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The American Civil War

Narrated by: Gary W. Gallagher
Length: 24 hrs and 37 mins
Categories: History, Americas
4.5 out of 5 stars (255 ratings)

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Editor reviews

Prominent American Civil War Historian Professor Gary W. Gallagher examines this merciless part of American history in The American Civil War, part of the Modern History series by The Great Courses. In this unabridged historical series narrated by Gallagher, listeners hear the war’s history, an analysis on how it started and what life was like for those caught within it. The most ruthless and deadly war America has ever seen is its own Civil War that ultimately led to the formation of the United States of America as it is known today. This book captures the birth of modern America. Available now from Audible.

Summary

Between 1861 and 1865, the clash of the greatest armies the Western hemisphere had ever seen turned small towns, little-known streams, and obscure meadows in the American countryside into names we will always remember. In those great battles, those streams ran red with blood - and the United States was truly born.

If you've ever wanted to understand the Civil War, this series of 48 startlingly evocative lectures by a leading Civil War historian can serve as both an ideal single course or a solid starting point for further exploration - a richly detailed examination of how this great conflict affected every person in America. For you'll gain not only a deep knowledge of what happened, but new insights into why.

You'll learn how both sides' armies were recruited, equipped, and trained, and about the hard lot of those they took prisoner. You'll hear how soldiers on each of those sides dealt with the rigors of camp life, campaigns, and the terror of combat. And you'll understand how slaves and their falling masters responded to the advancing war, as well as the desperate price paid by the families so many left behind.

Though this series of lectures goes far beyond a simple examination of battles and generals, it also offers detailed analyses of the strategic and tactical dimensions of the Civil War's most important campaigns. At the same time, it never forgets that the conflict involved far more than pins on a map - and indeed claimed a greater cost in human lives than all other American wars combined.

PLEASE NOTE: When you purchase this title, the accompanying reference material will be available in your Library section along with the audio.

©2000 The Teaching Company, LLC (P)2000 The Great Courses

What listeners say about The American Civil War

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Spectacularly great history.

Any additional comments?

I bought this because it looked excellent value and my intention was to get through it in about 12 weeks. I've had it a week now and I'm up to lecture 40 of 48 ! It has surpassed all of my expectations. It's compulsively interesting, told with great verve and authority, yet never solemn nor condescending. Every aspect of the war is covered, it's not in any way a succession of battles and skirmishes, although nothing is left out. There is fascinating discussion of politics, slavery, women's roles, social attitudes, economics, technology, you name it and you'll probably find it. Lincoln plays a massive role and it's interesting to get the low down on Grant and Lee. The pace is fast moving but not so fast you don't have time to picture and imagine it, just right in fact. I thoroughly recommend this to anyone who is interested in real history.

P.S. people complaining about the 'pompous' music at the start of each lecture ought to chill out, the one on here is Brandenburg concerto 2 by JS Bach. Get the album, it's sublime.

17 people found this helpful

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Thoroughly entertaining and authoritative.

A tremendous series of lectures. If you only get one account of the civil war, this should be the one. A breathtaking achievement by professor Gallagher.

4 people found this helpful

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Terrible

Volume up and down... Lots of coughing not a book, struggling to listen all the way through

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Very interesting and in-depth lectures on the Civil War

As someone from the UK, I learnt almost nothing about the American Civil War at school and certainly never pursued it as a subject afterwards.

I’d wanted a good insight into some US history and this seemed a good place to start.

It is genuinely interesting and detailed with analysis by a professor who clearly studies the subject in incredible detail and has a passion for the facts.

I highly recommend this for someone wanting to learn more about the War, the US before the 20th Century and give insights into modern America.

Note that these are a series of short lectures that are well done, but there is a slight pause and some terrible music between each. Thankfully, this is only short.

1 person found this helpful

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A resounding audio book.

A great base to enthuse further research into this fascinating period of American history. Broken down into logical chapters that covers not just the military perspective but also the social economics of the period.

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a must for civil war enthusiasts

ignore the reviews about the music, its fine and lasts about 15 secs between lectures.
this series is really great. it's in depth lol at the civil war is really excellent. it's easy to follow and is quite light to listen to its mot heavy or difficult at all.
get it now, you wont regret it.

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Very thorough and interesting

This series was absolutely perfect info package about the civil war. Long yes but every aspect was covered with amazing precision. You can really see how the writer has life long passion about the subject. Amazing. (Listened in 1.25 speed)

Very good!

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History at its best

I would highly recommend this for anyone who wants to know the factors throughout the civil war that played major parts.

Also, unlike many books/lectures this book isn't biased to either side and is very instructive.

worth the buy for anyone interested in American history.

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A brilliantly engaging narration of the Civil War

By far the most engaging narration of the American Civil War. Professor Gallagher's delivery is clear, direct, and entertaining, expertly providing even a Brit like myself a full perspective of this pivotal conflict.

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Brilliant

In depth and really good series on the civil war in the US. A + I really recommend

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  • Rodney
  • 09-07-13

Excellent Series

I purchased this series years ago from The Teaching Company, thus the reason I can write a review on the day it's released on Audible. It's great to have this on Audible, and is a tremendous value.

Professor Gallagher is a world class instructor and this series works very well in the audio format. Since this is a series of 30-min lectures it's very easy to follow and if you want a refresher it's easy to go back and find whatever you're looking for.

I've read probably a hundred Civil War books at this point, and this lecture was the first in-depth I listened to that got me started and interested in the subject. It's a great book for all levels, but certainly the less you know the more you're learn -- this is a great introduction and even if you already know most everything this is an excellent way to refresh your knowledge.

Highly recommended, 5 stars.

103 people found this helpful

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  • Anibal Nunez
  • 29-05-15

A Sweeping Overview.

Any additional comments?

This course is a favorite of mine because Professor Gallagher took the time to express the the viewpoints (to the best of his expert knowledge) of the common people of that era.

25 people found this helpful

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  • RedDogRunning
  • 13-01-17

Excellent for a good grounding in the Civil War

Any additional comments?

I felt the need for a comprehensive course on The American Civil War after reading several good books centered on that cataclysmic event.“The American Civil War” written and narrated by Professor Gary W. Gallager fulfilled my expectations perfectly.

I have, over the course of a lifetime, picked up the usual sketchy understanding of the American Civil War common to most folks growing up and living on the West Coast – not much really. This course of 48 30-minute lectures was a perfect solid introduction. Now I can read history of this era with the confidence that I have a good broad based understanding of the sequence of events as well as their relative significance to the big picture.

Professor Gallager delivered a lively and fascinating presentation. I was never bored, but, rather, had a tough time interrupting my listening to meet the demands of life. This was not just a study of civil war military action, but it also dove into life on the home front (both Northern and Confederate).

I had never fully appreciated all the political pressure that drove so many decisions by the many military commanders in this tragic struggle - Professor Gallager was a huge help here.

I experienced dozens of epiphanies while listening to this course. One stood out - I found it surprising to learn that, until the Civil War, nursing had been strictly a male profession. Professor Gallager provided a fascinating explanation of how this evolved, and why, during the war.

Even if you feel you are well versed in The American Civil War, there is much you will find here as you refresh your knowledge of this country’s civil war history - this crucible in which our democracy experienced such a searing test of fire.

I highly recommend this course.

22 people found this helpful

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  • Robin
  • 08-07-13

Superb, Balanced History

Professor Gallagher's course on The American Civil War is the best, most insightful introduction to the subject in any medium. Any listener, from a beginner to an expert, will gain from his profound, unbiased presentation of the most important event in our history.

53 people found this helpful

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  • Tommy D'Angelo
  • 06-08-16

Gold Standard of History Courses

Where does The American Civil War rank among all the audiobooks you’ve listened to so far?

Overall: A very well-done course on all things American Civil War from the military history of the war and non-military events such as the emancipation, life on the home front, the diplomatic front, etc. The professor’s teaching style and wealth of information he brought to the table would help anyone learn something new about this topic. I can't imagine anyone walking away saying they didn't learn something new.

Pluses:
• An excellent detailed narrative of the origins of the Civil War, the military history of the war, and study into non-military events such as the emancipation, life on the home front, the diplomatic front, etc.
• The professor really helps the listener understand and feel what people of the time went through whether as a soldier or someone on the home front
• Tidbits that the Professor shared about the characters were interesting and the way he worked in humor to the character sketches kept me engaged
• Lectures 16 & 17 on the Emancipation Proclamation were some of my favorites

It was very hard to find any kind of flaws with this course. Which is even more amazing when you consider that I seem to lose interest in any course over 36 lectures long but I just had to listen to the next lecture and the next in this amazing course. If I must provide some minuses here they would be but are so minor to barely warrant mention:

• The professor had a habit of modulating his voice between speaking really low to really loud; He’d start a sentence too loud and end it too low; This made it very difficult at times to select a volume that would prevent me from having difficulty hearing him without being annoyed by the loud bursts
• While the professor did a good job of discussing the importance of some of the lesser-known battles in the campaign and stressed the strategic and tactical importance of each in such a way that there was a nice build-up to the events and discussion of the aftermath, something almost seemed lacking when he discussed Gettysburg and Appomattox; he did not seem to bring the same narrative build-up of these events that had me so riveted with the others

All in all I would highly recommend this course if you have any interest n US history. This is the gold standard by which all other history courses should be taught,

33 people found this helpful

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  • Electronically Challenged
  • 26-05-20

Author a fan of starving women and children

While this book starts out fairly evenhanded, it skips over the fact that Confederates were fighting for their land against an invading army and that was a major incentive to both join the army snd to keep on fighting. His repeated assertion that the South could field a high percentage of fighting age men ignores the fact that most farmers did not own slaves and that most food was grown on these small farms; the big plantations grew large amounts of cotton which did not ultimately help the war effort significantly. He did briefly point out Lincoln's hypocrisy in dealing with the confederate States sometimes as a separate nation and sometimes as part of the US, whichever met his needs at the time.
Although he uses Manassas/Bull Run, he consistently When speaking from the Northern point of view, he frequently refers to 'Rebels" but never uses a comparable term for the Federal army such as "invading Yankees".
A large omission in discussing the effect of the war on Southern white women is their high mortality rate. None of my 4 borderstate or Northern great-grandfathers was widowed, but my 4 Southern great-grandfathers lost 4 wives (one was now widowed, but his son-in-law's father was twice widowed during the war before marrying a 17 year old war widow).
By the end of the lecture series, it is obvious that the author is cheering for the USA over the CSA. While this non-neutrality is disappointing, his gloating over Sheridan's and Sherman's wanton destruction of crops and means of survival for civilians in the Shenandoah Valley and Georgia is downright immoral.
He ends the series by calling the Southern point of view "a myth". He fails to understand that bitterness came from less from defeat as from Sheridan's and Sherman's scorched earth policy combined with being treated as conquered territory during "Reconstruction". I did learn from the author that Grant was ultimately responsible for this scorched earth policy which lowered my opinion of Grant greatly.
His final point is "reconciliation". Ignoring Robert E Lee's contribution to this has to be a deliberate omission. First Lee refused to consider a guerrilla war because it would only enhance and prolong suffering. (Read what Lee himself said on this). Then Lee accepted the Presidency of Washington University to lead young men to a future in a reconciled nation. The author repeatedly calls Lee "pro-slavery" and while Lee had inherited a few slaves and came from slave-holding families, he took a two-year leave of absence from the army to carefully free his father-in-laws slaves in a manner so that they could support themselves. He thought slavery harmful to both black and white (more so to the white, and I presume this was from a moral perspective).
It is now about a generation since this book was written and the general ignorance and willful misrepresentation of Lee among the younger generation are evident in the abuse manifest toward this great reconciler in the past decade.
Yes, the army did become reconciled by the Spanish-American War, but the North continued to look down at the South through the 1960's

13 people found this helpful

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  • Boyd Tschaggeny
  • 26-04-18

Unbiased and Extremely Interesting.

I am a European history buff. I love everything about European history. I have had little interest in American history, until I listened to my first Great Course on American History ("Robert E. Lee and His High Command" by Professor Gallagher"). That course made me deeply interested in learning more about the Civil War. That led me to this course.

This course is nothing less than enthralling. The issues that lead up to the Civil War and the war itself were presented in a very straightforward way. I always felt like I understood the motivations of each man and woman because Professor Gallagher doesn't take an interest in swaying the listener to think a certain way. What Professor Gallagher does do is to read what the people during the Civil War actually wrote. The professor is a big believer in understanding history from the viewpoint of the people who lived it. I really appreciated this because it helped me to understand better what the conflict was about and helped stripped away the bias of our current society.

I loved this course. Anyone who likes history will enjoy this course. The professor is excellent, very interesting and engaging. The material is presented well. The course is paced perfectly. Take a chance on this course and you won't regret it.

11 people found this helpful

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  • Don Mathews
  • 12-03-15

Excellent!!!

Held my attention the entire time. So much detail and information but it felt so alive! Great books are a great bargain.

10 people found this helpful

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  • Carole T.
  • 19-08-13

Welcome to Audible, Great Courses!

I have been a fan of the Great Courses for a long time. The two biggest drawbacks were price and difficulty of download. So, hooray for Audible for bringing us this collection!

"The American Civil War" is a terrific overview. I have recently moved to "Civil War country" near Antietam and am especially glad to refresh my memory of lessons past and add new knowledge about this subject.

Professor Gallagher gives us military information, of course, but there's also much about the political, social (regional, racial, etc) and other ramifications of the conflict. I especially enjoyed lectures about what was going on at the homefront on both sides during the war - and the attention to the experiences of women and African Americans (slave and free). It's not difficult to understand, hearing this recording, why we still live with so much "baggage" from the Civil War. Also, how fortunate we have been since to experience no warfronts on our homeland.

I learned a great deal from this course and highly recommend it!

40 people found this helpful

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  • Thomas
  • 16-03-14

Thorough and balanced treatment

What did you love best about The American Civil War?

I was a history major in college but devoted most of my studies to 20th Century history. I always wanted to learn more about the Civil War and this course was perfect. A fantastic presentation and great selection of topics covering a wide variety of social, military, and political issues. Dr. Gallagher is an engaging lecturer and does an excellent job of cutting through many of the post-war myths and misconceptions and focusing on contemporary accounts.

What did you like best about this story?

The variety of topics and depth of treatment.

What does Professor Gary W. Gallagher bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Engaging lecturer with a clear enthusiasm for the subject matter.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The continued references to and quotation from contemporary, primary source material added great "human interest" to an already fascinating topic.

Any additional comments?

Outstanding in every respect.

18 people found this helpful