- Series: Oxford History of the United States (Book 6)
- 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: 733 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #40,922 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era 1st Edition
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"Deftly coordinated, gracefully composed, charitably argued and suspensefully paid out, McPherson's book is just the compass of the tumultuous middle years of the 19th century it was intended to be, and as narrative history it is surpassing. Bright with details and fresh quotations, solid with carefully-arrived-at conclusions, it must surely be, of the 50,000 books written on the Civil War, the finest compression of that national paroxysm ever fitted between two covers."--Los Angeles Times Book Review
"Immediately takes its place as the best one-volume history of the coming of the American Civil War and the war itself. It is a superb narrative history, elegantly written."--Philadelphia Inquirer
"Matchless....The book's political and economic discussions are as engrossing as the descriptions of military campaigns and personalities."--Library Journal
"McPherson cements his reputation as one of the finest Civil War historians....Should become a standard general history of the Civil War period--it's one that will stand up for years to come."--Kirkus Reviews
"Robust, glittering history."--Booklist
"The best one-volume treatment of [the Civil War era] I have ever come across. It may actually be the best ever published....I was swept away, feeling as if I had never heard the saga before....Omitting nothing important, whether military, political, or economic, he yet manages to make everything he touches drive the narrative forward. This is historical writing of the highest order."--Hugh Brogan, New York Times Book Review
"The finest single volume on the war and its background."--The Washington Post Book World
"There is no finer one-volume history of the Civil War than Jim's book. I certainly will adopt it again when I teach my Honors course next time. The students found the book well organized and instructive in the way events were presented."--George Rolleston, Baldwin-Wallace College
About the Author
James M. McPherson is Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University. His books include The Struggle for Equality, Marching Toward Freedom, and Ordeal by Fire.
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Top customer reviews
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If you are just becoming interested in the Civil War or seeking to extend your knowledge, I cannot recommend this book highly enough. From novices to academics, this is the one book that must be on your shelf.
This book certainly turned me on to the era by capturing the political, military, economic, moral, emotional, and personal aspects of the time. McPherson shows a deft talent for weaving together a wide array of sources into a rich story. Every page was captivating, and I learned something new as I read every day. Few history books have had a similar effect on me.
Key to the narrative -- and it starts with the title -- is the centrality of slavery to the war's origins and to the South's secession. This topic has been debated and will continue to be, but McPherson's account should leave no doubt as to what was the main issue of the war. His use of newspaper editorials and speeches from Southerners attempting to justify slavery are particularly damning in this regard.
At the same time, it's interesting that the book title is based on a period song that had both Union and Confederate versions. I don't recall McPherson noting this, but the song and book title concisely sum up the counterposed viewpoints of both sides. Broadly put, both the North and the South believed that they were fighting for freedom from tyranny. This helps explain the passions of both sides, the perceived stakes involved, and the resulting violence and bloodletting.
I'd recommend this book highly whether you plan to read just one book on the war or are looking to start an longer journey. While McPherson attempts some clever turns of phrase that end up sounding awkward, these occasional faux pas shouldn't detract from his overall accomplishment. This book's reputation as the best one-volume account of the war is well deserved. He has set a high bar for Civil War historians, and for historians generally.
McPherson provides a detailed analysis of the war's causes and effects; the major characters involved in the conflict; and the major battles. McPherson takes a decidedly pro-Union position in the book, but remains objective in his historical interpretations. This is a "must read" for all who want to know more about America's bloodiest war. It's also my personal favorite in American history. Most highly recommended.
There are a few minor problems, for instance the book states that Grant was forced to leave the antebellum army because of drinking, which is not supported by the evidence (Grant had a drinking problem, but he was not "forced" to resign).
The book also states the often repeated myth that Lee "opposed" slavery, despite the fact that his home at Arlington had 63 slaves and he felt that slavery was the "proper" role for blacks.
Professor McPherson also gives James Longstreet too little credit for his war contributions and Stonewall Jackson too much (although he does do an excellent job of discussing Jackson's shortcomings, particularly during the Seven Days).
Despite these minor problems, the book is an excellent and very readable book for the professional as well as the non-professional historian.