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The Devil Soldier: The American Soldier of Fortune Who Became a God in China [Paperback]

Caleb Carr
3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (14 customer reviews)
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Book Description

April 11 1995
A courageous leader who became the first American mandarin, Frederick Townsend Ward won crucial victories for the Emperor of China during the Taiping Rebellion, history's bloodiest civil war. Carr's skills as historian and storyteller come to the fore in this thrilling account of the kind of adventurer the world no longer sees. Photographs.

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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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First Sentence
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

Most helpful customer reviews
By A Customer
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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5.0 out of 5 stars Early battles in 'war on drugs' Aug. 3 2003
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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2.0 out of 5 stars Unknown Soldier! March 2 1999
Carr writes well! Let's make no mistake about that! However, he is doomed to failure in this attempt to bring to life the enigmatic "devil soldier," Ward. For one thing, most of Ward's letters, that might have given some sort of insight into his character, were destroyed by a relative. Sad! This means that putting thought's into Ward's, mouth, & flesh on his bones, is largely conjecture on the part of the Author. Another weakness, is that Ward was simply not around long enough to develop into a subject worthy of a biography of this depth. He died in his early thirties, & details of his early life are sketchy. Indeed, 4/5ths of this book are about Ward's Chinese career in a three year period between 1860 & 1863, when he was killed. A better candidate for Mr. Carr?s attentions would have been the "larger than life" British Admiral "Fighting Jimmy" Hope. Even the Chung Wang, Ward's Taiping opponant, would have been a more logical candidate for central character. Inspirational leader & motivator of men, Ward undoubtedly was. Master tactician, I think not! His military achievements consist mainly of blasting away at the poorly armed Taiping rebel's entrenched positions, with far superior ordnance, followed by a reckless, albeit dashing, general charge on the defensive walls. In my opinion, the "devil soldier" ultimately remains the "unknown soldier" & this book ultimately remains, unsatisfactory.
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By A Customer
Caleb Carr's portrait of Fredrick Townsend Ward, an obscure American mercenary who rose to prominence during China's bloody Taiping rebellion, offers a fascinating look at a civil war that took place at the same time as the battle between the States, but in a completely different world. A far cry from Carr's previous thrillers, his historical work is still infused with the authors' powerful descriptive narrative. Readers will find themselves immersed in the Shanghai of the 1850's and 60's as quickly and totally as Carr plunged them into turn of the century New York, awash in the quasi-Christian Taiping rebellion, a massive and bloody attempt to wrestle power from millennia old Imperial China. Indeed, the city on the Huang-Pu river is as much a character in the story as any of the soldiers, rebels, merchants, peasants and Imperial Courtiers that lived in that turbulent time and place. Using western officers, often mercenaries, to train and lead Chinese troops in the western style of warfare, Ward raised up the "Ever Victorious Army" and turned the tide against the rebellion. He led his troops into battle in scenes as gripping as any taking place half a world away in our own Civil War, using battle strategies that would have held him in high rank amongst Grant, Sherman and Lee. In doing so he was awarded the status of Mandarin, the first westerner to ever enter the upper caste of the Confucian order. An epic tale of a long forgotten adventurer that offers a window into a remarkable time and place. It's too bad that Mr. Carr's success with fiction will most likely rob us of one of our most compelling and adept biographers.
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Most recent customer reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars devil soldier
A very enjoyable tale of a colorful historical character. Carr has a real flair for bringing such a strange time to life, and making it feel familiar. Read more
Published on Dec 11 2003 by Blakeslee
4.0 out of 5 stars A solid read
Carr appears to make the most out of the limited resources available on Ward, although he repeatedly reminds readers that almost all of Ward's papers were destroyed. Read more
Published on Feb. 7 2003 by "shanghai_reader"
4.0 out of 5 stars some light upon an obscure historical figure...
who would think that a reject from west point would
rise up to the level of mandarin in china? if not for
this book, frederick ward would remain in deeper obscurity. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2002 by A. N. Teodoro III
4.0 out of 5 stars some light upon an obscure historical figure...
who would think that a reject from west point would
rise up to the level of mandarin in china? if not for
this book, frederick ward would remain in deeper obscurity. Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2002 by A. N. Teodoro III
3.0 out of 5 stars The Devil is in the details
Albeit a fascinating story, the book is drawn out far longer than it should have been. I kept having the feeling that due to the paucity of extant information about Ward,... Read more
Published on June 27 2001 by J. Guberman
4.0 out of 5 stars A Highly Readable Look at the Taiping Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion in China was a very bloody affair. It cost the lives of over 25 million people. Read more
Published on June 15 2000 by Crossfit Len
4.0 out of 5 stars Well-researched & Intriguing
Due to the lack of surviving information concerning Ward, Carr's book is less biography and more historical portrait of the Taiping Rebellion from Shanghai. Excellent read.
Published on Aug. 11 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars For people interested in that part of history, good source.
I read the book because of my interest in history. I'm Chinese from Taiwan, recognizing Ward and "Ever Victorious Army" from text book. Read more
Published on May 17 1999
3.0 out of 5 stars An interesting and rich account from Asian history
What an interesting story. History is full of now obscure individuals who have achieved far more than we can imagine. Read more
Published on Jan. 6 1999
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