The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993

Book Reviews

Manifest Destiny remains too large a beast to keep the Mexican War from ap-
pearing anything less than what it was: virtually inevitable.
None Died in Vain: The Saga of the American Civil War. By Robert Leckie (New York:
Harper Collins, 1991. Pp. xvii+682. Maps, acknowledgments, bibliography,
index. $29.95.)
An American Iliad: The Story of the Civil War. By Charles P. Roland (Lexington:
University Press of Kentucky, 1991. Pp. xii+289. Preface, black-and-white
photographs, maps, index. $30.00.)
An occasionally forgotten rubric of the writer insists that the written word be
used for the purpose of communication. Seemingly self-evident, the rule appears
to bump against another which says that the good writer must place greater val-
ue on self-expression than on the perception of the general reader. One rule
does not, however, negate the other. The first merely requires the writer to
make sense, while the second allows a creative latitude that eliminates the un-
easy feeling that an unseen audience is looking over his or her shoulder, kibitz-
ing every line. Both rules assume that the good writer will deliver his or her
message to those on his or her own intellectual plane. These authors, who have
written two books ostensibly on the same topic, remembered the rules.
In his long and successful career, Robert Leckie has turned out almost three
dozen books, some of them best sellers. Although peripatetic, his persistent pull
has been toward history. He is very good at his trade, but he is not a professional
historian. Some academicians who read this particular effort may conclude that
its content is a bit old hat, or as professional pedants are prone to say, "It is
based on a limited knowledge of current interpretations and only a superficial
acquaintance with available materials." True, there is some lack of sophistica-
tion. His explanation of the war's causes, for example, may be found just as easi-
ly in James Ford Rhodes's or Allan Nevins's old studies. Borrowed interpretation
is not a crime in itself; if it were, half the producing historians in America would
be behind bars. Besides, what may appear to certain scholars as dated may be
closer to the truth than some of the newer and, in some instances, more "pre-
cious" stuff. In Leckie's work, however, complicated events and complex person-
alities are offered in cut-and-dried fashion. As such, they are often a bit simplistic
or even antithetical. Take, for example, the cause of the war (slavery) and the
reasons for Southern defeat (Northern industry and population and Southern
intransigence to proposed solutions). He may be right, or he may be wrong, but
one thing is certain: Leckie is convinced of his correctness. On balance, he has
produced a large, readable, and rather predictable work reflecting his own un-
troubled beliefs, which stem from his obvious fascination with the Civil War and
its participants.
Charles P. Roland gives us a slimmer book, but one that fairly bulges with sub-
tlety and insight. Its dust jacket proclaims it a "synthesis," but it is rather more
than that. Perhaps a better description would be a distillation which reflects a life-


Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 96, July 1992 - April, 1993. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. Accessed April 18, 2014.