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"War means fighting, and fighting means killing." Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest famously declared. The Civil War was fundamentally a matter of Americans killing Americans. This undeniable reality is what Jonathan Steplyk explores in Fighting Means Killing, the first book-length study of Union and Confederate soldiers' attitudes toward, and experiences "War means fighting, and fighting means killing." Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest famously declared. The Civil War was fundamentally a matter of Americans killing Americans. This undeniable reality is what Jonathan Steplyk explores in Fighting Means Killing, the first book-length study of Union and Confederate soldiers' attitudes toward, and experiences of, killing in the Civil War. Drawing upon letters, diaries, and postwar reminiscences, Steplyk examines what soldiers and veterans thought about killing before, during, and after the war. How did these soldiers view sharpshooters? How about hand-to-hand combat? What language did they use to describe killing in combat? What cultural and societal factors influenced their attitudes? And what was the impact of race in battlefield atrocities and bitter clashes between white Confederates and black Federals? These are the questions that Steplyk seeks to answer in Fighting Means Killing, a work that bridges the gap between military and social history--and that shifts the focus on the tragedy of the Civil War from fighting and dying for cause and country to fighting and killing.


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"War means fighting, and fighting means killing." Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest famously declared. The Civil War was fundamentally a matter of Americans killing Americans. This undeniable reality is what Jonathan Steplyk explores in Fighting Means Killing, the first book-length study of Union and Confederate soldiers' attitudes toward, and experiences "War means fighting, and fighting means killing." Confederate cavalry commander Nathan Bedford Forrest famously declared. The Civil War was fundamentally a matter of Americans killing Americans. This undeniable reality is what Jonathan Steplyk explores in Fighting Means Killing, the first book-length study of Union and Confederate soldiers' attitudes toward, and experiences of, killing in the Civil War. Drawing upon letters, diaries, and postwar reminiscences, Steplyk examines what soldiers and veterans thought about killing before, during, and after the war. How did these soldiers view sharpshooters? How about hand-to-hand combat? What language did they use to describe killing in combat? What cultural and societal factors influenced their attitudes? And what was the impact of race in battlefield atrocities and bitter clashes between white Confederates and black Federals? These are the questions that Steplyk seeks to answer in Fighting Means Killing, a work that bridges the gap between military and social history--and that shifts the focus on the tragedy of the Civil War from fighting and dying for cause and country to fighting and killing.

35 review for Fighting Means Killing: Civil War Soldiers and the Nature of Combat

  1. 5 out of 5

    Mark Harden

    Although it contains interesting details on combat in The civil war, it was frustrating because the author relies far too much on Grossman’s “On Killing”. He cites it continually in support of the claim that a significant portion of soldiers were very reluctant to kill their enemies in battle. But his sources in letters, diaries and memoirs do not adequately support the contention. At least he denied Grossman’s silliest claim: that the funding of hundreds of guns on the Gettysburg battlefield af Although it contains interesting details on combat in The civil war, it was frustrating because the author relies far too much on Grossman’s “On Killing”. He cites it continually in support of the claim that a significant portion of soldiers were very reluctant to kill their enemies in battle. But his sources in letters, diaries and memoirs do not adequately support the contention. At least he denied Grossman’s silliest claim: that the funding of hundreds of guns on the Gettysburg battlefield after the fighting, with multiple loads of unfired ammunition, indicates soldiers who only pretended to fire their weapons (!)

  2. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Horton

    I read this book for my HIS103 class as completed a book review on it. Despite it being a class assignment, I genuinely enjoyed reading it and learned a lot about the Civil War. Steplyk wrote the book in a way that makes it accessible to expert historians as well as general readers.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Bill Freil

    Well researched and supported.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Don

    This is an impressive and important book. Using a very balanced collection (north, south, walks of life, branch of service, theater of service) of primary sources and research, Jonathan Steplyk offers new insights into how soldiers of the Civil War thought of combat and killing, as well as mercy, prisoners, and other factors of the conflict. Along the way he also offers important insights and reminders about the cultural norms of American society in the 19th century. This should be essential rea This is an impressive and important book. Using a very balanced collection (north, south, walks of life, branch of service, theater of service) of primary sources and research, Jonathan Steplyk offers new insights into how soldiers of the Civil War thought of combat and killing, as well as mercy, prisoners, and other factors of the conflict. Along the way he also offers important insights and reminders about the cultural norms of American society in the 19th century. This should be essential reading for any serious student of the Civil War.

  5. 5 out of 5

    E

  6. 4 out of 5

    Greg Olson

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    Douglas

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    Melissa Kozlowski Ziobro

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    Jason Cole

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    Graham St. John

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    Lee

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    Mike Davis

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    Eric Terlep

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    James Hill Welborn III

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    Daniel Woodworth

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    Zach McDonald

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    Judy

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    Katie

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    Will Hickox

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    Bill Holmes

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    Kyle Davis

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    Erik Snell

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    Kaci

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    Tom Monroe

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    Vince

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    Josh

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    Tsnellprof

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jimmy

  30. 4 out of 5

    Stephanie McGarrah

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    Val Crofts

  32. 5 out of 5

    Kyle

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    John Nellis

  34. 4 out of 5

    Matthew Scanlan

  35. 4 out of 5

    Robert Killion

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