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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Paperback – December 11, 2003
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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 the Hardcover edition.
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 the Hardcover edition.
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Top customer reviews
We begin with the first ~200 pages leading up to the secession of the Confederate States, and here the author writes both clearly and broadly of what the USA was doing. It was changing a lot, at least in the North. The transportation revolution brought goods and places closer "together" than ever before, and the North was using this as well as it could. The South remained closer to the Jeffersonian agrarian ideal, although, obviously with slavery. McPherson does a good job of showing how this conflict simmered for a long time before boiling over into the conflict we recognize today as the deadliest war for Americans ever. The South lost nearly a quarter of its eligible (white men) soldiers, and we have lost more Americans in the Civil War than all other wars put together. McPherson paints a picture of the war as it evolved from save the Union to also embrace abolition of slavery. Lincoln stands out here as he changes his opinions due to the times and events he had to face.
McPherson does a great job of focusing both on the military, economic, and political tides, seamlessly integrating the story together in a way that makes you want to keep reading. The writing is great, and often includes a subtle understatement that nearly made me laugh out loud at times. (For example, he talks of a Union commander, who was also a professor, and says he must have learned to keep his cool from having to talk with students at college!)
If you only want to read one book about the Civil War, this is the book for you. It's long, but as short as possible without leaving out crucial context. While there is plenty of background to the Civil War, the book really just end after Abraham Lincoln is assassinated, with no substantive discussion of Reconstruction or just how much of an impact the assassination of Abraham Lincoln was. While this is fine since that is technically a story for after the Civil War, one wants to keep reading McPherson on the fascinating era of Reconstruction. Some may think that the book has a slight Northern tilt in bias, but I'd have to say both sides are treated as neutrally as one could expect. While McPherson makes clear that the South fought for slavery, he doesn't demonize them. In fact, I'd say he very carefully looks at what the South said and did and presents it very neutrally.
My one nitpick is that at the end McPherson claims that the Civil War changed us from saying "the United States are" to "the United States is", which is dubious. See LanguageLog, for example, to see that this is unproven at best.
Read the book if you want a very well written Civil War book. It's clear and detailed and broad all at the same time. That is a difficult thing to do in any endeavor, and in this topic it is even more impressive.
Every citizen of the United States should read this book in my opinion.