Donnybrook: The Battle of Bull Run, 1861

ISBN: 0156031434
ISBN 13: 9780156031431
By: David Detzer

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2006 American Civil War American History Black Powder Era Civil War History History Literature Keepers Kevin Read To Read

About this book

In April 1861, Confederate artillery blasted Fort Sumter into surrender. Within weeks, the Confederacy had established its capital at Richmond. On May 24, Lincoln ordered troops across the Potomac into Virginia, only a few miles from the Confederate military base near the hamlet of Manassas. A great battle was inevitable; whether this would end the war, as many expected, was the only question. On July 21, near a stream called Bull Run, the two forces fought from early morning until after dark in the first great battle of the Civil War. America would never be quite the same.Donnybrook is the first major history of Bull Run to detail the battle from its origins through its aftermath. Using copious and remarkably detailed primary source mate-rial-including the recollections of hundreds of average soldiers-David Detzer has created an epic account of a defining moment in American history. This new paperback edition includes additional maps.

Reader's Thoughts


Interesting to learn the details of the battle, how the union commander made a poor decision while sick at his stomach that had great effect re: the union defeat.

Josh Liller

Superb writing (with amusing similes) about the first major battle of the American Civil War. It provides a good lead up to the battle, lots of details, good tangents on aspects of Civil War era military, tackles all the controversies, but perhaps best of all was just a joy to read.My only real criticism is the HUGE lack of maps.


Very compelling narrative and gave a clear view at both the tactical and strategic level. The biggest drawback is the lack of maps. If I hadn't just mounted a 22"x30" color map of this battlefield to wallboard, I would have been decently lost geographically, although Detzer did as well as could be expected in describing the relative locales without maps. I'm contemplating buying this one for future re-reads. At least I finally finished reading this in time for the sesquicentennial of the battle.

Gary Brecht

For several reasons, this was a good read. Firstly, it provides a thorough, well researched account of the conflict. Secondly, the author strives to paint more than a graphic picture of the battle; he attempts to convey the emotions felt by the participants and observers alike. Detzer’s research gives us a fresh look at the facts. He tells us where and why his interpretation of the battle differs from previous historians’ views. While he provides us with pertinent statistics and facts, he keeps it interesting by relating individual eye witness accounts of the events. Later, he creates an effective denouement, much like the one imagines a depressed, defeated army might experience. He does so by describing the aftermath of the battle through individual vignettes. I highly recommend this for those interested particularly in the American Civil War.


Wow! I've read a lot of books on the Civil War and this is one of my favorites by a person not named Shaara. Detzer takes the details of history and weaves them into a compelling story. This is non-fiction that sometimes reads likes historical fiction as Detzer knows just how to bring the reader along. By the time you're done you'll know as much as you could ever want to know about the battle of Bull Run.


Excellent, but needs better maps.

Don Cygan

Detzer is by far one of my favorite history authors. His writing style is colorful and enjoyable, and his history is always framed in the greater perspective of the time (social, political, etc.), which so often, many other historians ignore. This is my personal favorite of all of his works, as it underscores the "innocence lost" theme of the first large battle of the American Civil War, and takes an unflinching look at the unrealistic expectations of the soldiers, leaders, and citizenry of both Americas in 1861.


This book is amazing in the details. I'm taking my time to absorb it all. Wish I'd read it loong before now.


Any author attempting to write about this first major battle of American Civil War is facing some severe difficulties - not only is there a lot of myths that need to "be punched through", but also, the battle itself developed in very chaotic manner. Nevertheless, Detzer manages to deliver a very competent narrative, along with a superb analysis of why the events developed the way they did. This book is absolutely on same level as those of Sears and Cozzens. There is only one thing that stops me from giving this book highest praise and it's the maps. It's not that they aren't there, there are several. But the choice of what they depict is very odd. There are several maps available online (there is a very good set on Wikipedia), but it's a shame that such excellent work is missing necessary graphics material.

Brandon Bullock

very historically accurate in terms of where they fought and what times they fought as well as their plan of attack.


Detzer is at his best here describing the run-up to the battle, but once the action starts, things become a bit hard to follow. While he does attempt to clear up some of the uncertainty surrounding a few of the battle's key events, Detzer reminds us several times that trying to piece together a comprehensive picture of the battle is a devilishly difficult task since the participants left conflicting narratives/timelines. I guess that's his way of being honest & lowering our expectations so we won't hold it against him if he doesn't clear up the fog of war that still hangs over the battle's narrative/timeline. That sounds like a complaint, but it's really not- this is an excellent book. Not as good as his "Allegiance," but much better than "Dissonance."


I recently took a full-day tour of the Bull Run battlefield. I was told by the local historians that this was the best book about the battle.

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