Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War

Overview


James M. McPherson is acclaimed as one of the finest historians writing today and a preeminent commentator on the Civil War. Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of that conflict, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times, called "history writing of the highest order." Now, in Drawn With the Sword, McPherson offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on some of the most enduring questions of the Civil War, written in the ...
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Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War

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Overview


James M. McPherson is acclaimed as one of the finest historians writing today and a preeminent commentator on the Civil War. Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of that conflict, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times, called "history writing of the highest order." Now, in Drawn With the Sword, McPherson offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on some of the most enduring questions of the Civil War, written in the masterful prose that has become his trademark.

Filled with fresh interpretations, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Drawn With the Sword explores such questions as why the North won and why the South lost (emphasizing the role of contingency in the Northern victory), whether Southern or Northern aggression began the war, and who really freed the slaves, Abraham Lincoln or the slaves themselves. McPherson offers memorable portraits of the great leaders who people the landscape of the Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant, struggling to write his memoirs with the same courage and determination that marked his successes on the battlefield; Robert E. Lee, a brilliant general and a true gentleman, yet still a product of his time and place; and Abraham Lincoln, the leader and orator whose mythical figure still looms large over our cultural landscape. And McPherson discusses often-ignored issues such as the development of the Civil War into a modern "total war" against both soldiers and civilians, and the international impact of the American Civil War in advancing the cause of republicanism and democracy in countries from Brazil and Cuba to France and England. Of special interest is the final essay, entitled "What's the Matter With History?", a trenchant critique of the field of history today, which McPherson describes here as "more and more about less and less." He writes that professional historians have abandoned narrative history written for the greater audience of educated general readers in favor of impenetrable tomes on minor historical details which serve only to edify other academics, thus leaving the historical education of the general public to films and television programs such as Glory and Ken Burns's PBS documentary The Civil War.

Each essay in Drawn With the Sword reveals McPherson's own profound knowledge of the Civil War and of the controversies among historians, presenting all sides in clear and lucid prose and concluding with his own measured and eloquent opinions. Readers will rejoice that McPherson has once again proven by example that history can be both accurate and interesting, informative and well-written. Mark Twain wrote that the Civil War "wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." In Drawn With the Sword, McPherson gracefully and brilliantly illuminates this momentous conflict.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage

"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

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
McPherson's scholarly breadth and intellectual depth place him in the front rank of Civil War historians. All but one of the 15 pieces in this anthology have appeared elsewhere, but in a spectrum of publications so wide that their appearance between one set of covers is especially welcome. They cover four themes: the war's origins, its social consequences, the reasons for its outcome and Abraham Lincoln's central role. Topics range from an analysis of Uncle Tom's Cabin to an argument that the Confederacy almost won. The essays are, however, connected by McPherson's conviction that the Civil War's origins and outcome were in no way predetermined: the campaigns, battles and elections that determined the war's course were shaped by specific contingencies. The final piece, provocatively dissecting the failure of contemporary academic historians to reach general audiences, is by itself worth the price of a book that belongs in all Civil War collections. Apr.
Library Journal
Historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom, LJ 3/1/88) has compiled a series of thoughtful essays on some of the most thought-provoking questions of the Civil War. All of the essays were published earlier but have been updated and revised for this compilation. The topics deal with such subjects as the origins of the Civil War, the slavery question in both North and South, why the North won the war and why the South lost, President Abraham Lincoln, and the change in historical writing. In these essays the author has proven that history can be accurate, informative, and interesting. For informed readers.-W. Walter Wicker, Louisiana Tech Univ., Ruston
NY Times Book Review
"Essays that go right to the heart of the meaning of the war and Abraham Lincoln's role in it....McPherson deftly and convincingly sketches out how Lincoln's vision and leadership made the necessary revolution possible." -- The New York Times Book Review
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195117967
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 12/28/1997
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 664,309
  • Product dimensions: 7.80 (w) x 5.30 (h) x 0.80 (d)

Meet the Author

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History at Princeton University where he has taught since 1962. The author of ten books on the Civil War era of American History, he won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1989 for Battle Cry of Freedom.

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    1. Hometown:
      Princeton, New Jersey
    1. Date of Birth:
      October 11, 1936
    2. Place of Birth:
      Valley City, North Dakota
    1. Education:
      B.A., Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1963

Table of Contents

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
10 Lee Dissected 151
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
Index 254
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