A Great Civil War

A Great Civil War

A Military and Political History, 1861-1865
Russell F. Weigley
Distribution: World
Publication date: 01/30/2004
Format: Paperback 9 maps, 1 bibliog.
ISBN: 978-0-253-21706-6
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A Main Selection of the History Book Club; Winner of the Lincoln Prize

A Great Civil War is a major new interpretation of the events which continue to dominate the American imagination and identity nearly 150 years after the war’s end. In personal as well as historical terms, more even than the war for independence, the Civil War has been the defining experience of American democracy.

A lifelong student of both strategy and tactics, Weigley also brings to his account a deep understanding of the importance of individuals from generals to captains to privates. He can put the reader on the battlefield as well as anyone who has ever written about war. All of the important engagements are covered, and he does it countless times in A Great Civil War. From Fort Sumter to the early clashes in the West and border states to the naval encounters in the East and on through the great and horrible battles whose names resound in American history—Shiloh, Corinth, Bull Run, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, Antietam, Wilderness, Cold Harbor, Petersburg, Appomattox. A brilliant narrator of battle action and historical events, Weigley is never content merely to tell a good story. Every student of war will find new insights and interpretations at the strategic and the tactical level. There are firm judgments throughout of the leaders on both sides of the conflict.

A Great Civil War also analyzes the politics of both sides in relationship to battlefield situations. Weigley is unique in his ability to put all of the pieces on the board at once; the reader understands as never before how war and politics (and individuals) interacted to produce the infinitely complex story which is the Civil War.

As with any major work, there are themes and subtexts, explicit and implicit:

Both sides began the war with strategic and tactical concepts based on Napoleon which were already obsolete because of changes in technology—and both sides struggled throughout the war to develop new strategic and tactical procedures.

The Civil War was g

Author Bio

Russell F. Weigley (1930-2004) was Distinguished Professor of History Emeritus at Temple University. He is author of numerous books, including The American Way of War, Eisenhower's Lieutenants, and The Age of Battles: The Quest for Decisive Warfare from Breitenfeld to Waterloo, all available from Indiana University Press.


“Weigley's A Great Civil War is the finest, most complete and insightful, and historiographically up-to-date, large-scale one-volume military and political history of the U.S. war for the Union now in print.”
 — Herman M. Hattaway

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Table of Contents

List of Maps
Note on Style
To the Gettysburg Address
Nineteenth-Century Americans at War
Why Did They Fight?
Chapter One. From Secession to War
The Forts at Charleston
The Anomalous Southern Nation
The South Begins to Mobilize
Fort Sumter: The Crisis Approaches
Fort Sumter: The Bombardment
Militant America
Chapter Two. The Battle Lines Form
Napoleonic War
War in a New Style
Washington Rescued
Contentious Missouri: A Failure for Both Sides
Neutralist Kentucky
Western Virginia: Secession within Secession
Mobilizing the Union
First Bull Run
Chapter Three. Groping for Strategy and Purpose
The Union: War Aims at Military Frustration
The Confederacy: Recruitment, finance, Blockade, and War Production
The Invincible United States Navy
The Trent Affair and a Paper Tiger
The Joint Committee on the Conduct of the War
Lincoln and the Purpose of the War
McClellan and the Purpose of the War
Chapter Four. Bloodshed and Indecision
An Unhappy New Year
Mill Springs
A Western Strategy Takes Shape
Pea Ridge: The Great Battle of the Trans-Mississippi
The Far West
Forts Henry and Donelson
Western Drumbeat: New Madrid, Island No. 10, The Locomotive General, Corinth, New Orleans
Conscription in the South
The Potomac Front
Battle of Ironclads
McClellan Launches the Peninsula Campaign
Stonewall Jackson’s Valley Campaign
The Climax on the Peninsula: The Seven Days
Chapter Five. The Confederacy Takes the Initiative
Cedar Mountain and Second Bull Run
Lee’s First Strategic Offensive: The Maryland Campaign
Confederate Riposte in the West: Iuka and Corinth
Confederate Offensive in the West: The Kentucky Campaign
Lee versus McClellan—For the Last Time
Chapter Six. Of Liberty and War
The End of Slavery: The Sea Islands
The End of Slavery: Congressional Action
The End of