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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA; First Edition edition (January 29, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0195313666
  • ISBN-13: 978-0195313666
  • Product Dimensions: 9.3 x 6.4 x 0.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (40 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #718,709 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Prolific and much-honored historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom, etc.) weighs in on the Civil War in this compilation of 16 essays, most of which have appeared in print before—seven of them in The New York Review of Books. Revised and edited for this collection, the essays read like chapters in a smooth narrative that addresses some of the biggest questions of the Civil War: why did it start? why did the South lose? what motivated the men who fought on both sides? how do we evaluate the top leaders—including Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses G. Grant? McPherson goes about answering these and other questions in his usual graceful style, underscored by a thorough grasp of myriad primary and secondary sources on virtually every aspect of the conflict. He forthrightly expresses his opinions while backing them up with well-reasoned arguments, whether challenging the "Lost Cause" argument about why the South lost, or supporting the proposition that it was slavery—and not states' rights—that was the main cause of the war. This strong addition to the massive Civil War canon will appeal to all readers. (Feb.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

James M. McPherson has written and edited nearly 30 books, including the Pulitzer Prize?winning Battle Cry of Freedom. Turf battles aren't uncommon in Civil War studies, and McPherson has a wide reputation as a thoughtful, fair, and readable historian whose insight brings fresh perspective to some often-scrutinized topics. Although McPherson intended some of the essays for an academic audience, each is accessible and worthwhile, and "displays an admirable transparency, showing the historian at work" (Baltimore Sun). All pieces have been updated and revised, and each bears the stamp of McPherson's keen intellect applied to topics that continue to generate discussion among Civil War historians and buffs.

Copyright © 2004 Phillips & Nelson Media, Inc.


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.

Customer Reviews

4.8 out of 5 stars
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I've read a number of McPherson's books on the civil war.
Thomas H Hogan
This book is pleasureable to read just for it's great writing style, besides the fascinating perspectives it brings to light.
mikey d.
A welcome addition to an already impressive body of work.
Michael P. Maslanka

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

52 of 55 people found the following review helpful By Peter G. Keen VINE VOICE on February 11, 2007
Format: Hardcover
McPherson is a highly respected authority on the Civil War. This book seems to me almost his signature wrap up on his distinguished career. It is a book of wisdom, as opposed to just intelligence. Many of the essays are old and appeared in various periodicals. That doesn't lose any of his continuity and coheremce of presentation.

What I most like about the book is his generosity of spirit. He gets inside so many of his subjects, especially Grant and Sherman. He brings the War down from abstract policy to the dilemmas of action and everyday engangement. I don't think I learnt anything new but I got new slants on some many issues.

It's worth reading the book for just the one superb chapter about the Brahmins -- aristocrats from New England, the Harvard brigade and the other Northen elites, who not only served in the War but served magnificently and courageously because they were part of a spirit of noblesse oblige. Guts, honor, bravery....... No comment on the Dick Cheney draft deferments and Jim Webb's honor, but........

A fine book. Truly fine.
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43 of 47 people found the following review helpful By Michael P. Maslanka on January 28, 2007
Format: Hardcover
This slim volume of essays packs a real punch. Each is a small gem---well written, thoughtful and civil(even when debunking competing views), and honest(he looks back and revises some views based on recent scholarship). Some of the topics: Grant was great because he had "common sense" a la Harry Truman; the war for the South was about keeping slavery not the later, more palatable view of "we fought for states rights"; many men died, often in attacks that all knew would end in death because the notions of honor and duty were powerful and very real motivations. A welcome addition to an already impressive body of work.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Lawrence Weber on February 23, 2007
Format: Hardcover
Dr. McPherson is the best Civil War historian we have in America, and his latest book This Mighty Scourge only solidifies his place as the best. The book is a series of essays and reflections on the Civil War, focusing on things like the Lost Cause Myth to Newspapers during the Civil War. McPherson's strength is his ability to write in a very simple and clear way. Anyone who is interested in the Civil War Era should pick this book up. It is a quick read that will enlighten even the most serious student of American History.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Desert Jack on February 21, 2007
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I though this book was very well written and interesting.

Having been raised and educated in the South I found the group of essays titled "The lost Cause Revisted" to be very interesting and illuminating. All of the old Confederate explanations and excuses for the war are examined and pretty much exposed for what they are; dumb reasons for ever thinking they could win a war against the North and misguided judgement of world view of slavery.

A very good book. I recommend it.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By Susan S. Paddock on April 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
I get lost in some history books but this was so well written and moved along so quickly that it was a total pleasure to read. I enjoyed his discussion of each controversy, and gained insight into this awful war.

I especially enjoyed the chapter on why the war was fought, and the chapter on the campaign by Sons of Confederate Veterans to re-write history. The Confederates fought bravely--no one can take that away from them--but isn't that enough to be honored forever? Why not accept "our cause was wrong, but we still have much to be proud of". That's how I think of my own beloved Confederate ancestors. True pride and honor can't be built on revisionist history. It's better if we realize our humaness and that every person and civilization is in error about something.

He takes on the glorification of Jesse James too...Excellent.
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16 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Steven A. Peterson TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on April 25, 2007
Format: Hardcover
The historian James McPherson is an accomplished author and a hard-eyed student of his subjects. This volume, containing a series of some works already previously published and some that had not yet appeared in print, leaves one asking for more. The issue? The "chapters" are quite brief, and the insights and wisdom of the author only cover so much territory. Chapters run to maybe 10-15 pages each, for the most part. And that can only give one a taste that leaves one desiring yet more.

At that, this is still an interesting volume. McPherson does not rant; he raises thoughtful points and encourages readers to think about the issues that he raises. Key questions that various segments of the book address (page ix): "Why did the war come? What were the war aims of each side? What strategies did they employ to achieve their aims? Did the war's outcome justify the immense sacrifice of life? What impact did the experience of war have on the people who lived through it? How did later generations remember and commemorate that experience?"

Let's consider a handful of the essays. Chapter 4: "Was the best defense a good offense?" explores the variety of views on the Confederacy's strategy. Should it be a defensive policy only, given the need for Union forces to occupy a vast territory? A Fabian strategy was advocated by some (such as Joe Johnston). Others, like Robert E. Lee, favored a more offensive strategy (perhaps best described, in terms of this chapter, as an "offensive defensive" strategy). This chapter examines the internal debate lucidly. Chapter 5 is intriguingly entitled "The Saratoga that Wasn't: The Impact of Antietam Abroad." The South wanted recognition by other countries, in order to receive active foreign support and nurture their revolution.
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