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Why They Fought: The Real Reason for the Civil War (Kindle Single) by [Von Drehle, David]
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Why They Fought: The Real Reason for the Civil War (Kindle Single) Kindle Edition

3.8 out of 5 stars 71 customer reviews

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Length: 26 pages Word Wise: Enabled Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

As students many of us were taught that the Civil War was not triggered by or fought over the central issue of slavery. However, David Von Drehle, TIME magazine’s editor-at-large, makes a compelling case that the conflict grew solely out of this issue. Von Drehle’s argument is informed by the speeches, news articles, and rhetoric leading up to the secession of southern states, which later took up arms to protect their right to own humans and to move that system of bondage west. What the North fought for was less clear--abolition on moral grounds (when the North itself was built using slave labor and had only decades before ended the practice?) or to prevent disunion, as any alternative may have proved more disastrous than a civil war. Von Drehle also tackles the question of how varying histories of the war’s cause (state’s rights, Northern imperialism) came to occupy our collective beliefs. Though deeply pragmatic, we’re a nation that takes many actions based on our moral principles, and the clear picture of history presented in this Kindle Single is a reminder of our missteps and values.  --Paul Diamond

Product Details

  • File Size: 142 KB
  • Print Length: 26 pages
  • Publisher: Time (April 8, 2011)
  • Publication Date: April 8, 2011
  • Sold by: Amazon Digital Services LLC
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003YL4KQ2
  • Text-to-Speech: Enabled
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  • Word Wise: Enabled
  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Enhanced Typesetting: Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #304,922 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Donald F. St Denis on April 18, 2011
Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I enjoyed this single. It's well written and researched, and the author mentioned a few titles that I didn't know about and would like to read.

I think this is an ambitious topic for a Kindle Single, because any attempt to briefly explain the causes for the civil war will inevitably leave a few loose ends. No fault of the author, it's just a lot to cover. Readers who are predisposed to disagree with his thesis will pounce on these dangling threads and pick away at his conclusions. Even objective readers may find themselves wondering about bits that don't seem to fit. For example, why were so many rebels willing to fight and die to preserve slavery, even though a great number owned neither plantations nor slaves? And why were so many Unionists willing to give their all to preserve union with a region that embraced slavery?

Historians have given us thoughtful, compelling answers to these kinds of questions, but it generally takes them a lot more than 26 pages to do it. Kindle Singles are described as, "Compelling ideas at their natural length." I'd agree that this topic is compelling, especially as we arrive at the 150-year anniversary of the start of military action in the civil war, but its "natural length" seems much longer.

So if you're trying to decide whether this single is for you, I'd suggest you might consider it an appetizer. If you've read a lot about the civil war, you'll enjoy this well-written synopsis of the run-up to the conflict and its aftermath. If this period of history is new to you, then you'll probably be amazed by this account and may want to follow it with other books about this turning point in US history.
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I grew up in California but have lived all over the country while serving in the military and have lived in the south now on and off for over 25 years, so I have been exposed to almost all views on the Civil War and I found a lot to agree with in this article. Though the real reasons for the Civil War haven't changed, it's nice once in a while to see them expressed in such a clear and concise way. Add that to a nice summary of how and why the real causes of the war were (and in many cases still are) glossed over makes this essay well worth reading. It's not very long of course but it still gets it's point across. As a history buff I found this ariticle well researched and very interesting.
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The book starts with an excellent brief survey of what people said about the causes of war before and during the war itself; the second half of the book is speculation about why people like to insist now that slavery was only an incidental issue. I doubt this slim volume will persuade anyone hanging onto the "Lost Cause," but it does concisely address the question of the cause of the Civil War, and provides plenty of suggestions for further, deeper reading.
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this is a fine article, concise and crisply written, grounded in excellent research. the insidious myth of the lost cause has given us as much grief as the war itself. today we face the same kind of conflict: between the comforting ideology that allows us to keep on doing what we're doing, however destructive, and the cold reality that requires us to change; so this essay is useful beyond its topic.
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I'm a big fan of McPherson, so I'm familiar with this line of argument. It's a welcome relief from revisionist history.

This isn't a scholarly book, and it's not meant to be. It's a brief survey of the topic. There are no footnotes, endnotes, or other such citations. What the author does is make a cogent argument that the Civil War was centered on the issue of slavery, and that the American education system and popular culture (although not academia) has gotten away from that basic truth.

In a longer work, the author might have addressed the multiple sources (e.g., newspapers, North and South, and the Congressional record) that back up his argument. Because this is only a brief survey, the author quotes other experts extensively.

If someone wants to get a really good look at the cause of the Civil War that is a longer version of this one, I would point them to McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom", which the author also references.
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Such a myth has grown up about the Civil War, especially its cause(s), it's good to have a look at the facts. Not only well researched but also well written, and unwavering in its logic. Conclusions - the unaddressed
dilemmas of our Founding Forefathers and lack of political will combined with greed and plain racism to make this ugly event necessary. But have we actually learned its lessons? Reading this will help you wrap your head around it all. Nobody is innocent here, and we each need our own piece of humble pie, but its root causes still remain to haunt us today. Sad truths about a lesson still unlearned.
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I read this article because I have had several discussion with people about the causes of the Civil War and have always been amazed by the number that still cling to the Lost Cause narrative. This is a belief that is common even with those that do not sympathize wtih the Confederacy. The author does a great job of condensing down the main resons for the cause of the war in a way that can be understood and is hard to dispute. I especially like the parts where he explained what the motivations of Union soldiers were and the fact that slavery in itself is antiethical to the fundamental beliefs of this country. While I am sure that the people that most need to read this article never will, I hope that it does make some people question assumptions that they currently hold and look at those ubiquiteous Confederate monuments in a slightly diffrent light.
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