Exploring the legacy of the American Civil War

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September 25, 2012 -- Amazon

An excellent, exhaustive analysis of the worst conflict in American history. Walter Coffey brings all the major characters to life, and highlights many little known facts as well, The monthly format in which the material is presented gives a nice chronological touch to the events. Many Civil War buffs know the major components of the war, but fewer know that while the Seven Days' Battles were taking place, Republicans in the northern Congress were moving ahead with thier political agenda at the same time. This book puts events in the proper sequence and allows readers to imagine how the war must have been in real time. Considering we're honoring the sesquicentennial of the Civil War, this is a good book for that occasion.

July 23, 2012 -- Amazon

This book is a very detailed, in-depth history of the entire war. Each chapter represents a month in the war, with the first chapter being January 1861 and the final chapter being May 1865. The details within each month are divided into nice sub-chapters, which make it a much easier read. This covers the entire history of the war, from the major battles, to the minor skirmishes, to the politics behind the scenes, to the home fronts, to the war on the high seas. The author has obviously done extensive research and is well versed in the conflict. I would recommend this not only to Civil War enthusiasts, but even to high schools and colleges as a textbook for studying the war.

September 16, 2013 -- Amazon

Walter Coffey's book is an important resource to any researcher. Many events, dates and information are all available at your fingertips instead of having to tunnel through a stack of books. I find good research tools often make all the difference in writing. Walter covers a massive amount of material in a single volume. If you are serious about research on the war, or just want to know more about it, consider adding Walter's book to your library.

February 19, 2013 -- Anne Boling at Readers' Favorite

Most of us think we know why this country had a civil war. However, there are many misconceptions as to the true reasons why the South wanted to secede from the United States of America. Walter Coffey deftly describes the facts surrounding the Civil War month by month. When we hear the words 'The War Between the States' most of us think of slavery; but was that really the motive of the Northern states? Most wars are fought over money and politics. 'The War Between The States' was no different. The North was industrialized and to protect against imports stealing profits they wanted high taxes placed on imports. The high taxes on imports greatly affected the Southern states. “Foreign trading partners tended to raise process to offset the tariff increases." The Southern States wanted a smaller Federal government and great power at the state level. The North wanted bigger Federal government. Slavery did play a role but more on an economic level than the humanitarian level.

I have always enjoyed history especially when it comes to the War Between the States. Walter Coffey states the facts but not in a dry or boring manner. He makes this book entertaining as well as educational. Walter Coffey dedicates one chapter to each month; in each chapter he supplies spurs and battles; he does this with precision. Civil War Months: A Month-by-Month Compendium of the War Between the States covers January 1861 through May 1865. This book should be in all high school and middle school libraries.

July 21, 2013 -- John Foskett at Civil War News

This book by Walter Coffey is a chronological history of the Civil War. Each chapter is devoted to one month, beginning with January 1861 and ending with May 1865. The chapters are not broken down by dates but rather by topical paragraphs regarding the most significant events during each month.

Battles and campaigns are covered, of course, but so are political events, economic developments, legislative and executive actions, and issues arising on the home fronts. These entries are succinct and are intended to convey basic information to readers with a casual interest in the war and all of its facets.

Given the book’s apparent audience, there are some concerns. While the author has capably chosen a comprehensive cross-section of important events and developments, “the devil is in the details.”

There are numerous errors. For example, the Confederate forces that captured Harpers Ferry in September 1862 were commanded by Stonewall Jackson, not A.P. Hill; the primary problem caused by Union Maj. General Dan Sickles’ tactical decision at Gettysburg on July 2, 1863, was that it isolated his corps from its supports, rather than isolating the Round Tops;

James Longstreet commanded the Army of Northern Virginia’s First Corps, not its Third Corps, at the Battle of the Wilderness; and the long-held legend that 7,000 Union soldiers became casualties in half an hour during the June 3, 1864, assault at Cold Harbor was debunked some years ago by historian Gordon Rhea.

The author’s introduction regarding the causes of the war also raises questions. Asserting that the “true cause” was not slavery but, instead, “money and politics,” the author focuses on U.S. tariffs and their disproportionate effect on the South.

This approach appears to be straight from dubious theories advanced by economist Thomas J. DiLorenzo. Those theories turn more on opinion and modern political philosophy than they do on historical evidence.

That evidence includes the texts of the seceding states’ secession resolutions. It also includes the writings and speeches of the secession commissioners from the lower South during the winter of 1860-61.

Reading the resolutions and the commissioners’ arguments for disunion to their recalcitrant brethren farther north leaves little doubt that discontent with tariffs and the philosophy of state’s rights took second chair as a basis for secession to fears about Northern intentions towards the South’s “peculiar institution.”

There is no bibliography. Instead the author supplies a list of “recommended reading.” That list contains a random sampling of secondary sources, some popular published primary sources, and a few idiosyncratic books such as two uniformly criticized volumes by DiLorenzo on Abraham Lincoln.

Readers with a thorough grounding can apply their trained eyes to errors of detail and analysis. As noted, however, they do not appear to be the targeted audience. Civil War buffs and serious students are far better served by the “gold standard” for this type of work, which remains E.B. Long’s 1971 The Civil War Day by Day.

Coffey’s book is acceptable for the casual reader who comes to it with some basic background knowledge, especially since it introduces that reader to significant non-military events with which he or she likely is not familiar.

October 17, 2013 -- Writers' Digest

The author takes a fairly balanced approach, though using Northern battle naming conventions belies some bias; most bias, though, is simply that of a modern historian looking back and seeing the havoc that the war caused in the decades that followed. While the book highlights some lesser known information (as the back cover points out) the main element that sets it apart from other references on the era is its organization not its information. The month by month format is what allows the author to draw out this often glossed over information. The monthly format in some ways seems to slow the pace of the war and the book, but it allows the author to give battles and time periods equal weight. Headings in each section provide more thematic guidance for readers. The cover photos is grainy and tough to decipher. The author doesn't have any credentials beyond most educated readers, but he does have a diligence and a large body of research and knowledge that stretch beyond the average person's understanding of the war. The writing is clear and mostly encyclopedic. The book will give history-minded readers an in-depth sense of the timeline of the war; the recommended reading section helps readers find out even more about key ideas, events, and people (annotating the reading list would be helpful).

September 3, 2013 -- Peter Skelly at Round Rock Civil War Round Table

While I didn't agree with the de-emphasization of slavery as the major cause of the Civil War. The author does organize his facts in a very readable form. This allows for a good flow to the story; given his intentions with the book this could have proven very difficult. Bottom line is the book gives a good structure to the story of the Civil War. It serves to illustrate the many things going on at the same time in an historical event of this magnitude. This concept is sometimes lost when trying to write about the big  picture. It is reminiscent of ancient historians writing in the "annals" form. 

January 17, 2014 - Julie Banton at Net Galley (5 out of 5 stars)

A very enjoyable read have recommended this to a few of my family members and they have really enjoyed reading this book.

July 13, 2012 -- Amazon

One of the things I love about the book is that it truly educates me. Everyone knows about the Civil War, right? Well, in a way, sure. We all know it had something to do with "slavery and stuff." I'm sure I'm not alone in saying I've always felt I was sort of short-changing the sacrifices of the past in not knowing more than that. Coffey's book, I'm happy to say, has helped relieve my ignorance and guilt, admirably.

Here's a book for history buffs and laymen alike. Mr. Coffey takes us through the entirety of the Civil War, starting from the initial secession until the war's conclusion and assassination of Lincoln. Other books have done this, sure, but Coffey's approach is nothing short of brilliant. What he does is take each month and drill down into each of them, allowing one chapter for each month, exposing the history-moving motivations and conflict with the care for detail and accuracy that it deserves. His pacing is superb. There's a sense of motion you don't often see in history books. I think if more history books were written with this consideration for the reader then they'd sell more.

To sum up, if you're interested in learning about the Civil War without a mountain of politically correct attention to certain parts, however valid, to the exclusion of others - also valid, but often ignored - you couldn't make a wiser decision than buying this book.


June 3, 2014 - Pat Lorelli at Net Galley (5 out of 5 stars)

This is a through look at the civil war from before Lincoln is elected President to after he is assassinated. With Andrew Johnson becoming President, the Funeral for Lincoln, the hunt for John Wilkes Booth, the surrender of the Tennessee Army and other surrenders. The capture and trail of Booth and eight other people who were convicted with him. He talks about a steam boat named Sultana that was bringing home Federal prisoners released from a confederate prison, and due to a faulty boiler an explosion accrued and a fire broke out and due to the condition of the men over 1,238 died but it could have been higher. This story in all of the books I have read about the Civil War I had never heard about before. There is so much information in this book that I actually read it twice. This is not just your average book about the civil war. It seems every month something was going on not just a battle but some type of decision had to be made by Lincoln, yes he could look at his cabinet, but he was the one who it came to rest upon. Weather it was changing a general or a policy. At the very end of the book in the afterward the most powerful paragraph is the last.” The most important result of the war was the permanent change in the relationship between the Federal government and the states. Before the war, many considered nullification and secession to be effective checks on the threat of growing Federal power. The war removed these checks, which has led to a gradual increase in the power of government over the people, am increase that continues to this day”. I thought this to be one of the better books about the total civil war not just won area.