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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States) [Kindle Edition]

James M. McPherson
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (411 customer reviews)

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Book Description

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.


Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Published in 1988 to universal acclaim, this single-volume treatment of the Civil War quickly became recognized as the new standard in its field. James M. McPherson, who won the Pulitzer Prize for this book, impressively combines a brisk writing style with an admirable thoroughness. He covers the military aspects of the war in all of the necessary detail, and also provides a helpful framework describing the complex economic, political, and social forces behind the conflict. Perhaps more than any other book, this one belongs on the bookshelf of every Civil War buff.

From Publishers Weekly

Likely to become the standard one-volume history of our Civil War, this vivifies, with palpable immediacy, scholarly acumen and interpretive skill, events foreshadowing the conflict, the war itself and its basic issue: slavery. Photos.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • File Size: 14875 KB
  • Print Length: 946 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA (February 25, 1988)
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B002NXOQLQ
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
  • X-Ray:
  • Lending: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #18,719 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
464 of 478 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only read one book about the Civil War July 18, 2000
Format:Paperback
make it this one.
I read this book after having read two other books on the Battle of Gettysburg. I found that I wanted to know more about the circumstances surrounding that battle, the situation of the two armies, the generals, the politicians, and the state of the economies of the two sides engaged. But I was daunted by the plethora of information on the American Civil War. I had no desire to immerse myself in some three or four volume 2000-page work because, aside from believing myself unable to keep everything in perspective and not to get bogged down in minutiae, I reasoned that plain laziness and attention span problems would keep me from ever finishing anything like that. Plus I had to admit that it was the battles that interested me the most, and I despaired of having to read a separate book or two on each of the dozens of battles that are considered "major" during those four years.
Then I found this book: a single volume that encompasses the entire conflict from its military and political antecedents to the economic and sociological ingredients that forced the Union to enter into a war that would change forever the face of democracy. And this book did not give short shrift to the battles. To the contrary, the battles remain central and are accompanied by helpful maps.
I took a chance on this book and now that I have finished it I have to say that it is all that I could have hoped for.
Battle Cry of Freedom does what would appear to be the impossible: it includes virtually everything of consequence about the war and continues to hold the reader's interest. There are periods, especially when delving into some of the voting and politicking, the changes of party affiliations, voting data, etc., that get somewhat tedious.
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168 of 178 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback
As a British reader, McPherson's book was an introduction to Civil War history for the purposes of coursework, and I found it superb.
The initial three hundred pages provide a sweeping overview of the social and political pressures that led to war. There is then a hundred or so pages that vividly paints the attitudes of a nation faced with war, and finally the military narrative kicks in.
McPherson writes with exceptional poise, balancing the chronological and thematic threads of his work to near perfection. Events in the west, east and political spheres of the war are detailed with the intricate interconnections intact due to excellent arrangement. This narrative is well scattered with analysis and presentation of different viewpoints, as well as sections of broad thematic interest eg. POW camps. There are more than enough quotations, both from primary and secondary sources.
As for bias, I happened to think the bravery of the Southern soldiers, and the pride of the Southern people, came across well. Some reviewer's comments lead me to believe they had read a different book to me!
"nothern soldiers...had no love for slavery. They fought for the Union and against treason...whilst some Yanks treated contrabrands with a degree of equity...the more typical response was indifference, contempt or cruelty."
The reader is constantly reminded of the vein of racism of Northern society, ranging from the poorest immigrant fearing for his job, to the Democrat politicians who persisted in playing the 'race' card until the very end. The leftward shift of Lincoln is also noted.
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104 of 111 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The BEST single book on the Civil War era June 24, 1999
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
McPherson has done an extraordinary job of presenting the history of a complex time period, the Civil War era (including the events leading up to the war). While literally tens of thousands of books have been written on this subject, "Battle Cry of Freedom" is unsurpassed in its ability to clearly explain the best current understanding of what took place, in language that will captivate the reader, covering all aspects of the times in just the right amount of detail. The author strikes a careful balance, treating all sides in the conflict honestly and perceptively. The quality of the research that underlies this book is impeccable.
This would be the one single book I would recommend most strongly to anyone who wanted to learn about the events leading up to the war as well as the war itself. It is easily understandable by the novice, yet also quite worthy of reading even by one who is already an expert on the history of this period. If you could read only one book on American history, this should be it!
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96 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars You Too Can be a Buff September 14, 2002
Format:Paperback
This book is colossal, in size and scope, in depth and breadth, in text and tincture. James McPherson touches on all aspects of the Civil War all within 862 pages. I know what you maybe thinking to yourself..."This isn't a casual read," or maybe, "History can be pretty dry especially 862 pages worth." Ease your foreboding thoughts though; McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" keeps you engaged with interesting detail, personalities, and cause and effect without ever becoming bogged down. It's just good writing anyway you look at it.
Once upon a time I developed quite an appetite for all things Civil War. McPherson whetted that appetite in one book. To learn as much would have taken a small library. If you read this along with Michael Shaara's Killer Angels, you too will be well on your way to Civil War buff-dom-ship. Good read.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great writer
OK....if you want to read about the Civil War, there's Bruce Catton.....and then there's this guy. Of the two, I think I like McPherson's writing the best..... Read more
Published 6 days ago by Clark S
5.0 out of 5 stars Battle Cry
Required for college history in the Spring. My instructor chose book. I will reply when class is over the end of June.
Published 17 days ago by Cheryl E. Hahn
5.0 out of 5 stars Extraordinry!
The very best of the myriad accounts of this troubling time in our history. The War Between the States was the apex of the American story. It defines us to this day. Read more
Published 17 days ago by twimike
4.0 out of 5 stars Great overview of the war, marred by cliches
This book is a great overview of the war. It has the comprehensive analysis of the cause of the war. The author makes a totally convincing argument that it was slavery. Read more
Published 27 days ago by PeterB
5.0 out of 5 stars Best Civil War History.
This was by far the best Civil War history I have read (I've read a few!); therefore the five stars. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Harvey Hurtt
5.0 out of 5 stars One of my favorites!
I love this author and had purchased this in the kindle version but wanted a hardcover for my 'library'. I've read and re-read it several times and will probably read again. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
4.0 out of 5 stars Concise and Rational
When it first appeared many years ago, this book was hailed as perhaps the best medium-scale, one-volume account of the Civil War. Read more
Published 1 month ago by J. R. Trtek
1.0 out of 5 stars 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. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Historian
5.0 out of 5 stars McPherson does an excellent job with this work
This is the best one-volume effort on the Civil War and its era extant today. All buffs of the war, along with the uninitiated will find this work helpful in bringing... Read more
Published 1 month ago by Amazon Customer
5.0 out of 5 stars Battle Cry of Freedom
I found this book in our library. Since a person can't check out a book forever, I decided to find a "gently used" edition. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Joan A. Frederich
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More About the Author


James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He has published numerous volumes on the Civil War, including the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom, Crossroads of Freedom (which was a New York Times bestseller), Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, which won the Lincoln Prize.

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