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Customer Review

on April 15, 2003
James McPherson is considered by many to be the greatest Civil War historian in the US these days. His one-volume classic about the War, Battle Cry for Freedom, is the one most recommended to those who want the best book about the war. Therefore, it was with great interest that I read Drawn with the Sword.
McPherson does not disappoint with this book which is really a series of essays about various topics from the war. The essays range from Why the South Lost to Who Actually Freed the Slaves. Based mostly on previous articles and lectures, all the essays are excellent, and McPherson pulls no punches during his detailed analysis. For example, McPherson disputes the claim by some recent social historians that argue that the slaves freed themselves, and that Lincoln played a reluctant part in the process. McPherson clearly lays out the argument that Lincoln went to great lengths to ending slavery, and that without him it probably would not have happened.
McPherson also gives his educated opinion about Lee's performance as a general, and whether or not the South actually could have won the war. Two topics which I find fascinating because they are so disputed, even among professional historians. Speaking of historians, I particularly liked McPherson's final essay about the challenge that professional historians face when trying to bring history to the masses. He offers a fresh glimpse into this problem, and spells out the potential danger that historians face by making themselves irrelevant to the general public. To find out more, read the essay.
I highly recommend this book to anyone who is a student of the American Civil War, like myself. The essays will add to your knowledge, and broaden your perspective of the war. If you are new to this part of history, I recommend that you start instead with McPherson's Pulitzer Winning book about the war, Battle Cry of Freedom.
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