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Author: Thomas R. Flagel
ISBN-10: 1402242751 : ISBN-13: 978-1402242755
Author: Thomas R. Flagel
ISBN-10: 1402242751 :
The American Civil War was a watershed in U.S. history, one of the country’s defining moments. But in many ways, the conflict is so far removed from 21st century culture (it began 150 years ago next April) and is filled with so many details that to thoroughly wrap one’s 21st century brain around it can be a daunting task. Battles, commanders, weapons, camp life, the home front, not to mention the actual causes (was it slavery or wasn’t it?) can be difficult to completely understand if one is new to the study of this war. And as one who has studied Civil War music – 10,000 war-related songs were composed during the five-year conflict – this reviewer can personally attest to the mountains of information available on the conflict and the occasional need for a tool with which to sort through it all.
Enter Thomas R. Flagel’s book, The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War. Flagel organizes his book into lists of 10. For instance, the first chapter, entitled “Antebellum,” contains the following lists: “Top Ten Causes of the Civil War” (Flagel places slavery last but its influence, of course, permeates most of the other nine causes he mentions), “Top Ten States with the Highest Percentage of Slaves” (South Carolina, the first state to secede from the Union, sits at the top of this list), “Top Ten Events of Slave Life” (not a pretty picture: yes, they were considered property, not people), “Top Ten Abolitionists,” and “Top Ten Fire-Eaters” (a Civil War-era term for secessionists).
Those whose interests lean solely towards military issues -- ammunition, battles, and generals -- can find ample information in the chapter entitled “Military Life” as well as “In Retrospect” which includes “Top Ten Most Significant Battles,” “Top Ten Best Commanding Generals, “Top Ten Military Blunders,” and several others.
Each entry is composed of approximately three to six paragraphs but they include a surprising amount of information. And because the list idea is such a cleverly simple means of presenting Flagel’s accessibly-written facts, The History Buff’s Guide to the Civil War is an excellent tool with which to initiate a personal study of the conflict -- while being a solid reference for those with some previous knowledge -- on the eve of the war’s 150th anniversary.