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The Devil Soldier: The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China Paperback – Apr 11 1995


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Random House; Reissue edition (April 11 1995)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0679761284
  • ISBN-13: 978-0679761280
  • Product Dimensions: 13.2 x 2 x 20.3 cm
  • Shipping Weight: 381 g
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: #242,704 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Product Description

About the Author

Caleb Carr is a contributing editor of MHQ: The Quarterly Journal of Military History and the series editor of the Modern Library War Series. His military and political writings have appeared in numerous magazines and periodicals, among them The World Policy Journal, The New York Times, and Time. He currently lives in upstate New York.


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Frederick Townsend Ward, a soldier of fortune, came to China in 1859 and offered his services to the imperial government. The narration sounds like a lengthy lecture on military tactics, smoothly delivered but pedantic. Recommended for military history buffs only. D.L.G. (c)AudioFile, Portland, Maine --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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On May 2, 1860, the city of Nanking, China-nestled between a wide bend in the Yangtze River and a commanding promontory called Purple Mountain-was alive with celebration. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

3.6 out of 5 stars

Most helpful customer reviews

Format: Paperback
In this involving and well-written account, Carr strains to elevate the importance of Ward, a historical footnote, a mercenary of questionable repute and eventual Qing dynasty functionary whose prime contribution was the cobbling together of the use of "superior and modern" Western weapons against backwards sword and spear carrying Taiping rebels. And by Carr's own account, Ward was only partially successful. To thank him for his assistance (which ultimately helped maintain both Western imperial domination of China, the opium trade, and the extension of the corrupt and weak Qing empire), in a relationship of dual purpose, the Manchu Qing regime (not the Chinese people)gave him an official title and a Chinese wife. Carr's pro-Western bias is strong, as is his strange love of the Ward myth, which he does his best to overblow. Carr's sourcing is spotty, and in too many places, he speculates---typically in ways that favor Ward. This book, and indeed the Ward story itself, presents a very enlightening model of how violent rogue mercenaries, terrorists, and intelligence cutouts are used to assist governments in "counter-insurgency" wars throughout history, such as the Phoenix Program.
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Format: Paperback
This is a bit of a stretch for the conventional Western military history, but an excellent one. Most readers will probably think of General Ward's biography in terms of traditional 19th century nation state narratives. Let me propose a different one, the context is 'opium wars'. The story goal is defeating the merchants of opium, the English. The outcome is bittersweet. This requires the reader to do more 'reading between the lines' than usual, but the rewards are there for those interested.
While the book's focus is Fredrick Ward, a true soldier of fortune, the 'Chinese drug wars' are really more central. The period covered begins with the British winning the 'Opium War'. To make sense of this, imagine Columbian drug lords defeating the US Army and demanding control of an airport in Miami. By treaty right, the Columbian drug lords would we granted the right to fly cocaine to any airport in America. If you can imagine this, substitute Queen Victoria for the Columbian drug lords and Shanghai for Miami.
As should be required, the book begins by discussing hypocrisy. England's Royal navy is primarily in China to help the East India Company sell opium. The 'Christian' leader of the Taiping rebellion preaches puritanical virtues, but surrounds himself with concubines. Our hero emerges from the New England merchant class, a class that simultaneously smuggles slaves to the American slave states and finances abolitionist politics. Unfortunately, the theme is not followed throughout. The final chapter dwells on legal battles over Ward's treasures rather than the continuing twists in the drug wars and associated hypocrisy.
The narrative spends most of its time on Ward's invention, the 'Ever Victorious Army' or 'Ward's Chinese Corps'.
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Format: Hardcover
When you mention to most (Americans) about the civil war of the 1860's, most likely they'll think you're talking about "The War Between The States", The American Civil-War.
However, roughly around the same time that America's North & South were slowly edging towards that great tragedy over the issue of slavery, a different civil war was gripping another of the Earth's great nations half a world away in a struggle that would claim millions(!) of more lives than even that more famous (to the American mind) struggle. The Taiping Rebellion (1851-1864), initiated by Hung Hsiu Chuan, a man who had failed in China's examinations to become a civil-servant, was a war over religious beliefs, ideology, & class-struggle. Hung, in a "vision" had believed himself to be the younger brother of Jesus Christ(!) His Taipings, made up of neo-Christian Chinese converts, frustrated & angered over the corruption & poverty imposed upon them by their inept Manchu rulers, captured several Chinese cities, established their base in Nanking, & nearly succeeded in toppling the Chinese (Manchu) empire. Hung's Christian learnings came from an American, Issachar Roberts. One of his oppoenents, an important adversary, a soldier for hire who had worked in Mexico, California, & Texas as a professional mercenary, who came to China & trained Chinese soldiers in the most up to date weaponry & tactics (as well as absorbing much of China's military culture), was an American also: Fredrick Townsend Ward.
Ward was a loner, a man who worked for prestige rather than money, a man who was stern yet fair to his band of mercenaries, & a man free of racial prejudices. He was the classic warrior, a character you would expect to find in westerns & adventure movies. However, he was real!
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Format: Hardcover
The author has done excellent research in developing a biography of the life and times of Frederick Townsend Ward during China's Taiping rebellions during 1860 through 1863. But as a historian seeking accuracy of facts, the author commits several types of "avoidable" error in just writing.
In attempting to get the who, what, where, when, and why about people and places, he clouds these issues with such overwhelming "context", that it becomes difficult to read at times to see the forest because of the trees. Quite often his sentences are just too long, many running 200 words or more, with the result that the reader has to go back and re-read them again. It's easy to get lost because of his verbosity in spite of the fact that he uses simple words.
The author makes excessive use of parentheses to slide extra context into his sentences; where in itself this isn't bad, but when his writing contains sub-context within sub-context of a context in one single sentence, before he tells us of an event happening, his writing is difficult to read (like this sentence).
Moreover, what is surprising is that the author, Caleb Carr, is not guilty of any of these stylistic errors in anything else of his that I have read. He has always gripped my attention.
But my criticisms aside, the author goes out of his way to be an independent observer and commentator about the events concerning Ward's battles, based on a plethora of well documented research and opinion. He is very careful to imply just this, as opposed to fact, as a responsible historian should.
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