Why The South Fought The Civil War And Why The North Won by Edward H. Bonekemper III
Hello again to you all! Now that we are slowly recovering from our over indulgences during Christmas and the holiday period it is time for me to review one final audiobook before the end of the year. Originally I was planning on reviewing something somewhat more cheerful but I found myself drawn to the topic and gave this book a chance. I’m glad I did!
For those of you unaware, the idea of the ‘Lost Cause’ is the concept that no matter what the South did during The American Civil War they were guaranteed to lose and their rebellion was in fact doomed from the beginning. Tied into this is the idea that The American Civil War was fought over states rights and that southern slavery had very little to do with the causes of the war. The other main conjecture of the ‘Lost Cause’ idea is that General Robert E. Lee was some form of military genius and he only lost the Battle of Gettysburg due to the incompetency of others (namely James Longstreet) and the butchery of Ulysses S. Grant.
As you can guess by the title of the audiobook this book is written by Mr Bonekemper – a noted American historian – to counteract the myth making of southern revisionists. The book is a very interesting read for those curious about the American Civil War as it dissects the multiple elements that create the myth using original sources from the period. Another good thing about this book is the language is quite simple and easy to understand with very minimal jargon unlike some history books I’ve listened to over the years. I assume this is because the book was written with intent to counter the arguments made by others and convey its message so therefore had to be understandable by the general public. In my personal opinion he makes his arguments quite convincingly while still making the book enjoyable. Notably the author also specifically name drops a few examples of those individuals who – even if they don’t explicitly support the ‘Lost Cause’ – indirectly continue its themes or messages – such as respected figures like Mary Beard and John Keegan. I definitely recommend this book even if you aren’t particularly enamoured with history. You never know what part of history from all over the world could spark your interest. Be it the local history of Orkney during the world wars or specifically the Italian Chapel or more globally such as the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 or as in this case The American Civil War.
Now for the part I’m not looking forward to. You may have noticed that up to this point I have made very minimal references to the audiobook version of this book? That is for a very good reason. Despite the book itself being rather engrossing and interesting in my personal opinion, the audiobook release is very much a disappointment. The book is narrated by C.J.McAllister who unfortunately takes a well done book on an interesting subject and makes it dull as dishwater! His voice is some form of American (I can’t tell the specific regional accent) and he does quite a decent job when reading the sections Mr Bonekemper quotes from period sources. However the rest of the time it sounds like listening to a robot with an American accent. I finished the audiobook because it is (relatively) short and I personally found the subject and actual book to be quite interesting. I’m not sure however that others would say the same if their only exposure was through the audio version.
Another important criticism – specifically of the audiobook – is that on at least two or three different occasions the narrator can be heard pausing and taking a breath before repeating the last few words of his previous sentence and continuing on. It is very rare in a professionally produced, edited and released audiobook for things like this to slip through the cracks and be left on the final release version to be heard by listeners. This disappoints me greatly on a personal level as I really enjoyed the book otherwise but my recommendation to my readers is to buy and read either a physical version of the book, a digital ebook version or – if one exists – an audio version with a different narrator depending on your preferences.
In conclusion the book itself is a very worthwhile read for those of you who are so inclined (even if it’s not the most seasonally appropriate listening or reading.) However despite highly recommending the book I do think it’s more enjoyable in physical or digital format.
I hope my readers have a Happy Hogmanay and hopefully I can ring in the new year with a first review that’s somewhat more light listening. Who knows…I might be joining a friend soon.
Sayonara! And Auld Lang Syne!