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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Hardcover – February 25, 1988

ISBN-13: 978-0195038637 ISBN-10: 0195038630 Edition: 1st
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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era + What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 (The Oxford History of the United States, Vol. 5) + Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815 (Oxford History of the United States)
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Editorial Reviews 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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 904 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press; 1st edition (February 25, 1988)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195038630
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195038637
  • Product Dimensions: 9.5 x 2 x 6.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (526 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #29,389 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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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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#63 in Books > History
#63 in Books > History

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

506 of 520 people found the following review helpful By Ned K. Wynn on 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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183 of 194 people found the following review helpful By Chris Stokes ( on January 13, 1999
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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108 of 115 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on June 24, 1999
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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106 of 113 people found the following review helpful By M. Swinney on 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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