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The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War Paperback – March 10, 2005

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 752 pages
  • Publisher: Basic Books; 1st edition (March 10, 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786715634
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786715633
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 6.3 x 2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2.4 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #643,614 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

This massive study of Civil War weaponry, tactics and combat practices covers so much so well that it's indispensable; it's also so densely written that even series students of the conflict may find it slow going. The author, a distinguished independent scholar, has written similar studies of the 18th century's wars (The Anatomy of Victory) and Napoleonic ground combat (With Musket, Sword and Cannon), and here, as in those books, is politely revisionist. Civil War generals were not ignoramuses who mindlessly pitted mass infantry formations against rifled muskets, but men who had studied the revolution in both tactics and weaponry in more detail than is usually allowed in conventional Civil War historiography, of which the author has no high opinion. (It also neglects the prewar roots of the ironclad ship, which Nosworthy does not.) The need for a revolution had not been proven in 1861, and the outstanding merit of the book is the way it pulls into a single narrative how that revolution was completed-or in some cases not completed. Competent officers soon learned that the rifle was potent but not invincible, until it became a repeater (which it should have been in the Union Army by 1863) and the riflemen were snug behind field fortifications, supported by rifled artillery. But the smoothbore Napoleon (for Napoleon III, be it noted) saw out the war because of its greater mobility, and the much derided bayonet retained a psychological impact and the cavalry saber a physical one, both at close quarters. With its first-hand accounts, diagrams and all-in-all exhaustive coverage, this volume is an exceptional reference.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Customer Reviews

This is a book that the study of the Civil War has long awaited.
Roger Kennedy
While presenting a large amount of carefully-researched and well-documented information, the author has not written a good book.
Any Civil War "buff" will find this book, in spite of its flaws, well worth reading.

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

41 of 44 people found the following review helpful By Roger Kennedy VINE VOICE on August 7, 2003
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This superlative book is one of the first to breakthrough many of the myths and lore that have become so common in the study of our Civil War. Americans relish this conflict as a national rite of passage, yet seldom has a war been so venerated, with so little known about how it was actually fought. There have been countless books on this subject, yet few provide any solid picture as to how troops actually fought, with what methods, and how their weapons performed in the bloody crucible of combat.
This is a book that the study of the Civil War has long awaited. Yet, its acceptence may be hard for many devotees to accept. The American Civil War has cherished many myths and ideas, which, when taken out of their isolaoted context and compared with other conflicts of the time may seem less significant. This will be hard for many Civil War fans to swallow at first, but if they are to emerge with a greater understanding of this conflict, they must allow their beloved topic to be studied out of its box. This is something which the subject has long demanded, and which many the so-called experts in the field have been unable to do. Here Mr. Nosworthy has carefully studied the Civil War in comparison with contemporary wars of the day to provide a comparative analysis. We learn how the military studies of Jomini actually distorted how Americans perceived true Napoleanic tactics. Jomini was a conservetive French military writer who drew upon aspects of Napoleanic tactics to support his own views. The results across the Atlantic in America was a bizarre hybrid of columnar and linear tactics which would make the Civil War so difficult to compare to other conflicts.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Epops on February 12, 2006
Format: Paperback
Brent Nosworthy describes himself as an "independent" author. He is also a Civil War re-enacter. In writing this book he has made an original and informative contribution to the historical analysis of the American Civil War.

Nosworthy covers a wide range of subjects, many of which I hadn't previously understood, such as why some units in the early days of the war called themselves "Zouaves" and wore funny red uniforms. It seems that the uniforms, the training, and the tactics of Zouave units were patterned after the special units developed by the French for fighting their wars in Algeria. The uniforms were quickly discarded when it became clear that they made excellent targets in the open fields and woods of Northern Virginia, but Zouave training and tactics continued to influence American military thinking throughout the war, and continue to do so to some extent even today.

He explains the origin of the term "Napoleon" for the bronze 12 pounder field artillery piece favored by both sides. It was named after Napoleon III, not Bonaparte. He explains how the ballistic pattern of the Minie ball influenced battlefield tactics, why generals on both sides were reluctant to use field fortifications until the very end of the war, and the rationale for using wool uniforms winter and summer.

Interesting as such details are to students of the Civil War, Nosworthy's use of first-person accounts to illustrate his points is the most effective aspect of the book. Nosworthy's re-enacter experience serves him well in these sections. He is able to convey the actual experience of the soldier on the battlefield with terrifying effect.
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37 of 45 people found the following review helpful By Bruce Trinque VINE VOICE on July 5, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I will start out by admitting a personal interest in Brent Nosworthy's "The Bloody Crucible of Courage: Fighting Methods and Combat Experience of the Civil War". For several years I have aided Mr. Nosworthy in researching this book and by reading various drafts as it evolved. He delved deep into standard material such as personal memoirs and the Official Record's (CD-ROM searches in those 100,000-plus pages proved of immense value in the course of the research, allowing for a completeness of inquiry simply not possible before), and also into seldom-used sources such as "Scientific American" and the Fall River, Massachusetts, "Manufacturer and Farmer's Journal" for a mid-Ninteenth Century perspective as he examined weapons technology and tactical theory, implementation, and evolution.
It is no wonder that Joseph Bilby says: "This is a landmark work that establishes a new standard of excellence. No future Civil War campaign or battle study will be written without extensive reference to The Bloody Crucible of Courage." Gordon Rhea states it "deserves an honored place on the shelf of every Civil War scholar and buff." And Paddy Griffith writes;" The Bloody Crucible of Courage" is indeed the book we have long been waiting for! It is essential reading, not least for the wider European perspective that it casts upon a war that has too often in the past been viewed through very parochial spectacles. And beyond that refreshing historiographical perspective, this work also offers us a truly magnificent quarry of facts, explanations and pertinent interpretations that every student of the Civil War will surely want to keep constantly at hand." Often I take such dust jacket blurbs with a grain of salt, but this is one case where I will gladly support the opinions expressed.
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