Theo Logos's Reviews > A Short History of the Civil War: Ordeal by Fire

A Short History of the Civil War by Fletcher Pratt
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Nov 19, 14

bookshelves: favorites, history, civil-war, read-more-than-once
Read in May, 2004

What can I say about this book? Well, how about in a lifetime of reading many books on the Civil War, both good and great, this one stands head and shoulders above them all. While more ink than the blood that was spilled has been used by many others to explain this terrible war, Pratt managed to capture the essence of the conflict in a short, brilliant book.
Pratt was a military historian of the first rank, but was also known for clever and exciting high fantasy stories. Perhaps it was this versatility that honed his storytelling ability to the sharp edge that we see here. While not missing a single important detail of politics, causes, battles, and personalities, he weaves an engrossing tale from start to finish, and creates a solidly researched history that is also a page-turner. This book is a joy to the student of the Civil War, but also appeals to those with no particular interest in that conflict, solely on the merit of Pratt's tight storytelling.
This book was written in 1935, and much new material on the Civil War has surfaced since then. Others, such as Shelby Foote, Bruce Catton and James McPherson have written much longer and more comprehensive works on the war that are excellent in their own right. Yet this little book still shines out as a gem among them. With its solid scholarship, sharp storytelling, and precise choice of details, it is the first rate Cliff Notes to the Civil War.
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