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This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War (2007)

by James M. McPherson

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The book is a series of essays on subjects about the American civil war. Several of them are about people, including Lincoln, John Brown, Jeff Davis and Jessie James. Those were the most interesting. Some of the political discussions were down right boring. The author did provide some new insights and I generally enjoyed the book. ( )
  buffalogr | Mar 7, 2014 |
This Mighty Scourge is a collection of essays by the Civil War historian James McPherson. Probably most well known for his book Battle Cry of Freedom, this collection contains both previously published articles as well as some new essays.

The collection covers a vast array of topics, broken into sections by theme, which makes it easier to pick and chose what might interest the reader. These sections include military history, Lincoln, and the home front. I especially enjoyed the section on the Lost Cause. The essay which discusses efforts by southern war organizations to influence southern history textbooks after the war is especially fascinating.

McPherson is an easy historian to read, as many of his writings are written in a more narrative tone, though a few readers might find some of the essays a bit dry due to their more academic prose (as some were originally published in traditional journals). While not as easy to get into as a few of his other titles, This Mighty Scourge is a good introduction to some readers who might be interested in something beyond a basic history of the Civil War. ( )
1 vote greeneyed_ives | Apr 26, 2013 |
With over 600,000 Americans killed in this terrible war, the question, as it is with most wars, remains...Why ? These short essays provide some answers to these questions. An excellent book. ( )
  carterchristian1 | Oct 1, 2010 |
With 'This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War' James McPherson demonstrates once again why he is America's foremost Civil War historian. McPherson serves up sixteen essays for your delectation (most of which have been previously published elsewhere).

McPherson arranges his essays around several themes: What caused the war? What were the goals of each side? What strategies did the leaders pursue? And how is the war remembered?

McPherson's genius lies in his ability to synthesize perspectives of value to any reader, but especially the general reader with some knowledge of the war. Many of the essays analyze recent scholarship with McPherson's encyclopedic knowledge and understanding gained from years of study. This reader especially appreciates McPherson's even-handed dispassionate scholarship in a still field laced with emotional landmines despite the passage of nearly 150 years.

Despite all that has been written, McPherson remains remarkably able to bring fresh insight. One essay ('Long-Legged Yankee Lies: The Lost Cause Textbook Crusade') examines the extraordinary efforts by Confederate loyalists to distort the war's history and its teaching, especially in Southern schools. No doubt that gets the goat of the SCV (Sons of Confederate Veterans) and the UDC (United Daughters of the Confederacy), but they don't like him anyway.

An earlier essay ('And the War Came') establishes beyond cavil that the institution of slavery and the interests behind it were the cause of the war. In other essays McPherson examines the relative merits of Grant, Lee, and Sherman and whether the South was foreordained to lose the war due to the imbalance of resources.

I am not a Civil War historian, but I can't imagine that even the most learned professor would not benefit from McPherson's wonderfully distilled insights. I've read a number of McPherson's other works and rank this book at the top. McPherson's sparkling prose and easy clarity made reading 'This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War' a rare pleasure. ( )
1 vote dougwood57 | Aug 24, 2007 |
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To the next two generations:

Jenny, Jeff,
Gwynne, James,
and Annie
First words
In 1917 the British Pacifist Viscount John Morley made an astonishing avowal. Writing in the midst of a war that would create many new pacifists, Viscount Morley declared that the American Civil War has been "the only war in modern times as to which we can be sure, first, that no skill or patience of diplomacy would have avoided it; and second, that preservation of the American Union and abolition of negro slavery were two vast triumphs of good by which even the inferno of was was justified." (Preface: from John Morley, Recollections (London, 1917), p. 20)
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A North Carolinian educated in that state during the 1920s who later left the South and eventually became dean of Yale Divinity School looked back on the books he had read in school: "I never could understand how our Confederate troops could have won every battle in the War so decisively and then have lost the war itself!"  (p. 105; quote from Rollin G. Osterweis, The Myth of the Lost Cause ((Hamden, Conn., 1973)), p.113)
But you will not abide the election of a Republican president!   In that supposed event, you say, you will destroy the Union; and then you say, the great crime of having destroyed it will be upon us!   That is cool.  A highwayman holds a pistol to my ear, and mutters through his teeth, "Stand and deliver, or I shall kill you, and then you will be a murderer!"  (p. 199, quoting Basler, Collected Works of Lincoln 3:535, 546-47; Lincoln's Cooper Union [NY] speech)
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CONTENTS:
Table of Contents
Preface ...ix
Acknowledgments...xi

I SLAVERY AND THE COMING WAR
1. And the War Came ...3
2. Escape and Revolt in Black and White... 21

II THE LOST CAUSE REVISITED
3. The Confederacy: A House Divided?... 43
4. Was the Best Defense a Good Offense?
Jefferson Davis and Confederate Strategies ...51
5. The Saratoga that Wasn't: The Impact of Antietam Abroad ...65
6. To Conquer a Peace? Lee's Goals in the Gettysburg Campaign... 77
7. The Last Rebel: Jesse James... 87
8. Long-Legged Yankee Lies: THe Lost-Cause Textbook Crusade ...93

III ARCHITECTS OF VICTORY
9. "We Stand By Each Other Always": Grant and Sherman ...109
10. The Hard Hand of War... 123
11. Unvexed to the Sea: Lincoln, Grant, and the Vicksburg Campaign ...131

IV. HOME FRONT AND BATTLE FRONT 12. Brahmins at War... 145 13. "Spend Much Time in Reading the Daily Papers":
The Press and Army Morale in the Civil War ...155 14. No Peace Without Victory, 1861-1865 ...167

V. LINCOLN
15. To Remember That He Had Lived ...187
16. "As Commander-in-Chief I have a Right to Take any Measure Which May Best Subdue the Enemy ...209

Notes...223
Index...253
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0195313666, Hardcover)

The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and the New York Times bestsellers Crossroads of Freedom and Tried by War, among many other award-winning books, James M. McPherson is America's preeminent Civil War historian. In this collection of provocative and illuminating essays, McPherson offers fresh insight into many of the enduring questions about one of the defining moments in our nation's history.

McPherson sheds light on topics large and small, from the average soldier's avid love of newspapers to the postwar creation of the mystique of a Lost Cause in the South. Readers will find insightful pieces on such intriguing figures as Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Jesse James, and William Tecumseh Sherman, and on such vital issues as Confederate military strategy, the failure of peace negotiations to end the war, and the realities and myths of the Confederacy. This Mighty Scourge includes several never-before-published essays--pieces on General Robert E. Lee's goals in the Gettysburg campaign, on Lincoln and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, and on Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief. All of the essays have been updated and revised to give the volume greater thematic coherence and continuity, so that it can be read in sequence as an interpretive history of the war and its meaning for America and the world.

Combining the finest scholarship with luminous prose, and packed with new information and fresh ideas, this book brings together the most recent thinking by the nation's leading authority on the Civil War.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 30 Sep 2013 13:32:30 -0400)

(see all 2 descriptions)

Pulitzer Prize-winning writer and foremost Civil War historian James M. McPherson presents a collection of essays that answer some of the most prominent Civil War-related questions.

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