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What They Fought for 1861-1865

Overview

In Battle Cry Of Freedom,  James M. McPherson presented a fascinating, concise  general history of the defining American conflict.  With What They Fought For, he  focuses his considerable talents on what motivated  the individual soldier to fight. In an exceptional  and highly original Civil War analysis, McPherson  draws on the letters and diaries of nearly one  thousand Union and Confederate soldiers, giving voice  to the ...
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Overview

In Battle Cry Of Freedom,  James M. McPherson presented a fascinating, concise  general history of the defining American conflict.  With What They Fought For, he  focuses his considerable talents on what motivated  the individual soldier to fight. In an exceptional  and highly original Civil War analysis, McPherson  draws on the letters and diaries of nearly one  thousand Union and Confederate soldiers, giving voice  to the very men who risked their lives in the  conflict. His conclusion that most of them felt a keen  sense of patriotic and ideological commitment  counters the prevailing belief that Civil War soldiers  had little or no idea of what they were lighting  for. In their letters home and their diaries --  neither of which were subject to censorship -- these  men were able to comment, in writing, on a wide  variety of issues connected with their war  experience. Their insights show how deeply felt and  strongly held their convictions were and reveal far more  careful thought on the ideological issues of the  war than has previously been thought to be true.  Living only eighty years after the signing of the  Declaration of Independence, Civil War soldiers felt  the legacy and responsibility entrusted to them by  the Founding Fathers to to preserve fragile  democracy -- be it through secession or union -- as  something worth dying for. In What They  Fought For, McPherson takes individual voices  and places them in the great and terrible choir of  a country divided against itself. The result is  both an impressive scholarly tour de force and a  lively, highly accessible account of the sentiments  of both Northern and Southern soldiers during the  national trauma of the Civil War.

From the author of Battle Cry of Freedom comes an exceptional and highly original Civil War analysis. McPherson draws on the letters and diaries of nearly 1,000 Union and Confederate soldiers, giving voice to the very men who risked their lives in the conflict, in order to find out what motivated each soldier to fight.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"[McPherson]  makes a persuasive case for his interpretation."  -- The Washington Post Book  World.

"Mcpherson's emphasis on moral and  ideological factors in war gives his book significance  well beyond its specific subject." --  Publishers Weekly.

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Using personal accounts left by Civil War soldiers, McPherson gives his own interpretation of what drew these men to fight. Apr.
Library Journal
Union general Joshua Chamberlain once observed that because they fought for rights rather than pay or plunder, Civil War armies were almost unique in history. Numerous studies of the Civil War, and subsequent wars, have argued otherwise, noting that self-interest and survival more than ideology caused men to fight. Now distinguished historian McPherson American history, Princeton Univ. has entered the lists after examining several hundred Union and Confederate soldiers' diaries and letters. In a sprightly and forcefully argued book, based on a series of lectures and derived from a larger work-in-progress, McPherson finds that soldiers on both sides cherished concepts of liberty even when defending slavery. Many historians will likely contest such findings, which seem more to characterize the first years of the war than the last, but all will owe McPherson much for revitalizing an important debate about the meaning of the Civil War.-- Randall M. Miller, St. Joseph's Univ., Philadelphia
Booknews
The subject of this intriguing lecture is carved out of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's larger work-in-progress, Why They Fought, which will focus on the attitudes and motives of Civil War soldiers. The narrower scope of this small book is ideology, that is, what the soldiers believed they were fighting for. A close study of thousands of personal letters and diaries written by soldiers during the war reveals a more sophisticated level of understanding than has conventionally been assumed. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR booknews.com
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780385476348
  • Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
  • Publication date: 3/28/1995
  • Edition description: 1st Anchor Books ed
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 112
  • Sales rank: 226,788
  • Lexile: 1360L (what's this?)
  • Product dimensions: 5.17 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.28 (d)

Meet the Author

James M. McPherson
Initially moved to study the history of the South as a way of understanding the civil rights movement, James M. McPherson has become the preeminent expert on the Civil War and Reconstruction. His award-winning work provides detail, context and a modern perspective on one of America's most important historical periods.
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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
Abbreviations
Introduction 1
1 "The Holy Cause of Liberty and Independence" 9
2 "The Best Government on God's Footstool" 27
3 "The War Will Never End Until We End Slavery" 47
Notes 71
Index 87
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