt it is not really possible to know what the cahgrcters were like and what their personal experiences might have been. However, Shaara knows his stuff and has clearly immersed himself in the history in detail. It's obvious from what he presents. His characterisations of the people concerned are detailed and believable and I have the sense that they are probably as accurate as any could be.
His descriptions of the battles are detailed and gripping and also very clear. They are particularly useful for someone like me who has an appreciation of what combat can be like but who has always been befuddled as to why people did certain things. I come away from his book with a deepening understanding of the military tactics of the day and that helps to explain a lot.
I am off to Gettysburg in the next few days. I will approach the field with this volume in hand.(less)
This book is an essential companion for anyone with more than a passing interest in the American Civil War. It is comprehensive and the maps are reall...moreThis book is an essential companion for anyone with more than a passing interest in the American Civil War. It is comprehensive and the maps are really good, most are overlaid onto modern topographical maps and theat makes them really easy to use, particularly on site. I found it a treasure both visiting tha battlefields and in reading written accounts, many o which contain maps that leave much to be desired. Highly recommended.(less)
An indispensible pocket guide for anyone with an interest in visiting Civil War battlefileds in America. It provides a brief summary of each battle an...moreAn indispensible pocket guide for anyone with an interest in visiting Civil War battlefileds in America. It provides a brief summary of each battle and a description of each site together with street address of the site or visitor's centre; critical if you are a tourist using gps to find the sites. i found it very useful on a recent visit to Gettysburg, Vicksburg and Chancellorsville.(less)
My interest in the Civil War has been growing recently. I wanted a summary that would help me understand what up to now has been a confusing skein on...moreMy interest in the Civil War has been growing recently. I wanted a summary that would help me understand what up to now has been a confusing skein on battles and generals.Well this is it. Very clear, very precise and very well written by someone who actually understands soldiering.This will be the companion volume for all the more detailed reading to come; a reference framework within whuich everything else can be placed.A really good piece of military history.(less)
This book is a very good piece of work. The author was trained as a lawyer before he became a historian.He applies that forensic training to examining...moreThis book is a very good piece of work. The author was trained as a lawyer before he became a historian.He applies that forensic training to examining the perceived image of the Vietnam veteran as being in some way a special case among America's veterans. that quality of being special somehow being determined by the nature of the war and their reception on returning home. He does this by comparing their experience to the experience of Civil War veterans who participated in a conflict that was won, and fought in a noble cause, the veteran's of that war, on both sides being given heroic status by their communities.
I found the book of interest because the Civil War is of interest; essentially because it had the same kind of impact on a young America that the First World War was to have in Australia; because of the number of casualties sustained, (Australia had the greatest loss per capita of population of all combatants)and because of the hardships endured and the particularly bloody nature of both conflicts.
In addition Australia was to respond to our veterans from WW1 as the Americans did to their Civil War veterans, they were welcomed back as heroes, and monuments to the fallen appeared in every settlement in the land, form the smallest village(they had all lost someone) to the state capitals and eventually a War Memorial Museum was dedicated in the national capital. A generous Veterans benefit scheme was established to care for returned servicemen and the widows and children of the dead. Not it must be said without some opposition from the political class but the force of public opinion was just too strong around the matter for the issue to be eschewed.
The book was also of great interest to me as a Vietnam veteran who has been diagnosed with chronic combat related ptsd. I am therefore intimately acquainted with the history and nature of that conflict and with the trial and travails of veterans returning after that war. We had an experience on returning home that was similar to that of many returning American veterans. It was not much different to other wars until 1968 after the Tet offensive and support for the war waned as the brutality and indiscriminate destruction practised by American forces gained greater publicity on the daily news.
Although Australian forces conducted a very different counter insurgency war, an approach that the Americans just couldn't get a grip on in their arrogance until it was too late,(the primary driver in that being Westmoreland who resembled in competence the butchers who ran the western front during WW1) Australian soldiers were seen during the later stages as having participated in the pointless surrealistic devastation of an entire country in the service of American ego. And this well beyond the point when it was perfectly clear that we did not and had never had a national interest there.
In addition the Australian government was much less accepting and generous towards veterans returning from Vietnam than were the Americans who had open access to things like the GI Bill despite the failings of an unprepared VA. That mean mindedness of Australian politicians opened extensive wounds among Vietnam veterans who instead of feeling supported by of Veterans system that already existed and was designed to serve their needs found themselves largely excluded from it and in constant conflict with it even in often obviously deserving cases.
In America the myth of the Vietnam veteran as a special case was in the creation. It became perceived wisdom and a sacred cow, as the author of this book points out, that they had suffered more than their forefathers, particularly from psychological wounds as evidenced by the definition of ptsd in the DSM and the politicization of this illness by people with all sorts of vested interests including the veterans themselves.Veterans in Australia were swept up in the stream of this myth creation just as we had been swept into the American war in Vietnam itsefl war
This book presents evidence that this"special" status of Vietnam veterans is in fact undeserved and that what happened in that conflict had also certainly been in evidence among veterans of the Civil War as well and in other later conflicts, WW1 andWW2, which are touched on in passing.
He also alludes to the fact that the myth itself, supported by a medical community that was highly politicized towards an anti war stance has not served the veterans themselves very well. There were indeed many who did suffer severe trauma due to their service (bearing in mind that only 15%of American forces in Vietnam were engaged in combat, the number for Australians was closer to 30% and in the Civil War it was 90%) and they deserve support and treatment.This not withstanding the arguments about what defines ptsd and how it should be treated. However this idea of special and different has contributed with major input by the mental health profession to the medicalisation of a normal human reaction to traumatic events and with that the idea that the disorder is in fact intractable and can only be managed without hope of cure or even semi permanent relief. This may be the case with some but could not in all likelihood even on the face of it, be so for the greater part of the many veterans given this diagnosis.They have become trapped in learned helplessness by a system that largely does nothing to alleviate their suffering other than feeding them drugs and sympathy. This has certainly been my experience and my observation over 20years from my own first diagnosis.
Luckily I found a way forward for myself in meditation and other approaches that are now moving into the main stream of ptsd treatment in the US, sadly as always the Australian establishment, now privatized lags behind and is more interested in filling beds for profit than giving any real assistance. Given the huge problem and demand on resources being created by America's recidivist military adventurism in Afghanistan and Iraq alternatives have to be found and resources are flowing in that direction.Even if for that reason alone the view that an attitude of special and different and the myth that it has created together with the idea that ptsd is a permanent and intractable condition must be reexamined.(less)
Astonishing, in the true sense of the word! It is simply impossible to wrap the head around what these battles must have been like. In this particular...moreAstonishing, in the true sense of the word! It is simply impossible to wrap the head around what these battles must have been like. In this particular case, 100,000 men in the field and more than 24,000 casualties. As always during the greatest of Civil War Battles (and this one is certainly up there) all the action took place over a relatively small piece of ground. The earth in most places was literally soaked in blood. The horror of it is simply unimaginable. This author does a fine job. As an ex soldier it all made sense to me and at times I was just struck speechless by what I was reading.
It is little wonder that the Civil War is still an open wound for some people in America. Over 600,000 men were killed as a result, that total equals the combined totals of all subsequent conflicts. How anyone could have survived it with even a modicum of sanity remaining is simply beyond me!(less)
I read my first accounts of the Civil war some time ago. Stephen Crane's classic "The Red Badge of Courage" when I was quite young and Stephen Sears a...moreI read my first accounts of the Civil war some time ago. Stephen Crane's classic "The Red Badge of Courage" when I was quite young and Stephen Sears account of Antietam "Landscape Turned Red" when I was on attachment from the Australian Army to the US Army Office of Military History in 1986. My counterpart, a Civil War buff, kindly took me to the battlefield, organised and early entry with the Parks Service and we walked the battle throughout that day. That was probably one of the most poignant and surrealistic experiences of my life. I was truly humbled.
Over the past few years in exploring my own experience as a Vietnam veteran, there have emerged some striking felt connections between what we experienced there and what we read of accounts of the First World War and veteran's responses to that experience. The similarities between the Civil War and the Western Front 1914-18 are obvious, the former was the harbinger of the latter. The failure of the tactics of the 19th century in the face of modern weaponry were duly noted by British military observers with both sides between 1861 and 1863. Pity those in command in Europe were too arrogant and hidebound to take note, a price was paid in an ocean of blood.
For me, there has also been some strongly felt connection again with the Civil War. Perhaps because of the impact it had on American society, as momentous and pervasive as Vietnam has also become. Hence the move to read more.
I chose this book because of the author's reputation as a writer and a scholar. I got a lot from it undoubtedly, but in some ways it was a bit "flat". I recall being stunned and very moved by both the earlier works I had read, this one didn't have the same impact on me. These battles were, hell on a pocket handkerchief. The advances in technology having moved the slaughter onto a more industrial footing but yet keeping the distance between foes such that almost every exchange was carried out at a distance where the enemy was certainly human in every sense of the word, in many instances killed at barely arms length. That created a very particular sense of things that had a very particular impact on the minds of those engaged. There was but a flavour of that in this book, it never quite cracked the core as it could so easily have done, given the format of a view from several participants. Good history, so I guess the latitude for poetic license was a bit limited.(less)
This is a truly great book. It in a history drawn from hell in the fashion of Bill Gammage's "The Broken Years" Australian experience in the Great War...moreThis is a truly great book. It in a history drawn from hell in the fashion of Bill Gammage's "The Broken Years" Australian experience in the Great War told from soldiers diaries and letters, except that if it is possible this account is far more personal, at least it was for me.
The Civil War has fascinated me since an American friend, who was my counterpart at the Pentagon during a brief stint there for the Australian Army, walked me over the battlefield at Antietam. It was a profound experience. As a combat veteran it was not hard for me to live that day in my imagination particularly given the excellent job the US National Parks Service does with interpretation and the commentary of another combat veteran with a deep and profound knowledge and scholarship of that terrible time in American history. It is never even now 150 years after the event, a surprise to me that the wounds still weep in some parts of the American South.I felt humbled on that day in ways I have never been in any other place. I felt connected.
This account of Andersonville prison and those who were constrained there,and those who constrained them had me literally weeping at times, at the horrendous trial those wretches were put through each living minute of their imprisonment there. That something like this could ever happen is in some ways beyond human comprehension. But then I am now 63 and I have met many people in my day who line up in character and description with many of the protagonists here. There were in my years, (no surprise a surfeit in the bureaucracy of the Public Service), many who could so easily turn their hand to the torture of the helpless; you would recognize them by their glib tongues and smarmy self interest, always looking for the angle what's in it for No 1. Petty and self serving, bullying and ruthless even when that is not required. Then there are those at the other end of the scale; I have rarely seen the likes of those for whom their humanity prevails above all else but they do exist and situations like this seem to bring out the substance of their soul. Thankfully, for in the face of their opposite (and of what prevails now as acceptable human behaviour today) without their appearance, infrequent though it may be a person would simple crawl into a hole and slash their wrists.
This book was so powerful for me I could not read it in large slabs. I had to take it a chapter at a time. Each time I picked it up I was swamped in a sense of despair and great sadness but I had to read. I felt at some very deep level that I owed it to those poor boys, I had to bear witness to their suffering as we all who have dealt in death at the behest of our so called leaders, would hope that others may bear witness to our suffering. Butchery in any century remains just what it is butchery and damn anyone who sees that as noble in any way.(less)