Civil War Book Review: The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War

by James Durney on October 18, 2010 · 3 comments

The Great Task Remaining: The Third Year of Lincoln’s War
by William Marvel

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 464 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; 1 edition (June 22, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 061899064X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0618990641

Not one of his good books

William Marvel is a respected historian, an excellent author who has produced some very good books.  This is not one of his good books and could be the worst book he will write.  The first line inside the dust jacket states “Revisionist history at its’ best”.  This large and disjointed book makes every effort to exceed that sentence.  This leads to social history being pushed forward at the expense of political and military history.

The thoughts and actions of Grant, Lincoln, Davis and Lee are less important than privates and civilians.  Marvel takes a harsh view of the war in which the glass is always half empty.  There is little analysis of campaigns or the positive things that are occurring for the North.

Being an excellent author, his ideas are very convincing and his positions seem logical.  The problem being what he says is often questionable if not wrong.  In a wish to write a “Revisionist history”, Marvel has produced very little of value.


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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Dick Stanley October 20, 2010 at 10:44 am

Just another cash-in book for the Sesquicentennial. Going to be a lot more of them in the next four years.

Reply

Dan Cone October 20, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Could you flesh this criticism out a little bit?

1. How exactly does the book’s social history approach detract from the military aspects of the war?

2. How does Marvel’s analysis come across as harsh and negative?

3. What is “questionable if not wrong” about Marvel’s thesis?

Obviously you don’t care for it. However, those who are considering it might be curious as to exactly why you don’t care for it. Can you cite anything from the book?

Thanks,

Reply

James W Durney October 21, 2010 at 11:42 am

Dan,
I cannot give you page numbers but will say the following:
The book spends much more time on social issues than anything.
I found Marvel’s Gettysburg to be questionable and noted other items that I considered overstated or slanted.
I suggest a cup of coffe & the book for about an hour in Borders or B&N. If you still want it, by all means buy it. You might check used, IMO a number will be dumping this soon.

Reply

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