Excerpt

A fascinating and entertaining anthology about the American Civil War, throwing new light on all aspects of the war, and how it affected America and Americans, then and down to the present.

  • Format: Hardcover
  • Pages: 304
  • ISBN: 978-1612005522
  • Publisher: Casemate Publishers
  • Published: November 30th, 2017

Review

Is this book with reading? Yes!

More than 70.000 books are written about the American civil war. You might wonder if another title adds anything to the vast amount of books already written. Spoiler alert: This book adds many facts, military and non-military !

The American civil war for non-Americans

Being Dutch, this far away war has never caught my attention. Obviously most non-American people are familiar with Abraham Lincoln, Gettysburg and maybe with the ironclad battle between the USS Monitor and the USS Virginia in Hampton Roads (1862). However, most Europeans lack (in depth) knowledge of the American civil war. Honestly, I do not consider myself an exception.
The American civil war is not part of our history lessons. In The Netherlands, our history is determined by a great number of other wars, domestic and non-domestic.

In order to cover as many battlefields as possible I feel I need to review a book about this (bloody) war as well. I could have chosen any book, but the title of this book struck my attention, as well as the different approach to the subject.

It’s fun to read and very informative about a range of topics, many of these are not covered elsewhere.

Given its theme structured approach I dare to say it adds something new. The blue and gray almanac is an interesting read for Americans and non-Americans alike.

What will you find inside this book?

Table of contents (chapters):

1: The “House Divided”

2: From succession to Civil war

3: The Civil War in 11.000 words

4: Armies in blue and gray

5: Incidents and Anecdotes of war

6: The Naval War

7: War and Society

8: The Generals

9: Money, Graft, and Corruption

10: The naughty bits

11: The troops

12: Civil War Medicine

Social & cultural perspective with many facts and anecdotes.

As written before I do not consider myself much of an expert on this topic, but in general I would argue that most important topics are covered. Some chapters have a more conventional approach to the war since they describe military affairs like most other military history books. It’s because of the other chapters, where this book stands out because of its social and cultural perspective of things. If you are interested in the historical perspective, you will not be disappointed either. There are short essays and anecdotes about each subject, which makes this book very interesting.

The book is spiced up with some funny and surprising facts. To name a few: 30.6 percent of the 425 Confederate generals, but only 21.6 percent of the 583 Union generals, had been lawyers before the war. Major General Loring had a reputation to have a very explicit vocabulary and one of his men once remarked he could “curse a cannon uphill without horses.” Did you ever hear about ‘starvation parties’? I never did and the expression seems worse than it really is. Also many military units had their own favourite drink (e.g. Chatham Artillery Punch) and maybe you’ll find one to serve at your own (4th of July) party.

And for this reason may be considered quite an unusual book about the war. Unusual but interesting!

Batllefield medicine

One of the themes is about the medical aspect of the war and the introduction of modern battlefield medical treatment. Until the civil getting severely wounded on the battlefield was almost always fatal, since military medicine was still in its infancy. Even basic life saving procedures like CPR were not known at the time. In 1846 the first usage of anaesthetics were recorded. The book presents some interesting statistics. More people died from disease than from battle. Each chapter has a surprise whether it’s statistics or another interesting fact, the book is full of surprises and for this reason you’ll get a very interesting perspective on the war.

Other facts

The examples above are just a few of the astonishing facts to be found in this book.

The book is more than just a few funny facts and anecdotes. Nofi questions many issues of the war, like the number of casualties. It is generally believed 620.000 got killed during the war, 175.000 in battle. Nofi debates that the total amount of people who died must have been higher. In this respect the book questions some general accepted facts.

Conclusion

If you are interested in a very factual account of the civil war going into great detail about a specific battle, this book may not be the most obvious choice. The author himself says the book does not attempt to tell ‘the whole story’. The book perfectly fills up the gaps of other books though.

It’s highly enjoyable to read and there is such a variety of topics that there must be at least one for every reader. Reading just the topic of your interest makes this book a nice addition to your (military) library.

I just love it’s well designed cover and the many pictures inside and I’m quite sure so will you if you as long as you don’t expect a book filled with battles only.