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Publisher's Summary

Nearly all of the Civil War's greatest soldiers - Grant, Lee, Sherman, Davis, and Jackson - were forged in the heat of the Mexican War. This is their story.

The Mexican War has faded from our national memory, but it was a struggle of enormous significance. It was the first U.S. war waged on foreign soil, and it nearly doubled the size of our nation. At this fascinating juncture of American history, a group of young men came together to fight as friends - only, years later, to fight again as enemies.

Full of dramatic battles, daring rescues, secret missions, soaring triumphs, and tragic losses, The Training Ground is history at its finest.

©2008 Martin Dugard; (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

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  • Overall
  • Richard
  • Arroyo Grande, CA, USA
  • 05-16-09

Excellent Story

Not a detailed history of the war, but a researched element of the conflict. For Civil War buffs, if you haven't read about the details of this conflict, you will miss the reason why your favorite General (blue or gray) is the way they were. The author keeps you focused on the reason for the story, not a diatribe on how the war was unjust. It will leave you wondering how this "band of brothers" could ever fight each other. Maybe there was something to 1860's state loyalty. Manifest Destiny has lost its meaning to modern scholars, but the future soldiers for and against slavery were trained for the horrific clash of the Civil War. The American character had been established 150 years before, but it was clearly demonstrated during the short 18 months war as told by the author. Even our enemies today would do well to study this American way of fighting before starting any future conflicts against the US.

The author would do well to write a definitive account of the Battle of Monterrey and/or Mexico City. Not one about the Campaigns, these have been done. No revisionism typical of modern histories, but recognizing the validity of Manifest Destiny of 1846. The bravery of both the American and Mexican soldiers deserve any detailed accounting of the war.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Flawed, but engaging nevertheless.

The title pretty much sums up the authors main thesis - that the Mexican War was unique in both molding the characters of many notable figures of the Civil War, as well as strengthening the bonds they'd already formed through their tenure at West Point.

His coverage of the war itself sometimes takes a back seat to the "characterizations" of Grant, Lee, Jefferson Davis and George Meade, but is still compelling - especially from a political perspective. However, there were some gaffes in offhanded comments about the War of 1812 and the Civil War. For example, characterizing Pickett's Charge as a "one of the great *cavalry* charges of the Civil War" left one scratching their head - especially given that George Pickett was one of figures highlighted (albeit only briefly).

Still, the book is worth the effort, if only to shed some light on an often-ignored chapter of American history.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • William
  • Forest Lake, MN, USA
  • 07-14-08

Another great Mexican War Book

Thne author did a great job of following the life of Lee. Grant Davis and Longstreet. The book also covers the politics of Polk and the leadership of Taylor and Scott. Anyone how is interested in the Civil War will love this book

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

An Interesting Look at the Mexican War

Grant, Sherman, Lee, Longstreet. These are all names familiar to people who have studied the CIvil War. These were the men who fought each other in the most devastating war in United States History. In Training Ground Martin Dugard reminds us that these men were not always enemies. In the war with Mexico these men and many others fought side by side. Training Ground is not a full history of the Mexican War, it is more of a history of the men who fought the war together as young officers and would later command opposing armies. Dugard traces the early biographies of US Grant, James Longstreet, William Sherman, and Robert E. Lee. We see how these men went to West Point and entered into an army that promised very little in the way of a career and promotion.

The primary character in the story is a young US Grant. Each chapter is introduced with a quotation from Grant’s Memoirs. In his later life Grant was highly critical of the actions of the US Government in both provoking a war and then in the way that the Democratic leadership sought to run the war in a highly politicized manner. Of course the young Grant that we meet in these pages is less concerned with the political implication of the war. He is far more interested in getting back home to his love Julia.

The Mexican War was indeed the Training Ground for the Civil War. If you are familiar with the history of the Civil War you can’t help but feel a little sad as you read this book. You know the history of these young, anxious, promising young officers. You know how they will end up opposing each other. Reading this book I couldn’t help but wonder what the US Army would have looked like had the Civil War not occurred. What would have happened if an army commanded by Lee with Grant, Longstreet, Jackson, Sherman, and the others have been able to do. With that much brilliance they could have stood against any army in the world. Instead they were forced by political forces to fight each other.

Training Ground gives a good overview of the Mexican War. It also gives an insight to men who would shape history only thirteen years later. This is something that a lover of American History or the Civil War should enjoy.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
  • Performance
  • Story

History with an asterisk

This book, while entertaining, is pretty ridiculously biased. I've read enough about this time in history to repeatedly be frustrated by the author when he leaves out key information in order to frame the story to meet his opinion. I wouldn't say not to read this book, but understand you're only getting part of the story. Additionally it's hard to say that the book is pro-Mexican since while the author attempts to make the Mexican people sympatric he does very little outside of generalizing to make his points. Also the author repeated quotes Grant on the war, who, in case you didn't know, was anti-Mexican war. It would be like getting your Iraq war history from Nancy Pelosi -- well not that bad but just saying Grant was far from unbiased and wanted to use the war to politically hurt the Democrats so you always have to take everything he says with a grain of salt and understand it's opinion, not always fact. The author isn't blatantly anti-American on the conflict, certainly no more than Grant, but he just leaves out so many things, so many things.

As for how the author ties in Grant, Lee, Sherman, etc he generally does a pretty good job but it's pretty light reading -- very readable however and also the length of this book wouldn't allow for a tremendous amount of depth even if it's available.

The reader does a pretty good job -- I've heard him before on other books and it's the same here. I've heard a few better but I've heard a ton that are worse, so I'd put him in a solid 4-star category.

So in closing I would only say read more on this subject and don't rely on this to be your sole source of information on the conflict or the time period.

  • Overall
  • Daniel
  • North Potomac, MD, United States
  • 12-10-09

Good Book but not what was expected

Overall I enjoyed the book very much. That being said it was a bit short of what I expected. Most of the material was on Grant, with much less on Sherman, Lee and Davis. The author did provide alot of good material on the Mexican war, appreciated for those of us who don't know alot about it. Overall I would recommend the book.

  • Overall
  • Colin
  • atascadero, CA, United States
  • 02-11-11

Just not as interesting

I think there's a reason the Mexican War isn't more talked about; it wasn't that interesting!
Dugard is a great researcher and writer but he should have decided to either write about one or two of the important generals or just written about the war.

0 of 2 people found this review helpful