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What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War Paperback – March 11, 2008
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From Publishers Weekly
Starred Review. For this impressively researched Civil War social history, Georgetown assistant history professor Manning visited more than two dozen states to comb though archives and libraries for primary source material, mostly diaries and letters of men who fought on both sides in the Civil War, along with more than 100 regimental newspapers. The result is an engagingly written, convincingly argued social history with a point—that those who did the fighting in the Union and Confederate armies "plainly identified slavery as the root of the Civil War." Manning backs up her contention with hundreds of first-person testimonies written at the time, rather than often-unreliable after-the-fact memoirs. While most Civil War narratives lean heavily on officers, Easterners and men who fought in Virginia, Manning casts a much broader net. She includes immigrants, African-Americans and western fighters, in order, she says, "to approximate cross sections of the actual Union and Confederate ranks." Based on the author's dissertation, the book is free of academese and appeals to a general audience, though Manning's harsh condemnation of white Southerners' feelings about slavery and her unstinting praise of Union soldiers' "commitment to emancipation" take a step beyond scholarly objectivity. Photos. (Apr.)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Manning's subject--slavery as the prime cause of the Civil War--is hardly unusual, but what makes this study unique, provocative, and immensely valuable is her approach. She utilizes the letters, diaries, and regimental newspapers, all written during the war, to glean the attitudes, hopes, and even the fears of soldiers toward the institution of slavery and emancipation. Unlike many previous works on the subject, Manning ignores the writings of elites and emphasizes the opinions of common soldiers, North and South, white and black. Some of her conclusions are striking and likely to generate intense debate. Although acknowledging that many Union soldiers enlisted to preserve the Union rather than to fight slavery, she asserts that both slavery and emancipation were constant topics of discussion as early as 1861. She disputes that nonslaveholding Confederate soldiers (who were the overwhelming majority) fought primarily to defend hearth and home from Yankee invaders. Rather, she maintains that the defense of slavery was intimately tied to their sense of manhood, honor, and their place in the Southern social structures. A well-argued examination. Jay Freeman
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
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This brilliant, magnificently thorough book is an examination of the thoughts and attitudes of the enlisted soldiers of the Civil War, Union and Confederate, black and white, as represented in their letters, diaries, essays, newsletters, and other writings. Manning investigates their opinions on the causes and purposes of the war and slavery, which are one in the same. She brilliantly delves into how those opinions, thoughts, and attitudes were formed by the differing societies of the North and the South (particularly their religious beliefs, their societal demands, and class and gender roles), how this civil war would form a new definition of the United States.
The Civil War, in four horrific years, absolutely revolutionized thought and society in the United States. Our country fought it's most bloody, most horrific war, not only amongst itself, but due to racism. It is a shocking horror that racism can not only be that entrenched, but that motivating of a force. A force that can cause a Civil War between the ideals of equality and freedom and the personal desires for safety, success, and preservation of loved ones. This is a Civil War that rages in every person, in every society.
I have never read any Civil War (and, perhaps any historical nonfiction) book this engaging and fascinating. Every page is underlined and starred; the back cover is filled with notes. Everyone I know has gotten an ear-full of this book. Not only is this book everything that anyone interested in the Civil War could desire, with its brilliant and fascinating information and exploration of the psychology and sociology of the time (with its wonderful focus on the enlisted soldier), but it is something every American should read to understand how our society should work and how it once horrifically failed. Furthermore, it is a book that every human should read. Our country went through a Civil War that stands for the Civil War within every human being: that between the desires for the personal freedoms to provide for the self and family, and the desire to fight for greater ideals for a better society, the civil war between the personal and the societal. Grade: A++