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Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861 Paperback – September 5, 2005


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

The Civil War’s first major battle was not especially bloody or decisive, but this fascinating study makes it an apt microcosm of the conflict. Historian Detzer (Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston and the Beginning of the Civil War) provides a lucid narrative of the battle’s course, judiciously assesses the causes and authors of the Union defeat, draws vivid thumbnail sketches of participants from generals to privates, and debunks the "stone wall" legend and other enduring myths of the battle. But the book’s greatest strength is its account of the social, psychological and organizational aspects of warfare in the Civil War epoch. Fought by hastily mobilized amateurs, the battle highlighted the Herculean difficulties the two sides faced in clothing, supplying and feeding large armies and trying to turn fractious civilians into competent soldiers. And Bull Run gave volunteers imbued with romantic jingoism their first taste of the horror, chaos and physical agony of combat. Drawing on a mountain of first-hand accounts, Detzer paints a detailed panorama of every aspect of army life, from the mechanics of working a musket, to the grisliness of battlefield medicine, the scrounging for meals and the suffering through long, waterless marches on a sweltering July day. The result is a splendid portrait of the Civil War as the soldiers knew it. B&w photos not seen by PW.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Booklist

*Starred Review* This is the fourth account of the First Battle of Bull Run (or Manassas) to appear in the last 15 years, but Detzer's work stands above the crowd because it possesses several superior qualities. Narrative verve is present, but more important is the author's grip on how difficult it was for Civil War generals to control a battle, and how difficult it is for a historian to reassemble the chaos of combat into a coherent chronicle. Returning to these two challenges as he recounts the preliminary maneuvers that precipitated Bull Run, Detzer revises the blame conventionally heaped on the losing Union general, Irvin McDowell. Among other reasons, McDowell's attack plan misfired because of a staff officer's incompetence, despite which he almost gained the victory. This is where the "Stonewall" Jackson legend comes into play. Detzer dismantles the moniker--allegedly uttered by a Confederate general killed in the battle--as both fictitious and out of proportion to the dubious stalwartness of Jackson's regiments, two of which completely cracked. Detzer also vivifies the soldier's experience of fear and physical exhaustion, polishing what is nearly a model of how a Civil War battle history should be written. Gilbert Taylor
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Mariner Books; Reprint edition (September 5, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0156031434
  • ISBN-13: 978-0156031431
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,826,390 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By B. Morris on October 13, 2004
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
If you have read David Detzer's book Allegiance then you are already familiar with his wonderful writing style. Detzer is really a talented writer and Donnybrook definately lives up to his previous works. It's well researched and well written.

One of the nice things about Detzer's work here is that like with Allegiance, it's not just the story of the Xs and Os of the battle but the political and social atmosphere surrounding it. In the end the reader is left with not just a better understanding of the battle itself but the political pressures involved.

One point I especially enjoyed was the book dealt rather heavily with General Patterson and his failed attempt to hold Johnston's forces in the valley so they could not reinforce Beauregard at Manassas Junction. Detzer shows pretty convincingly that General Winfeld Scott's confusing orders had as much as anything to do with Johnston's ability to escape Patterson and join Beauregard.

My only criticism of this book is that there are no maps of the battle. There is a general map of the Eastern Theater inside the front cover but that's all. While Detzer does a wonderful job in describing the battle and the actions of the units I still think he should have included at least a few to help the reader better understand the movements of the armies.

If you are someone familiar with the battle before reading the book, this shouldn't be a problem. If you are rather new to the battle you might want to look up a map of the battlefield online when reading it. Either way, this is still a fine book so don't let the lack of maps keep you from picking this one up.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Civil War Buff on March 2, 2006
Format: Hardcover
This is just an excellent telling of the first battle of Manassas. The facts are accurate and the sequence of events is near perfect. Mr. Detzer clearly explains the positions of both armies throughout the book. BUT THE BOOK HAS NO MAPS. This makes it nearly impossible to relate to the author's information. How a book this good could not have maps is an author's and publisher's unacceptable omission. If the reader cannot constantly visualize the stone bridge, The Henry house hill, Matthews hill and other important locations, this will be a most frustrating read. To force the reader to have additional maps and go back and forth between reading and viewing makes the book totally unenjoyable for a reader that does not have a clear understading of the topography. The book is a 10. No maps pulls the rating to a 3. What a shame.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By CTS 2631 on March 4, 2010
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
This is the third David Detzer American Civil War book I have read and reviewed (The other two are "Allegiance: Fort Sumter, Charleston, and the Beginning of the Civil War", and "Dissonance: The Turbulent Days Between Fort Sumter and Bull Run". Both good books I recommend) and I believe this is a good addition to someones understanding of the Battle of first Bull Run. But, you have to realize that the author has his own style and flair that does not sit well with all readers.

First, I want to get the issue of maps out of the way. His first two Civil War books deal with the begining of the war and even they needed more maps than the ones that were included, and they didnt even cover a field battle. To keep track of all the troop movements, attacks, retreats, etc., you have got to have more maps! (I recommend using "The Maps of First Bull Run" by Bradley M. Gottfried as a map guide while reading any book on the battle.) For the experienced Civil War Buff who knows the flow of events, not that big of a deal, for the novice and/or casual reader, I dont know how they could keep up with whats going on? On the positive side for the maps included (my paperback 2005 edition has seven maps) the map showing the route of Johnston's Army of the Valley as it made its way to Manassas was helpful and easy to follow. And the Area of Operations map showing Washington D.C. and Northern Virginia from the Potomac River to Bull Run creek (Loudoun, Fairfax, and Prince William counties Virginia) showed all the roads that Union General McDowell's troops used to advance to Bull Run and was pretty good allowing me to follow the campaign before and after the battle.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Paul A. Jones on November 6, 2004
Format: Hardcover
Donnybrook recounts the story of the first battle of Bull Run, inclusive of the months leading up to it and the days immediately following it. The writing is good; the battle descriptions give a real flavor of the confusion of the combatants at all levels. Comparing the action here with battles later in the war is very instructive in terms of seeing how all levels of the military matured with experience.

In terms of weaknesses, the dearth of maps is very unfortunate. Readers interested in following the action will - unless they already know the geography - need a supplemental map. Donnybrook contains just a single map (albeit printed twice), and that map lacks sufficient details and labeling to identify the majority of the critical sites mentioned in the text. Finally, the author scatters through the text a few uncalled for snide and/or cynical remarks about the motives and/or morality of various of the characters.

A good introduction to the first Battle of Bull Run.
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