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Fields of Battle: The Wars for North America Paperback – May 27, 1997


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 348 pages
  • Publisher: Vintage; Reprint edition (May 27, 1997)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679746641
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679746645
  • Product Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.2 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (33 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #800,700 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Best known for his 1976 book, The Face of Battle, which argued that conventional battle accounts oversimplified the dynamics of troop movements while attributing too much control to leaders, John Keegan has become a prolific author. Fields of Battle includes fascinating observations about how Americans do things differently, both on and off the battlefield, than the English and French. With detailed accounts from long-forgotten conflicts, such as the French and Indian War, and moving portraits of important figures in American military history, including the Wright brothers, who naively hoped their airplane would end warfare, Keegan, an Englishman, explains the past and reaffirms the present to an America struggling to find its national strength. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

From Publishers Weekly

Readers can always count on Keegan (A History of Warfare) to bring a fresh perspective to the art of military history. Here, in an unusually intimate work that fails to persuade wholly, he emphasizes the influence of geography on the military history of North America. Keegan examines five fortress systems that, he says, have controlled space on our continent within the past 400 years: French Canada, Yorktown during the American Revolution, Confederate Richmond, the forts of the Great Plains and the "flying fortresses" of the 20th century. Though he offers many stimulating insights-for example, how the terrain around the Little Bighorn contributed to Custer's defeat-Keegan fails to convince that fortresses, however broadly defined, have shaped warfare on a continent where force-to-space ratios (the number of combatants relative to the area in which they're fighting) have always been extremely low. In an enlivening departure from his usual format, the author personalizes his narrative with reports on his tours of many of the battle sites discussed. Less satisfactory is his extensive commentary about his relationship with the U.S. and its citizens: "I love America"; "I like American airports"; "Uncuriosity is one of the reasons I love America." Such banalities diminish a work that offers fresh views but that in any case is best approached with caution. Maps and photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

More About the Author

John Keegan's books include The Iraq War, Intelligence in War, The First World War, The Battle for History, The Face of Battle, War and Our World, The Masks of Command, Fields of Battle, and A History of Warfare. He is the defense editor of The Daily Telegraph (London). He lives in Wiltshire, England.

Customer Reviews

And I think that it matters little now.
Rod Szasz
It has more factual errors than any book I can recall and more typos than seem possible.
Henry Charles
Keegan's insights illuminate those issues in a clear and compelling way.
R. Doyle Gillespie

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful By John G. Hilliard on April 17, 2002
Format: Paperback
The author, John Keegan is a noted British historian that has spent most of his time on European warfare. It was interesting to see what he was going to come up with in this study of the battles primarily in the U.S. The book opens with something probably all American's will enjoy, a chapter talking about how much he loves American and the particular reasons why, maybe this was just a buttering up technique so that we would buy the book? He then covers four major battles / wars that have taken place in North America, the French Indian War, the American Revolutionary war, the American Civil War and the American Indian Wars.
Obviously whole books or series of books can and have been dedicated to these particular topics so the reader should be prepared for just a light overview of each of the wars. Keegan takes the reader into one particular point or battle within each war after giving the reader a very good brief on why the war is taking place, the parties involved and then the outcome. He does a very good job here with this overview.
Overall the book is easy to read and interesting. The beginning chapter will make you happy just reading it and the good feelings will remain with you through out the book. This book is much lighter and less detailed then many of his other works so it does serve as a good introduction to the author.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 12, 1998
Format: Paperback
This was the first of Keegan's books I read, and I came to it with high expectations due to his reputation. At first I found his story-telling style very engaging and I enjoyed some of his insights (e.g. concerning the Battle of Quebec in 1759). But then the amazing succession of factual and typographical errors became truly shocking. The latter are not of great significance, they are simply irritating; the former are inexcusable from an author who lectures at the most prestigious military academies in this country and abroad. Two examples of the most egregious mistakes support this assertion. At one point Keegan has Thomas Jefferson visiting Bent's Fort, in Colorado, which Keegan notes was built in 1833. As the most amateur historian knows, Jefferson died on the 50th anniversary of his Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1826. Even if Keegan is unaware of that, wouldn't he think it unlikely that a 90 year old man would be traveling to Colorado in 1833? Then, in discussing the Civil War battle of Shiloh, Keegan has Confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston ordering a retreat the day after he was killed. This is a major goof since, as any Civil War buff knows, it was Johnston's fatal wounding on the first day which gave Grant the chance to save victory from the jaws of defeat. In view of these, and many, many other errors of fact, one has to wonder how this book ever saw the light of day.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Stratiotes Doxha Theon VINE VOICE on October 5, 2006
Format: Paperback
Few Americans could have written such a work. It is our great fortune as Americans to have Mr. Keegan to tell the story with such style and readability. It is a fascinating story of the wars that shaped the North American continent and the United States in particular. It also opens our eyes to how historical trends we might not have noticed oterhwise - such as the importance of fortifications in US expansion across the continent. Despite our belief and espousal of maneuver or mobile warfare, fortification has been a halmark of US military doctrine. Mr. Keegan brings out this paradox and helps us see our history in a different light. Mr. Keegan does not disappoint in this volume from the great expectations we might have from his other books.
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11 of 13 people found the following review helpful By John M on February 12, 2000
Format: Paperback
I was very disappointed by this book. I've enjoyed some of Keegan's other works, such as "A History of Warfare." But this book is less history and more memoir of his love affair with the United Sates. The history that is included has many factual errors, such as thomas Jefferson living to 1833.
Apparently this book was marketed appropriately in the UK, but the US publishers apparently wanted to cash in and gave it a misleading title and jacket. If you want to know about John Keegan, read this book. If you want to know about the wars of North America, look elsewhere.
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful By Henry Charles on August 25, 1997
Format: Paperback
This book wins in two dubious categories. It has more factual errors than any book I can recall and more typos than seem possible. This book could not possibly have ever met an editor. Did the Times reviewer actually read it? Could Keegan have really written it? No. He must have been compelled to sign the manuscript under duress. How else could the name of the world's foremost military historian become associated with this mess? The battle of Barrington? Come now
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11 of 14 people found the following review helpful By scott browne on June 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover
"Fields of Battle" by John Keegan is a disappointment if you expect the book to fulfill its basic thesis. The book is designed to explore and describe four major military battles that took place on the North American continent, instead what you get is a great deal of remembrance and travelogue interpersed with discussions of the battles. Additionally, the final chapter on the Wright Brothers invention of the airplane seems totally out of place.
When the author stays on topic the material is quite interesting with the chapter on Custer's Last Stand the best written. Not having read any of Keegan's other works I am reluctant to read any others despite his fine reputation as a historian and military affairs journalist.
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