I read a very good book by this author about the battle of Gettysburg last year and was looking forward to this volume. I was somewhat disappointed at first but as I got a better idea what the author wrote instead of what I expected I enjoyed the book and learned a great deal.
I was expecting a narrative survey history of the era similar to Battle Cry of Freedom. Instead I learned that what is "new" about this book is the author's approach to the history of the era. This book contains a more diversified discussion of various topics written with a broad brush emphasizing social and cultural issues over the military history of the war. The military history of the war is most often seen as a result of the political and social events and not so much the cause of them. When I say broad brush I mean that the author wrote about what he felt was important without feeling compelled to make sure that he provided all of the details of a particular subject. Several times he mentioned Robert E. Lee riding his horse without ever telling the reader that the horse was named Traveler. Most books I have read included that information either because the author was showing off or they felt that those types of details were necessary for a thorough historical record. For this book that was an insignificant detail.
Instead of those types of details the author has several discussions on different aspects of the role of women in the history of the Civil War era. He goes far and wide to include women of all walks of life and their participation in different events. I cannot recall another history of this era that mentioned the Seneca Falls convention and its importance. I was not aware that because of his support of women's rights the abolitionist William Lloyd Garrison lost control of the American Anti-Slavery Society. This happened in 1840 and is part of a lengthy discussion of the political changes that led up to secession. Guelzo describes in some detail the problems that confronted women when all of the men left home to go to war. Many women joined the work force or had to learn how to manage a 50 acre farm with all of the physical labor that was required.
The political events in the South are given equal time with those of the North which means they receive greater attention than is usual. One of the ongoing themes is the changes that took place in the Confederate government in its fight to survive. The Southerners began by founding a nation and then turned to creating a nation-state whose principles were in many ways contradictory to the state's right ideals they began with. The South began military conscription before the North did and like the North suspended the writ of habeas corpus to deal with internal dissension. The Southern Vice-President was highly critical of the government and spent the last years of the war out of Richmond living in his home in Georgia. Most significant was the enlistment of slaves as soldiers by the Southern army in the last months of the war.
The author provides some insightful criticisms of mistakes made by the South in their handling of the war. The informal embargo on the sale of cotton at the beginning of the war deprived the South of the wealth from their prime economic asset when it was critically needed to build up their army. Their attempt to finance the war by printing money led to inflation which destroyed the economy. At one point in the book the author worked the name of Immanuel Kant into a discussion of the effect of the ideas of the Enlightenment and the Romantic movement on the culture of the South. The discussion focused on the unrealistic and self destructive qualities of Southern political ideology.
The emphasis in this book is not on narrative history but analysis of the people and events which provides some new insights. This is not a book written for someone interested in details about the military or political history of this era. The author has turned away from the standard chronological narrative. He sought new understandings and explanations for what happened and why during this portion of the continuing American revolution. I feel he has made a valuable contribution to a "new" history of of the subject. ( )
When we first meet our hero he is waiting for his mother in a store wearing his green hunting hat with green ear flaps. He is a very large man subject to internal attacks from his pyloric valve that lead to distinctive large, loud burps. In the store he gets into an altercation with the police in the form of Officer Mancuso, part of the menagerie of characters all vying for the title of the craziest human being on the planet. None of them are any competition for Ignatius.
Reilly is 30 years old and lives with his mother. He spends his time in bed writing a magnum opus on Big Chief note books in pencil and crayon. He is forced to seek employment when his mother steers her old Plymouth into a building incurring a sizable bill for the damages done. First he finds work at Levy Pants, an old family business on it's last legs. The owner, Mr. Levy and his wife are engaged in a constant battle as he neglects the business and she berates him about anything she can think of the more personal, the better. Ignatius leads a revolution of the work force who figure out he is crazy, stop demonstrating and go back to work.
He then moves to a career as a hot dog vendor. The high point of this career is selling hot dogs on Bourbon Street dressed up as a pirate complete with earring and plastic cutlass. He is less than successful since he eats not just the profits but all of the product he he can carry around in his mobile hot dog stand. All through the book he carries on a relationship by mail with Myrna Minkoff which could be styled the Marxist and the Medievalist with Myrna as the Marxist. Another fun spot is the House of Joy a B-girl bar whose owner sells porn on the side and pays a black man named Jones $20.00 a week to sweep up while he cracks jokes about his mistreatment. The narrator was excellent. All of the characters have great voices with very distinctive accents.
I could go on a lot longer but I think you get the idea. The book goes from very amusing to laugh out loud funny as Ignatius goes through the world in his own reality in a struggle with the rest of the world. He loses a lot of the battles but refuses to give up the fight. He speaks of the whims of fortuna and forges ahead. He not only refuses to conform he is horrified and angered that he is expected to. I recommend the book highly and am only saddened by the fact that it was the only book completed by the author during his adult life. He wrote one other book when he was 16 but it was not a work of humor.
This is a true life adventure of two years of the life of an American sailor in the 1830's. This is an American classic that that I feared might be dull and monotonous. Instead it was a lively tale of travel and danger.
The author was a student in Boston who developed problems with his eyes and could not pursue his studies. He decided to sign on as a jack tar sailor on a ship bound for California round the horn. Living a sailor's life for two years.
The life of a sailor was hard labor day and night. The moments of adventure and drama were interspersed between long periods of the boring, confined life of a sailor aboard ship. Many of his diary entries read "The same." The author's ship, The Pilgrim, was engaged in the hide trade. A long trip around Cape Horn brought them to California. Once there they traveled up and down the coast from San Diego to San Francisco swapping trade goods for cattle hides. The reader is given a trip to a foreign country as he reads about the author's travels. In Mexican California status was based on the color of your skin. At the bottom were the Indians who provided the labor for the white skinned descendants of the Spanish conquerors. The Castilian dialect was cultivated as another sign of status. The coastline and the desert were the landscape of the author's travels. The author rode everywhere he went in California. They had very many horses and they would ride them at a gallop and when they were tired stop and pick up fresh horses. The rush of the wind atop a running horse with the smell of the sea in the air was one of many invigorating images contained in the book.
The author quickly learned the Spanish language and had many stories to tell of the people of California. As a sailor he mingled with the laboring class and became particularly attached to the kanakas. These were people from the Sandwich Islands/Hawaii. The kanakans were susceptible to illnesses common in the white population. The author helped to save the life of a kanakan friend by making sure he got medicines from the ship that another kanakan would not have been given.
Between the boring times were some vivid memories. The power of a Captain of the ship was made clear to the author in a brutal scene. One of the common sailors shot off his mouth to the Captain just at the wrong time. The Captain shouts his orders and the sailor is seized up. His shirt is ripped off and he is tied with his arms out face down on the bulkhead. The Captain takes a piece of thick rope and whips the sailor screaming at him that he will be his slave. Finally the sailor screams for the Captain to stop. The author thinks to himself that this is the way it is on ship. If you oppose the Captain, first it is mutiny then it is piracy and you swing for either one. The author later became involved in the anti-slavery movement.
Another moment was one of great beauty. When they went back around the horn it was winter in Antarctica and they got into the ice. In the pack was an iceberg of enormous size. It towered over them and the shape and color were a miracle of nature. The center of the iceberg was a deep indigo and as it got to the edges it was blue and then white. It moved slowly and great cracking sounds broke the quiet that hung in the air. A once in a lifetime experience for everyone there.
I could go on. I enjoyed the book very much. The author kept a diary of his trip and used that to write the book. There are dates scattered throughout the book. The narration was understated and moved with a good pace. The author's writing has some interesting differences that reminded me of the difference in time. I recommend it as an interesting journey to another time and place.
Abraham Lincoln accepted an invitation to speak in New York and when he was done he was the talk of the town. This speech and everything that grew out of it helped put Lincoln on the way to his nomination for President.
The author makes good use of the different sources available and tells the story in chronological fashion. Quotations from letters, newspaper headlines and contemporary dialog provide a variety that gives an exciting pace to the story. There are even photographs beginning with the the one taken by Matthew Brady the day of the speech. Lincoln used this speech to impress the New York audience with his talents as a student of history. He deliberately wrote a scholarly speech to show he was much more than a western rube. After the speech was given the sponsor group published a footnoted version of his speech. It took two people three weeks to thoroughly duplicate the research that Lincoln had put into his speech.
All of the audience, except the hardcore democrats, were amazed and moved by Lincoln's speech. His careful analysis of the founder's attitudes about the expansion of slavery built to an emotional climax that had the audience standing and cheering. The speech was published in all of the newspapers and sold as a pamphlet for many years. Lincoln went on to speak twelve times in fourteen days throughout New England using variations of the speech.
The author's portrayal of 19th century America included all of the aspects of daily life, riding for days on a train with no sleeping accommodations, getting covered with mud from the streets. I learned that Lincoln was a temperance man and 80% of the white males, the only voters, voted in the Presidential election of 1860.
I enjoyed the book and recommend it for anyone who has an interest in the election of 1860. It was well written and informative and I would look for other books by this author.
This book is a frank discussion about how to acquire and use political power. The author's discussion of the use of immoral means to achieve this goal brought great changes in political philosophy. .
For Machiavelli the sole goal of the Prince was to obtain power and hold it. Using historical models he sets out the most effective means to attain this end. The nobles and the people were the two forces that held political power in Machiavelli's time. The author discusses the actions the Prince must take to maintain his power over each group. The nobles have their land and soldiers and often their interests are opposed to the goals of The Prince. To maintain his power it is important for the Prince that his subjects fear him rather than love him.
In his discussion on fortresses Machiavelli makes the statement that the best fortress is the love of the people. A state that is prosperous and ruled fairly is the best way to achieve the love of the people. The Prince must also cultivate the love of the people through great achievements building a charisma that draws them to him.
The art of war is a very important part of Machiavelli's discussion. Mercenaries are the most dangerous troops to use. They fight for their own reasons and are only loyal to the Prince as long as he is able to pay them. Auxiliary troops drawn from the people are more likely to remain loyal as long as their love for the Prince is constant.
Machiavelli's ideas inaugurated modern politics and statecraft. He was original and unencumbered by the prevailing morality of the medieval church. Many of his ideas came from Classical Rome and his thinking was very important in the beginning of the Renaissance. The phrase "Machiavellian" came to mean the use of evil means in pursuit of power. His ideas quickly came into wide use. One hundred years after this book was written the leaders in the Thirty Years War were using many of the principles he set forth. Morality no longer governed their actions as they used Machiavelli's ideas to defeat their enemies. Just as Machiavelli predicted mercenary soldiers often ruined kingdoms when the rulers ran out of money to pay them. In today's world the ideas of Machiavelli have become the norm and morality is not allowed to interfere with actions necessary to maintain power.
This is a very good book that provides fresh information and insights on a subject that has been written about a great deal. The author brings a sense of immediacy and literary craftsmanship that provide the reader with an entertaining and informative experience. The narrator did a good job without trying to be the star of the show. The book ends with a short interview of the writer which added a nice personal touch.
The hallmark of the book is new information and a fresh outlook on all aspects of the most written about battle of the Civil War. The biographical information on the participants is a good example. I had never heard that the Union general Dan Sickles was one of the first persons to be acquitted of murder on a defense of temporary insanity. There is a lot of detail on the politics of both armies. Lee's army had a bias for Virginian officers and the split between the McClellan advocates and the Republican generals was still affecting promotions at this time. In his interview the author comments on Meade's bias in favor of McClellan's attitude against abolitionists.
The author points out that the legend of the 20th Maine was greatly aided by Joshua Chamberlain who lived until 1906 and wrote more than a few articles about the fight on Little Round Top. He neglected to mention the actions of the three other regiments that were there on the Union side.
I especially enjoyed the author's analysis of Lincoln's Gettysburg Address. He uses comparisons with some of Lincoln's prior speeches and Lincoln's emphasis in all of his speeches on the principles of the Declaration of Independence.
This book has a unique combination of excellent scholarship and stellar writing. I heartily recommend it particularly for anyone interested in the Civil War.
This is a very detailed narrative that covers the military history of WWI from the beginning of the Battle of the Somme. The author's discussion goes through to the end of the war but the emphasis is from July 1, 1916 to the end of 1916. The characterization of the battle as the first battle of the twentieth century is emphasized by the author's constant reference to the battle as the beginning of industrial war.
There is much more to the book than just a description of horrific casualty figures. The author provides a very good analysis of the changes that were brought to the battlefield by the increased industrialization of society. One of the major changes is that WWI is the only war where the majority of casualties were caused by artillery and not guns and bullets.
The author does a good job of explaining how the French beginning with the Battle of Verdun developed tactics that made greater use of artillery on the battlefield. The English had such great casualties on July 1, 1916 because they refused to utilize the knowledge that had been gained by the French. Slowly the English changed their tactics and developed greater manpower resources than the French. This allowed them to take the greater burden of the fight against the Germans.
With the beginning of the Somme the Germans slowly began losing the war. The author provides a good description of the changes in tactics made by Ludendorff in the German offensive of early 1918. However, industrial war became a contest of resources which Germany could not win.
This book introduced new ideas into the discussion of how WWI was fought. It also provided a good narrative of the battlefield action and the personalities of the leading generals. The author's new insights made it a very good book about a conflict that has been overshadowed by the rest of the violence of the twentieth century. I did think it was a bit long but it was never boring.
In the last ten years I have read more than several books about the Civil War. I had never heard of this author and thought maybe that was because he wasn't very good. Well I don't know why I haven't heard from him but it is not because of his lack of skill. He writes from the Southern point of view and sticks to the military history. Given those restrictions this was a very entertaining and informative book. He had a common sense point of view with a style that is more journalistic than literary.
His descriptions of the battles and the participants were very detailed and not dry at all. He was able to describe large group action in battles so well that I was able to create a picture in my mind and follow the action. He had many little details I had never heard before. James Longstreet one of the best large unit generals the South had been a paymaster in the old army.
The author makes a good argument for his premise that the Seven Days campaign made the Civil War last a year and a half longer. Lee drove McClellan away from Richmond when the Federal soldiers could hear the church bells of Richmond.
I especially enjoyed the author's biographical sketches of the leading participants. Many that are left out in other books, such as Benjamin Huger, get a thorough description from this author. I enjoyed the narration except for a couple of pronunciation mistakes. I know I will read and enjoy this book again. I recommend this book especially for Civil War buffs and I think that those looking for a well told story will enjoy it as well.
The title of my review refers to the content of the book and the effort involved to take in the material in the book.
The Thirty Years War was incredibly destructive. Somewhere I read that it set back civilization and development 200 years in Germany. Death came during the battles, from disease and the rampaging of the armies through the countryside. For thirty years armies marched up and down Germany and when they camped they destroyed the area they lived in. In one episode the peasants attacked the soldiers, knowing they would get killed, because they refused to be passive victims of circumstances. The war began with a revolt in Prague and it seemed like at one time or another every country, duchy and city got into the fight.
It was a period of great social and political change. At the beginning of the war everyone was fighting about religion. At the end it was nations fighting each other. Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden and Ferdinand III of Austria were just two of the fascinating characters among the leadership.
It was a well written book, good literature. It was also long, complex and full of all kinds of different people. It takes a commitment to develop a good understanding of the people and events. The narrator helped. His voice had a nice tone and pace which helped make the listening enjoyable. I am glad I read it and I recommend it. Now I want to learn more about this era.
This first volume of Bruce Catton's epic Centennial History of the Civil War begins with the Democratic Party Presidential nominating convention of 1860 and ends with the First Battle of Bull Run. This is a terrific book that fifty years after it was published is still one of the best narrative histories of the Civil War. It is an excellent three volume series. Bruce Catton was a skilled and knowledgeable author who put the listener right in the middle of the momentous events that marked the beginning of the Civil War. Catton does not limit himself to the political and military history of the war. Social and economic history combine to tell the story of the people as well as the momentous events and leaders of the times. Catton began his career as a journalist and brings to his writing of history an immediacy that makes the events and the people involved in them come alive for the listener. I enjoyed listening to the narrator, Nelson Runger. He is pleasantly soft-spoken and keeps a steady pace..
Beginning the book with the Democratic Convention introduces the listener to the passions that tore the country apart. The speeches of the fire-eaters and the Douglas men from the North tell the story of why the Civil War started in their own words. I have seen Catton cited by other history writers for his excellent use of descriptive language. He did a lot of writing about the Civil War and he knew the subject well. I think that this series is comparable to the Shelby Foote The Civil War: A Narrative. Foote focuses more on military history and is more detailed. I would recommend this book and the other two books in the series which are available here at audible.
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