I had just watched portions of the movie Gettysburg
last weekend, and was admittedly confused by the tactics used by both sides. Why did they all line up and shoot at each other in open fields? Why did they charge like maniacs? I asked my roommate; he's somewhat of a civil war buff. He didn't really have a good explanation, other than that was the traditional way war was fought back then.
The book I bought today is absolutely fascinating. It is beautifully illustrated and diagrammed in striking line art. While the book is quite thin at 47 pages, the illustrations and magazine-style format lets Griffith pack in an amazing amount of information while remaining entertaining.
Battle deals not with why the was fought, but how. Nor does it focus on a particular battle. It only describes specific battles when they underline a certain point, like how retreats were handled, or how fortifications were built, or how artillery was used.
Most interesting is the perspective from which the book is written. Other things I have read on the Civil War are written by Americans, and firmly set the events in the greater context of US history. Griffith, on the other hand, is a British professor of war history, specializing in 19th Century French warfare. A thesis of some of his other books is how the American Civil War was a culmination of the tactics outlined by early 19th Century French war scholars.
While I am no expert, I'm sure his constant references to the Napoleonic wars would irk some Civil War buffs, I thoroughly enjoyed Battle. It is a very informative and answered a lot of questions I had been afraid to ask.