It is fitting that my first debt of gratitude goes to Bill Coolidge. It was through his philanthropic enterprise that I and many other Balliol men and women were introduced to the United States. In 1957 I became a Coolidge Scholar and embarked on a tour of the country, primarily to visit some of the Civil War’s most important battlefields.
Twelve years before I undertook that journey, hundreds of thousands of American men were returning from fighting in the twentieth century’s most terrible conflict. Their not-so-distant Union and Confederate relatives must have experienced the same emotions as they, too, were reunited with their families after surviving what remains to this day the United States’ most costly of wars.
So it is natural that my second debt of thanks goes to the people of the United States. To arrive in post-war America as a twenty-three-year-old Englishman was to step from the shadow of European reconstruction into the light of a nation determined to realise its own interpretation of a democratic society. Since then I have been fortunate enough to have made numerous return journeys to the United States and witness that ongoing ambition. There are countless individuals and institutions who have so generously played host and to list them all after my fifty-year association would constitute a book in itself. But I would like to thank staff at West Point, Vassar College, and Princeton University and the U.S. Army Center of Military History, including General John Foss, who was the first of the post-war West Point liaison officers at the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst and finally a four-star general, and Professor James McPherson of Princeton University. I owe special thanks to the thoughts and suggestions provided by my numerous friends and colleagues, including former Senator Paul Sarbanes, Tom Clancy, and George Thompson, who assisted me so kindly during my last visit to the United States.
I must single out my publisher at Knopf, Ash Green, for his stoic faith in this book and for the unrelenting support he has so generously given. George Andreou, who succeeded Ash during the final editing, has graciously carried on that baton of encouragement.
In England my gratitude goes to my agent Anthony Sheil who has, as ever, paid such careful attention to the project. Anthony Whittome, my editor at Random House, deserves special praise for his patience and encouragement during the time I spent writing this book, as does my picture editor Anne-Marie Ehrlich. I owe a lifetime of gratitude to two great British institutions: the Army and the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst, from where so many talented soldiers and academics have emerged. In particular I must thank Field Marshall Sir John Chapple, General Sir John Wilsey, Major-General Charles Vyvyan, Colonel Mike Dewar, and Lieutenant Colonel Richard Hoare. From Sandhust I have received great support from my former colleagues Duncan Anderson, Christopher Duffy, and Ned Willmott. I also wish to acknowledge the support of The Daily Telegraph and in particular Con Coughlin, Simon Heffer, David Twiston-Davies, and Pat Venter. I would also like to thank Professor Robert O’Neill and Professor Hew Strachan, the past and present Chichele Professors of Military History at Oxford University.
I would not have able to undertake this book without the love and support given to me by my family. My wife, Susanne, has been, as always, a tower of strength, as have been our children and children-in-law, Lucy and Brooks Newmark, Tom and Pepy, Matthew and Sharon, and Rose and James McCarthy. Their wonderful children, Benjamin, Sam, Max, Lily, Zachary, Walter, Martha, and Mamie have all helped make the passage of this book easier to navigate. I would also like to thank friends in Kilmington, who include Nesta and Michael Gray, Shirley Thomas, and Eric Coombs. And finally thanks to my assistant Lindsey Wood, to whom this book is dedicated. Her tolerance and hard work in difficult circumstances were central to its completion.