People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom

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"A startling contrast to the other literature on the Civil War." ?Howard Zinn

Moving beyond presidents and generals, A People's History of the Civil War tells a new and powerful story of America's most destructive conflict. In the first book to view the Civil War through the eyes of common people, historian David Williams presents long-overlooked perspectives and forgotten ...
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A People's History of the Civil War: Struggles for the Meaning of Freedom

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Overview

"A startling contrast to the other literature on the Civil War." —Howard Zinn

Moving beyond presidents and generals, A People's History of the Civil War tells a new and powerful story of America's most destructive conflict. In the first book to view the Civil War through the eyes of common people, historian David Williams presents long-overlooked perspectives and forgotten voices, offering a comprehensive account of the war to general readers.

The Civil War's most decisive battles, Williams argues, took place not only on the fields of Gettysburg, Antietam, and Vicksburg, but also on the streets of New York, in prison camps, in the West, and on the starving home front. Laboring people, urban and rural, fought for economic justice. Women struggled for rights, opportunities, and their family's survival. Volunteers and conscripts demanded respect. Native Americans struggled to hold their land and maintain their very existence. And African Americans made the Civil War a war for freedom long before Lincoln embraced emancipation.

"Bottom up" history at its very best, A People's History of the Civil War offers a rich and complex portrait of a nation at war with itself.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
This hefty but readable social history by a confessed disciple of Howard Zinn reframes the Civil War as a conflict not simply between North and South but between the underclass and the power elites-both Confederate and Union. With populist zeal, Williams (Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War) catalogues the influence of the common folk-dissenters, resisters, women, nonslaveholding whites, laborers, African-Americans and Native Americans-locating the conflict's origins in class divisions in the wartime South. Williams illuminates both women's hardships and their shift into new roles (feisty Northern and Southern women became spies and soldiers). For the enlisted or conscripted common man, conditions were a far cry from those of the affluent brass, and the author emphasizes the actions of draft evaders and deserters (draft riots swept Northern cities in the summer of 1863). He details the role of resisting blacks who fought for their own freedom while Lincoln demonstrated an "ambiguous attitude towards" them. For Native Americans, Williams writes, the era marked their continued dispossession. Though Williams flattens history through a materialist lens, this account sheds fascinating light on neglected aspects of the period and will make a worthwhile companion volume to military histories. (Nov.) Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
Stereotypical images of patriotic men who unblinkingly fought to the death to defend the Union and Confederacy, women who remained at home encouraging enlistment and otherwise supporting the cause, and African Americans who patiently waited for Father Abraham to free them have been in recent years increasingly challenged by modern historians, who have moved beyond a study of the era's presidents and generals to one of its men, women, and children of different races, regions, and social classes. Williams (history, Valdosta State Univ.; Rich Man's War) presents views of the war that focus on lower-class Southern whites who resisted and resented the war; women who cursed the fighting that killed their male kin and starved and physically threatened themselves and their children; and African Americans who boldly pushed the war toward emancipation. Dealing more with class conflict than military conflict, this book does for the Civil War period what Howard Zinn's A People's History of the United States did for the study of American history in general, providing alternative interpretations to counterbalance traditional historical views. Highly recommended.-Theresa McDevitt, Indiana Univ. of Pennsylvania Lib. Copyright 2005 Reed Business Information.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781595580184
  • Publisher: New Press, The
  • Publication date: 11/1/2005
  • Series: New Press People's History Series
  • Pages: 594
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

David Williams is the author of Rich Man's War and Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War. He is a professor of history at Valdosta State University in Valdosta, Georgia.
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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments ix
Introduction: "The People at War" 1
1 "All for the Benefit of the Wealthy" 13
2 "The Brunt Is Thrown upon the Working Classes" 73
3 "The Women Rising" 131
4 "We Poor Soldiers" 191
5 "Come In Out of the Draft" 253
6 "My God! Are We Free?" 325
7 "Indians Here Have No Fight with the Whites" 389
8 "Was the War in Vain?" 451
Afterword 497
Notes 499
Bibliography 543
Index 567
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