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Download The American Civil War: A Military History Audiobook

Extended Audio Sample The American Civil War: A Military History Audiobook, by John Keegan Click for printable size audiobook cover
3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 3.00 (426 ratings) (rate this audio book) Author: John Keegan Narrator: Robin Sachs Publisher: Penguin Random House Format: Abridged Audiobook Delivery: Instant Download Audio Length: Release Date: October 2009 ISBN: 9780739354643
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For the past half century, John Keegan, the greatest military historian of our time, has been returning to the scenes of America’s most bloody and wrenching war to ponder its lingering conundrums: the continuation of fighting for four years between such vastly mismatched sides; the dogged persistence of ill-trained, ill-equipped, and often malnourished combatants; the effective absence of decisive battles among some two to three hundred known to us by name. Now Keegan examines these and other puzzles with a peerless understanding of warfare, uncovering dimensions of the conflict that have eluded earlier historiography.

While offering original and perceptive insights into psychology, ideology, demographics, and economics, Keegan reveals the war’s hidden shape—a consequence of leadership, the evolution of strategic logic, and, above all, geography, the Rosetta Stone of his legendary decipherments of all great battles. The American topography, Keegan argues, presented a battle space of complexity and challenges virtually unmatched before or since. Out of a succession of mythic but chaotic engagements, he weaves an irresistible narrative illuminated with comparisons to the Napoleonic Wars, the First World War, and other conflicts. 

The American Civil War
 is sure to be hailed as a definitive account of its eternally fascinating subject.

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Quotes & Awards

  • Acclaim for John Keegan's THE AMERICAN CIVIL WAR
  • Keegan excels at explaining the events and circumstances leading up to the Civil War, and explores how it might not have happened. He depicts with great clarity the haphazard nature in which both governments and armies entered the war. Keegan describes President Abraham Lincoln’s frustrations with his generals with such realism that you almost have a sense of being there with Lincoln….an intimate description of Robert E. Lee’s surrender [is] one of the best I have read. Here, Keegan shows his talents as a historian as he states that Americans recognize the Civil War as ‘the struggle which completed the Revolution and made possible the realism of the ideals on which the Founding Fathers launched the Republic in the 1770s.’ Amen….This British historian has thereby nailed the American psyche’s captivation with its Civil War. James T. Course, Times Higher Education
  • Written in crisp prose [with] a confident, distinctive voice…insightful [and] amusing….On matters of grand strategy Keegan is at his best. He comprehends the Civil War as a whole, as a war won or lost in the vast western theater, and one in which the winners were those few generals, along with Abraham Lincoln, who developed a ‘geostrategic appreciation,’ a national rather than local understanding, of the conflict….Keegan’s own geographic range inspires comparative insights that will prod….Keegan’s exploration of how and why the war was fought the way it was fought leaves us much to ponder. David W. Blight, Slate
  • an impressive body of ideas for specialists and general readers alike to ponder. Dennis Showalter, American History Magazine
  • Even buffs steeped in the subject will find value in Keegan’s observations and conclusions, especially about the nature of battle….The one-volume approach is refreshing and, these days, unusual. Joe Mysak, Bloomberg News
  • an intelligent survey of the conflict….Keegan offers many trenchant asides….is shrewd about Ulysses Grant’s ability to leverage ‘evolving technologies’ [and] draws an interesting parallel between the approaches of Stonewall Jackson and the German World War II leader, Erwin Rommel….Keegan is fresh, stimulating and even provocative. Alan Cate, Cleveland Plain Dealer
  • [A]ssiduously researched and comprehensive…Keegan gives us a vivid, panoramic overview of dynamic, mid-19th century America…. Besides providing an insightful description of the more urban, industrial North and the slaveholding, agricultural South, Keegan takes us on an authoritative grand tour of Civil War battles…. He has walked these killing grounds [which] he clearly and knowingly describes…. Keegan pays close attention to the geography and logistics of battles and how they related to grand military strategy….Aside from the cinematic battle descriptions, Keegan delves deeply into the psychological makeup of the leading generals…. he is able to examine American history more objectively and with insights that might elude an American historian.…Written for the general reader, The American Civil War is a wonderfully concise, comprehensive and insightful work. It is also heartfelt history. Chris Patsilelis, Philadelphia Inquirer
  • Keegan takes the long view of [the Civil War], putting it into broad historical context amid history’s great conflicts, from the Napoleonic wars and World War I to Vietnam. Dwight Garner, New York Times 
  • [Keegan] applies his outstanding grasp on the nature of human conflict to offer a fresh evaluation of the American Civil War….Among the numerous areas he explores are psychology, ideology, and demographics, but most tellingly, the role of geography in the unfolding course of the war. Nicholas Basbanes, Fine Books Magazine
  • [T]houghtful, incisive, and so much more than repetitious accounts of which regiment went where…. From the first paragraph it is evident that this is a thoughtful work…. [Keegan] breaks down the elements of battle in the war, noting the unusual fact that they were so frequent compared to other wars of the time, and so intense, and ponders how a single democratic society could produce such a ferocious intensity of war against itself….cogent, well-argued and insightful book, which approaches so much of the story from a vantage different than that of most of our Civil War scholarship. William C. Davis, The Military Book Club
  • [In t]his sophisticated survey….Keegan places battle strategy at the core of his narrative but does not get mired in the sandbox of the mechanics of war. His balanced interpretation illuminates changes shaped by combat, but his analysis moves beyond battlefield outcomes….With fluid assurance Keegan distils the challenging literature that has made the Civil War one of the 19th century’s most popular subjects [and] weaves together America’s rebirth of freedom with the transformative powers of a war that turned home guards into warriors when citizen soldiers replaced professional combatants…. Keegan’s encyclopaedic knowledge pays rich dividends, as he invokes examples, from Waterloo to the Somme, from Sherlock Holmes to Churchill [while his] asides offer fresh insight…. The precision and punch of Keegan’s narrative will please a broad audience. Catherine Clinton, BBC History Magazine
  • Keegan’s observations on the human and logistic factors are fascinating [and] contain the essence of what made the war different. Keegan’s lifelong study of war and engagement with American history from his earliest years endow his prose with a majesty of judgment….it is hard to see how Keegan’s masterful and thought-provoking book could be beaten. Allan Mallinson, The Times (London)
  • Sir John’s achievement is to bring an international perspective….As well as looking back at European influences, Sir John looks forward to how the civil war changed European warfare. Economist
  • one of the world’s most eminent military historians….[presents] a new overview of what can truly be regarded as the first modern war….In its range and sweep, this book is difficult to better and promises to become the definitive account of the conflict from this side of the Atlantic. John Crossland, Daily Mail
  • [The] leading military historian of the English-speaking world….has now turned this hand to writing a comprehensive military history of the American Civil War….rich and nutritious book….fascinating….excellent portraits of all the principal commanders on both sides….every page of this book is incisive and readable. Even American experts on this terrible and absorbing conflict will learn much from Keegan’s account of it. Paul Johnson, Standpoint
    “a captivating narrative, huge in scope.
  • engaging….The master of military history [writes] a highly readable overview of the war that goes far beyond merely describing who fought where. Through Keegan’s book, one gains an understanding of why the battles happened as they did, where they did, and how they fit into the whole story of the war and its resulting influence on our nation. Both the casual reader and the Civil War buff will find much to appreciate in this excellent work. Bookpage
  • Keegan brings his enormous talents for understanding the ‘face of battle’….follow[ing] such writers as T. Harry Williams and James McPherson in assessing generalship….His emphasis on the role of military training, geography, the importance of entrenchments, the use of firepower and infantry tactics, and the technology of war gives Keegan’s book a primary place in the annals of modern warfare….the single best one-volume assessment of the military character and conduct of America’s ordeal by fire….Highly recommended. Randall Miller, Library Journal
  • Keegan, an Englishman with a matchless knowledge of comparative military history, approaches [the Civil War] as a choice specimen with fascinating oddities. His more thematic treatment [allows for] far-ranging discussions of broader features. Keegan soars above the conflict to delineate its contours, occasionally swooping low to expand on a telling detail or moment of valor or pathos. Keegan’s elegant prose and breadth of learning make this a stimulating…interpretation of the war. Publisher’s Weekly
  • A premier military historian….[Keegan’s] acuity about the war’s myriad aspects, encompassing dramatic battles, appalling costs, and decisive historical results [create a] fascinating analytical narrative. Gilbert Taylor, Booklist
  • A solid history of the Civil War by the grand master of military writing….a shrewd portrait of mid-19th-century America and the background to the war. Keegan stresses big-picture issues of politics, diplomacy, strategy and daily life, so history buffs who skim the battle scenes will still have plenty of rich insights to contemplate. Though he is no revisionist, the author delivers a few jolts….no reader should pass up the chance to read Keegan. Kirkus
  • Instead of adding to the pile of chronicles of the American Civil War, [Keegan] has written a critique of them, from the point of view of a deep-thinking, distinguished military historian [with] penetrating insight, a trenchant style and unexpected angles of approach….a delightful conceit, elegantly executed….The emphasis on geography is…most original….full of unexpected treasures….All Civil War buffs will enjoy this study and learn something from it. Hugh Brogan, Telegraph (London)
  • One of our finest military historians, Keegan brings a shrewd and discerning eye to [the Civil War]…. [Keegan’s] grasp of how the generals wrested to formulate grand strategy in a context of evolving resources, an uncertain appreciation of topography in the absence of good maps, and definitive developments on the battlefield [exemplify his] commanding grasp of warfare in the modern era. The American Civil War derives much of its freshness from the author’s broad perspective across time and place. Richard Carwardine, Literary Review

Listener Opinions

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Richard | 2/15/2014

    " I enjoyed the insights of a foreign military historian. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 David Bird | 1/30/2014

    " I wonder whether this was the publisher's idea. Unlike the majority of his writings, on this topic, Keegan offers little original, and as other reviewers have noted, makes unaccustomed errors of fact. Sadly, not worthy of the author. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Mickey Mantle | 1/25/2014

    " A great concise military history. A wonderful read. To the point. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Bookmarks Magazine | 1/22/2014

    " In his broad, single-volume history, Keegan offers an outsider's view of the American Civil War, providing fresh insights from a bracingly impartial perspective. However, though critics were quick to voice their admiration for Keegan's previous works, they were deeply disappointed by The American Civil War. His narrative is lamentably riddled with inaccuracies, including the dates, locations, and events of major battles. He incorrectly attributes well-known quotes, presents disproved myths as facts, and repeatedly contradicts himself. Critics also bemoaned the brevity of the book, which muddled the repetitive descriptions of battles and troop movements, and Keegan's obscure asides. ""He's loath to leave any of his erudition off the table,"" opines the New York Times. Critics expected more from this eminent historian, and readers may be similarly disappointed. This is an excerpt of a review published in Bookmarks magazine. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Sean Chick | 1/17/2014

    " There are no original ideas here, just the same mish-mash of Grant/Lincoln hero worship we have all come to know. Grant was a very good general, and Lincoln was one of our greatest presidents but really people, there is no shame in pointing out their faults and failures. It isn't like The Lost Cause devotees are going to get a beachhead by us admitting that Grant and Lincoln were not gods. As regards to Keegan, I think he simply wrote a book because he figured we needed the 'Keegan touch.' On page 233 of The Mask of Command Keegan states that promotion makes normal men into neurotic pomposity. The same is apparently true of notoriety for historians. Now that Mr. Keegan is a lord of history, he no longer feels close to the men of Waterloo, but rather closer to the same Caesar he once damned as a historian. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Vivian | 1/17/2014

    " I always like Keegan, in general I liked the book. It lacked the good organization of his WWI, WWII books, some odd repetition and jumps in time when moving from zone to zone of the war. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Collin Rogowski | 12/29/2013

    " This was my first contact with the history of the American Civil War and John Keegan did not dissapoint. It was well written and I learned a lot about the war but also about the time and the involved peoples in general... "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Coulter | 12/8/2013

    " I found it disappointing after all the rave reviews it got. Yes, Keegan does draw some interesting comparisons with the Crimean War and World War One (as one would expect), but a lot of it felt rather derivative. I enjoyed MacPherson's _Battle Cry of Freedom_ much more. "

  • 2 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 52 out of 5 Herschel | 12/1/2013

    " I have read a number of books by John Keegan, and have generally found them to be excellent. I cannot say the same about this book. It was repetitive and poorly edited. I think it could have been a much better work. "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Graeme Stewart | 11/1/2013

    " A great concise history of the Civil War, with a focus on Military issues. Keegan likes to organize his histories around a theme, and here he attempts to answer why the South was able to last as long as it did. A good read, but not great if you want the grander social and political sweep. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Andreww | 3/3/2013

    " This was an excellent scamper through the salient points and key battles, learnt loads, good preparation for Spielberg's Lincoln movie "

  • 3 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 53 out of 5 Bryan | 1/1/2013

    " I'm a Keegan fan, especially of "A History of Warfare". This isn't his best; it's a fairly straightforward overview of the background and strategy and a tactical blow-by-blow of the major battles. Still a lot of info in a concise and well-written account. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Christopher | 1/1/2013

    " An insightful look at the American Civil War by a British historian no less. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Naomi | 11/9/2012

    " A fascinating read. Keegan suggests that several military tactics that became synonomous with World War I were first used with varying degrees of success during the American Civil War, forty years earlier. Trench warfare and huge land mines being two. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Megan | 2/25/2012

    " So far this one is soooooo heavy that it's taking me a long time to read. It's densely packed with facts, and links most of our moves in the 20th century to decisions made in the 1860's. Crazy. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Gary Ganong | 5/20/2011

    " Keegan writes a different view of the Civil War, one which looks at strategy. He explains why both sides entered this conflict, why it was necessary and why it lasted so long. "

  • 4 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 54 out of 5 Ben | 2/9/2011

    " Only Keegan could draw comparisons and contrasts among 5,000 years of combat. Like The Face of Battle, this book looks at warfare from the soldier's point of view, affording the reader a taste of the experience of battle down through the ages. Great history. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Marc | 1/26/2011

    " Very engaging book. Military history meets cultural anthropology. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Jordan | 2/23/2010

    " A broad history of warfare that is accessible to the non-historian. <3 John Keegan. "

  • 1 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 51 out of 5 Steven | 10/6/2009

    " Horridly boring and doubly disappointing given how interesting the title sounds. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Cade | 9/5/2009

    " An interesting account of warfare. The roles it has historically played. How various cultures deal with and wage war. And mostly the build up to World War I and how the world changed with the mechanized military. "

  • 5 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 55 out of 5 Devon | 3/22/2009

    " Probably the best ever compilations and analysis of evolution of military tactics. "

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About the Author
Author John Keegan

John Keegan is the defense editor of the Daily Telegraph (London) and Britain’s foremost military historian. He is the author of many bestselling books, including The First World War, Intelligence in War, and The Battle for History. He lives in Wiltshire, England.

About the Narrator

Robin Sachs (1951–2013), actor and narrator, was raised in London and trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art. His audiobook narrations earned ten Earphones Awards. His acting credits include Alias, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dynasty, Nowhere Man, Babylon 5, Diagnosis Murder, Galaxy Quest, Northfork, Ocean’s 11, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and Megalodon.