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Albe Pavo

USA civil war

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Hello!

I have a question for US guys or other historicians!

I'm looking for a detailed military history of american civil war.

Not a mainstream book about "how they fight" or "the main strategies", but instead a detailed military history of operation, battles and engagements of the conflict, something like "The Peninsula War" of Sir Charles Oman (for those who know it).

There is something like that that you can suggest me?

Thank you!

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Shelby Foote has a multi-volume history titled The Civil War: A Narrative. I haven't read it yet but in total it's ~3000 pages. I know there's another one out there that I think might be even longer but I can't think of it right now.

Plus, if you really want in depth information you can go onto the websites of the battlefield park websites for the individual battles. I've visited several of the actual battle sites and have found some really great reading in the gift shops that you'd be very unlikely to find just randomly browsing the web or a bookstore. I found one at Gettysburg that was about 200 pages of nothing but anecdotal accounts taken from letters of the soldiers of both sides that fought there. It gave AMAZING insight into the mindsets of the common soldier. There was one about a wounded Union soldier who gets left in a farmhouse that gets overrun by Confederates. The Confederates are griping to the man that they're so done with the war and would simply surrender but are sure Union troops would just shoot them. The Union man gets angry with them for thinking such a thing and assures them his buddies wouldn't do so. The story isn't verified but what is verified is an incident where during the battle ~200 Confederate soldiers as a group crossed over to Union lines and gave themselves up. Good stuff. Hope it helps.

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I also recommend Shelby Foote's THE CIVIL WAR - A NARRATIVE

Foote writes like the novelist he mainly was, however, the 3 volume books are filled with detailed descriptions of all of the major and most minor engagements, even some of the more obscure ones out West. It took him something like 25 years to write the books. Each of the 3 volumes is longer than the previous so as the war drags on in 1865 you feel it will never end, which is probably true to life :-) They are something like 900, 1100 and almost 1500 pages. But he writes with a style that gives you the uncanny feeling that he was there listening to the conversations he's relating, or that he was an eyewitness to the action described. Very, very well written. I've heard comments that it is sympathetic to the South. I'm not sure I agree with that. I've read a number of Civil War histories and this seems quite even handed to me.

Also, Douglas McPherson's BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM, shorter (1 volume) Plenty of detail I think for what you say you want, and it won't take you a full year to read it.

Both of these are available as large format paper cover books so you can get them at reasonable prices. My lovely wife gave me the boxed hardcover set of Shelby Foote's history one year for Christmas.

(You can tell I'm more of a fan of Foote).

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Not the all in oneapproach, but the old Strategy and Tactics from SPI woulf often do superb coverage of Civil War battles as well as the overall war. Strategy, tactics and operational aspects as well as interesting tidbits and personalities was covered. Not always easy to find. My stash of them are valued.

A couple of years ago someone was selling the entire collection on DVD, but haven't seen it in a while.

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Foote is the standard monograph but has a clear southern bias, and a clear maneuverist bias as to military theory. This leads him to vastly underrate Lee's weaknesses, specifically. A good corrective is to also read Grant's personal memoirs. "Also" - Foote is still indispensable.

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What is this Civil War you speak of? I believe it is correctly identified as the War of Northern Aggression, sir, or the War Between The States. :)

If I may, I would like to second Bil's mentioned site above ( http://www.civilwar.org/), and if you have ancestors who suffered on those fields don't hesitate to donate in their name.

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Destraex1 - I am an attritionist. You know, the method of war strategy that actually decides all the large wars, that all the flashy loser primadonnas with good PR operations are always decrying as artless and stupid, and is always kicking their backsides to kingdom come.

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Foote is pretty good for dealing with the Civil War as a whole. He does have some weaknesses, but those have already been explained fairly clearly. If you want truly Oman-esque levels of detail, it might be worth looking into histories of individual battles and campaigns. I can recommend a few of those if you'd like.

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What is this Civil War you speak of? I believe it is correctly identified as the War of Northern Aggression, sir, or the War Between The States. :)

Spoken like a true Virginian. :D On the other hand, I—born and raised in Alabama—have also heard it referred to as the War of Southern Secession, which is technically the more correct term. You are right that it was not a true civil war, since the South was not fighting for control of the whole nation, it simply wanted out of it. However, all these arguments are, I believe, foredoomed. Civil War is what it is known as and apparently the name is going to stick.

Michael

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Spoken like a true Virginian. :D On the other hand, I—born and raised in Alabama—have also heard it referred to as the War of Southern Secession, which is technically the more correct term. You are right that it was not a true civil war, since the South was not fighting for control of the whole nation, it simply wanted out of it. However, all these arguments are, I believe, foredoomed. Civil War is what it is known as and apparently the name is going to stick.

Michael

You are correct as usual sir, the American Civil War is what it will always be commonly known as, however the term War for American Independence seems to be gaining in use as opposed to the American Revolutionary War.

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...however the term War for American Independence seems to be gaining in use as opposed to the American Revolutionary War.

Never encountered 'War for American Independence' before, but it seems to me that either term might apply. It was certainly a war to gain American independence, but it was also a revolution in the form of government and the philosophy behind it.

Michael

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Looking at First Manassas on the animated Civil War webpage, I read that no less an authority than General Bees' adjutant stated that when Bee said that Jackson was up on that hill 'standing like a stonewall', he was in fact insulting him not holding him up as an example. I've read this story a few times in other accounts of the battle but was always incined to doubt it but Bees adjutant? Seems more than possible to me now.

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What continually amazes me about the Civil War is how many times we possibly came within a hair's width of becoming two nations. If Stonewall Jackson had been in command on the Confederate left at Gettysburg instead of (I think) Ewell, that battle likely would have had a very different outcome. Or if, also at Gettysburg, a lesser commander than Chamberlain had been in command on Little Round Top that battle could have ended with the Union army completely destroyed. (I mean dealing with the fact that you're out of ammo by attacking? There ought to be a Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain national holiday).

Another irony is the fact the war could have been ended at Petersburg by a regiment composed of black soldiers. Even though the episode at "the crater" ended essentially as a fiasco, there was a brief period where the South's lines were completely wide open. The men of this regiment were begging to go straight thru it. But the white commanders on the scene, not believing their good luck, refused to order them to do so. They apparently feared it'd end in a slaughter and they (the officers) would be accused of recklessly throwing away the lives of these soldiers bc they were black.

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That animated Civil War site is amazing. And that's not the only thing there either. I can see much time spent there - thanks for mentioning it. I had no idea it existed.

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What continually amazes me about the Civil War is how many times we possibly came within a hair's width of becoming two nations. If Stonewall Jackson had been in command on the Confederate left at Gettysburg instead of (I think) Ewell, that battle likely would have had a very different outcome. Or if, also at Gettysburg, a lesser commander than Chamberlain had been in command on Little Round Top that battle could have ended with the Union army completely destroyed. (I mean dealing with the fact that you're out of ammo by attacking? There ought to be a Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain national holiday).

That battle could have ended differently, but whether that would have led to a Confederate victory in the war is another matter. The South was being dismembered, first by the conquest of the Mississippi River, then by Sherman's March to the Sea. Winning at Gettysburg might have prolonged the war, but the South was being beaten slowly but surely. Both sides suffered heavy losses, but where the Union could replace theirs both human and material—however painfully—the Confederacy could not. The North was being constantly replenished by a flood of immigrants from Europe to man the armies and the mills. But the fact that a very large proportion of Southern males were in service meant that the economy was slowly being bled white. After the aforementioned dismemberments, the economy more or less collapsed. If the South cannot win decisively in the first year or two, it is left with just delaying the inevitable.

Michael

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...But the fact that a very large proportion of Southern white males were in service meant that the economy was slowly being bled white...

Fixed that for you. And therein lies the great irony. The fact that such a high proportion of the South's population was under chains and therefore not available for conscription meant that the South simply couldn't compete with the North in a war of attrition. And while I may disagree with JasonC on some specific points, I do agree with him that, in one way or another, all wars are ultimately wars of attrition.

Whether you think the American Civil War was about slavery or not, I think it's clear that the South lost the war in large part because of slavery.

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Good point, YD, and thanks for making it. Slavery was a stupendously bad idea from many angles, but it survived as an institution anyway because it made a minority of people enormously wealthy and they in turn had the political clout to keep it on the books. Do we *ahem* witness anything today that might just be faintly reminiscent of that?

Michael

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