Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Civil War

Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Civil War

by David Fisher


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The newest installment in the New York Times #1 bestselling companion series to the Fox historical docudrama, Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies; The Civil War is a pulse-quickening account of the deadliest war in American history

From the birth of the Republican Party to the Confederacy’s first convention, the Underground Railroad to the Emancipation Proclamation, the Battle of Gettysburg to the assassination of Abraham Lincoln, Bill O’Reilly’s Legends and Lies: The Civil War reveals the amazing and often little known stories behind the battle lines of America’s bloodiest war and debunks the myths that surround its greatest figures, including Harriet Tubman, Abraham Lincoln, General Robert E. Lee, Frederick Douglass, Stonewall Jackson, John Singleton Mosby, Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, John Wilkes Booth, William Tecumseh Sherman, and more. An epic struggle between the past and future, the Civil War sought to fulfill the promise that “all men are created equal.” It freed an enslaved race, decimated a generation of young men, ushered in a new era of brutality in war, and created modern America. Featuring archival images, eyewitness accounts, and beautiful artwork that further brings the history to life, The Civil War is the action-packed and ultimate follow-up to the #1 bestsellers The Patriots and The Real West.

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780594871132
Publisher: Holt, Henry & Company, Inc.
Publication date: 06/06/2017
Series: Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies Series
Pages: 368
Sales rank: 23,353
Product dimensions: 7.70(w) x 9.40(h) x 1.30(d)

About the Author

Bill O'Reilly's success in broadcasting and publishing is unmatched. The iconic anchor of The O'Reilly Factor led the program to the status of the highest rated cable news broadcast in the nation for sixteen consecutive years. His website is followed by millions all over the world.

In addition, he has authored an astonishing 12 number one ranked non-fiction books including the historical "Killing" series. Mr. O'Reilly currently has 17 million books in print.

Bill O'Reilly has been a broadcaster for 42 years. He has been awarded three Emmy's and a number of other journalism accolades. He was a national correspondent for CBS News and ABC News as well as a reporter-anchor for WCBS-TV in New York City among other high profile jobs.

Mr. O'Reilly received two other Emmy nominations for the movies "Killing Kennedy" and "Killing Jesus."

He holds a history degree from Marist College, a masters degree in Broadcast Journalism from Boston University, and another masters degree from Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government.

Bill O'Reilly lives on Long Island where he was raised. His philanthropic enterprises have raised tens of millions for people in need and wounded American veterans.

David Fisher is the author of more than twenty New York Times bestsellers. His work has also appeared in most major magazines and many newspapers. He lives in New York with his wife and two sons.

Read an Excerpt



John Brown Stirs America's Passions

On Sunday, October 16, 1859, John Brown and his band of twenty-one men came out of the dark night to change American history. "The terror of all Missouri," as the New York Times had called the fifty-nine-year-old abolitionist, was known nationally as a leader of the antislavery movement — and a zealot who had murdered at least five pro-slavery men in cold blood. His stated purpose that night was to seize the federal armory and its thousands of weapons in the quiet town of Harpers Ferry, Virginia, expecting it to be the spark that ignited a rebellion of slaves in the region. In fact, he would start a war that would inflame the entire nation.

While history records that the Civil War began early in the morning of April 12, 1861, when Confederate troops began shelling Union-occupied Fort Sumter in Charleston, South Carolina's, harbor, many historians believe war became inevitable the night of John Brown's raid. Today Brown is remembered mostly for the verse "John Brown's body lies a-moldering in the grave ... his soul is marching on," but his daring raid at Harpers Ferry put the nation on the path that would lead to the bloodiest war in American history.

Decades earlier the founding fathers had successfully managed to weave together the thirteen colonies into a nation without resolving the momentous debate over slavery. Since an English ship, the White Lion, sailing under a Dutch flag in 1619, had traded the first twenty enslaved Africans to the Jamestown colonists in exchange for food and supplies, Americans had wrestled with the moral and economic implications of treating human beings as property. The agrarian South, with its tobacco economy, relied on slave labor far more than the industrialized North. In 1780, Pennsylvania became the first state to begin banning slavery, passing a law that moved exceedingly slowly toward emancipation. After long and bitter debates that threatened to tear apart the newly won country, the delegates attending the 1787 Constitutional Convention passed the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted slaves as three-fifths of a person when determining a state's representation in Congress but gave those slaves no rights. Slaves were property to be bought, sold, and worked until they died — and all of their children were born into slavery.

With schoolteacher Eli Whitney's 1793 invention of the cotton gin, the so-called engine that could rapidly clean seeds from raw cotton, cotton replaced tobacco as the South's most profitable crop — and required even more slaves to pick it. America's 1790 census recorded almost seven hundred thousand slaves, a number that increased by more than half a million in the next two decades. By 1850 it was estimated there were more than three million slaves in the United States, and one in four Southerners owned slaves.

While New England's textile industry had once depended on slave labor, the Northern states had mostly abolished slavery by 1804 — although in some cases the statutes remained legally in force. In 1808 Congress outlawed the importation of slaves from Africa, but the domestic slave trade, the exchange of existing slaves and their families, continued to flourish in the South.

The Missouri Compromise, passed in 1820, arranged a tenuous peace between pro- and antislavery interests, by dividing the twenty-two states equally into slave and free states. But while Northern politicians continued to speak out publicly and mostly ineffectually against slavery, others began taking covert action. The abolitionist movement created the Underground Railroad, a vast network of way stations consisting of hiding places in caves and in cellars, beneath church floors and in barn lofts, through which "conductors" guided escaping slaves trying desperately to make their way north to freedom. Among these conductors and stationmasters were legendary figures such as Harriet Tubman, an escaped slave who risked her life leading hundreds of others to freedom, as well as common folk such as the parents of teenager James Butler "Wild Bill" Hickok, whose small farm in Homer, Illinois, served as a way station. The penalties for working on this railroad were severe; the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850 made it a federal crime to assist escaping slaves and included large fines and possible imprisonment for offenders.

England peacefully abolished slavery throughout its empire in 1833, but this "peculiar institution," as Southerners referred to it, remained the foundation of the Southern agricultural economy. The issue threatened to rip the country apart; Ralph Waldo Emerson spoke for most Northerners when he said, "I think we must get rid of slavery, or we must get rid of freedom."

In 1851, a Connecticut woman named Harriet Beecher Stowe began writing a serial for the antislavery magazine the National Era, in which she "painted a word picture of slavery" based loosely on actual stories. A year later her more-than-forty-installment series was published as the two-volume book Uncle Tom's Cabin; or, Life Among the Lowly. Its portrayal of the brutal realities of American slavery shocked the world. The book became a best seller in the United States, Europe, and Asia, eventually being translated into sixty languages; stage plays based on the story — Tom shows — were immensely popular. By the end of the century Uncle Tom's Cabin had sold more copies than any book other than the Bible, and it is credited with forcing many Americans to face the true horrors of the slave trade. "I wrote what I did," she explained, "... because as a Christian I felt the dishonor to Christianity — because as a lover of my country, I trembled at the coming day of wrath."

Public consciousness had been raised, but still the nation was divided. When Congress passed the Kansas-Nebraska Act in 1854, which allowed residents of those territories to vote to decide whether they would enter the Union as slave states or free states, real fighting finally broke out. The bill, sponsored by Illinois senator Stephen Douglas, was an attempt at compromise. Instead, it further split Congress between the antislavery North and pro-slavery South, and caused the demise of the once-powerful Whig Party, which in turn led to the formation of the new and strongly antislavery Republican Party. And it ignited the long-lasting guerrilla war that journalist Horace Greeley named, sadly, Bleeding Kansas.

Pro-slavery gunslingers, known as Border Ruffians or bushwhackers, raced into the Kansas territory from Missouri, where they were met by the equally violent abolitionist Jayhawkers. What has on occasion been called the first battle of the Civil War took place on May 21, 1856, when as many as eight hundred men rode into the newly formed antislavery town of Lawrence, Kansas, terrified the residents, and destroyed several buildings — although the only fatality was the result of an accident, when a building collapsed.

For half a century politicians had been able to find ways to compromise about slavery, but they were running out of solutions. In May 1856, angry words became violent deeds in Congress when proslavery congressman Preston Brooks from South Carolina viciously attacked Massachusetts abolitionist senator Charles Sumner, smashing him on his head and shoulders with his cane, stopping only when the cane broke into pieces. It took Sumner three years to recover from his injuries — while Brooks became a hero in the South and received new canes from his admirers.

Abolitionists found their own hero three days later in Osawatomie, Kansas. John Brown was the Bible-quoting father of twenty children who had moved to Kansas to fight to end slavery. The son of strict Calvinists, he grew up among mostly Native American families in western Ohio. When he was twelve years old, he watched helplessly as a young slave boy was beaten and forced to sleep in the cold wearing only rags, an experience that he later wrote transformed him into "a most determined Abolitionist." He helped escaping slaves flee north to Canada, promoted black education, and insisted that his two black employees sit by him in his Congregational church — for which he was expelled. At an antislavery meeting when he was thirty-seven years old he stated, "Here, before God, in the presence of these witnesses, from this time, I consecrate my life to the destruction of slavery!"

He later befriended Frederick Douglass, the best-known black man in America, who himself had escaped from slavery in Maryland to become a legendary defender of human rights and who described Brown as "in sympathy a black man ... and as deeply interested in our cause, as though his own soul had been pierced with the iron of slavery."

When Brown learned of the sacking of Lawrence, Kansas, and the attack on Senator Sumner, he vowed to retaliate, telling his followers that it was their sacred duty to "strike terror in the hearts of the proslavery people." On the night of May 24, Brown's seven-man raiding party, including four of his sons, attacked pro-slavery settlers near Pottawatomie Creek, Kansas. Carrying rifles, knives, and swords, the Pottawatomie Rifles, as Brown called his militia, dragged victims out of their homes and hacked them to death, killing five men in what would become known as the Pottawatomie Massacre. As a member of that raiding party later dispassionately recalled, "The old man Doyle and two sons were called out and marched some distance from the house.... Old John Brown drew his revolver and shot the old man Doyle in the forehead, and [his] two youngest sons immediately fell upon the younger Doyles with their short two-edged swords." Brown was indicted for murder but was able to evade capture — and almost instantly became a revered figure in the abolitionist movement.

The Supreme Court further inflamed the already fervent abolitionists with its decision in the 1857 Dred Scott v. Sandford case. Scott was a slave who had lived for a time with his owner in the free state of Illinois and the territory of Minnesota — and when his owner died and he became the possession of the widow, he sued for his freedom. Ironically, a substantial portion of his legal fees was paid by the sons of his original owner, one of them an antislavery Missouri congressman named Henry Taylor Blow. After a Missouri state court ruled that Scott was still legally bound because he had not sued for his freedom while living in a nonslave state, his case slowly made its way to the Supreme Court.

Several similar cases decided at the state level had freed the petitioning slaves, establishing the doctrine of "once free, forever free." But five of the nine Supreme Court justices hearing the Dred Scott case came from slave-owning families. The eleven-year legal battle was concluded in March 1857, when Chief Justice Roger Taney issued what scholars often consider the single worst verdict in Supreme Court history, ruling that an African-American could never be a citizen and therefore Scott had no standing to sue for his freedom in a federal court, and, more important, that the federal government had no right to regulate slavery in any territory acquired after the signing of the Constitution. Slaves were property, Taney wrote in the majority opinion. "They had for more than a century before been regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." The court went even farther than that, declaring that slave owners were protected by the Fifth Amendment guarantee that citizens could not be deprived of their property "without due process of the law." As a result, the court found that the Missouri Compromise was unconstitutional and slavery could not legally be prohibited anywhere in the federal territories.

Perhaps fittingly, ten weeks after the decision was issued, Congressman Henry Blow purchased Scott's freedom, as well as that of his wife and two daughters, for $750. Dred Scott found work as a porter in a Saint Louis hotel but lived as a free man for only nine months, dying of tuberculosis in 1858 at age sixty-three.

Rather than settling the issue, as many had hoped it would, the Dred Scott decision propelled the nation into a crisis. The clever compromises of the past that had held the Union together tenuously no longer were possible. Fifteen months after the decision, former Illinois congressman Abraham Lincoln delivered one of his greatest speeches to the state Republican convention in Springfield, Illinois, warning that with this ruling, the court had taken away from states the right of self-determination and that eventually slavery could be imposed upon the entire nation. "A house divided against itself cannot stand," he said. "I believe this government cannot endure, permanently, half slave and half free. I do not expect the Union to be dissolved — I do not expect the house to fall — but I do expect it will cease to be divided. It will become all one thing, or all the other."

Those words marked the beginning of Lincoln's campaign for the Senate against two-term Democratic incumbent Stephen Douglas. Throughout the fall of 1858 Lincoln and Douglas met in seven historic debates that riveted the nation and set the stage for the presidential election two years later, when they would meet again. Their positions on slavery actually were much more different than is commonly accepted. "The Little Giant," as the five-foot-four Stephen A. Douglas was known, was a towering political figure who strongly supported the doctrine of popular sovereignty, the belief that voters in each state and territory should decide for themselves contentious issues such as slavery. Although personally he was opposed to the institution, he argued that majority rule was the essence of democracy and the very foundation on which this nation had been founded. "If there is any one principle dearer and more sacred than all others in free governments," he proclaimed, "it is that which asserts the exclusive right of a free people to form and adopt their own fundamental law, and to manage and regulate their own internal affairs and domestic institutions." For that reason, he argued against President James Buchanan's efforts to strong-arm Kansas into the Union as a slave state — a political position that resulted in his gaining supporters from the opposition Republicans in Congress.

Lincoln was not yet the Great Emancipator he was to become. While he believed slavery was morally wrong and a violation of the constitutional declaration that "all men are created equal," he was not an abolitionist. He argued that slavery should be prohibited in new states and territories, but he did not advocate outlawing it where it existed. In fact, as he said during the fourth debate, "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races." Basically, he believed free black men and women should have the right to work and be paid a fair wage, move without restriction in society, and make their own decisions. He did not support giving freed slaves the right to vote, serve on juries, hold political office, or marry whites. In fact, for a time he supported colonization, suggesting that slaves be freed and sent to the African nation of Liberia. Given the strife that existed between the races, he said in 1862, it would be "better for us both, therefore, to be separated."

Interest in the hours-long debates was so intense that many newspapers printed the entire texts. Although Douglas won the Senate election, Lincoln gained the national recognition and support that would result in his becoming the Republican Party's presidential candidate in 1860.

All those fancy words and highfalutin ideas had little impact on fightin' men like John Brown. While Lincoln and Douglas were busy speechifying and Stowe was writing her books and plays, Brown was taking action. He intended to start an uprising that would lead to the end of slavery. He proved his capabilities in the winter of 1858, when he liberated twelve slaves from two farms in Verona, Missouri, and led them on a hazardous eighty-two-day, thousand-mile journey to freedom in Canada.


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Table of Contents

Title Page,
Copyright Notice,
Introduction By Bill O'Reilly,
CHAPTER ONE A GRAVE BEGINNING John Brown Stirs America's Passions,
CHAPTER TWO THE SOUTH RISES The Union Is Ripped Asunder,
CHAPTER FOUR UNBOUND FOR GLORY Frederick Douglass on the Road to Freedom,
CHAPTER NINE THE LEADING MAN Abraham Lincoln Runs into History,
CHAPTER TEN BURNING MAN General Sherman Marches Through Georgia,
CHAPTER ELEVEN THE LAST SHOTS ARE FIRED The War Ends and Lincoln is Assassinated,
About the Author,

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