Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

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by James M. McPherson

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Featuring a new Afterword by the author, this new paperback edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom remains without question the definitive one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that filled the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the…  See more details below


Featuring a new Afterword by the author, this new paperback edition of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom remains without question the definitive one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that filled the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox.

Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Likely to become the standard one-volume history of our Civil War, this vivifies, with palpable immediacy, scholarly acumen and interpretive skill, events foreshadowing the conflict, the war itself and its basic issue: slavery. Photos. (Feb.)
Hugh Brogan
"Historical writing of the highest order." -- New York Times Book Review
Los Angeles Times Book
"Surely...of the 50,000 books written on the Civil War, the finest compression of that national paroxysm ever fitted between two covers."
Washington Post Book World
"The finest single volume on the war and its background." -- The Washington Post Book World
From the Publisher
"Deftly coordinated, gracefully composed, charitably argued and suspensefully paid out, McPherson's book is just the compass of the tumultuous middle years of the 19th century it was intended to be, and as narrative history it is surpassing. Bright with details and fresh quotations, solid with carefully-arrived-at conclusions, it must surely be, of the 50,000 books written on the Civil War, the finest compression of that national paroxysm ever fitted between two covers."—Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Immediately takes its place as the best one-volume history of the coming of the American Civil War and the war itself. It is a superb narrative history, elegantly written.—Philadelphia Inquirer

"Matchless.... The book's political and economic discussions are as engrossing as the descriptions of military campaigns and personalities."—Library Journal

"McPherson cements his reputation as one of the finest Civil War historians....Should become a standard general history of the Civil War period—it's one that will stand up for years to come."—Kirkus Reviews

"Robust, glittering history."—Booklist

"The best one-volume treatment of [the Civil War era] I have ever come across. It may actually be the best ever published.... I was swept away, feeling as if I had never heard the saga before.... Omitting nothing important, whether military, political, or economic, he yet manages to make everything he touches drive the narrative forward. This is historical writing of the highest order."—Hugh Brogan, New York Times Book Review

"The finest single volume on the war and its background."—The Washington Post Book World

Journal of Military History 54.3 (Jul. 1990): 356-358 - Brian S. Wills
James M. McPherson has written an engaging narrative account of the American Civil War era as part of the Oxford History of the United States series. (...) McPherson's accounts of battles and leaders are concise, informative and colorful.
CHOICE, 07/1988 - E. K. Eckert
An important modern interpretation of the Civil War era by one of its leading historians. McPherson deftly combines the latest research with traditional understanding of the issues to produce the most readable single-volume history of this period. (...) This is an indispensable work for all academic libraries.

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Product Details

Random House Publishing Group
Publication date:
Oxford History of the United States Series
Edition description:
Product dimensions:
6.13(w) x 9.21(h) x 1.57(d)

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Battle Cry of Freedom 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 101 reviews.
Amela_Renee More than 1 year ago
James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom is an epic tome that provides an in-depth view of the Civil War. He gives a detailed analysis of the battles, along with the significant political and social activities that surrounded this conflict. Because McPherson's research is scholarly (not to mention a Pulitzer Prize winning book, with an author who is the Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton) this volume is invaluable to the student of American history as a reputable research tool. McPherson includes quotes, maps, tables and several pages of compelling Civil War photographs within the pages of his narrative. The structure McPherson uses is for the most part chronological, however, the scope of the conflict is such that chronology alone is not fully possible. There is significant overlap of time, especially as he gives full measure to the intricacies of the sectional conflict and the political scene for both sections of the country. McPherson is easy to read and entertaining, even when tackling this comprehensive exploration of the subject of the Civil War. Not for the faint-hearted though, or for someone wanting a casual weekend read; this volume is a whopping 867 pages not including the bibliography or notes. With an emphasis on Civil War battles, this book is an excellent resource for the student of American history, and an excellent companion to books that focus on the Social history of the same era.
MikeBeachBum More than 1 year ago
I am a history book fan in general but have just started reading about the Civil War. I picked up Shelby Foote's 3 volumn set, but got a little bogged down and decided I needed something a little more brief. I am so glad that I picked up "Battle Cry of Freedom". It does a great job of condensing a huge amount of material into a single book. It also tells a good deal about the elements that lead up to the war itself. It does not have a tremendous amount of detail about the individual battles (it couldn't and still be in one book) but I think gives a great overall view of the war. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about this conflict.
Father_of_5_Boys More than 1 year ago
This book was on my shelf for a while because I was a little intimidated by it's length, but it was well worth the time invested! This book would really be great for someone who didn't know much about the Civil War and wanted a comprehensive overview or for someone like me who has read a bunch of different stuff on the Civil War and can always use something like this to pull it all back together and put the pieces in context again. What always amazes me when reading things like this is, given the almost mythological status that Lincoln has achieved in U.S. history, how unpopular he was with so many people at the time and how close he came to almost losing the election against McClellan in 1864. The other thing that always amazes me is how the Confederate leaders like Joe Johnston and Jefferson Davis refused to acknowledge that they were going to lose the war, even as late as December 1864-January 1865.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This outstanding book starts at the beginning, and I don't mean secession or Fort Sumter' but the REAL beginning ... and covers all of the multitude of socio-economic and political reasons for the Civil War before ever getting into what happened between 1861-1865. If you want a have a stronger understanding of how it came to pass that we slaightered each other by the many thousands for all of those four years, and you read nothing else on the subject, you should read 'Battle Cry of Freedom'! You still probably won't completely accept that it actually had to happen, but you will have a much better handle on how and why it did take place ...
Danmark More than 1 year ago
This the first-ever book I read about the Civil War, many years ago. McPherson captures the build-up to the conflict, the fascinating events leading to secession, and then describes each battle and the progression towards the inevitable victory of Union forces - as if McPherson actually was there, himself, and the reader feels the same. The rare gift of making historic event alive is a skill, McPherson masters. If you're a new student of the Civil War, or want to understand, what USA is made of, this is - hands down - the best single volume, you can get your hands on. Once you've read and want to 'trade up', I recommend Shelby Foote's trilogy above all, before you launch yourself into the ever-expanding sea of stunningly well-written books about each battle, or even very detailed accounts of parts of a battle, etc.
anonymous10TX More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book. It gives an overview of the civil war. It often reads like a school text book but it is easy to read. It discusses some of the social an economical issues associated with the civil war. For books about the military aspect of the war, I recommend Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogies. 
Brodk More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book, full of insight and conclusions that seem to be based on careful analysis of facts and historical learning. The first four chapters, in particular, about the state of the USA from about 1850 to the beginning of the Civil War, is extremely good. I can't imagine a better one-volume narrative of the Civil War period in American history. For anyone interested in the Civil War this book should be on your shelf or on your Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great place to start one's adventure into the American Civil War.
glauver More than 1 year ago
This is probably more a political than military history. McPherson brings in many snippets of information that are revealing. Did you know that a Civil War general was 50 percent more likely to be killed or wounded than his men? I have never read Allan Nevins 8 book history of the era - it is just too big - but this probably supersedes that as the best overview of all aspects of the war.
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Stephan81 More than 1 year ago
As I was perusing my local library, I stumble upon this undeniably succinct narrative of the civil war. McPherson was able to seamlessly explain, in detail, the events the led to the civil war, the war itself and the victory of the union. The author offers a pragmatic explanation of possible reasons why the union won the war and even boldly offers "what-ifs" had the confederacy won. If you read ONE book on the civil war, this should be it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nookpj More than 1 year ago
Clear narrative style, contains all the major political, social, and military topics, a pleasure to read and contemplate. A thoughtful and well researched presentation of this complex national struggle.
superdave More than 1 year ago
An interesting book to say the least. I'd recommend it to anyone who has a curiosity about the events preceding the civil war. Onre observation I have is that the same politicians, military leaders existed then as now. The same back biting, the same one upmansship as now. The difference seems to be in the speed of the communication ssystem. As now seemingly small evens turtned into national issues. Political power seems to have been greater then. Many "boy generals" emerged... some pretty dood Theree is no war as devistating as a civil war. It is illustrated in the overwhelming issue of the day involving slavery. Mr. McPhearson did a good job of painting a picture of events and those who supported and opposed the war. It is interesting to see how Lincoln's leadewrship was lkey to bringing the coundry back together. IOn any event I believe this book is worth the read for any student of the civil war. I'd give it 4 stars for the most part.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Lawrence_Von_Frederick More than 1 year ago
Easy to read history of the build-up to the Civil War and the Civil War itself. The coverage of the battles was not overly detailed but did note the military strategies and outcomes. The battles were fairly conventional in the coverage - after all how many times have they been written about - but the build-up to the War is nicely organized and well argued. The strongest part of the book may be statement on and review of the various reasons given for both the War and the dominance of the north. McPherson cogently argues that the North was the future that unfolded in parts of Europe as well as the United States. This future had been held back by the political dominance of the south but was unleashed when the south seceded. He also captures the racism that stopped reconstruction and was evident in the Democratic Party campaigns against the "Black Republicans." I look forward a book on reconstruction from McPherson as that topic has not been honestly handled as well as it could be. In sum, a very honest history of our Civil War with insights into some of the why's about both the start and conclusion.
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McPherson knows how to get the details to you. His portrayal of the information is always first rate.
PatrickKanouse More than 1 year ago
A few years ago, I decided I wanted to read all of the Oxford History of the United States. Several volumes are highly regarded, so I started with them in chronological order. I found the first three of the series marvelous, particularly Robert Middlekauf's The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789. In my last semester as a senior at Ball State University, the last final I took and called it a wrap was a Civil War class. The class used James McPherson's Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. I thought that McPherson book well written and excellent. Battle Cry of Freedom covers much of the same ground, though it is more narrowly focused--primarily by leaving out Reconstruction, which will be covered in as yet unpublished volume in the series. This book is a straight-up history, though McPherson brings to bear a formidable knowledge and insight. Readable, the book's narrative arc is necessarily framed by the war itself, though McPherson takes pains to discuss the transformations occurring in America even then. Still, very little is said of the west. The principle actors are treated with a measured response, and McPherson refuses to take the simple view of commanders and leaders. If you don't like your history full of descriptions of campaigns and battles, this book is not for you. If you are a Civil War buff, then this book deserves a place on your shelf for a larger narrative, though I doubt it will satisfy in technical and detailed information that more focused texts will bring. I do praise McPherson though for holding firm to the cause of the Civil War. Many like to equivocate that the Civil War was fought over state's rights versus federal rights. In the larger picture this is a true statement, but this attempts to obfuscate the issue that the Civil War was about a state's right to retain slavery. The years building up the war witnessed continuing and bitter battles to ensure that representation in Congress (particularly the Senate) maintained an equal number of Senators from slave-holding states and from non-slave-holding states. Eventually, the center could not hold and war ensued. The southern states rebelled against the Union so that it could preserve a state's right to continue slavery. McPherson keeps this clear. Well written with plenty of detail while maintaining a strong narrative, McPherson's book is an excellent read for a general overview of the Civil War.