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What They Didn't Teach You About the Civil War Paperback – January 7, 1998


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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Instant coffee was invented during the Civil War for use by Union troops, who hated it; holding races between lice was a popular pastime for both Johnny Reb and Billy Yank; 13% of the Confederate Army deserted during the conflict.These are three of the hundreds of bits of knowledge that Mike Wright makes available in his informative and entertaining What They Didn't Teach You About the Civil War, which focuses on the lives and ways of ordinary soldiers and of those they left behind. Photos not seen by PW.
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Award-winning television writer Wright wants to make the Civil War fun in the misguided belief that American history instruction needs more entertainment. The result is a patchwork of amusing anecdotes and ill-assorted "factoids" about spies, sports, sex, starvation, good and bad soldiering, the misdeeds and missteps of generals and politicians, and more. Wright has an eye for the odd detail, but he lacks vision. His "book" is aptly titled, because no teacher in good conscience would try to pass off this series of one-liners as history. The few laughs Wright provides do not compensate for his lack of narrative coherence and historical argument of his undisciplined and sometimes uninformed writing. For example, his chapter on slavery and culture is outdated and has errors. Indeed, Wright's "book" marches around to no purpose, much like the inept generals he spanks in his text. Only for libraries that want everything on the war.
Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Series: What They Didn't Teach You
  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Presidio Press (January 7, 1998)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0891416544
  • ISBN-13: 978-0891416548
  • Product Dimensions: 5.4 x 0.7 x 8.4 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (11 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,050,687 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Mike Wright (Michael Allan Wright, 1938) was born in Norfolk, Virginia, but spent his childhood years in nearby Portsmouth. From many years he worked as a radio disc jockey, local and network radio news reporter, and television reporter, anchor, and producer. For 17 years he was a producer for NBC News in Chicago, where he won several news awards, including two EMMYs. When he left television he turned to writing for print. . . and "never looked back (except on paydays)". So far, he's published six books, five of them in his "What They Didn't Teach You. . ." series. He's now working on a seventh light history as well as an eighth, a fact-based novel.
With his wife Lin, a university professor, and their Alaskan Malamute, Selkie the Wonder Pup, they live in New York City. As a friend says, "Mike's a Virginian living in New York."

Customer Reviews

3.2 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

12 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Jonathan Gianos-Steinberg on June 11, 2004
Format: Paperback
Civil War vignettes/anecdotes always make for an interesting read. But this book doesn't footnote its sources, makes unbelievable mistakes and the author's writing style is a condescending one, even as it becomes evident that the guy's opinion on some of the topics is totally outlandish.
Other reviews have already noted some of the ludicrous discrepancies. Some of the guy's commentary is no better.
For example, in arguing that the Confederate commanders were not superior as a whole (a fairly justifiable statement), Wright lists some of the Confederate commanders that were lacking. When he reaches Longstreet, this is what he writes. "James Longstreet? Not first-rate, and many questioned his loyalty." The claim that Longstreet was not a "first-rate" corps commander (especially ironic since Longstreet commanded the ANV's First Corps) could certainly be argued and is by many historians. Longstreet was definitely the Confederacy's premiere corps commander after Jackson's death.
Wright's entitled to his opinions, despite the fact that he doesn't define any "first rate" commanders. But Wright oversteps boundaries when he insinuates that Longstreet's loyalty couldn't be trusted because he was Grant's best man at his wedding, or because Longstreet became a Republican after the war. What They Did Teach You About the Civil War is that Longstreet fought hard, fought well and suffered a permanent crippling injury for the Confederate cause. To question his loyalty is absolutely outrageous and not justifiable. Jubal Early would laugh in his grave at what Wright's "teaching" us.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Martina on December 3, 2002
Format: Hardcover
As a Canadian, you can imagine that what they didn't teach *me* about the American Civil War was everything -- but after an accidental visit to Gettysburg this summer I was hooked. I began to read, and when I discovered Mike Wright's fascinating book in Toronto I thought I'd done some fabulous one-stop shopping! But then a number of Wright's facts just didn't jibe with what I'd read before and in numerous other sources -- George Pickett's wife's name, for instance (not Mary, but LaSalle), or Stonewall Jackson's final words. And the work is peppered with typographical errors, the most jarring of which is the reference to Winfield Scott Hancock as being Lewis Armistead's "closet" friend. So, on the one hand, What They Didn't Teach You About the Civil War suffers for want of both a fact-checker and a proofreader, and can serve only as a reference up to a point -- a PHENOMENAL shame. But on the other hand, this is such an entertaining read that I'd have to say I loved it, and would recommend it to those who, like myself, are most intrigued by the human face of this particular war and this particular age. If you're prepared to take what Wright says with the proverbial grain of salt, it's tasty in the extreme!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By P. Testart on November 25, 2008
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
An interesting read as was "The Civil War: Strange & Fascinating Facts by Burke Davis" (Hardcover - Dec 12, 1988). However it seemed to be the same book, the same chapters, with only a slightly different chapter order.

Wright credits the start of the Civil War to Abe Lincoln but the dates in his own chronology show that the Civil was was ongoing before Lincoln became president. In Kansas and Missouri the Jayhawkers and the Bushwackers were at it years before hand. John Brown was involved in the Kansas Missouri Actions but not as one of the ones who began the killings.

After his famous trial and acquital, he then led the raid on Harper's Ferry.

Abe Lincoln did not start the Civil War. It began decades earlier with prime causes starting as early as the Revolution. Many people had the opportunity to stop the war from happening but none did.

Slavery was recognized in civilized Europe as an evil before the Civil War began, and the agreements in the Constitution did not allow seccesion.

The wicked states destroyed the Articles of Confederation making the Constitution necesary. The majority of southern states ratified that constitution. Lincoln and the Republicans may have exceeded some federal authorities, but the causitive sins in the federal government were perpetrated by Southerners as well as Northerners and Lincoln was on record being willing to negotiate before the war.

Southern Agitators refused to allow peace and union.

Mike Wright ignores all this in his book. There are better books, more complete books and more accurate books.

The best thing about Mike Wright is his writing style which flows smoothly and interestingly. For that He is a good read.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Richard Triebe on August 17, 2011
Format: Paperback
Whenever I read history books I like to have footnotes so I can do further research on a topic or quote something in my writing. There is one glaring error in Wright's book on page 164 that I need to mention. Here is a quote from that page: "Not in sheer numbers, but in percentages Rock Island, Illinois, was the worst Union prison. Of 2,484 prisoners held there, 1,922 died--77.4 percent." I have consulted Lonnie R. Speer's book "Portals To Hell" and other sources to verify this information. These statistics are taken from Speer's book, page 329, Rock Island--8,607 prisoners held--1,960 Deaths. This is 22.7 percent--not 77.4 percent as presented in Mike Wright's book. I also have written a history book about Elmira Prisoner of War Camp in New York. Elmira had the highest death rate for a Northern prison at 24 percent. As a matter of fact, it was second only to Confederate Andersonville Prison in Georgia with 29 percent. Such a glaring error as this makes me wonder if I can trust anything in this book!
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