Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

by James M. McPherson
Pub. Date:
Oxford University Press


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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War.

James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War—the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry—and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself—the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory.

The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war—slavery—and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict.

This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780195168952
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Publication date: 12/11/2003
Series: Oxford History of the United States Series
Pages: 952
Sales rank: 30,525
Product dimensions: 9.20(w) x 5.90(h) x 1.70(d)

About the Author

James M. McPherson is Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University. His books include The Struggle for Equality, Marching Toward Freedom, and Ordeal by Fire.


Princeton, New Jersey

Date of Birth:

October 11, 1936

Place of Birth:

Valley City, North Dakota


B.A., Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1963

Table of Contents

Editor's Introductionxvii
Prologue: From the Halls of Montezuma3
1.The United States at Midcentury6
2.Mexico Will Poison Us47
3.An Empire for Slavery78
4.Slavery, Rum, and Romanism117
5.The Crime Against Kansas145
6.Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln170
7.The Revolution of 1860202
8.The Counterrevolution of 1861234
9.Facing Both Ways: The Upper South's Dilemma276
10.Amateurs Go to War308
11.Farewell to the Ninety Days' War339
12.Blockade and Beachhead: The Salt-Water War, 1861-1862369
13.The River War in 1862392
14.The Sinews of War428
15.Billy Yank's Chickahominy Blues454
16.We Must Free the Slaves or Be Ourselves Subdued490
17.Carry Me Back to Old Virginny511
18.John Bull's Virginia Reel546
19.Three Rivers in Winter, 1862-1863568
20.Fire in the Rear591
21.Long Remember: The Summer of '63626
22.Johnny Reb's Chattanooga Blues666
23.When This Cruel War Is Over689
24.If It Takes All Summer718
25.After Four Years of Failure751
26.We Are Going To Be Wiped Off the Earth774
27.South Carolina Must Be Destroyed807
28.We Are All Americans831
Epilogue: To the Shoals of Victory853
Abbreviated Titles868
Bibliographic Note870

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Battle Cry of Freedom 4.3 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 101 reviews.
Amela_Renee More than 1 year ago
James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom is an epic tome that provides an in-depth view of the Civil War. He gives a detailed analysis of the battles, along with the significant political and social activities that surrounded this conflict. Because McPherson's research is scholarly (not to mention a Pulitzer Prize winning book, with an author who is the Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton) this volume is invaluable to the student of American history as a reputable research tool. McPherson includes quotes, maps, tables and several pages of compelling Civil War photographs within the pages of his narrative. The structure McPherson uses is for the most part chronological, however, the scope of the conflict is such that chronology alone is not fully possible. There is significant overlap of time, especially as he gives full measure to the intricacies of the sectional conflict and the political scene for both sections of the country. McPherson is easy to read and entertaining, even when tackling this comprehensive exploration of the subject of the Civil War. Not for the faint-hearted though, or for someone wanting a casual weekend read; this volume is a whopping 867 pages not including the bibliography or notes. With an emphasis on Civil War battles, this book is an excellent resource for the student of American history, and an excellent companion to books that focus on the Social history of the same era.
MikeBeachBum More than 1 year ago
I am a history book fan in general but have just started reading about the Civil War. I picked up Shelby Foote's 3 volumn set, but got a little bogged down and decided I needed something a little more brief. I am so glad that I picked up "Battle Cry of Freedom". It does a great job of condensing a huge amount of material into a single book. It also tells a good deal about the elements that lead up to the war itself. It does not have a tremendous amount of detail about the individual battles (it couldn't and still be in one book) but I think gives a great overall view of the war. Highly recommended to anyone who wants to learn more about this conflict.
Father_of_5_Boys More than 1 year ago
This book was on my shelf for a while because I was a little intimidated by it's length, but it was well worth the time invested! This book would really be great for someone who didn't know much about the Civil War and wanted a comprehensive overview or for someone like me who has read a bunch of different stuff on the Civil War and can always use something like this to pull it all back together and put the pieces in context again. What always amazes me when reading things like this is, given the almost mythological status that Lincoln has achieved in U.S. history, how unpopular he was with so many people at the time and how close he came to almost losing the election against McClellan in 1864. The other thing that always amazes me is how the Confederate leaders like Joe Johnston and Jefferson Davis refused to acknowledge that they were going to lose the war, even as late as December 1864-January 1865.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This outstanding book starts at the beginning, and I don't mean secession or Fort Sumter' but the REAL beginning ... and covers all of the multitude of socio-economic and political reasons for the Civil War before ever getting into what happened between 1861-1865. If you want a have a stronger understanding of how it came to pass that we slaightered each other by the many thousands for all of those four years, and you read nothing else on the subject, you should read 'Battle Cry of Freedom'! You still probably won't completely accept that it actually had to happen, but you will have a much better handle on how and why it did take place ...
Danmark More than 1 year ago
This the first-ever book I read about the Civil War, many years ago. McPherson captures the build-up to the conflict, the fascinating events leading to secession, and then describes each battle and the progression towards the inevitable victory of Union forces - as if McPherson actually was there, himself, and the reader feels the same. The rare gift of making historic event alive is a skill, McPherson masters. If you're a new student of the Civil War, or want to understand, what USA is made of, this is - hands down - the best single volume, you can get your hands on. Once you've read and want to 'trade up', I recommend Shelby Foote's trilogy above all, before you launch yourself into the ever-expanding sea of stunningly well-written books about each battle, or even very detailed accounts of parts of a battle, etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Nice compilation of many factors of the time period and war, and not one specific realm.
anonymous10TX More than 1 year ago
I recommend this book. It gives an overview of the civil war. It often reads like a school text book but it is easy to read. It discusses some of the social an economical issues associated with the civil war. For books about the military aspect of the war, I recommend Shelby Foote's Civil War Trilogies. 
Brodk More than 1 year ago
A wonderful book, full of insight and conclusions that seem to be based on careful analysis of facts and historical learning. The first four chapters, in particular, about the state of the USA from about 1850 to the beginning of the Civil War, is extremely good. I can't imagine a better one-volume narrative of the Civil War period in American history. For anyone interested in the Civil War this book should be on your shelf or on your Nook.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Great place to start one's adventure into the American Civil War.
glauver More than 1 year ago
This is probably more a political than military history. McPherson brings in many snippets of information that are revealing. Did you know that a Civil War general was 50 percent more likely to be killed or wounded than his men? I have never read Allan Nevins 8 book history of the era - it is just too big - but this probably supersedes that as the best overview of all aspects of the war.
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Stephan81 More than 1 year ago
As I was perusing my local library, I stumble upon this undeniably succinct narrative of the civil war. McPherson was able to seamlessly explain, in detail, the events the led to the civil war, the war itself and the victory of the union. The author offers a pragmatic explanation of possible reasons why the union won the war and even boldly offers "what-ifs" had the confederacy won. If you read ONE book on the civil war, this should be it.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
nookpj More than 1 year ago
Clear narrative style, contains all the major political, social, and military topics, a pleasure to read and contemplate. A thoughtful and well researched presentation of this complex national struggle.
superdave More than 1 year ago
An interesting book to say the least. I'd recommend it to anyone who has a curiosity about the events preceding the civil war. Onre observation I have is that the same politicians, military leaders existed then as now. The same back biting, the same one upmansship as now. The difference seems to be in the speed of the communication ssystem. As now seemingly small evens turtned into national issues. Political power seems to have been greater then. Many "boy generals" emerged... some pretty dood Theree is no war as devistating as a civil war. It is illustrated in the overwhelming issue of the day involving slavery. Mr. McPhearson did a good job of painting a picture of events and those who supported and opposed the war. It is interesting to see how Lincoln's leadewrship was lkey to bringing the coundry back together. IOn any event I believe this book is worth the read for any student of the civil war. I'd give it 4 stars for the most part.
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Lawrence_Von_Frederick More than 1 year ago
Easy to read history of the build-up to the Civil War and the Civil War itself. The coverage of the battles was not overly detailed but did note the military strategies and outcomes. The battles were fairly conventional in the coverage - after all how many times have they been written about - but the build-up to the War is nicely organized and well argued. The strongest part of the book may be statement on and review of the various reasons given for both the War and the dominance of the north. McPherson cogently argues that the North was the future that unfolded in parts of Europe as well as the United States. This future had been held back by the political dominance of the south but was unleashed when the south seceded. He also captures the racism that stopped reconstruction and was evident in the Democratic Party campaigns against the "Black Republicans." I look forward a book on reconstruction from McPherson as that topic has not been honestly handled as well as it could be. In sum, a very honest history of our Civil War with insights into some of the why's about both the start and conclusion.
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McPherson knows how to get the details to you. His portrayal of the information is always first rate.