Editor: Aaron Sheehan-Dean
Publisher:  Cambridge University Press -1,704 pages total
Book Review by: Sonu Chandiram

Volume I – Military Affairs (28 chapters) – 624 pages. The 28 chapters of this volume are organized around two Parts.

Part I of Volume I entitled Major Battles and Campaigns relates the details of the battles and campaigns (arranged more or less chronologically) in: Virginia, Tennessee, Trans-Mississippi, the Peninsula, the Shenandoah Valley, the Second Bull Run Campaign, the American Campaign, the Western Theater, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Overland, Georgia, the Carolinas, and Petersburg and Appomattox.

Part II of Volume II entitled Places relates the details of particular wars, namely: War on the Rivers, War on the Waters, The Blockade, The Border war, War in the deep South, War in Appalachia, War in Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, War in the West, and War in Indian Country.

Volume II – Affairs of the State (25 chapters) – 562 pages.  The 23 chapters of this volume are organized around three Parts, namely:

Part I – Values, with chapters 1 to 5 entitled: Wartime Masculinities; Northern Women and the Civil War; Southern Women and the Civil War; Religion in the Civil War Era; and Economic and Social Values in the Civil War.

Part II – Social Experience, with chapters 6 to 13 entitled: Families in the Civil War; Refugees and Movement in the Civil War; Citizen Soldiers; Immigrant America and the Civil War; Emancipation and War; The Black Military Experience; Motives and Morale; Urban and Rural America in the Civil War.

Part III – Outcomes, with chapters 14 to 23 entitled: Making Peace; Reconstruction during the Civil War; Veterans and the Postwar World; The Civil War and the American State; The Civil War and American Law; The Civil War in Visual Art; The Civil War in American Thought; The Civil War in Literary Memory; The Civil War in Film; and the Civil War in Public Memory.

Volume III – Affairs of the People (23 chapters) – 518 pages. The 23 chapters of this volume are organized around four Parts, namely:

Part I – Causes, with chapters 1 to 3 entitled: The Antebellum War over Slavery; The Election of 1860; and Secession and Disunion.

Part II – Managing the War, with chapters 4 to 15 entitled: Strategy, Operations and Tactics; Union Military Leadership; Confederate Military Leadership; Technology and War; Armies and Discipline; Financing the War; Guerilla Wars; Occupation; Atrocities, retribution, and Laws; Environmental War; Civil War Heath and Medicine; and Prisoners of War.

Part III – The Global War, with chapters 16 and 17 entitled: The Civil War in the Americas, and The Civil War in Europe.

Part IV – Politics, with chapters 18 to 25 entitled: Radicals and Republicans; Northern Democrats; Confederate Politics; Lincoln and the War; Peace and Dissent in the North; African-American Political Activism; Davis and the War; and Peace and Dissent in the South.

The American Civil War (1861-65) was a short but highly intense civil war between the northern and southern states of the U.S. It was one of the deadliest wars in U.S. history. The emotionally-charged divisive issue – the enslavement of black people – was the principal cause of this war. It was because there were some 10,500+ battles in which round 620,000 soldiers were killed, according to the American Battlefield Trust.    

In 1861, when the American Civil War began, there were then 34 states. Among them, seven southern ‘slave states’ that relied heavily on farming and agriculture, were in favor of continued black slavery. But 20 states (see list below) where economic activity was diverse, were opposed to continued enslavement of blacks.

The war began in 1861 shortly after the inauguration of Abraham Lincoln as President, when those seven states – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas – were declared by their state governments to have seceded from the country.

Twenty states – California, Connecticut, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Wisconsin – fought for the Union and supported Abraham Lincoln.

There were at least 10 major land-based battles during the four years of this war wherein at least 19,000 people were killed – in Vicksburg – to as many as over 51,000 people who lost their lives, in the final Battle of Gettysburg.  The naval battles were fought in the Atlantic Ocean, the Gulf of Mexico, and in the rivers f the mainland.

Here is a brief description of the contents in Volume I – Military Affairs: “This volume narrates the major battles and campaigns of the conflict, conveying the full military experience during the Civil War. The military encounters between the Union and Confederate soldiers and between both armies and irregular combatants and true noncombatants structure the four years of the war.”

Meanwhile, Volume II – Affairs of the State, deals with the larger, geopolitical aspects of this conflict: “This volume explores the political and social dimensions of the Civil War both in the North and South. Millions of Americans lived outside the major campaign zones so the experienced secondary exposure to military events through newspaper reporting and letters home from soldiers. Governors and congressmen assumed a major role in steering the personnel decisions, strategic planning, and methods of fighting.

Finally, Volume III – Affairs of the People, looks into the war’s impact on the various aspects of people’s lives. Here is the description of this volume: “This volume analyses the cultural and intellectual impact of the war, considering how the war reshaped Americans’ spiritual, cultural, and intellectual habits. The Civil war engendered an existential crisis more profound even than the changes of the previous decades. Its duration, scale, and intensity drove Americans to question how they understood themselves as people.”

This work of three volumes – The American Civil War – is a significant achievement of Professor Aaron Sheehan-Dean. All types of activity relating to studying and writing about history – such as researching and fact-checking events and thinking about their implications on the future of a country and its geographical components – requires tremendous effort, and the author has, in our opinion, excelled on every score.  I highly recommend this book.



Aaron Sheehan-Dean is the Fred C. Frey Professor of Southern Studies at Louisiana State University and chairman of the History Department. He teaches courses in nineteenth-century US history, the Civil War and Reconstruction, and Southern History.

He is the author of The Calculus of Violence: How Americans Fought the Civil War, Why Confederates Fought: Family and Nation in Civil War Virginia, and Concise Historical Atlas of the U.S. Civil War, and is the editor of several books.