This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

Overview


The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and the New York Times bestsellers Crossroads of Freedom and Tried by War, among many other award-winning books, James M. McPherson is America's preeminent Civil War historian. In this collection of provocative and illuminating essays, McPherson offers fresh insight into many of the enduring questions about one of the defining moments in our nation's history.

McPherson sheds light on topics large and small, from the...

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This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

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Overview


The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and the New York Times bestsellers Crossroads of Freedom and Tried by War, among many other award-winning books, James M. McPherson is America's preeminent Civil War historian. In this collection of provocative and illuminating essays, McPherson offers fresh insight into many of the enduring questions about one of the defining moments in our nation's history.

McPherson sheds light on topics large and small, from the average soldier's avid love of newspapers to the postwar creation of the mystique of a Lost Cause in the South. Readers will find insightful pieces on such intriguing figures as Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Jesse James, and William Tecumseh Sherman, and on such vital issues as Confederate military strategy, the failure of peace negotiations to end the war, and the realities and myths of the Confederacy. This Mighty Scourge includes several never-before-published essays--pieces on General Robert E. Lee's goals in the Gettysburg campaign, on Lincoln and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, and on Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief. All of the essays have been updated and revised to give the volume greater thematic coherence and continuity, so that it can be read in sequence as an interpretive history of the war and its meaning for America and the world.

Combining the finest scholarship with luminous prose, and packed with new information and fresh ideas, this book brings together the most recent thinking by the nation's leading authority on the Civil War.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Essays which collectively illustrate his customary mastery of the field."--John Y. Simon, The Journal of Southern History

"Non-fiction books, especially history, rarely earn praise as 'page-turners.' James M. McPherson makes the feat seem routine. A satisfying and insightful set of ruminations that will appeal to both specialists and general readers. Reading his book of essays might be no substitute for having attended his former seminars at Princeton University, but it might be as close a book--and most readers--will get to doing so."--Christopher Phillips, Civil War Book Review

"In "This Mighty Scourge" -- a riveting collection of 16 masterfully written essays -- James M. McPherson again demonstrates that he is our greatest historian of the war...they stand as a remarkably elegant and clarifying narrative exploration of the most basic questions concerning the Civil War, issues over which scholars and activists still contend..."This Mighty Scourge," in fact, is an exemplary exercise in the contribution a great historian and eloquent writer can make to a people's understanding of themselves."--The Los Angeles Times

"For readers unfamiliar with McPherson's work, [This Mighty Scourge] provides a useful introduction -- one that, it is to be hoped, will lead them to his masterwork, Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) -- and for those who know that work, it provides numerous interesting footnotes."--Jonathan Yardley, Washington Post

"It will seduce anyone, Civil War neophyte or fanatic, for its authority and judgments...There is not a bad chapter in this book. This Mighty Scourge is a marvelous read from a master historian. Like all good history, what it makes you want to do is know more."--The Boston Globe

"One of the givens in American history is that we will always find new ways to look at the Civil War. Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson reinforces that with THIS MIGHTY SCOURGE, a fascinating collection of essays on aspects of the War Between the States . . . Civil War a buffs will find THIS MIGHTY SCOURGE to be a first-class addition to the genre."--St. Louis Times-Dispatch

"A smooth narrative that addresses some of the biggest questions of the Civil War: why did it start- why did the South lose- what motivated the men who fought on both sides- how do we evaluate the top leaders--including Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses G. Grant-- McPherson goes about answering these and other questions in his usual graceful style, underscored by a thorough grasp of myriad primary and secondary sources on virtually every aspect of the conflict. He forthrightly expresses his opinions while backing them up with well-reasoned arguments, whether challenging the 'Lost Cause' argument about why the South lost, or supporting the proposition that it was slavery--and not states' rights--that was the main cause of the war. This strong addition to the massive Civil War canon will appeal to all readers."--Publishers Weekly

"This anthology is one of McPherson's finest works and will be warmly received by any Civil War reader."--Army Magazine

"Brings a critical intelligence to central questions concerning the war."--Kirkus Reviews

"These 16 essays--many previously published in The New York Review of Books, all revised so that they form a coherent whole--ask the big questions of the Civil War: Why was it fought? Why did the South lose? What was the wa's effect on those who lived through it? Addressing recent historiography, McPherson, a Pulitzer Prize winner, is both masterly and graceful."--New York Times Book Review

Publishers Weekly
Prolific and much-honored historian McPherson (Battle Cry of Freedom, etc.) weighs in on the Civil War in this compilation of 16 essays, most of which have appeared in print before-seven of them in The New York Review of Books. Revised and edited for this collection, the essays read like chapters in a smooth narrative that addresses some of the biggest questions of the Civil War: why did it start? why did the South lose? what motivated the men who fought on both sides? how do we evaluate the top leaders-including Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee and Ulysses G. Grant? McPherson goes about answering these and other questions in his usual graceful style, underscored by a thorough grasp of myriad primary and secondary sources on virtually every aspect of the conflict. He forthrightly expresses his opinions while backing them up with well-reasoned arguments, whether challenging the "Lost Cause" argument about why the South lost, or supporting the proposition that it was slavery-and not states' rights-that was the main cause of the war. This strong addition to the massive Civil War canon will appeal to all readers. (Feb.) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Library Journal
After 40 years of researching and writing about the Civil War, McPherson (history, emeritus, Princeton Univ.; For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War) comes to grips with basic questions about his subject in 16 beautifully crafted essays. These readings are a mix of previously published pieces, updated and revised works, and entirely new offerings. As a foremost Civil War scholar, the author carefully assesses the interpretations of colleagues in the field, sometimes agreeing, sometimes disagreeing, and sometimes presenting a nuanced perspective on his colleagues' theses. The reader will gain new insights into the thinking of men such as General Lee, President Lincoln, and John Brown (about whom post-9/11 historians disagree as to his status as a "terrorist"). For example, "Butcher" Grant's casualty rate was far lower that that of "Granny" Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. McPherson's final essay constitutes a compendium of his seven Lincoln-related books and is written to stand alone as an investigation into the major phases of Lincoln's life. This excellent collection of a master's contributions to Civil War historiography is essential for all military and Civil War collections.-John Carver Edwards, Univ. of Georgia Libs., Cleveland Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Essays and book reviews by a leading Civil War historian. The topics that McPherson (History/Princeton; Hallowed Ground, 2003, etc.) covers range from the conflict's roots in slavery to the postwar Southern campaign to control how history is represented in textbooks. A piece in Section I examines the careers of Harriet Tubman and John Brown, who went beyond mere words in their opposition to slavery. The author questions Tubman's claim of personally having freed some 300 slaves, as well as other details of her story, but he does not deny her importance as a symbol. Section II, "The Lost Cause Revisited," looks at Confederate hopes and myths: the European reaction to Antietam (which effectively killed the chance for foreign intervention), Lee's intentions in the Gettysburg campaign and the true character of Jesse James, whose mythic status as a homegrown Robin Hood survives in spite of ample and irrefutable evidence to the contrary. Section III groups essays on the Union leaders, in particular Grant and Sherman, and the harsher style of warfare they brought to bear on the South. Two particularly illuminating pieces in Section IV concern the Boston Brahmins who led some of the most effective fighting units in the war and the impact of daily newspapers on the soldiers of both sides; some observers reported men on picket duty with a rifle in one hand and a paper in the other. The two final essays consider Lincoln: One reviews several recent biographies, the other examines his suspension of habeas corpus. Brings a critical intelligence to central questions concerning the war.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195313666
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 1/6/2007
  • Pages: 272
  • Sales rank: 810,567
  • Product dimensions: 9.30 (w) x 6.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of History Emeritus at Princeton University. He has published numerous volumes on the Civil War, including Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, and For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, which won the prestigious Lincoln Prize in 1998.

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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

Preface
Acknowledgments

I. Slavery and the Coming of War
1. And the War Came
2. Escape and Revolt in Black and White

II. The Lost Cause Revisited
3. The Confederacy: A House Divided?
4. Was the Best Defense a Good Offense? Jefferson Davis and Confederate Strategies
5. The Saratoga That Wasn't: The Impact of Antietam Abroad
6. To Conquer a Peace? Lee's Goals in the Gettysburg Campaign
7. The Last Rebel: Jesse James
8. Long-Legged Yankee Lies: The Lost Cause Textbook Crusade

III. Architects of Victory
9. "We Stand by Each Other Always": Grant and Sherman
10. The Hard Hand of War
11. Unvexed to the Sea: Lincoln, Grant, and the Vicksburg Campaign

IV. Home Front and Battle Front
12. Brahmins at War
13. "Spend Much Time in Reading the Daily Papers": The Press and Army Morale in the Civil War
14. No Peace Without Victory, 1861-1865

V. Lincoln
15. To Remember That He Had Lived
16. "As Commander-in-Chief I Have a Right to Take Any Measure Which May Best Subdue the Enemy"

Notes
Index

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Sort by: Showing all of 3 Customer Reviews
  • Posted February 20, 2010

    A stimulating, thoughtful analysis of a wide range of Civil War topics

    Noted Civil War historian James McPherson (his _Battle Cry of Freedom_ (1988) is probably the best general history) here provides sixteen short, detailed and readable essays in military history, social and political history, biography and historiography.

    McPherson critically examines the strategic successes and failures of both sides and the motives and character of leaders and of soldiers. He offers a new look at the Vicksburg campaign, compares Antietam to Shenandoah, looks critically at Lee's assessment of the Gettysburg campaign (Lee thought it largely a success), and asks what motivated soldiers to make repeated attacks that cost as much as 80 per cent casualties. Like British military historian John Keegan, McPherson finds some of his answers in the accounts people--soldiers and civilians--left behind: an ethic of duty, honor, and chivalric sacrifice played a large role, as did patriotism and, in the north, a rejection of slavery, a hatred of demoralizing newspaper editorializing. (There is more of this in McPherson, _What they Fought for_, New York, NY: Doubleday-Anchor, 1995.)

    McPherson also writes about Lincoln's use of presidential war powers to suspend habeas corpus and abolish slavery, Congressional and judicial endorsement of his conduct, and opposition denunciation. His historiographic essays include a critical examination of Lincoln biographies and a look at zealous revisionist Southern histories of the war.

    Besides Lincoln, who gets two essays to himself, persons whose personalities, character and careers are examined in some detail include Lee and Davis, Grant and Sherman, John Brown, Harriet Tubman and another less well-known fugitive, Harriet Jacobs, and Jesse James.

    This is a book that will please both the thoughtful general reader and the serious historian.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 30, 2007

    Season Premier

    It¿s fall 2007 and time again for another episode of ¿Let¿s Kick the Southerners: or, Did I Mention I Was Right the First Time?¿ based on the book This Mighty Scourge. Forget that the northern slave traders made a killing off the slave trade without any scruples or ethical concerns. Forget that northern soldiers didn¿t want to fight alongside their black compatriots. Forget that the worst race riots in our nation¿s history were in the north. Forget that Southern women held ¿The Cause¿ in higher regard than the lives of their own sons. Forget that the war was one of attrition and superior northern technology. Forget all these things as northern historians jockey for position to slam the South into submission once again. The same cast of characters and plots return for another fun-filled season of Southern stupidity and bigotry. Directed by Ken Burns.

    0 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
  • Anonymous

    Posted February 4, 2010

    No text was provided for this review.

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