Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Info

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Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing
old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will
unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil
War.
James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the
political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from
the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at
Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly
recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred
Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on
Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war
itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the
politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's
new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s,
the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal
dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the
reasons for the Union's victory.
The book's title refers to the
sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the
conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of
self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had
fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union
founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually,
the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the
war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim.
This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the
proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict.
This
authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second
American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a
nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

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Reviews for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era:

2

November 18, 2009

Best One Volume Civil War History
This is probably the best one volume civil war history there is. I'm giving it two stars only so that this review appears alongside some of the genuine two star reviews. As far as I can tell, pretty much all the people who don't like the book object to its political position: it isn't sufficiently pro-southern for their tastes. (Even the reviewer who complains about the mistake over the voters in West Virginia is basically annoyed by the idea that West Virginians didn't want to be part of the Confederacy. The books he cites propose a more pro-Southern view of the division of Virginia, which he prefers.) So to anyone reading the two-star reviews, I'd say that you definitely won't like this book, if, for example, you don't think the civil war had anything to do with slavery, or if you think Lincoln was a tyrant. But the fact is that McPherson's political position is very moderate and reasonable by just about anyone else's standards. As for the claim that the book is boring -- that must be straightforward dishonesty on the part of someone who was irritated by it's (moderate) political position. It's totally un-put-downable.
5

March 29, 2016

Top Shelf of the Civil War Library
McPherson's "Battle Cry" is arguably the best single-volume account of the Civil War. Nearly 30 years since its initial publication by Oxford, this book is still being used at the university level to educate students about the Civil War. McPherson not only wrote a masterful narrative, he also sourced the text impeccably. Further, I disagree with some previous reviews that the writer has a political bias or agenda, if you will. As a Civil War historian, I can confidently state that writing in a neutral voice about this period is one of the most difficult challenges an author faces. McPherson gives ample time to both "sides" of the cause and puts forth well-documented facts. Those who dispute his objectivity have ample resources, provided through detailed footnotes and an extensive bibliography, to research the author's claims.
If you are just becoming interested in the Civil War or seeking to extend your knowledge, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. From novices to academics, this is the one book that must be on your shelf.
0

Jun 15, 2011

Embarking on reading or in this case rerereading McPherson's civil war at 800 plus pages feels like committing to refighting that four year conflict. One feels the need of a logistics corps to support the reading effort at the front as the page counts mounts and mounts. The book itself, particularly in a hardback incarnation, is virtually a civil war, it could be lobbed with hostile intent at a passerby, or laid on the ground to make a defensive position or strapped to the chest to protect the Embarking on reading or in this case rerereading McPherson's civil war at 800 plus pages feels like committing to refighting that four year conflict. One feels the need of a logistics corps to support the reading effort at the front as the page counts mounts and mounts. The book itself, particularly in a hardback incarnation, is virtually a civil war, it could be lobbed with hostile intent at a passerby, or laid on the ground to make a defensive position or strapped to the chest to protect the heart from musket balls or sabre blows.

McPherson paints a busy panorama, crowded with details finely drawn and occasionally even quotable, starting in the 1830s, going through the divergence in economic development in north and south - suggesting at the end that it was the north with it industrialising and increasingly capitalist society which was exceptional while the South was more broadly typical of mid-nineteenth century societies in being agrarian and reliant on tied labour, the Mexican war, land grabbing adventures in Nicaragua, the collapse of the Whig party and sectional violence everywhere, muskets, swords and walking sticks taken up in anger. As a reader there is a desire to kick back against this portentous handling which reads as though McPherson was writing with Wagner's Gotterdammarung playing in the background, Siegfried's death implying this conflict was inevitable, already perhaps in progress by other means long before Fort Sumter was fired upon. This naturally leads to wanting him to just get on with things rather than continuing to set out his stall for several hundred pages. The downside with this feeling of inevitability is that he then has to dismiss initial votes by Southern states against secession as merely 'conditional unionism' or equally praise Lincoln and the Republicans refusal to negotiate after his election as a realistic course of action. Perhaps, but these it seems to me are debatable points. Ultimately he comes down strongly in favour of contingency -pointing out the impact of victories and defeats in shifting public opinion and the sentiments and opinions of the major political actors.

McPherson pulls out the role of race and attitudes about race, not simply white vs black, but even within 'whiteness' - Saxon vs Norman (view spoiler)[ in which reading the southerners were the gentle yet warlike descendants of the Normans, recognisable as the Cavaliers in the earlier English Civil War, while your Northerner was a rude mechanical (hide spoiler)] (and Irish), which I suppose is the inevitable result of creating a concept of fictive kinship to justify a social position, but still one wonders as in Williamsion's The Penguin History of Latin America, how one gets from such divisive thinking to a nation of liberty, equality and fraternity, or even if this can be done in a reasonable time frame - say before the return of Jesus, the arrival of Maitreya Buddha (view spoiler)[ who in a rare piece of good news can apparently be ordered from a well known internet bookseller (hide spoiler)], or the emergence of the Mahdi, not that this is the topic in hand for this book, simply for society.

McPherson discusses Unionism in Tennessee and West Virginia, divided sentiments in Kentucky and Missouri (view spoiler)[ which interestingly and probably significantly have tended to become far more supportive of the Confederacy since the end of the war than at the time - a process which T.J.Styles describes beginning in Jesse James: Last Rebel of the Civil War (hide spoiler)], mind you much of this is conjecture, just as after an election newspaper commentators explain the results, without actually asking people. More significant perhaps then is McPherson's roll call of individuals like George Thomas, Admiral Farragut or Pemberton who didn't side with their state or place of birth. Then again this whole issue of identity and identification was peculiarly intense possibly because anti-bellum America was very mobile, many people had moved away from place of birth to settle and make a living in new developing regions - elective affinities it seems are the fiercest of all.

For McPherson this was a second American Revolution and one which saw the birth of a nation rather than an untidy agglomeration of states who grudgingly had admitted it would make good sense to work together to some limited extent in the wake of their treacherous rebellion from poor old George III.

This account is not purely a muddy slog through an exceptionally violent conflict - McPherson regularly points to battles more bloody than various combinations of other American conflicts - but also shoots off to consider other issues, developing technologies, the role of the war in promoting the production of clothes in standardised sizes a regular feature of shopping that can be attributed to the need for uniforming hundreds of thousands of men without needing to tailor every shirt or pair of trousers. The introduction of income tax, not only the existence of war bonds but how they were marketed and rendered affordable to a broad public, in the North. Other elements of a Second Revolution included the creation of a transcontinental railway, a network of agricultural colleges, a Homestead Act to support the settlement of the West, the introduction of the 'greenback' national paper currency and changes to the prevailing system of local banks issuing their own bank notes, eventually the thirteenth amendment, the Freedman's bureau (view spoiler)[ Freedwomen presumably had to just look out for each other (hide spoiler)], and moves towards universal male suffrage.

Another theme is the disruptive effect of war, providing new opportunities for women - who thanks to increasing mechanisation in the north at least could send off their sons to war confident they could still manage to bring in the hay, but also in industry and professionally, for immigrants, black people, and a host of middle aged men perhaps repressed by the structures and requirements of everyday life who got to have extravagant mid-life crises (and its hard for me not to think of the parade of civil war generals in that way, many of whom I struggle to imagine in civilian life outside of pantomime, apart from McCellan who to me fits perfectly with his Napoleonic pretensions as the prototypical rock-star CEO that he had been of a Railway company.

I get a sense of the overwhelming effort - implicitly implied by the solid heft of this book - required by the war in which both sides, having found themselves at war suddenly had to come up with the armies and logistics to fight it. Originally units elected their own officers, prominent persons with political clout held high commands, it was for almost everyone a learn on the job type war, and those who had combat experience from the Mexican war found that bayonet charges against entrenchments were now unpleasantly fatal given significant improvements in fire-power in the intervening years.

There is emphasis and space given to the politics of the home front on both sides as well as the international diplomacy and espionage of which McPherson occasionally drops heavy hints ought in a just universe be the subject of many rollicking novels. And also we are shown the shifts of opinion in Britain particularly, down to the debated attitude of Lancashire cotton workers towards the conflict

As a war, and whatever else is discussed here this is always the narrative history of a war, the American conflict seems to presage much which is still familiar - total war, the strategic importance of logistics, mobilisation of entire populations, highly technical, mechanised warfare side by side with house to house neighbour on neighbour brutality, massed artillery barrages and scalping.

The best one volume history of the American Civil War? I couldn't say, however I don't see the need to search for another one, yet. (view spoiler)[ footnotes and a bibliographic essay however shows the paths into the apparently endless ink wars that have raged over it ever since (hide spoiler)] ...more
5

Apr 08, 2012

Being a young history buff, it took me 3 weeks and 3 days to read this. That is, 3 weeks of contemplating reading it and proceeding to finish it in 3 days. This book is undoubtedly the best 1-volume book on the war that divided and reunited America but ended some of our back-then traditions such as slavery. In other words, the Civil War. It has a good balance of the battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam while it does discuss the social, political, and economic factors that also fueled the war. Being a young history buff, it took me 3 weeks and 3 days to read this. That is, 3 weeks of contemplating reading it and proceeding to finish it in 3 days. This book is undoubtedly the best 1-volume book on the war that divided and reunited America but ended some of our back-then traditions such as slavery. In other words, the Civil War. It has a good balance of the battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam while it does discuss the social, political, and economic factors that also fueled the war. It starts off at the end of the Mexican-American War and does so for the first 100 pages. Then, it starts off on the attack on Fort Sumter and what happened the rest of the time during the Civil War. McPherson's prose reads in the style of a novel. It's a very easy read and also very enjoyable. There are always other books on the subject that go in depth on different aspects such as the battles or the figures, but if you want a general overview of the Civil War from its origins to its aftermath, this is THE book! ...more
5

May 29, 2007

It is reported that there are 15,000 books on the Civil War in the Library of Congress, so the natural question is where do you start? Furthermore, Most of the "seminal" Civil War works are volumes and thousands of pages. Well in 850 pages, McPherson provides succint, yet thorough historical writing of the highest caliber. It unmuddies the waters as to the reasons for the country's schism and the start of the war and provides the necessary level of detail as to the prosecution of the war without It is reported that there are 15,000 books on the Civil War in the Library of Congress, so the natural question is where do you start? Furthermore, Most of the "seminal" Civil War works are volumes and thousands of pages. Well in 850 pages, McPherson provides succint, yet thorough historical writing of the highest caliber. It unmuddies the waters as to the reasons for the country's schism and the start of the war and provides the necessary level of detail as to the prosecution of the war without going inot excruciating detail about troop movements and the like.

Perhaps the most remarkable piece of the book was the eiplogue in which McPherson presents an interesting point about America's notions of liberty and freedom. Whereas before the Civil War the nation was intent on keeping Americans free from things, the Civil War represented a shift in that the government was now thought of as a agent that gave people freedom to things. ...more
5

May 4, 2016

Battle Cry of Freedom is the one book to read about the Civil War and the issues leading up to it.
I have read at least 50 books about the Civil War. The Battle Cry of Freedom was the one book that tied everything together as to why we were at war in the first place. It is not just about the war itself but about those times in America where our attitudes were. The book ties in everything about the those times and the war itself and how one issue or battled lead to political issues that had a huge impact on decision. It really shows how strong Abraham Lincoln was in his determination not to give in and to preserve one nation. If you could read only one book about this troubling time in our country, this would be the book.
5

May 21, 2015

Very Good One-Volume History of the Civil War
This is a very good one-volume history of the Civil War. It is much more than a military history, an endless litany of battles and military campaigns and strategy. Although it is partly a military history, it is also a social, political, economic, and diplomatic history of the Civil War period. It is a scholarly history; McPherson documents his conclusions, opinions, and quotes with voluminous endnotes. (Since this was an e-reader edition, it is rather effortless to tap on the superscripted numeral and view the endnote.)

McPherson begins his history well before the outbreak of hostilities in 1861. The first chapter, “The United States at Midcentury,” takes a look at American society and politics in the 1850s. The American South “dominated the world market” for cotton. The industrial revolution was changing society, primarily in the North, as millions moved from farms to urban centers to work in factories. A religious awakening was sweeping the North generating moral and cultural reform movements, especially a push for the abolition of slavery, which would put the northern states on a collision course with the South. In the next few chapters, the author covers political events that were shaking the country in the turbulent 1850s. The Mexican War brought new territories into the United States, which exacerbated the ongoing debate over whether new states should be admitted to the union as slave states or free states. Pro-slavery and free-soil settlers were fighting and killing each other over slavery in the Kansas territory during the 1850s. And a new political party, the Republicans, arrived on the American scene and elected an unlikely western-born man named Abraham Lincoln as their candidate in the 1860 presidential elections. And to raise the stakes in this crucial election Lincoln was known to be an anti-slavery man.

It is not until the very end of chapter 8, when South Carolina starts the Civil War on April 12, 1861, by firing on the federal fort at the entrance to Charleston harbor, Fort Sumter. The first eight chapters of this history are dedicated to the all-important task of laying the groundwork for an understanding of the events and ideas that led to this tragic conflict.

Even for those very familiar with the battles that swept over the American landscape during the next four years, there is much to be learned from McPherson’s narrative. The author skillfully weaves into the war stories the social, political, and cultural context for these events. How did the war affect the people of the South where most of the battles were fought? How did they survive when their men went off to fight, when the value of their currency turned to almost nothing, when there was nothing in the stores to buy with their worthless money, when their slaves that did the hard work of growing their cotton and food crops ran away to follow the liberating Yankee army? And in the North, how did the people deal with the forced conscription that pulled young men from their homes, farms, and families? Many of these conscripts were recent immigrants. How did they cope with the demand that they risk their lives to save their new country? McPherson investigates all of these concerns in Battle Cry.

This long book (almost 1,000 pages) pulls the reader into its narrative almost immediately. I found it hard to put down. Even though we all know how the war turned out, surely its participants did not. Those who were certain of triumph at the beginning (Jefferson Davis and seemingly most of the secessionists) turned out to be wrong. Those who felt a sense of doom and wondered if even God had deserted them (especially, at times, Abraham Lincoln) often ended in triumph. The reader, even viewing these events in retrospect, becomes engaged with the drama and feels empathy for the emotions of the actors is this great national tragedy.

Note: I read this book on a Kindle. The battle maps in the Kindle edition are hard to read and of little use on my paperwhite Kindle, but show up clearly on a Kindle Fire.
5

September 23, 2015

McPherson's works are second-to-none.
I am a military historian and my opinion is that Dr. McPherson has written the definitive encompassing Civil War historical work. "The Battle Cry of Freedom" (supplemented with some of Dr. McPherson's related books like "The Atlas of the Civil War," and others) is second-to-none. I mean no disrespect what-so-ever to Shelby Foote's "The Civil War." Foote's works speak for themselves, no question. But because Battle Cry is written in such an engaging style that reads like a novel while extensively relating and documenting the historical intricacies of the times was, for me, a pleasure to read and study. I highly recommend this text for anyone, scholar or layman, who is looking for a descriptive and informed one-volume history of this tragic time in America's history.
2

August 7, 2012

Kindle edition review
I first read and immensely enjoyed McPherson's book over 15 years ago. No longer having access to my paper copy, I thought it might be convenient to purchase Amazon's Kindle edition. This turned out to be a mistake. I have no problem with the text of this edition. Images are another matter. The photographs, while not great, are adequate. The political and battle maps are, to be blunt, utterly worthless. If this doesn't bother you, then by all means go ahead and purchase the Kindle edition -- but to my mind the maps go a long way in clarifying the text, especially when the author is summarizing the various military engagements.

Unfortunately, this is not a problem confined to this book -- it's an Amazon rather than a publisher-specific problem. My understanding is that the current Kindle format does not support SVGs, so images are rendered as low-resolution JPGs, BMPs, or what have you. In other words, the size of your reading device has no bearing on the quality of the maps. You blow up a small blurry map and you get a bigger blurry map. (I checked the output on four devices, an iPhone, a Kindle Fire, an iPad 3, and the 15-in screen of a MacBook.) The sad fact is one should probably avoid buying nonfiction books of this type until Amazon adopts a standard that supports reasonable graphics.
5

Nov 09, 2009

If you want detailed discussion of battles, this is not the book for you. If you want detailed descriptions of key actors during the Civil War, this will not be the book for you. But if you want an all encompassing volume, linking the battles, economic issues, social life, culture, and politics, then this book will be a wonderful resource.

Where does the title of the book come from? A Civil War song, "The Battle Cry of Freedom," written in 1862. Illustrative lines:

"The Union forever, Hurrah boys If you want detailed discussion of battles, this is not the book for you. If you want detailed descriptions of key actors during the Civil War, this will not be the book for you. But if you want an all encompassing volume, linking the battles, economic issues, social life, culture, and politics, then this book will be a wonderful resource.

Where does the title of the book come from? A Civil War song, "The Battle Cry of Freedom," written in 1862. Illustrative lines:

"The Union forever, Hurrah boys Hurrah!
Down with the traitor and up with the star; While we rally round the flag boys,
rally once again, Shouting the battle cry of freedom."

McPherson addresses the purpose of this volume (Page ix): ". . .I have tried to integrate the political and military events of this era with important social and economic developments to form a seamless web synthesizing up-to-date scholarship with my own research and interpretations."

The book begins with background, the Mexican War, slavery, bleeding Kansas, and the election of 1860. We learn about the comparative economies in north and south as well as social and cultural and political issues. Then, as one chapter title says so well, "Amateurs go to war." Starting with untrained forces and many inept officers, the war began.

The difference between this and other histories can be noted in space devoted to battles. Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) is covered in two pages; Shiloh is addressed in 11 pages; 11 pages on Vicksburg; 13 pages are devoted to Gettysburg. But the context in which these battles (and others) were fought provides a deeper view of the Civil War. For instance, a table on page 608 suggests that it was a "poor man's fight," with laborers, farmers, making up the bulk of the Union forces. But McPherson notes that this ignores demographic realities and that, in fact, there was greater representativeness among the Union military than has often been noted.

All in all, an impressive work, integrating the many aspects of the Civil War in just one volume, with 862 pages of text.
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4

Jan 14, 2010

The times, they change so fast, and the Young People Today know nothing of drive-ins… of paper routes…of bizarrely racist street parades:

Indiana Democrats organized a parade which included young girls in white dresses carrying banners inscribed “Fathers, save us from nigger husbands!” (p. 159)

A Democratic float in a New York parade carried life-size effigies of Horace Greeley and a “good looking nigger wench, whom he caressed with all the affection of a true Republican.” A banner proclaimed The times, they change so fast, and the Young People Today know nothing of drive-ins… of paper routes…of bizarrely racist street parades:

Indiana Democrats organized a parade which included young girls in white dresses carrying banners inscribed “Fathers, save us from nigger husbands!” (p. 159)

A Democratic float in a New York parade carried life-size effigies of Horace Greeley and a “good looking nigger wench, whom he caressed with all the affection of a true Republican.” A banner proclaimed that “free love and free niggers will certainly elect Old Abe.” (p.224)

And of course Frederick Douglass’ fame recommended him to white imagination as a spectre of Black Sexual Menace. Here’s Stephen Douglas doing his best, in the 1858 Illinois Senate race, to smear Lincoln as the candidate of most-dread “amalgamation”:

Why, in Freeport Douglas saw a handsome carriage drive up to a Lincoln meeting. “A beautiful young lady was sitting on the box seat, whilst Frederick Douglass and her mother reclined inside, and the owner of the carriage acted as driver. If you, Black Republicans, think that the negro ought to be on a social equality with your wives and daughters, whilst you drive the team, you have a perfect right to do so. Those of you who believe that the negro is your equal…of course will vote for Mr. Lincoln.(‘Down with the negro,’ no, no, &c.)” (p. 185)

He hath lept into my seat! (The stenographer’s parenthetical capture of crowd comments is priceless.) Have you seen pictures of the young Frederick Douglass? Hot. Smoldering. Dark, needless to say. Brooding over a Tortured, ahem, Past. Daguerreotype pin-up. He’d have been an ideal heartthrob-villain of the smutty pulp Democrats used to terrify-titillate white voters back then. McPherson cracked me up with this description of the literature they distributed during the 1864 presidential campaign:

Numerous cartoons showed thick-lipped, grinning, coarse black men kissing apple-cheeked girls “with snow-white bosoms” or dancing with them at the “Miscegenation Ball” to follow Lincoln’s re-election. The “Benediction” of a leaflet entitled “Black Republican Prayer” invoked “the blessings of Emancipation throughout our unhappy land” so that “illustrious, sweet-scented Sambo may nestle in the bosom of every Abolition woman, that she may be quickened by the pure blood of the majestic African.” (p. 789)

~

Most dramatic for me were the 300 pages before war even broke out. Is there anything more compelling than the death of an old regime? The gradual polarization of opinion…the slow gathering of anti-slavery (or at least anti-slaveholder) sentiment…the revolutionary emergence of the Republicans and the election of Lincoln in 1860…the south’s counter-revolutionary breakaway…a war to restore the Old Union becoming a war to destroy the Old South. And the military-industrial Titanism of the wartime North, and the Congress endorsing “the blueprint for modern America” by passing the Homestead Act, centralizing the nation’s banking system, and voting funds for the transcontinental railway and land-grant colleges, measures that had been successfully opposed by southern representatives while they remained in the Union. McPherson’s subtitle, The Civil War Era heralded this reader’s re-orientation: more than a neatly bounded conflict, the Civil War is a political process of decades, a revolutionary watershed. America 1846-1865 compares to France 1789-1804 or Russia 1914-1923.

I was surprised by the amount of violence that took place before war actually started. I knew about Bleeding Kansas, proslavery bushwhackers vs. antislavery Jayhawks, and John Brown and his broadsword-armed sons kidnapping proslavery men in the dead of night and then hacking them to pieces all Charles Taylor-style. But I knew nothing about the southern adventurers, would-be John C. Frémonts, who in the 1850s set out to conquer a Caribbean empire for slavery. At the head of small private armies—“hirelings picked from the drunken spew and vomit of an uneasy civilization,” said Charles Sumner—and with the tacit support of factions of the Federal government, these gringo conquistadors launched from New Orleans to go filibustering about the gulf (from the Spanish filibustero, freebooter; almost needless to mention their later, senatorial mastery of the art). Cuba was invaded, twice; also Nicaragua and Baja California. These ruffian forays came to naught. Cuban garrotters and Nicaraguan firing squads stayed busy. And Cuba wouldn’t be taken under American “protection” until 1898, when the Federal government dispatched its fleet and its army (those ranks filled with jobless men from the still-devastated south). In mid-nineteenth century America, Joe Average North dreamt of a homestead in the bountiful West, in the honey-glazed Bierstadt landscape, once the Indians were exterminated. Joe Average South dreamt of the annexation of Cuba. The island’s 400,000 slaves seemed to promise that every poor white man “would get some niggers too.” Aw, like a chicken in every pot!

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5

Oct 31, 2015

"The terms of...peace and the dimensions of black freedom would occupy the country for a decade or more. Meanwhile the process of chronicling the war and reckoning [with] its consequences began immediately [after it ended] and has never ceased. More than 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in four years of conflict-360,000 Yankees and at least 260,000 rebels. The number of southern civilians who died as a direct or indirect result of the war cannot be known; what can be said is that the Civil "The terms of...peace and the dimensions of black freedom would occupy the country for a decade or more. Meanwhile the process of chronicling the war and reckoning [with] its consequences began immediately [after it ended] and has never ceased. More than 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in four years of conflict-360,000 Yankees and at least 260,000 rebels. The number of southern civilians who died as a direct or indirect result of the war cannot be known; what can be said is that the Civil War's cost in American lives was as great as in all of the nation's other wars combined through Vietnam. Was the liberation of four million slaves and the preservation of the Union worth the cost? That question too will probably never cease to be debated--but in 1865 few Black people and not many northerners doubted the answer."

This is year 3 of United Nations International Decade for People of African Descent

Oh hey, look what I found: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/w...

If ever there was a one volume history as comprehensive on anything--this is it! I feel this to be a truly monumental achievement for me to complete this book. As good as Ken Burns' documentary on the war was, this is easily more comprehensive a history. It is amazing to believe that this volume was made to serve as an introduction to the American Civil War, but that's what this is. If you are trying to understand why United States of America is the way it is right now you must know the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Much of the turbulence in the current American government can be traced back to a plurality of people in the United States still trying to grapple with the events of the 19th century. It took this book 200 pages to thoroughly explain what the Civil War was fought over, then the action begins.

James M. McPherson is THE preeminent historian on the American Civil War. He came of age, professionally, during the American Civil Rights Movement (which ironically coincided with the centenary of the Civil War). He and his colleagues were inspired by then-current events to re-evaluate all of the histories concerning the Civil War written since it ended and their scholarship has overturned much of the poison of the Dunning School/Lost Cause mythology (at least in the academies. I can say with disappointment that in the heart of many white southerners--even of my generation--the lie remains strong). I cannot wait to read his other books in the future.


This is the second book in a trilogy that I have given myself to read on America in the 19th century. The first book I read last year was The Half Has Never Been Told: Slavery and the Making of American Capitalism and the book that will conclude this particular project of mine is Black Reconstruction in America 1860-1880. For now though, I will make like Grant after Appomattox and meditate quietly on events. ...more
1

October 29, 2017

Fine they were a literate and vocal minority and by ...
This book was hugely disappointing. It is more about the author's attempt to revise history to fit his particular views than about actual history. In other words fiction placed placed in a historical setting.

As far as I could determine the majority of his sources were abolitionists. Fine they were a literate and vocal minority and by a minority I mean they represented less than eight tenths of a percent, (0.008) of the population of the United States at that time. So to rely on such a small segment of the population is hardly in keeping with any semblance of historical veracity.

So what we have here is a modern day abolitionist wannabe parroting the biased view points of his predecessors rather than a valid work of historical value. The times he quotes southern politicians he fails to emphasize that they represented only 25% of the population of the south (the Southern elites were as educated as they were short sighted and biased), He totally ignores the views of those that actually had to fight the war. They were largely illiterate farmers that were often
conscripts, drafted to fight as cannon fodder. That they should resent slaves is no surprise as they were forced to fight for the plantation owners, but they had no interests in owning or keeping slaves. They fought rather than be imprisoned or worse. Those poor whites that volunteered do so to protect their homes and families from the Northern Aggressors, basically the same reasons soldiers have fought for throughout history,

This Author also ignored why the South chose that time to rebel against the Union, They actually had no need to. Slavery was Constitutionally protected and the North could not amend the Constitution to erase it. Quite the opposite in fact. There was a Constitutional amendment in
process at the time that Lincoln stronglyendorsed, the Corwin Amendment, to make the Constitution proof against any changes to change the status of slavery. Yet the Southern states chose that time to withdraw from the Union. This is a topic that revisionists never try and answer because it refutes the contention that the war was all about
freeing the slaves.
1

October 19, 2016

Not completely factual. Great historical pictures.
Poorly written non-factual information. Chapter 1: Civil War started over slavery. Not factual: Started over a Tariff Tax.
New York, Maryland and some others wanted to join the South over this 40% Tariff Tax which would hurt them but they were to far isolated to join the South. This book has some facts but appears to be one sided.
2

August 21, 2008

Kindle Edition has problems
This review is purely as to the flaws of the Kindle transfer -- the book itself is a masterpiece I've reread with pleasure on paper over the years. Unfortunately the transfer is a rough scanned-PDF type that is MUCH harder to read than other Kindle books. Caveat Emptor.
5

Mar 08, 2017

As I have gotten older I have definitely become more interested in reading about history, especially books about the Civil War. My reading tastes have evolved from someone who only used to read Fantasy to someone who now reads a lot of non-fiction. Battle Cry of Freedom has been touted as the best SINGLE volume account of the Civil War. I have read Shelby Foote's magnum three-book, 3,500 page opus, found that to be an amazing experience and one that kept me engrossed for over a year. So I picked As I have gotten older I have definitely become more interested in reading about history, especially books about the Civil War. My reading tastes have evolved from someone who only used to read Fantasy to someone who now reads a lot of non-fiction. Battle Cry of Freedom has been touted as the best SINGLE volume account of the Civil War. I have read Shelby Foote's magnum three-book, 3,500 page opus, found that to be an amazing experience and one that kept me engrossed for over a year. So I picked up McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom with similar expectations. I was not disappointed. I still like Foote's trilogy better, but I agree wholeheartedly that for a single volume account, this one is pretty comprehensive and well-written. Where the two differ is that Foote's trilogy focuses much more on the actual battle tactics, formations, troop movements, etc.... Battle Cry of Freedom delves more into the economic and political backdrop of the time. That's not to say that there aren't vivid descriptions of battles, because there are. But McPherson seemed to be more concerned with setting up the events that led to the war rather than jumping right in the way Foote did. So if you are looking for a wonderful account of the Civil War, and you are intimidated by reading a 3,500 page narrative, then McPherson's book is probably the way to go. You won't lose much because McPherson is a skilled writer who knows his subject well. You'll definitely get all of the necessary detail and the battles that you need to walk away feeling satisfied. ...more
2

December 6, 2009

Historians should avoid exposing personal bias
Many will debate the quality of writing, turning history into a readable and understandable subject to non-professional scholars. The very basic rule of any professional historian/writer should be free of any bias. Those of us who read these books are seeking knowledge. We are tired of mediocre media that lights from one subject to another. I would suggest that the author's bias towards the South is so evident that it eclipses all arguments regarding the War that is still debated today. As a Northerner who was educated in the North and never had any doubts that the North was victorious and correct was probably determined by teachers and history texts.

Then I moved to the South. I began reading History writen by Southern Historians from Southern Presses and Universities. In addition, I have lived in the Shenandoah Valley, which due to the religious beliefs of the most of the citizens did not have slaves, nor do their decendants have the bias towards blacks that are so endemic in the large Northern City in which I became an adult.

One of the books I have read compared two cities located in the Shenadoah Valley with one city located south of the Mason-Dixon line, and one north. What happened in these two small cities happened AFTER the victory of the North.

In addition to the tremendous loss of live and property, the end of slavery did not create a better life for the former slaves. Since moving to the South, I have observed the bias towards blacks as that in the North. Despite the fact that we now have a Black President, my unprofessional judgement is that the bias towards blacks in the North is equal to any in the South, and is tainted with hypocracy that began after the Northern victory and claims of moral superiority. My conclusion to McPherson's book is a that Northern Scholars are still fighting Our Civil War as an moral and superior victory of one region over another.

Scholars by definition of their calling, should avoid using descriptions that are more editorial than simply reporting the facts. For example Chief Justice Taney who wrote the majority opinion of the Dread Scott Case exhoriates him. He writes that Taney was influenced by Buchanon and other Southeners. However he omits the influence of the other side on this issue. At the time the Dred Scott decision was made, Scott's case was delberately brought into the courts and more importantly paid by the anti-slave movement. McPherson could have reported these facts, supported by documentation available to him, rather than rely on alledged connections between President Buchanon, which I do not believe are documented other than editorial opinions in anti-slave papers and pulpits.

McPherson describes John Brown as a "misguided" zealot but goes on to consecrate him. He states the South misinterpreted Brown's actions. He does not mention that Brown's action was also misintrepeted in the North by separating the action with their belief that the blow was struck against the evil of slavery. One wonders why McPherson does not mention what nearly everyone would agree. Good intentions do not excuse actions against individuals or society that are reprehensible.

If the North was morally correct in fighting this war, and John Brown became, and remains an icon in most of the North; which side was on the morally correct side.

No war in history has had the complete support of its populations. Certainly children and women of that age did not have a vote or interest in the arguments of the time. Despite horrors commited by both sides, the rape of the Shenandoah Valley and Sherman's march to the Sea from Atlanta eclipsed any horror commited by the south.

The war was fought primarily in the South that did not intend to invade the North The south claimed it had a constitutional right to leave the Union. McPherson, like most books and persons I know seem to gloss over the the main contention with getting all the States to agree to signing, was the issue of the right for any state to leave. Mass. was the first state to consider leaving the Union when Jefferson was elected President.

Speaking of Jefferson, McPherson continues to canonize him. Although a great writer, Jefferson basically was a great politician, with all that implies. Furthermore the man who wrote so eloquently of the rights of man maintained his slaves to the end of his life. A fact. And their is not record that he considered women entitled to the rights of white, landed men. Although McPherson exhoriates the "greed" of those who wanted the southwest. The purchase of land "belonging" to the Dicator Napolean with money the the new Federal government did not have nor approve. Nor did the sale consider the rights of Native Americans. The Purchase was perhaps the greatest sucess of any President then and now.

As someone who lives one county from West Virgina, I have become aware that the state is a black and white example of the North ignoring the Consition which specifically states that none of the original states were to be subdivided. If the dictates of war required such drastic action, one can ask why the Western Counties of Virgina were not returned after the War.
1

January 17, 2019

More revisionist history
Like most Americans learning about the Civil War, this book has been touted as the definitive book on the era. Unfortunately, once one begins to read, it becomes very apparent that the writer has been a devout follower of the Cult of Lincoln for years. His brushing off of the tyrannical behavior of Lincoln, his refusal to even acknowledge that any other issue could have led to the war is unfortunate. Never are wars started due to a simple issue, and the American War between the States is the same thing. He promotes the ideas of a powerful central government, central banking, protective tariffs and corporate welfare as if they are known benefits to society, instead of the very issues that divided the nation for decades and eventually led to the Civil War. Unfortunately, unless one looks beyond the approved history pushed by academia and the State, one will only see the War between the States as a war between the righteous north and the barbaric south. If your looking for a book that further romanticizes Lincoln and his tyrannical behavior, look nor further.
2

March 8, 2016

Not what I expected
It is amazing how people can come up with 2 completely different interpretations of the exact same events. I have read books that were biased towards Confederate interests, which paint a completely different story than a book like this, which is heavily biased towards the Union's interests.
For example: this book paints the south as a bunch of slavery-obsessed, evil, bullies who use sucession as a tool to scare the innocent north into accepting their evil agendas. While other books claim that the north was using their political power to manipulate laws to favor the north ( ie Missouri Compromise), and keep southern states powerless.
So who is right? Damned if i know. Damned if anyone really knows.

I did like how this book emphasizes the significance of slavery in that era, which books biased toward the confederacy gloss over ( for pretty obvious reasons). The nation was literally divided by the issue of slavery. All political actions were driven by the issue of slavery. It makes the so-called division in the country today seem pretty insignificant.
I also do not like the fact that a lot of McPherson's sources are newspaper headlines from the civil war era. I understand that there arent a lot of sources to get info from the civil war era, but im sure the media back then, was just about as reliable as the media today. So i really don't consider a lot of his sources as being credible.
So if you are looking for a biased book that trumps up Lincoln to be the american hero that your teachers told you he was, read this book. If you are looking for an unbiased account of civil war history, you will have to look elsewhere.
1

September 27, 2016

Fact Check Your Work
I was very disappointed that McPherson went with the oft repeated stories told by Sheridan about the Battle of Five Forks and the Fifth Corps action. Had he gone back to the Warren Court or the Official Records he would have seen his errors. Sloppy work for such a major piece. Defiantly ruined it for me.
5

December 31, 2017

A classic
Being an immigrant, I was not brought up on US history nor the civil war. I found this book utterly fascinating and would consider it essential reading for every immigrant. It is a very well written and detailed account of the era.
1

February 26, 2019

The Winner Writes the History
As with all wars in world history, the same is such with the War Between the States. The winner writes the history of the conflict in order to paint itself in the position of righteousness. This book is largely more regurgitation of that same old modern revisionist history that "The North was good. The South was bad. The whole war was all and only about slavery." Re-read the sentence in quotations and save yourself the cost of this book. If you want to hear “the rest of the story” about the greatest, most tragic period in American history, visit the Abbeville Institute online and check out the Society of Independent Southern Historians. Here you may begin your study of accurate American history with regards to this conflict.
1

March 5, 2014

Princeton polemics
Princeton polemics. Easy to see why Ken Burns wanted him in his docu-drama. Look, there are 80,000 volumes on the American Civil War. I have personally read abt 3000. You can do better than this.
2

Jan 16, 2013

This work is certainly very extensively researched and annotated and abounds in comments from contemporaries-quotations, extracts from diaries etc. This is so much the case that it is arguable that McPherson did not so much write a historical account as piece together as produce a series of quotations from eye-witnesses and those who lived through events and has interspersed them with a linking narrative and his own biased comments. The book is rather like a printed version of popular tv This work is certainly very extensively researched and annotated and abounds in comments from contemporaries-quotations, extracts from diaries etc. This is so much the case that it is arguable that McPherson did not so much write a historical account as piece together as produce a series of quotations from eye-witnesses and those who lived through events and has interspersed them with a linking narrative and his own biased comments. The book is rather like a printed version of popular tv histories where dramatic footage is interspersed with aging eye witnesses making their truncated and edited comments on past events. In other words this is a documentary rather than a history and it has the surreptitious bias of a modern newspaper. Interestingly, the back cover of the penguin edition gives visible support to this by producing in the popular type of the US at that time (Galliard?) for the name of the publications 6 promotional puffs. The worst thing about the kind of bias in a book like this is that it is very difficult for a layperson to argue, since it is not a question of untruths or errors but of truths not mentioned or facts ignored, and McPherson is too good at his job to leave anything out which is well known. Many are also likely to think that this is a fair account since the writer takes pains to give it the superficial appearance of being so. There is no officious sabre rattling or trumpet blowing about this book. It appears to be sweetly reasonable while relentlessly pursuing a pro-Northern line from beginning to end.
Nearly every famous quotations and many obscure ones from the war can be found in the pages of this book. As a mine of quotations it is certainly second to none. The only exception that comes to mind is the remark made by one Southerner on hearing of Lincoln’s condemnation of rebellion and disloyalty-“if rebellion is always wrong, then God save the King!”. Stonewall Jackson referred to the South’s attempt at independence “the Second War of Independence”, an aspect of the struggle which McPherson does not address with any seriousness. The issue is by no means dead. In recent years the state of Vermont has begun to mutter about secession from the Union. At the Vermont Independence Convention held on October 28th 2005 in the state capital, Thomas Naylor declared that “South Carolina and the Confederate states had a perfect right to secede”.

I was not surprised after 550 pages of pro-yankee journalism to find McPherson belittling a notorious statement of Northern malice. This is the infamous invitation to the rape of women in the occupied South made by the commander of Union forces in occupied New Orleans. It is termed euphemistically by Mc Pherson as “an incident” and “Butler’s women’s order”. : The writer notes that it “intensified British upper-class alienation from the North” (Is McPherson suggesting that the British middle classes of the time more sympathetic to a bit of rough treatment of snooty belles?) Butler’s statement ran as follows: : “any woman who persisted in the practice of insulting Northern soldiers shall be regarded and held liable to be treated as a woman of the town plying her trade” Even today, with two world wars and countless horrors between then and now, this order sounds appalling and is appalling. It is also historically significant since it breaks the very codex which Gibbon in Decline and Fall had so proudly noted a hundred years before as the hallmark of civilized behaviour-soldiers in the eighteenth century refraining from attacking or molesting civilians. But McPherson who is always more understanding of Northern outrages than Southern ones-finds what he calls “considerable provocation” for Butler’s declaration. What can this “considerable provocation” be? Something pretty drastic to justify an invitation to rape one would think. Nothing less than murder and terrorism surely? Not exactly. Southern provocation was “climaxed by a woman who dumped the contents of a chamber-pot from a French-Quarter balcony on Fleet Captain Farragut’s head.” This would be hilarious if the writer were not so serious in believing this largely excuses Butler’s order. McPherson does not tell us how many women were raped as a result of the green light given by their commander. I am sure that if the history had been in reverse the reader would have received a very different account.. Apart form the relentless bias of the book, it is poorly served by the publishers: the photographs are cramped and mostly anyone’s second choice, more seriously, the maps of the battlefields are so poorly printed as to be almost unuseable. Maybe that suits McPherson’s belief that battles are not half so important as they are made out to be by most historians. Like Tolstoy in War in Peace he sees them and portrays them as a lot of sound and fury and confusion-decisive battles do not take place in this account. Gettysburg is presented as just one more bloody conflict rather than the decisive battle is its traditionally presented as being. Far more important for McPherson is the calibre of generals-this seems to him to be all important, not that he is over-enthusiastic about Southern generalship. It is not brilliance on the part of Lee but timidity, incompetence and rivalry among Northern generals which is here offered as the major clue to the slow progress of the Northern war effort. As for Lincoln, needless to say he, he is the hero of the story, as infallible as the Pope. If McPherson ever criticises Lincoln, I missed it.
This may be, as some claim, the best book on the subject. If that is true I am sorry to hear it. ...more
5

Mar 27, 2012

Widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of the Civil War around, this is another entry in the Oxford History of the United States, which I am enjoying immensely. The preface had an interesting observation: though this book covers the shortest span of all the books in the series (albeit with some significant overlap), it's one of the longest books in the series. The Civil War is the most-written about period in American history simply because there's so much history in it, as it did Widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of the Civil War around, this is another entry in the Oxford History of the United States, which I am enjoying immensely. The preface had an interesting observation: though this book covers the shortest span of all the books in the series (albeit with some significant overlap), it's one of the longest books in the series. The Civil War is the most-written about period in American history simply because there's so much history in it, as it did more to turn a bunch of squabbling states into the United States than anything since 1789. McPherson doesn't even get to recounting the actual war until over a third of the way into the book as the country splits and splinters and tries and fails to resolve a vast number of contradictory pressures and choices about its future, and the Federalists' nightmares about factions turned into reality: Northerners vs. Southerns, those who wanted to settle the West vs. those who wanted to preserve the existing balance of the states, wets vs. dries, immigrants vs. nativists, Catholics vs. Protestants, tariff supporters vs. free traders, developers favoring Hamiltonian projects vs. laissez faire adherents, plantation owners vs. industrialists, rural folk vs. urban dwellers, Democrats vs. Whigs, Democrats vs. Know-Nothings, Democrats vs. Republicans, war hawks vs. doves, but most of all, slavery supporters vs. abolitionists.

It's a truism that in elementary school you learn that the Civil War was about slavery, in high school you learn that it was about states' rights, and that in college you learn that actually it was still really about slavery. McPherson completely demolishes the idea that it could have possibly been about anything other than the South's "peculiar institution" - slavery was the bedrock of the South's economy, the keystone of its social structure, and the altar on which they convinced themselves that they were the highest, most advanced civilization on Earth. McPherson somehow works that discussion smoothly into the book among a million other things, from advanced demographic analysis (like his eye-opening mythbusting of the "rich man's war, poor man's fight" canard), to the background political scheming that Lincoln had to overcome, to the shockingly large tolls that disease and poor sanitation took on each army, to the massive economic chasm opening between the modernizing North and the magnolia-tinged South, and most especially, to the battles. You can't really be interested in this greatest of all American wars if you're not fascinated by the senseless, bloody, magnificent meetings between two of the mightiest armies of the 19th century, and McPherson seemingly covers every cavalry raid and clash of picket lines. It's an impressive feat, well-worthy of its 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and though it's rare to describe a book as being the last word on a subject, surely even rarer is the reader who finishes this masterwork unsatisfied. ...more

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