• The Training Ground

  • Grant, Lee, Sherman, and Davis in the Mexican War 1846-1848
  • By: Martin Dugard
  • Narrated by: Robertson Dean
  • Length: 11 hrs and 46 mins
  • 4.4 out of 5 stars (241 ratings)

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The Training Ground  By  cover art

The Training Ground

By: Martin Dugard
Narrated by: Robertson Dean
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Publisher's Summary

Nearly all of the Civil War's greatest soldiers - Grant, Lee, Sherman, Davis, and Jackson - were forged in the heat of the Mexican War. This is their story.

The Mexican War has faded from our national memory, but it was a struggle of enormous significance. It was the first U.S. war waged on foreign soil, and it nearly doubled the size of our nation. At this fascinating juncture of American history, a group of young men came together to fight as friends - only, years later, to fight again as enemies.

Full of dramatic battles, daring rescues, secret missions, soaring triumphs, and tragic losses, The Training Ground is history at its finest.

©2008 Martin Dugard (P)2008 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

What listeners say about The Training Ground

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  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Excellent Story

Not a detailed history of the war, but a researched element of the conflict. For Civil War buffs, if you haven't read about the details of this conflict, you will miss the reason why your favorite General (blue or gray) is the way they were. The author keeps you focused on the reason for the story, not a diatribe on how the war was unjust. It will leave you wondering how this "band of brothers" could ever fight each other. Maybe there was something to 1860's state loyalty. Manifest Destiny has lost its meaning to modern scholars, but the future soldiers for and against slavery were trained for the horrific clash of the Civil War. The American character had been established 150 years before, but it was clearly demonstrated during the short 18 months war as told by the author. Even our enemies today would do well to study this American way of fighting before starting any future conflicts against the US.

The author would do well to write a definitive account of the Battle of Monterrey and/or Mexico City. Not one about the Campaigns, these have been done. No revisionism typical of modern histories, but recognizing the validity of Manifest Destiny of 1846. The bravery of both the American and Mexican soldiers deserve any detailed accounting of the war.

4 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars

Flawed, but engaging nevertheless.

The title pretty much sums up the authors main thesis - that the Mexican War was unique in both molding the characters of many notable figures of the Civil War, as well as strengthening the bonds they'd already formed through their tenure at West Point.

His coverage of the war itself sometimes takes a back seat to the "characterizations" of Grant, Lee, Jefferson Davis and George Meade, but is still compelling - especially from a political perspective. However, there were some gaffes in offhanded comments about the War of 1812 and the Civil War. For example, characterizing Pickett's Charge as a "one of the great *cavalry* charges of the Civil War" left one scratching their head - especially given that George Pickett was one of figures highlighted (albeit only briefly).

Still, the book is worth the effort, if only to shed some light on an often-ignored chapter of American history.

3 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars

Another great Mexican War Book

Thne author did a great job of following the life of Lee. Grant Davis and Longstreet. The book also covers the politics of Polk and the leadership of Taylor and Scott. Anyone how is interested in the Civil War will love this book

3 people found this helpful

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

colourful context to parabolic tales

Not quite sure what the original contribution of this book is - more of a played out re-telling - doesn't have a compelling or unique perspective.

As a social studies book report, which draws on Grant's memoir, and probably a bunch of soldierly love letters are primary sources I would give it a C+, as a work of historical fiction I would give it a D+.

The narrative arch is weak, it's hard to understand if he's going by events/battles, or by person ~ seems like a mixture of both.

Why is Sherman on the cover - he hardly features in the book at all.

This dude is a mega fanboy of Jefferson Davis, which is interesting 'cause people usually use Jefferson Davis as a scapegoat and make everything he ever did seem stupid AF ~ so that was kind of interesting - to hear the story of Buena Vista told in such a way as to highlight Davis' positive contribution.

Many of the stories are well-known parables of the pre-civil war, e.g. Grant's Kamanchii style horse ride, but he added some interesting contextual information - which I hadn't remembered hearing before.

So many quotes from Grant's memoirs.

The best thing about this book is the narration of Robertson Dean ~ 9 hour movie trailer - in a good way.

2 people found this helpful

  • Overall
    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars
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    4 out of 5 stars

An Interesting Look at the Mexican War

Grant, Sherman, Lee, Longstreet. These are all names familiar to people who have studied the CIvil War. These were the men who fought each other in the most devastating war in United States History. In Training Ground Martin Dugard reminds us that these men were not always enemies. In the war with Mexico these men and many others fought side by side. Training Ground is not a full history of the Mexican War, it is more of a history of the men who fought the war together as young officers and would later command opposing armies. Dugard traces the early biographies of US Grant, James Longstreet, William Sherman, and Robert E. Lee. We see how these men went to West Point and entered into an army that promised very little in the way of a career and promotion.

The primary character in the story is a young US Grant. Each chapter is introduced with a quotation from Grant’s Memoirs. In his later life Grant was highly critical of the actions of the US Government in both provoking a war and then in the way that the Democratic leadership sought to run the war in a highly politicized manner. Of course the young Grant that we meet in these pages is less concerned with the political implication of the war. He is far more interested in getting back home to his love Julia.

The Mexican War was indeed the Training Ground for the Civil War. If you are familiar with the history of the Civil War you can’t help but feel a little sad as you read this book. You know the history of these young, anxious, promising young officers. You know how they will end up opposing each other. Reading this book I couldn’t help but wonder what the US Army would have looked like had the Civil War not occurred. What would have happened if an army commanded by Lee with Grant, Longstreet, Jackson, Sherman, and the others have been able to do. With that much brilliance they could have stood against any army in the world. Instead they were forced by political forces to fight each other.

Training Ground gives a good overview of the Mexican War. It also gives an insight to men who would shape history only thirteen years later. This is something that a lover of American History or the Civil War should enjoy.

1 person found this helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

The war with Mexico with an eye Civil war generals

A very interesting tale well told, written and a true story to boot. I enjoyed it and it sets us (the reader) up nicely for what's to come coming years. Clearly with this War With Mexico we are set up for civil war. So a civil war bluff will enjoy it immensely as well.

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

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Dugard's focus on the military aspects of the Mexican War and it's impact on future Civil War leaders. He worked hard not to do tactical review of each battle and better understand how the war helped shape the future leaders of the armies in the US Civil war. The tactical review was necessary but hard to follow in a listening book with no maps attached. It's an interesting and highly readable book

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Very good review of the future leaders in Civil Wa

Very good detail typical of Dugard that help understand the life changing events for many future Civil War generals. The operations and responsibilities that caused these men to change, grow into what would soon develop. A good prep for the Civil War fan.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

LOVE LOVE LOVE this book

This is THE best book I've ingested on the U.S./Mexican War period. It was SO engaging every step of the way. Everything was described with wonder and I loved hearing about Lee, Grant, Jackson, Davis, Lincoln et al years before they were involved in The Civil War. It also illustrates what genius Generals Zachary Taylor and Winfield Scott were.
Everything was perfect-- EXCEPT two small things I noticed right at the very end.
1-- The author said Zachary Taylor died in office during a celebration dedicating the newly completed Washington Monument. The 1850 celebration was a fundraiser. The Monument was never completed until 1885 and officially opened in 1888.
2-- The author also claimed James K. Polk died on June 15 1849 at the age of 53 just five months after leaving office. He did die in June-- but that was THREE months after leaving office. Back then, presidential terms ended in March-- NOT January.

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    5 out of 5 stars
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    5 out of 5 stars

Best on the Mexican-American War

I read a few books on this era, but I found this to be the best with great detail of the military engagements. Its is easy to follow the war if written well. This is the war from an American point of view, but the American never lost a battle in this engagement. I am sure Mexican history looks at it differently, but warfare tells the tale. Mexico fired the first shot even though they were baited to do so. Great read.