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"Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen.... McPherson is uniformly interesting and, to the general reader's eternal relief, both lucid and uncondescending."—Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post
"These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose. Whether he is discussing the persistent appeal of the Civil War, tracing the manner in which a war of limited goals evolved into the first total war, evaluating competing theories on the causes of the Confederate defeat, or explaining the genesis of Ulysses S. Grant's military strategy, Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious.... These pieces provide a lively reminder that the best scholarship is also often a pleasure to read."—The New York Times Book Review
"McPherson has compiled a series of thoughtful essays on some of the most thought-provoking questions of the Civil War.... In these essays the author has proven that history can be accurate, informative, and interesting."—Library Journal
|1||Antebellum Southern Exceptionalism: A New Look at an Old Question||3|
|2||Tom on the Cross||24|
|3||The War of Southern Aggression||37|
|4||The War that Never Goes Away||55|
|5||From Limited to Total War, 1861-1865||66|
|6||Race and Class in the Crucible of War||87|
|7||The Glory Story||99|
|8||Why Did the Confederacy Lose?||113|
|9||How the Confederacy Almost Won||137|
|11||Grant's Final Victory||159|
|12||A New Birth of Freedom||177|
|13||Who Freed the Slaves?||192|
|14||"The Whole Family of Man": Lincoln and the Last Best Hope Abroad||208|
|15||What's the Matter with History?||231|
Posted January 5, 2013
Drawn with the Sword
Drawn with the Sword consists of 15 essays written by the civil war historian James McPherson. All were previously published in a variety of sources not readily accessible to the average reader. All are now obtainable in this single source and the volume is well worth the money. Although each essay can stand alone, their juxtaposition provides each with greater meaning and power.
His expertness with interpretation is evident in his essays on why the confederacy lost. . He concludes that both the north and south had strengths and weaknesses but when after all was said and done, the North came out ahead. Lest we think that the result of the war was predetermined, McPherson brings up the concept of contingency whereby events are not predetermined but are the result of facts on the ground.
McPherson is at his best when posing the question as to who freed the slaves. Like a good college professor, he makes us work for our knowledge. We thought we knew it was Lincoln who freed the slaves but McPherson then sets a trap and makes us doubt our beliefs. The trap is then sprung as we realize that the slaves would never have been set free without Lincoln. The author made us struggle but the conclusion was ours. We realized he truth.
The essay discussing the movie Glory deals with the meaning of historic truth. After listing the numerous inaccuracies in the film, the author goes on to describe Glory as the most accurate portrayal of the civil war ever attempted. He thus distinguishes factual accuracy from truth. The movie Glory tells the story of the black man’s search for freedom and dignity in a manner that supersedes the facts. McPherson is clear in stating that one must be respectful of the facts, yet truth lies in more than in a recitation of facts. It requires, narrative, syntheses, and nuanced interpretation, all of which are McPherson specialties.
The most compelling chapter in the book is the final one, which is McPherson’s personal manifesto. Here he defends himself against charges that his success with general audiences precludes his being taken as a serious historian. He seems tortured with the idea that he betrayed his academic roots for 30 pieces of silver.
The final sentence in the final chapter sums it all up. He recalls an academic colleague of his who cautioned him that he would be forced to choose between becoming a “popular historian” or a historian’s historian. The colleague warns that he was in mortal danger of becoming the former. McPherson faces a threat of excommunication and pleads for understanding. The only way out of excommunication is repentance which is of course not an option for McPherson, nor should it be.
Posted September 19, 2011
No text was provided for this review.
Posted February 23, 2011
No text was provided for this review.