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The Calculus of Violence

How Americans Fought the Civil War
Narrated by: Paul Boehmer
Length: 17 hrs and 9 mins
2 out of 5 stars (1 rating)

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Publisher's Summary

At least three-quarters of a million lives were lost during the American Civil War. Given its seemingly indiscriminate mass destruction, this conflict is often thought of as the first "total war." But Aaron Sheehan-Dean argues for another interpretation.  

The Calculus of Violence demonstrates that this notoriously bloody war could have been much worse. Military forces on both sides sought to contain casualties inflicted on soldiers and civilians. In Congress, in church pews, and in letters home, Americans debated the conditions under which lethal violence was legitimate, and their arguments differentiated carefully among victims - women and men, black and white, enslaved and free. Sometimes, as Sheehan-Dean shows, these well-meaning restraints led to more carnage by implicitly justifying the killing of people who were not protected by the laws of war. 

As the Civil War raged on, the Union's confrontations with guerrillas and the Confederacy's confrontations with black soldiers forced a new reckoning with traditional categories of lawful combatants and raised legal disputes that still hang over military operations around the world today.

©2018 the President and Fellows of Harvard College (P)2019 Tantor

Critic Reviews

"Sweeping and yet also delicately measured.... A work of deep intellectual seriousness." (Gregory P. Downs, author of After Appomattox: Military Occupation and the Ends of War)

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