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The Civil War, an Illustrated History Paperback – 2009

4.6 out of 5 stars 134 customer reviews

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Paperback, 2009
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 426 pages
  • Publisher: Knopf (2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0307291642
  • ISBN-13: 978-0307291646
  • Product Dimensions: 11 x 8.2 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (134 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #6,611,241 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
The Civil War is probably the best book I have ever read and read and read. I originally bought this book over 10 years ago. I have recently re-read it again for the fourth or fifth time and the writing is still fresh, the story still gripping, and the photographs found and used, still riveting. It is simply one of the best if not best American History book produced. Why is it so good? I wish I knew, because then I would be writting books, instead of these reviews.
I can tell you what I liked. First, the story telling was beautiful. By "story telling", I could say editing. Anytime a writer writes, fiction or fact, he or she must choice what they put in, and what they do not. To often, especially with history stories, authors try to overwhelm us with details. Here the authors have choosen the best details, and deleted the rest.
Second, how the authors write, is superb. They have a great sense of irony. Describing Gettysberg, they describe the worst battle in American History as a battle begun over shoes. Better still, they go on to show it. Now must historians probably wouldn't know or care that this battle may have started over shoes, but these authors know that (1) it is interesting and (2) it also shows that the southern soliders, who needed the shoes, were short on supplies. The authors could have just said that at the time of Gettysberg that the South were short on supplies, but the way they wrote about it here, it was much more interesting.
Finally, this book has a great caste, if you will. In this book the authors have five historians who contribute to the story telling. Each historian brings in their perspective and each perspective is different. The combination, however, is stronger then the individual parts.
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Format: Paperback
In 1989, one of the finest, documentary films ever shown on TV appeared on the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). That film was the groundbreaking, multi-part documentary "The Civil War," by Ken Burns, Ric Burns, and Geoffrey C. Ward. A few months after "The Civil War" was broadcast, I found "The Civil War: An Illustrated History," the companion book to the film, in our local bookstore. It is authored by the same trio responsible for the film. (Geoffrey Ward is the principal author, ably assisted by the Burns brothers.)

"The Civil War: An Illustrated History"is an outstanding book - like its film counterpart, an excellent work of history, powerfully written by gifted writers with a genuine passion for their subject. Ward and Burns have written a graceful and eloquent basic survey of the Civil War that even the most battle-hardened Civil War buffs will find a wonderful reading experience.

The authors provide a straightforward narrative of events without much historical interpretation of events. That doesn't mean there isn't any analysis of historical events, however. In what I consider an act of literary genius, Ward and Burns enlisted the help of some of America's greatest Civil War historians - writers like James McPherson , Shelby Foote, Barbara J. Fields, and the late C. Vann Woodward. These outstanding historians, and others, wrote a series of essays that provided outstanding analyses of the causes, effects, and events of the Civil War.

"The Civil War: An Illustrated History"is far more than a few hundred pages of stuffy historical text. It's as visually appealing as it is wonderful to read. Nearly every page is crammed with Civil War era paintings, photographs and maps.
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Format: Hardcover
This book is a wonderful 1-volume history of the Civil War. It succeeds in many ways, it gives a strong historical base and perspective regarding the reasons for the war. It follows the war's strategies with great skill, and it looks at the aftermath as well.
The book is a visual delight, with pictures and maps everywhere. As someone who has complained vigorously of the lack of maps in other war books (see my complaints about Keegan's World War I history), I was quite happy with the care shown in this area. There is great first-hand information on the life of the grunt. You really get a feel for what the war felt like, from a wide variety of perspectives.
I also appreciated how the political/military relationship in the Union is covered. Lincoln did many things militarily due to political reasons. Those reasons are explained wonderfully.
Two major flaws in the book. The Shelby Foote interview is a waste of paper, he comes across sounding like a senile old man in a wheelchair, rambling on and on. The other issue I have is the way Gettysburg is covered. In the book, Gettysburg comes from nowhere. Why did both the Union and the Rebels see this as a big battle BEFORE it was fought. What did each side hope to gain from the battle outside killing the other army? There had to be some overall strategy, but the book gives none.
Overall, a great 1-volume starting point to learn about this time in American History.
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Format: Hardcover
Gepffrey Ward's narrative is a complete departure from the textbook Civil War stories that we tend to read today. His is a fascinating account that deals with the ordinary people and the history that they lived through. I found this book an especially rewarding buy because of it's very interesting and absorbing language and illustrations. Overall, this book has made a particularly deep impact and led me to look at the civil war as a time, when hell was truly incarnate on earth.
In view of Ward's excellence in writing I would give him five stars, and also because he tells the full stories of Gettysburg, Bull Run (both of them), Antietam, Shiloh, and Appamattox Court House. He brings the Civil War to life like nobody else can. I am especially touched by his quotation from the letter of Col. Sullivan Ballou of Rhode Island, it was a tear-jerking moment for me when I saw the series and when I read this book over and over again. This book is an amazing readable account of a gone-by era and I appreciate the effort that Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward to bringing this bloody, romantic, and adventurous era to life just as they have in The West with Dayton Duncan, Baseball, and Lewis & Clark.
Read this book for the story and the pictures!
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