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"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
Posted February 20, 2010
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.
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Posted September 30, 2007
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.
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Posted February 4, 2010
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