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The Union Divided: Party Conflict in the Civil War North Hardcover – April 22, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

How did the Constitution shape the Union's conduct in the Civil War, and how did electoral competition (and shifting public sentiment) in the northern states affect the rhetorical strategies and military calculations of both Union and Confederate leaders? Pulitzer Prize-winning Penn State historian Neely (The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties), asserting that the political history of the war years has been "sadly neglected" by scholars, addresses these questions and others in this engaging volume. Challenging the generally accepted view that the two-party system was "an unalloyed advantage the North held over the South," Neely clearly and deftly demonstrates that the system and all that came with it the waste associated with party patronage and the diatribes of the partisan press, for example did little to help the Union's cause and much to delay victory. He shows how election-year cycles affected Lincoln's military planning: maneuvering to avoid large numbers of casualties before crucial public votes, he did not always deploy his armies to best advantage. Neely also explores the way in which the concept of a "loyal opposition" was essentially abandoned during the war years, with Republicans routinely branding their Democratic opponents as (at best) unwitting Confederate fifth-columnists and (at worst) outright traitors. Though his book is designed to be "tentative and suggestive" in other words, to replace the accepted wisdom with thoughtful queries and to provoke debate Neely provides a bold and informed reappraisal of Northern party and factional discord and its impact on the conduct and outcome of the Civil War.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

From Library Journal

Historians of the American Civil War have long argued that the two-party political system functioning in the North during the war provided it with a powerful, if not decisive, advantage over the South, where such a system, serving to moderate opposition and direct it through acceptable channels, was absent. In the present work, Neely, McCabe-Greer Professor of the Civil War at Pennsylvania State University and the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties, questions this long-held assumption and argues that the system often stirred up rather than controlled conflict. This thought-provoking volume is structured chronologically, tracing the functioning of the system throughout the war and examining topics from the war-time elections to the political functions of newspapers of the day. Utilizing many primary sources, he also provides excellent historiographical context for the topic. Concise, well reasoned, and well written, it will excite much discussion and future scholarship and is recommended for all academic and public libraries. Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Harvard University Press; First Edition edition (April 22, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0674007425
  • ISBN-13: 978-0674007420
  • Product Dimensions: 8.5 x 5.8 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,233,680 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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0 of 2 people found the following review helpful By E. Jaksetic on August 9, 2011
Format: Paperback
In this book, the author challenges the view of some historians that the two-party system gave the North a significant advantage over the Confederate States during the Civil War. The author contends that the historical evidence does not support such a conclusion.

The author cautions against the danger of interpreting Civil War politics from the perspective of modern American politics and modern political science theory, and argues for the need to interpret Civil War politics in light of the social and political concepts and assumptions that were prevalent during the 1800s and the years leading up to the Civil War. In general, the author makes an interesting case in support of his main thesis that the two-party system in the North did not convey any particular advantage to the Union during the Civil War. The author also does a good job of showing some of the perils and pitfalls of highly partisan reporting and editorializing by various Northern newspapers during the Civil War.

While the author's analysis of the political aspects of the Union's war efforts is interesting and generally plausible, his comments on the military aspects of the Civil War are not as persuasive. Anyone interested in political aspects of the Civil War should consider reading this book. Anyone wanting to take an in-depth look at the Civil War should not rely solely on this book. However, if read together with pertinent military histories, this book could provide the reader with a useful and interesting perspective on the Civil War.
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