The Great Event, B. Randolph Beynon

The Great Event, B. Randolph Beynon

This is a full length history of the American Civil War, starting with a history of slavery in the United States, tracing the outbreak of the war, the events of the fighting, the assassination of Lincoln and the end of the war.

This book's most distinctive feature is the use of a vast number of quotes, many of them quite sizable. In total over 1,000 separate quotations have been used, many of them from the key figures of the war (Lincoln, Grant and Sherman feature quite a bit), but with a good selection from less familiar figures. While both are of course valuable, I found the less familiar quotes to be more interesting (including an account of the only civilian known to have fought at Gettysburg, the fears of a citizen of Atlanta as Sherman occupied the city, and over-confident messages from General McClellan during the Peninsular Campaign). On one or two occasions I'd have liked a comment on the reliability of a particular eyewitness (McClellan again, this time during one of his many attempts to claim that he was massively outnumbered despite all evidence to the contrary).

The massive selection of quotes is linked by a well written history of the war, although where the quote tells the story duplication is avoided. The technique works well and the quotes feel well chosen and well integrated into the narrative. The use of some quotes to advance the narrative means that there is room to cover the majority of campaigns of the war in some detail, although some of the more minor expeditions are mentioned more in passing. The overall result is an effective detailed history of the American Civil War, given extra value by the vast number of quotations. 

Author: B. Randolph Beynon
Edition: Paperback
Pages: 688
Publisher: PublishAmerica
Year: 2012

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