The Civil War: A History in Documents / Edition 1

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The Civil War was not only a stunning event in military history; it defined the American people by forcing them to grapple with the founding principles of the nation. Rachel Seidman brings together an array of primary sources from the antebellum period, the war, and Reconstruction to provide a well-rounded account of this pivotal era. Political debates and military developments may occupy the historical foreground, but it is the letters, diary entries, memoirs, and testimony of blacks, Native Americans, women, children, farmers, and foot soldiers in the richly textured background that bring the Civil War to life. Ex-slave Frederick Douglass's abolitionist speeches and writings contrast with Southern magazine editor James DeBow's defense of the slave system to set the political conflict in a national context. Northern traveler Caroline Seabury's heartbreaking letter about a slave auction and Southern slave mistress Ella Thomas's conflicted diary entries about her servant Isabella detail the daily brutality of slavery. Confederate general James Longstreet's report of the Battle of Gettysburg and Union general William T. Sherman's letter to the leaders of Atlanta document tactics introduced in the Civil War, while letters between soldiers and their families record the anguish and the courage on the battlefield and at home. A picture essay entitled "Images of War" graphically demonstrates the devastation wrought by the war through photography—a new medium in the 1860s that profoundly changed American attitudes about warfare.

Despite the South's surrender, violence and conflict continued during Reconstruction. The 13th Amendment abolished slavery, but state-sanctioned Black Codes limited African American freedoms. At the cost of some 620,000 lives, the battles had ended, but America's struggle with the legacy of slavery was only beginning.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Richly exceptional addition to any library."—School Library Journal

"The documents, under the guidance of Seidman's linking narrative, all make a powerful impression of immediacy about ordinary people's experience."—Booklist

"This is history as it should be read: history by the people who lived it....[In this book] the past is totally in focus—relevant and overpowering....[This book] will cause you to pause, consider, and question this 'wrenching, triumphant, and tragically flawed event.'"—Civil War Book Review

"Right on target....The number and variety of documents make this a valuable resource for students and teachers."—Horn Book Guide

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195115581
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press
  • Publication date: 2/1/2001
  • Series: Pages from History Series
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 208
  • Age range: 13 - 17 Years
  • Product dimensions: 9.80 (w) x 7.90 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

Rachel F. Seidman holds a Ph.D. in history from Yale University. She is currently President of the Melpomene Institute of Women's Health Research in Saint Paul, MN.

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Table of Contents

What is a Document?
How to Read a Document

Introduction:A Defining Moment

Chapter One: One Country, Two Worlds?

North and South Compared
Abolitionists Speak Out
The Slave System
Ex-Slaves Remember

Chapter Two: Expanding Boundaries, Rising Tensions

Westward Migration
The Mexican War
The Fugitive Slave Law
Popular Sovereignty
The Dred Scott Decision

Chapter Three: The Rail Splitter and the Splitting Country

The Lincoln-Douglas Debates
Harpers Ferry
Election 1860
Increasing Tensions

Chapter Four: Filling the Ranks

A Glorious Adventure
African-American Soldiers
The Battle of Bull Run
Abuse of Black Troops
Camp Life
The Battlefield

Chapter Five: Moving Toward the Revolution

The Crittenden-Johnson Resolutions
Slavery Must Die
The Battle of Antietam
The Emancipation Proclamation
Prejudice Overturned
The Battle of Gettysburg
Sherman's march to the Sea

Chapter Six: This Sad War is a Bad Thing

Letters Home
Soldiers' Families Struggle
Women Join the Workforce
The Volunteer Effort
The Peculiar Institution Falls Apart
Lost interest in the "Cause"
Assassination of Lincoln

Chapter Seven: Picture Essay: Images of War

Chapter Eight: A Fool's Errand?

Planning for Reconstruction
Radical Reconstruction
The 13th Amendment
The Black Codes
Ex-Slaves Build New Lives
African Americans Enter Politics
Black Landowners
The Limits of Reconstruction
A Reign of Terror
Reconstruction Ends

Further Reading

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