General John A. Wickham, commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in the 1970s and subsequently Army Chief of Staff, once visited Antietam battlefield. Gazing at Bloody Lane where, in 1862, several Union assaults were brutally repulsed before they finally broke through, he marveled, "You couldn't get American soldiers today to make an attack like that." Why did those men risk certain death, over and over again, through countless bloody battles and four long, awful years ? Why did the conventional wisdom -- that soldiers become increasingly cynical and disillusioned as war progresses -- not hold true in the Civil War? It is to this question--why did they fight--that James McPherson, America's preeminent Civil War historian, now turns his attention. He shows that, contrary to what many scholars believe, the soldiers of the Civil War remained powerfully convinced of the ideals for which they fought throughout the conflict. Motivated by duty and honor, and often by religious faith, these men wrote frequently of their firm belief in the cause for which they fought: the principles of liberty, freedom, justice, and patriotism. Soldiers on both sides harkened back to the Founding Fathers, and the ideals of the American Revolution. They fought to defend their country, either the Union--"the best Government ever made"--or the Confederate states, where their very homes and families were under siege. And they fought to defend their honor and manhood. "I should not lik to go home with the name of a couhard," one Massachusetts private wrote, and another private from Ohio said, "My wife would sooner hear of my death than my disgrace." Even after three years of bloody battles, more than half of the Union soldiers reenlisted voluntarily. "While duty calls me here and my country demands my services I should be willing to make the sacrifice," one man wrote to his protesting parents. And another soldier said simply, "I still love my country." McPherson draws on more than 25,000 letters and nearly 250 private diaries from men on both sides. Civil War soldiers were among the most literate soldiers in history, and most of them wrote home frequently, as it was the only way for them to keep in touch with homes that many of them had left for the first time in their lives. Significantly, their letters were also uncensored by military authorities, and are uniquely frank in their criticism and detailed in their reports of marches and battles, relations between officers and men, political debates, and morale. For Cause and Comrades lets these soldiers tell their own stories in their own words to create an account that is both deeply moving and far truer than most books on war. Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Civil War, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times, called "history writing of the highest order." For Cause and Comrades deserves similar accolades, as McPherson's masterful prose and the soldiers' own words combine to create both an important book on an often-overlooked aspect of our bloody Civil War, and a powerfully moving account of the men who fought it.
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More than 140 years ago, Mark Twain observed that the Civil War had "uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." In fact, five generations have passed, and Americans are still trying to measure the influence of the immense fratricidal conflict that nearly tore the nation apart. In The War that Forged a Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson considers why the Civil War remains so deeply embedded in our national psyche and identity. The drama and tragedy of the war, from its scope and size--an estimated death toll of 750,000, far more than the rest of the country's wars combined--to the nearly mythical individuals involved--Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson--help explain why the Civil War remains a topic of interest. But the legacy of the war extends far beyond historical interest or scholarly attention. Here, McPherson draws upon his work over the past fifty years to illuminate the war's continuing resonance across many dimensions of American life. Touching upon themes that include the war's causes and consequences; the naval war; slavery and its abolition; and Lincoln as commander in chief, McPherson ultimately proves the impossibility of understanding the issues of our own time unless we first understand their roots in the era of the Civil War. From racial inequality and conflict between the North and South to questions of state sovereignty or the role of government in social change--these issues, McPherson shows, are as salient and controversial today as they were in the 1860s. Thoughtful, provocative, and authoritative, The War that Forged a Nation looks anew at the reasons America's civil war has remained a subject of intense interest for the past century and a half, and affirms the enduring relevance of the conflict for America today.
For use in schools and libraries only. An analysis of the Civil War, drawing on letters and diaries by more than one thousand soldiers, gives voice to the personal reasons behind the war, offering insight into the ideology that shaped both sides.
In this classic study, Pulitzer Prize-winning author James M. McPherson deftly narrates the experience of blacks--former slaves and soldiers, preachers, visionaries, doctors, intellectuals, and common people--during the Civil War. Drawing on contemporary journalism, speeches, books, and letters, he presents an eclectic chronicle of their fears and hopes as well as their essential contributions to their own freedom. Through the words of these extraordinary participants, both Northern and Southern, McPherson captures African-American responses to emancipation, the shifting attitudes toward Lincoln and the life of black soldiers in the Union army. Above all, we are allowed to witness the dreams of a disenfranchised people eager to embrace the rights and the equality offered to them, finally, as citizens.
In Lincoln’s Mercenaries, renowned Civil War historian William Marvel considers whether poor northern men bore the highest burden of military service during the American Civil War. Examining data on median family wealth from the 1860 United States Census, Marvel reveals the economic conditions of the earliest volunteers from each northern state during the seven major recruitment and conscription periods of the war. The results consistently support the conclusion that the majority of these soldiers came from the poorer half of their respective states’ population, especially during the first year of fighting. Marvel further suggests that the largely forgotten economic depression of 1860 and 1861 contributed in part to the disproportionate participation in the war of men from chronically impoverished occupations. During this fiscal downturn, thousands lost their jobs, leaving them susceptible to the modest emoluments of military pay and community support for soldiers’ families. From newspaper accounts and individual contemporary testimony, he concludes that these early recruits—whom historians have generally regarded as the most patriotic of Lincoln’s soldiers—were motivated just as much by money as those who enlisted later for exorbitant bounties, and that those generous bounties were made necessary partly because war production and labor shortages improved economic conditions on the home front. A fascinating, comprehensive study, Lincoln’s Mercenaries illustrates how an array of social and economic factors drove poor northern men to rely on military wages to support themselves and their families during the war.
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.
Studies diverse topics on the writing of Civil War history No event has transformed the United States more fundamentally—or been studied more exhaustively—than the Civil War. In Writing the Civil War, fourteen distinguished historians present a wide-ranging examination of the vast effort to chronicle the conflict—an undertaking that began with the remembrances of Civil War veterans and has become an increasingly prolific field of scholarship. Covering topics from battlefield operations to the impact of race and gender, this volume is an informative guide through the labyrinth of Civil War literature. The contributors provide authoritative and interpretive evaluations of the study and explication of the struggle that has been called the American Iliad. The first four essays consider military history: Joseph Thomas Glatthaar writes on battlefield tactics, Gary W. Gallagher on Union strategy, Emory M. Thomas on Confederate strategy, and Reid Mitchell on soldiers. In essays that focus on political concerns, Mark E. Neely, Jr. links the military and political with his examination of presidential leadership, while Michael F. Holt surveys the study of Union politics, and George C. Rable examines the work on Confederate politics. Michael Les Benedict bridges political and societal concerns in his discussion of constitutional questions; Phillip Shaw Paludan and james L. roark confront the broad themes of economics and society in the North and South; and Drew Gilpin Faust and Peter Kolchin evaluate the importance of gender, slavery, and race relations. Writing the Civil War demonstrates the richness and diversity of Civil War scholarship and identifies topics yet to be explored. Noting a surprising dearth of scholarship in several area, the essays point to new directions in the quest to understand the complexities of the most momentous event in American history.
James McPherson has emerged as one of America's finest historians. Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Civil War, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times Book Review, called "history writing of the highest order." In that volume, McPherson gathered in the broad sweep of events, the political, social, and cultural forces at work during the Civil War era. Now, in Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, he offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on aspects of Lincoln and the war that have rarely been discussed in depth. McPherson again displays his keen insight and sterling prose as he examines several critical themes in American history. He looks closely at the President's role as Commander-in-Chief of the Union forces, showing how Lincoln forged a national military strategy for victory. He explores the importance of Lincoln's great rhetorical skills, uncovering how--through parables and figurative language--he was uniquely able to communicate both the purpose of the war and a new meaning of liberty to the people of the North. In another section, McPherson examines the Civil War as a Second American Revolution, describing how the Republican Congress elected in 1860 passed an astonishing blitz of new laws (rivaling the first hundred days of the New Deal), and how the war not only destroyed the social structure of the old South, but radically altered the balance of power in America, ending 70 years of Southern power in the national government. The Civil War was the single most transforming and defining experience in American history, and Abraham Lincoln remains the most important figure in the pantheon of our mythology. These graceful essays, written by one of America's leading historians, offer fresh and unusual perspectives on both.