A scholar argues that, despite its plethora of horrors, in the long run the Civil War was a Good Thing for this country. Robinson's narrative is a conventional tale of generals and battles, with time out for brief chapters or side essays on civilian life, black soldiers, flags, etc. His analysis is reduced to a few clear, simple themes: the cultural and economic clash between North and South; the devastation caused by poor sanitary practices (2,800 black troops were killed in action while 65,000 died of disease); the stabilization resulting from the establishment of federal (over state) authority. Some of his ideas are questionable--e.g., he glorifies American soldiers as ""the greatest fighting men of all time,"" and touts the rifle as a new development--and though readers will get a good sense of how the war looked from the many contemporary photos and newspaper illustrations, the occasional maps do little to clarify the author's accounts of strategy and troop movements. Considering both the recent avalanche of books on the subject and the older classics widely available, a supplementary purchase. Glossary; bibliography; long chronology; index.