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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (1988)

by James M. McPherson

Other authors: C. Vann Woodward (Introduction)

Series: The Oxford History of the United States (6)

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
4,846691,864 (4.45)278
Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.… (more)
  1. 60
    Ulysses S. Grant : Memoirs and Selected Letters : Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant / Selected Letters, 1839-1865 by Ulysses S. Grant (wildbill)
    wildbill: This is the Library of America edition of Grant's memoirs which I think is preferable. Any edition of Grant's memoirs will be informative and enjoyable.
  2. 20
    A Stillness at Appomattox by Bruce Catton (wcfreels)
    wcfreels: Just finished it for the first time last week. Best read on the Civil War I've ever read. So well written that, unlike the soldiers, I hated to see it end.
  3. 10
    The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace by H. W. Brands (charlie68)
  4. 21
    The Civil War Dictionary by Mark Boatner (wildbill)
  5. 10
    Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad by Eric Foner (charlie68)
    charlie68: History of the Underground Railroad during the same era.
  6. 10
    In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 by Edward L. Ayers (eromsted)
  7. 00
    The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery by Eric Foner (charlie68)
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» See also 278 mentions

English (67)  Dutch (1)  All languages (68)
Showing 1-5 of 67 (next | show all)
A very educational and interesting detail of the events leading up to the American Civil War and the war itself. The beginning was very interesting, detailing the state of the country and politics before the war started. The book gets bogged down in the later parts, where it focuses on events on the war. The author tells all the necessary information, which is a lot, so it becomes tedious to read. It was very worth the read though and I highly recommend it. ( )
  renbedell | Jul 7, 2022 |
Battle Cry of Freedom is a comprehensive history of the Civil War, from causes to results. I haven't found another book that compresses so much information into a single volume. McPherson's excellent writing adds much to a book about such a complex subject. I both listened to and read this book; this hybrid method enhances my learning. ( )
  brewbooks | Jun 26, 2022 |
Very much to my surprise, this 900+ page history of the civil war turned out to be a page-turner. One reason for this is the author's choice of using a narrative history focusing on the events within short blocks of time. A significant amount of the book is spent describing the key battles of the war. He does this superbly, making the battles understandable in ways that most other war books fail to do. Unfortunately, the maps in the Kindle edition are difficult to read. ( )
  M_Clark | Jun 13, 2022 |
A little too sympathetic to Confederacy’s cause - he does ultimately say it was about slavery, but could have done a lot more explaining how fundamentally it was also about racism point blank. Reading secession documents makes clear slavery is The major concern, but social mixing between the races (and interracial relationships being the worst) was also a huge fear for the white men, and they were concerned about increasing rights for free African Americans in addition to abolition.

The epilogue is great if you want the big view analysis! If you enjoy canons and military tactics you’ll enjoy the rest of the book too. ( )
  Sennie_V | Mar 22, 2022 |
Widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of the Civil War around, this is another entry in the Oxford History of the United States, which I am enjoying immensely. The preface had an interesting observation: though this book covers the shortest span of all the books in the series (albeit with some significant overlap), it's one of the longest books in the series. The Civil War is the most-written about period in American history simply because there's so much history in it, as it did more to turn a bunch of squabbling states into the United States than anything since 1789. McPherson doesn't even get to recounting the actual war until over a third of the way into the book as the country splits and splinters and tries and fails to resolve a vast number of contradictory pressures and choices about its future, and the Federalists' nightmares about factions turned into reality: Northerners vs. Southerns, those who wanted to settle the West vs. those who wanted to preserve the existing balance of the states, wets vs. dries, immigrants vs. nativists, Catholics vs. Protestants, tariff supporters vs. free traders, developers favoring Hamiltonian projects vs. laissez faire adherents, plantation owners vs. industrialists, rural folk vs. urban dwellers, Democrats vs. Whigs, Democrats vs. Know-Nothings, Democrats vs. Republicans, war hawks vs. doves, but most of all, slavery supporters vs. abolitionists.

It's a truism that in elementary school you learn that the Civil War was about slavery, in high school you learn that it was about states' rights, and that in college you learn that actually it was still really about slavery. McPherson completely demolishes the idea that it could have possibly been about anything other than the South's "peculiar institution" - slavery was the bedrock of the South's economy, the keystone of its social structure, and the altar on which they convinced themselves that they were the highest, most advanced civilization on Earth. McPherson somehow works that discussion smoothly into the book among a million other things, from advanced demographic analysis (like his eye-opening mythbusting of the "rich man's war, poor man's fight" canard), to the background political scheming that Lincoln had to overcome, to the shockingly large tolls that disease and poor sanitation took on each army, to the massive economic chasm opening between the modernizing North and the magnolia-tinged South, and most especially, to the battles. You can't really be interested in this greatest of all American wars if you're not fascinated by the senseless, bloody, magnificent meetings between two of the mightiest armies of the 19th century, and McPherson seemingly covers every cavalry raid and clash of picket lines. It's an impressive feat, well-worthy of its 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and though it's rare to describe a book as being the last word on a subject, surely even rarer is the reader who finishes this masterwork unsatisfied. ( )
1 vote aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
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» Add other authors (5 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
McPherson, James M.Authorprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Woodward, C. VannIntroductionsecondary authorall editionsconfirmed
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To Van and Willie

and to the memory of

Glenn and Bill

Who introduced me to the world of history and academia in the good old days at Hopkins
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Both sides in the American Civil War professed to be fighting for freedom. (Preface)
On the morning of September 14, 1847, brilliant sunshine burned off the haze in Mexico City.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Wikipedia in English (53)

16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment

20th Indiana Infantry Regiment

21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

29th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

68th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment

Appomattox Campaign

Camp Douglas (Chicago)

Caning of Charles Sumner

Chambersburg Raid

Confederate Memorial (Wilmington, North Carolina)

Daniel H. Reynolds

Dix–Hill Cartel

Josiah Gorgas

List of American Civil War generals

List of American Civil War generals (Union)

List of publications by James M. McPherson

Military medicine

Militia Act of 1862

Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

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Penguin Australia

An edition of this book was published by Penguin Australia.

» Publisher information page

Recorded Books

2 editions of this book were published by Recorded Books.

Editions: 1461813808, 1461813816

 

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