This magisterial history of the first modern war is on the scale of John Keegan's classics, A History of Warfare and The First World War. In his sweeping, unputdownable narrative he highlights geography, leadership and strategic logic at the heart of the conflict.
John Keegan writes: 'The geography of the battlefield is to me a living reality. I know the appearance of the battlefields, I know the distances between them, I know the cemeteries in which the dead were buried. What constantly puzzles me, however, is to relate the landmarks of the war to its events, chronology, strategy and logic. That war went on for so long – four years – over such an enormous space – the Confederacy covered an area as large as Europe west of Russia – and involved so many battles – 260 is the common reckoning – and so many people that its events conform to no pattern at all.
'How to make sense of the war is the question. In recent years, this became the primary concern of historians, after nearly a century of writing concerned either with arguing the rights or wrongs or simply re-telling the story chronologically.
‘The story of America is, in one of its dimensions, that of man and wilderness. The story can be told as one in which man tames and dominates; it can equally be told as one in which nature is never really subdued, always bides its time, often asserts its power to remind men of their pygmy status. The Civil War is certainly a story of the struggle of man against man; it is equally a story of the struggle of man against geography, in which those who had a feel for the country eventually succeeded because they knew how to work with the landscape instead of ignoring or defying it.’