The Union War

The Union War

by Gary W. Gallagher


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Even one hundred and fifty years later, we are haunted by the Civil War—by its division, its bloodshed, and perhaps, above all, by its origins. Today, many believe that the war was fought over slavery. This answer satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gary Gallagher shows in this brilliant revisionist history, it is an anachronistic judgment.

In a searing analysis of the Civil War North as revealed in contemporary letters, diaries, and documents, Gallagher demonstrates that what motivated the North to go to war and persist in an increasingly bloody effort was primarily preservation of the Union. Devotion to the Union bonded nineteenth-century Americans in the North and West against a slaveholding aristocracy in the South and a Europe that seemed destined for oligarchy. Northerners believed they were fighting to save the republic, and with it the world’s best hope for democracy.

Once we understand the centrality of union, we can in turn appreciate the force that made northern victory possible: the citizen-soldier. Gallagher reveals how the massive volunteer army of the North fought to confirm American exceptionalism by salvaging the Union. Contemporary concerns have distorted the reality of nineteenth-century Americans, who embraced emancipation primarily to punish secessionists and remove slavery as a future threat to union—goals that emerged in the process of war. As Gallagher recovers why and how the Civil War was fought, we gain a more honest understanding of why and how it was won.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780674066083
Publisher: Harvard
Publication date: 09/03/2012
Pages: 256
Sales rank: 588,190
Product dimensions: 6.18(w) x 9.10(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Gary W. Gallagher is John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia.

Table of Contents

Introduction 1

1 The Grand Review 7

2 Union 33

3 Emancipation 75

4 The Armies 119

5 Affirmation 151

Notes 165

Acknowledgments 201

Index 204

What People are Saying About This

James M. McPherson

Gary Gallagher, more carefully and precisely than anyone else, enables the reader to understand why so many citizen soldiers were willing to peril their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to preserve the United States as one nation, indivisible and, in Lincoln's words at Gettysburg, to give the "new nation" brought forth in 1776 a "new birth of freedom" in 1863.

James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom

Joseph T. Glatthaar

Gary Gallagher has written another gem in The Union War. A companion to his brilliant and controversial The Confederate War, this slender volume is sure to generate wide readership and debate.
Joseph T. Glatthaar, author of General Lee's Army: From Victory to Defeat

From the Publisher

"Brimming with insights, eloquent in argument, and filled with new evidence from the men who fought for the Union, this revisionist history will cause readers to rethink many of the now-standard Civil War interpretations. An essential work." —-Library Journal Starred Review

Matthew Gallman

A rare volume that forces us to reconsider how we think about the Civil War. Examining historic actors in the context of their own time and place, Gallagher reminds of the centrality of "Union" as the motivating force driving the Northern cause, and the significance of those citizen-soldiers who joined the Union Army in determining the results.

Matthew Gallman, author of Northerners at War: Reflections on the Civil War Home Front

George C. Rable

The Union Warreaffirms Gary Gallagher's reputation as one of the most astute and provocative writers on the American Civil War. This work places the Union at the heart of the war but also argues for the central role of armies and soldiers in understanding how the goals of reunion and emancipation were finally realized. With clarity and verve, Gallagher deals with large questions in an unfailingly profound way.
George C. Rable, author of God's Almost Chosen Peoples

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