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Don't Know Much About the Civil War (Don't Know Much About)

3.84  ·  Rating details ·  849 Ratings  ·  90 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 W
Hardcover, 480 pages
Published June 3rd 1996 by William Morrow (first published 1996)
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Aug 10, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 12, 2016 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
Jay Connor
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
Aug 13, 2012 rated it did not like it
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 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
Elena Timofeeva
Mar 02, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jan 10, 2012 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
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.
Fran Soto
Apr 15, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A must-read book!
Chandler Jechura
I think it is not a stretch to say that this is one of my favorite nonfiction books about the Civil War. This text describes every major event of the Civil War era, both what was leading up to it, and it’s aftermath, in excellent detail, given the magnitude of the topic presented. This is because this is perhaps the most well written book that I have read in the nonfiction genre yet. It is extremely readable, and is a text that I would suggest to reluctant students of history for that reason alo ...more
Jason Robinson
Jun 05, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I finally finished this book after about 7 weeks of occasional reading in between while I was reading other things. Chock full of information and a good complement to the novels I have been reading the last few months about the civil war.
Oct 19, 2011 rated it liked it
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
Jun 09, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Dec 17, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jul 19, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
Jun 04, 2008 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
Oct 07, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A brilliantly written history. He let's the people of the era do most of their own talking.
Sparkie Allison
Dec 13, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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.
A great book of facts but not a great audio book.
Aug 07, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'm ashamed to say I know very little about the Civil War aside from the broad strokes, a couple of general's names and some important battles. So, I decided to try this one out, and in my opinion, it accomplished its goals: I learned more about the Civil War, including names and battles and background information; the writing style and narration are both accessible and appropriate for this type of book; and I have a great desire to read more, not just about the Civil War but also the American W ...more
This is an interesting book with very detailed information. I liked how it was structured; it's very easy to pick and choose the parts you're interested in. I also enjoyed reading the stories of people in the war. However, as someone who's not from the US, I felt I was missing some background information. I also think the book would've benefited from some illustrations, especially maps.
John Stone
Aug 24, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Filled with information about the Civil War including tidbits and trivia that go overlooked in other books. Includes some information about reconstruction and follow up details on various noted names in civil war lore.
Sep 02, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
An interesting, but fairly superficial trip through the Civil War years in the United States hitting the major high points.
Greg Parrott
Jun 04, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Pretty well-balanced book. Learned things I haven't seen in other Civil War books. Worth the read.
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
Tony and Leslee
Sep 04, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 03, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 15, 2011 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
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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.

More about Kenneth C. Davis...

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Don't Know Much About (8 books)
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