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Fields of Honor: Pivotal Battles of the Civil War

de Edwin C. Bearss

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Complemented by maps and period photographs, this narrative history of the Civil War focuses on some of the war's most significant battles.
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  lcslibrarian | Aug 13, 2020 |
There are countless battlefields across the American landscape, including dozens from the Civil War era. Over the years, markers have been erected on many of these battlefields to identify them and to inform people of the military significance of the location. For most people, though, the battles and events seem lost to history without a guide to tell the story of what happened there.

In "Fields of Honor," longtime battlefield tour leader Ed Bearss, now Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service, tells the stories of fourteen such places. Taken from hundreds of hours of audio recordings from countless tours Bearss has led since 1991, the book offers the human drama within many of the most important battles and campaigns in the Civil War, including Gettysburg and Antietam.

Bearss' ability to visualize the action and characterize the personalities of generals and privates -- and everyone in between -- is inspiring. For each battle or campaign, he is able to both offer a compelling account of the large scale battle and battle plans while also sharing numerous stories within the battle. Perhaps this appreciation comes from his own experience as a Marine who served during World War II. When coupled with Bearss' engaging storytelling and passion for the people who fought, it is nearly mesmerizing, even in print without the full benefit of hearing his unique voice and energy.

The most appealing aspect of the book, particularly for those who have read widely about the Civil War, is unquestionably Bearss' even-handed approach. When describing tactical mistakes, especially the large-scale ones, he carefully explains the underlying plans which led to certain decisions. Unlike so many other authors, he never presents anyone as stupid; instead, he usually offers good context which explains how decisions -- good, bad, and otherwise -- were made by the people who had to make them. With this empathy, he offers realistic portraits of the men who struggled.

Overall, the book is a treasure, filled with a lifetime of anecdotes and attention to the ebb and flow of battle. From the beginning it is unexpectedly engaging, even for someone who has visited only about half of the battlefields that Bearss describes. For those who have little interest in such things, but who have loved ones who do, it also can serve as a fine introduction to make battlegrounds seem more than empty fields with the occasional marker. ( )
  ALincolnNut | Nov 23, 2011 |
Ressenya escrita per a Crítics Matiners de LibraryThing .
This book means well, but falls short. I've heard that Ed Bearss' tours are something not to be missed. However, reading his narration versus being with him as he walks the ground is a completely different experience. Having not been to many battlefields, it was very hard to follow just what was happening and where. The only luck I had was with the Gettysburg chapter, but that's because I've been there and have a fairly good knowledge of the battle. The below average maps are also an issue with this book. Bearss talk about minor locations in each battlefield, but most of them don't appear on the map so you have no idea where he's talking about.

Bearss deep knowledge and interesting asides about the various players of each battle are great, but it's not enough to make up for the things I've already mentioned. Someone with no knowledge of the ACW, thinking this is a primer on the most important battles, would be wholly lost I'm afraid. ( )
  sergerca | Jul 26, 2008 |
Ressenya escrita per a Crítics Matiners de LibraryThing .
I got my copy of Fields of Honor through LibraryThing's Early Reviewers program, and the book is explicitly identified as an "uncorrected proof copy". I've never read an uncorrected proof copy of anything before, so I don't know to what extent the finished product would be different.

The book is a very personal tour of the scenes of fourteen of the most important campaigns and battles of the civil war.

It is my understanding the Bearss didn't really write this book in the traditional sense; rather it was compiled from talks he has given while conducting tours of the battlefields. The narrative is in the present tense, which gives a great impression of immediacy. Bearss obviously knows the material forwards and backwards. He interweaves descriptions of the movements and consequences with anecdotes of the personalities of both the generals and the common soldiers.

Unfortunately I find some of it hard to follow. The sentences are often unwieldy. It takes a certain skill to make the command structures clear to the reader and help the reader keep track of all of the names. Bearss is not as good at this as other authors I have read.

The maps are good; most of the features referred to in the narrative can be found on them.
2 vota Foretopman | Jul 8, 2008 |
Ressenya escrita per a Crítics Matiners de LibraryThing .
Fields of Honor examines 14 critical battles of the United States’ Civil War as well as John Brown’s October, 1859, raid on Harpers Ferry. Designed for the casual reader and Civil War buff, Bearss’ Fields of Honor mostly succeeds in blending interesting narrative tones with structured factual statements. The conversation tone of the work reflects Bearss years in the U.S. National Park Service and the book reads similar to a guidebook. However, there is enough fact, figures, and other details for hardcore Civil War enthusiasts. The selection of battles, including Antietam, Shiloh, Gettysburg, seems a little obvious and predictable, but Bearss does include the North Anna and Cold Harbor campaign which was a nice change from many “pivotal battle” works. A wider range of battle would have enriched the work, but when dealing with any compilation of important Civil War battles, there are many that will always, by necessity are included. Overall, Bearss’ conversational style works to draw the reader into the drama and tragic splendor of these events and is recommended for all readers. ( )
  winstonsmithlives | Jun 29, 2008 |
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In 1861, the United States Army had an authorized strength of 25,000 officers and men, but actual musters numbered about 16,000.
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Complemented by maps and period photographs, this narrative history of the Civil War focuses on some of the war's most significant battles.

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