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A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865 [Paperback]

April 3, 2013

Evaluation A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865 [Paperback]

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A Great Civil War: A Military and Political History, 1861-1865 [Paperback]

Weigley’s history of the Civil War accepts slavery as the conflict’s moral center, but describes the war as a military contest for political ends. For Weigley, professor of history emeritus at Temple, the Confederacy fought to defend a way of life that could be sustained only in an independent nation, while the Union government insisted on the unconditional surrender of that claim to sovereignty. The war’s outcome thus depended on the adversaries’ respective mastery of war-making. Weigley contends that the Civil War was not the modern, and modernizing, event described on so many television programs. North and South alike waged war on artisanal lines, making do with the tools available to them. Extensions of government power on both sides were limited and channeled. The major exception was at the war’s sharp end, when improved firearms drove casualty lists relentlessly upward at the same time that armies had grown too large to be crushed in decisive battles on the Napoleonic model. Weigley’s encyclopedic command of his sources enables him to combine narrative clarity and analytic perception in evaluating behaviors and decisions. To cite only one example, his discussion of Gettysburg makes clear in a few sentences why the Confederates were unlikely to have captured Cemetery Hill on July 1 under any circumstances. Weigley goes on to show the logistical reasons why Lee rejected Longstreet’s proposal for an operational flanking maneuver. And he concludes by making a throwaway case that Dan Sickles may in fact have saved the Union army on July 2 by an often condemned advance to the Peach Orchard that created some maneuvering room for a constricted left wing. That kind of intellectual virtuosity, regularly repeated in these pages, makes this notable book the counterpoint to James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom. Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.
–This text refers to the

Hardcover
edition.

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