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What They Fought for 1861-1865
     

What They Fought for 1861-1865

by James M. McPherson
 

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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

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 fighting 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 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.

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)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780385476348
Publisher:
Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date:
03/28/1995
Edition description:
1st Anchor Books ed
Pages:
112
Sales rank:
410,544
Product dimensions:
5.18(w) x 7.99(h) x 0.26(d)
Lexile:
1360L (what's this?)

Brief Biography

Hometown:
Princeton, New Jersey
Date of Birth:
October 11, 1936
Place of Birth:
Valley City, North Dakota
Education:
B.A., Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) 1958; Ph.D., Johns Hopkins University, 1963

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