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William C. Davis wrote this second volume in the seminal Time Life Civil War series and he, again, did a very good job. Much of this material is covered, slightly more in depth, in his work Battle at Bull Run, but as part of a set, this is a decent book in its own right.Following the surrender of Fort Sumter the nation, now divided, jubilantly went to war with itself. It is ironic that President Davis, in his inaugural address, affirmed a sentiment he had shared in his farewell address on the US Senate floor-that all the South wanted was to be left alone and to live in peace with the North, but as a separate nation. Most in the North, prior to Fort Sumter, were more than willing to allow such an even to occur. The guns that pounded the fort, however, assured this would be but a fading dream.Lincolns call for 75,000 volunteers of state militias to quell this rebellion only made up the minds of the fence sitters of Arkansas, Tennessee, North Carolina and Virginia to join the Confederacy and leave the Union. Both Missouri and Maryland tried to do the same, both would be swiftly occupied by Federal forces and their pro Southern politicians weeded out from the pro Union ones and a form of martial law imposed for the rest of the war. Kentucky, showcasing incredible naivety, would declare neutrality, and it would be broken within days of proclamation. (Both Missouri and Kentucky are covered in the next volume.)The events of the opening stages of the war would establish patterns that would hold true for the rest of the war.First off, the North would have to bear the onus of invasion and occupation. This would mean that, at the point of contact, Southern forces could, usually, achieve almost parity in numbers with Federal forces as the Union armies had to deposit garrisons along their routes of march. The Souths far more capable mobile arm, the cavalry, which would spend most of the war dominating its Northern foe, would terrorize these isolated garrisons in deep raids that would become the bane of all Federal commanders. Many of these poor young boys in blue would spend much of their war in Southern prisoner of war camps, as the Confederate cavalry, and guerrillas, would often pick these garrisons off, almost at will, confounding front commanders. Northern soldiers would be operating in almost universally hostile territory, sapping morale, while rebels would, no matter their home states, be welcomed as saviors by the local populace. And when it came to battle itself, the fighting would establish a clear pattern that would mean dreadful things for the future of the young, now divided nation.Both armies were led by men of at least rudimentary prior training. (Political generals would plague both sides, especially the North as a slew of Democrats turned generals would only add to lengthy Union death tolls) This meant that, only rarely, would one commander be genuinely head and shoulders above the other. The opposing armies, even counting the disparity in terms of the Souths inability to as lavishly equip their armies as the North, would be roughly equal in all things statistical. Though often the advantage of fighting for home and hearth would give the rebels a spiritual edge and, at times, a psychological advantage over their Yankee counterparts. Also, even if the North won a battle, they were very rarely decisive. A victory would often mean a higher casualties toll than the rebel losers, and all that would be gained would be meaningless ground, with little in the way of genuine strategic advantage as, time and time again, the South would showcase an amazing elasticity in its ability to function with little in the way of vital logistical centers. Then again Union commanders, and modern historians, overrate the importance of locations and territory and discount the importance, both physical and spiritual, to a nation of a standing army. The rebel armies were always the key, not ground won or lost. On the flip side, the South, with far less resources of all kinds, especially human, would be forced to defend everything. Despite the wishes of some armchair, or professional, strategists, the South could not politically afford to surrender ground for time, as all territory was politically viable to the young nation. This meant that, very often, Southern armies would be asked to bleed for less than strategic ground. And as the war would be one of attrition, this was simply a non starter for the Confederacy. But they had to play the hands fate dealt them.Davis addition to the Time Life series is a wonderful, short, book. Good as a primer on the early stages of the war and as a quick look at the Battle of Bull Run. Though short, it is not without merit or value. One scene in particular, is indicative of good historical writing. During the Battle of Bull Run/Manassas, Rebel sharpshooters may, or may not, have been hiding in the Judith Henry House. A Federal battery was turned on the house and one shell explodes in the poor widows bedroom, blowing one of her feet off. As Federal troops race past the smoking structure, on their way to engage Stonewalls men on Henry House Hill, the widow Henrys son, sheltering outside, is hysterical with grief, constantly screaming They killed my Mother! They killed my Mother! Such is the quality of this book that it can paint such a moving word picture. Part of a long series, also recommended as a standalone.

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