Archive for July 25th, 2012

The other night I was walking around the very quaint – very New England – Tamworth Village in New Hampshire and was treated to the last few hues of a summer sunset…  So sweet! 

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WonFSo much for my light summer reading…  I just finished the epic A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman.  At over 1,000 pages and a topic as heavy as the Civil War, this book was not quite the frivolous beach read, but I loved every word of it none-the-less.

As a history buff and someone interested in the Civil War period in particular, I loved this book for a couple of reasons.  First, the relationship between the U.S. and the Confederacy with foreign powers, in this case Britain, is an aspect of the story I had never really thought about before.  In A World on Fire, Ms. Foreman covers the entire Civil War period through the lens of relations with Britain on both sides of the conflict, which was to me both revealing and compelling.  Second, having not read much about the war in recent years other than stories of specific battles, a book that spans the entire conflict with a new theme served as a welcome reminder of some of the more detailed books about the war I have read over the years.

About A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman:  “In this brilliant narrative, Amanda Foreman tells the fascinating story of the American Civil War—and the major role played by Britain and its citizens in that epic struggle. Between 1861 and 1865, thousands of British citizens volunteered for service on both sides of the Civil War. From the first cannon blasts on Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox, they served as officers and infantrymen, sailors and nurses, blockade runners and spies. Through personal letters, diaries, and journals, Foreman introduces characters both humble and grand, while crafting a panoramic yet intimate view of the war on the front lines, in the prison camps, and in the great cities of both the Union and the Confederacy. In the drawing rooms of London and the offices of Washington, on muddy fields and aboard packed ships, Foreman reveals the decisions made, the beliefs held and contested, and the personal triumphs and sacrifices that ultimately led to the reunification of America.”

Had I thought about it before I would have assumed that Britain backed the Union.  However, I was surprised to learn that for most of the conflict Britain was officially neutral but there was great support for the Confederacy in Britain, despite the greater moral implications.

Along with the under told story of the foreign involvement in the war, Ms. Foreman outlines the conflict in general, from pre-war through the epic battles.  She respects the reader’s knowledge and interest in the subject and provides enough detail to serve as a primer for the war without providing too much detail on particular events that other authors may have been sucked into.

The book is extremely well researched with many firsthand accounts weaved together in a orderly narrative.  As we continue to mark the 150th anniversaries of each major event of the Civil War over the next few years, I hope more and more Americans will read books like this to remind us of our history.

A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War by Amanda Foreman is available from Amazon and other fine booksellers.