Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
David Detzer brings an excellent finale to his three book series on the start of the civil war. While not a revealing story of little known events like the first two he provides a different take on the battle of Bull Run. Details of the battle are given within this book but it is not your typical civil war book and the lack of maps is more intentional since it really is about the political fallout and what the military on both sides learned from their encounter. From the defeat of the Union and the retreat to Washington and the rising of Civil War legends like "Stonewall" there is a little something about every side in this book. There is not an inherent bias and what is nice is the coverage of peripheral armies such as those stationed in the Shenandoah, Western Virginia and Harpers Ferry showing their impact on the battle. It is a complete overview and for those who are starting out on civil war history it is a great first book to read. For the more advanced reader of civil war history there is also plenty to gleam since the coverage goes into many areas not looked at as comprehensively by other books. Very highly recommend to those interested in this era of US History.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 7, 2013
A great book except . . . for the maps. The only maps in the hard back edition I have are the endpapers( which resemble something you might see in a contemporary Harpers Weekly) and a tiny, hard to see terrain map in the photo section. The terrain and events of the battle are confusing enough(which the author stresses) without relying on such poor graphics. I relied on the battle maps from the Civil War Trust website.
That over with, this is an excellent account not only of a very confusing battle, but of also the whole experience of Civil War warfare. It delves deeply into the experience tens of thousands of men trying to turn themselves into an army(actually armies) and trying to deal with complexities of Nineteenth Century warfare. In many ways it reminds me of Victor David Hanson's The Western Way of War: Infantry Battle in Classical Greece, except for the Civil War.
All in all I look for Detzer's future books.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 4, 2012
Not a whole lot is out there on the Battle of Bull Run. Let's face it compared to other battles fought later it's relatively minor. Donnybrook gives an excellent, concise and easy to read view of the battle. The narrative was exciting and fun to read. Some of his descriptions for instance one in which the author describes the Union army looking like a sea of glowing plankton moving in the dark was really good! Some people mention the lack of maps. I agree with that. Bull Run battlefield isn't very big so a few maps maybe on the movement, deployment and action would make this a five star book I think. Check it out. Join Sherman, Jackson and a variety of man in funny uniforms( it was the early days of the war) and learn about the battle that started it all.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on October 21, 2005
Donnybrook is a well-written fast-paced account of the tumultuous battle of Bull Run. Despite the lack of detailed maps, it was easy to follow the campaign leading up the battle and the struggle itself. Detzer did an excellent job of portraying the chaos of the first major Civil War battle, something no antiseptic map could. Detzer also notably debunks some of the legends behind the battle, without attempting a full-scale revision. There were a couple minor errors in the book, like listing Republican political manager Thurlow Weed as mayor of New York City. Also some of the more interesting anecdotes did not seem to be cited in the back of the book.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
the writing style is superb. Consult the West Point Atlas if maps are needed. I was initially put off by the lack of maps, but after a few pages I was quite engrossed. Detzer is the Hemingway of contemporary Civil War history. There are plenty of military theorists out there, and lots of pseudo-military theorists. Sounding like a US Army War College staffer seems to be the trend these days. Detzer has a unique, and cogent style: he's a worthy successor to Shelby Foote, maybe--perish the thought--even better!
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on December 3, 2009
This book is excellent in every way: comprehensive, well-written and well-researched, aspects which do not always accompany each other. The author explains fundamentals in such a way that non-Civil War buffs can understand, but still conveys the more technical and detailed information that enthusiasts demand. I cannot recommend this book too highly.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on March 20, 2012
A highly readable narrative of the Battle of First Manassas. Detzer provides an abundance of background information beneficial in understanding how the armies came to fight at Manassas, in addition to a clear explanation of the actual battle itself. Especially helpful, particularly to a reader who might be a novice to civil war literature are the author's explanations of 18th century military terms, details of weaponry, and tactical organizations. The only minor criticism I have is the maps, the maps are all placed together whereas, my personal preference, is that they be placed as nearly adjacent to the text describing the action involved as possible.
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on September 3, 2008
This is one of the best accounts of a Civil War battle I've read in recent years. Bull Run was the first major battle of the Civil War, of course, and it has as a result entered the narrative of the "Lost Cause" as a missed opportunity, a sterling example of Northern aggression, and an instructive example of the superiority of Southern manhood. Stonewall Jackson, after all, got his nickname here, and various other Confederate Generals (Richard Ewell, James Longstreet, Joseph Johnston, P.G.T. Beauregard) went on from this battle to be influential for much of the rest of the war. Similarly, Union generals like Ambrose Burnside, Oliver O. Howard, and William T. Sherman, participated with varying amounts of success. The battle also had a series of incidents involving various units, each of which became storied later in the war. Included in this group are the First Minnesota, the Second Wisconsin, the whole Stonewall Brigade, and the "Black Horse" cavalry, which eventually became the nucleus of Jeb Stuart's cavalry. This all means that there's a great deal of separating fact from fiction involved in any effort to write a book on this subject, if it's going to be done right anyway. Author Detzer does a wonderful job of this, especially taking on various sacred cows of the Confederate accounts on the battle.

This is one of the better, more detailed, well-written, interesting books describing a battle of the American Civil War that I've read in a long time. The author covers every aspect of the fighting, and the issues that surround it, and he's refreshingly free of the sillier aspects of Civil War history. He does a great deal to slay some of the sacred cows of the battle, noting as a for instance that two of Stonewall Jackson's regiments didn't act stonewall-like at all, running away, and other units fell apart during charges.

The one negative thing regarding the book is the maps. In several of the reviews that I've read regarding this book on this site, reviewers complain that there are no maps. In my trade paperback edition, there are maps, seven of them, in a separate illustration section in the middle of the book. The problem I have is more subtle than those complaining about the lack of maps. The maps in my edition are just not that helpful when you're reading the book. All of the maps included are from the period, except the first two, are from the National Archives or the Library of Congress. Those first two maps are general ones that show the battlefield in one case, and the route Johnston's army took to get to the battle in the other. The rest of the maps are from the period of the war, or just after it. Maps from that era show contour lines and other, considerable detail, which makes them cluttered and hard to read. Also, since the author is being somewhat revisionist about the course of the fighting, the maps (which aren't) don't really reflect the text very well. This situation is a crystal clear example of why the author of such a book should work directly with a cartographer and devise maps that show what he wants to illustrate, so that said maps actually add to the narrative.

Complaints about the maps aside, this is still a very good book. Frankly, if you know the story of the Battle of Bull Run in general, the map issue isn't that important anyway. I really enjoyed this book, and would recommend that any Civil War buff get a copy, along with someone else's atlas of the battlefield.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on February 27, 2005
Many details in book which should be combined with

"First Manassas Battlefield Map Study" by Edwin C Bearss

on sale at Amazon for $30 (map study book and maps).

Combine the two and you've got a real winner!
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4 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on January 24, 2006
Good details but a challenging read without the maps for ready reference. Unit and battlefield movement are difficult to follow and the antique map within the book is difficult to read easily so as to be useless in tracking the action of the story. Commend the author on the research for specifics behind actions on both Blue and Gray units. Suggest that the distain for the Southern side is a bit too obvious and this discolors the author's objectivity as a story teller of this event. Even to the casual observer, the incompetence of both sides with this battle is obvious. To paint the South in general and the Confederates in particular as a group of buffoons is to waste the reader's time if the objective is to understand what the motivations and dynamics of the battle were.
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