Reddit reviews Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States)
The last time a major political party died was the Whigs in the lead up to the Civil War. The Whig Party broke apart on the question of slavery. Northern factions became more anti-slavery, while Southern factions refused to abandon slavery. The Party could not contain these contradictory ideas, so it lost support and quickly found its members deserting the Whig Party for alternatives.
As the former Whigs began to abandon their party, new political parties appeared to take them in. Those parties included: the Free Soil Party, the American Party (sometimes known as the 'know-nothing' party) and the Republican Party. By the election of 1856, the Whigs were gone.
Interestingly enough, the Democratic Party also split on the issue of slavery in 1860, with Northern and Southern factions emerging to nominate their own candidates. However, the Democrats were able to recover after the Civil War and continue to be a major party to this day (of course).
The other major parties that died (The Federalists, Democratic-Republicans, National Republicans kinda) weren't really political parties in the sense that we understand them. They were more alliances of elites competing against each other, as opposed to mass mobilizing voters. The Federalists died largely as a result of the total victory of the Democratic-Republicans and the Democratic-Republicans also died largely as a result of their victory, leading to the somewhat party-less period known as the 'Era of Good Feelings.'
All the other parties you mention were minor parties that were either formed as result of a brief split from the major parties (Southern Democrats) or as a the result of a single influential man creating the party as a platform to run on (the Progressive Party).
In a sense the only true major political party that has died was the Whig Party.
So now comes the real question, why has there not been another party collapse in the 150 or so years after the Civil War? Why have we stuck to the Democrat/Republican divide, even as those parties have changed radically both in supporters and in issues?
The answer is that absent an issue so divisive as that it literally led to civil war, parties are pretty damn durable. Every time a major challenger to the two parties has emerged (such as the Progressive Party in 1912), one or both of the two parties have adjusted themselves and their issues to try to be welcoming to those voters and issues. Thus the Democratic Party moves from being a small government party in the 19th century, to being a progressive party in the early 20th to being the party of the New Deal in the mid-20th century.
In America's two party system, which is reinforced by our first-past-the-post system of elections, parties should be viewed less as solid ideological actors and more as alliances of disparate interests that come together in order to seek political advantage. Thus you have labor and environmentalists largely in the same party, not because those two views are immediately reconcilable, but because it is an advantageous political alliance. When those alliances break down, groups may switch from one party to another (something called 'realignment'). Thus the two parties survive, even as supporters and issues may change.
This is quickly veering into the realm of a political science discussion, so I'll just end here with a few quick answers to your questions.
Stories abound that this assessment that you just "picked your family" or "picked your state" aren't correct, just FYI. It was much more complicated than you think.
Same with "citations" for arguments. Read this book as a starting place. It is pretty settled that the only valid reason that the South had for secession was economic anxiety from the removal of the barbaric slave trade. They were to choose between owning people as property (an untenable act) and having less money. They chose owning people. They lost.
Once again I reference the /r/askhistorian thread and this great book recommendation. Every argument revolving around State's Rights, economics...it comes back to slavery.
I'm fed up with the petty, childish "souths" reinventing of a conflict they started and continue to hold onto despite losing over 100 years ago. Germany has had better standards dealing with post-WWII/WW1 than the southern half of the U.S.
It's a bit of fact and a bit of propaganda. There are many claims in here, so I'll probably miss some, but let me start with the first big red flag that's demonstrably not true:
>And in the blighting shadow of Slavery letters die and art cannot live. What book has the South ever given to the libraries of the world? What work of art has she ever added to its galleries? What artist has she produced…
There were several big names from the south in literature during the Antebellum period. The best example I can think of, William Gilmore Simms, whom Edgar Allen Poe praised as "the best novelist which this country, on the whole, has produced.". The south even had at least one literary magazine that I know of, The Southern Literary Messenger, also edited by Poe for a short time, coincidentally. It's safe to say the south was not suffering for lack of writers during that period.
As for fine arts, I'm struggling to come up with native southern painters who remained in the south through their lives, though I'm not well-versed in art history. If you expand that to painters born elsewhere who worked in the south, I can come up with some like John Audubon and George Caleb Bingham. There are probably others, but I have to admit that art history is totally out of my realm of knowledge.
As for the greater claim of the entire article:
>Possessed of all the raw materials of manufactures and the arts, its inhabitants look to the North for everything they need from the cradle to the coffin. Essentially agricultural in its constitution, with every blessing Nature can bestow upon it, the gross value of all its productions is less by millions than that of the simple grass of the field gathered into Northern barns. With all the means and materials of wealth, the South is poor.
There's some truth in that. No, the south did not have much industry outside of agriculture, save for a few places in eastern states like Virginia. However, I'd say it's a stretch to say that the South looked to the North for everything they needed. Most of the whites in the south weren't plantation owners, but subsistence farmers who mostly took care of their own needs. The claim that the difference in economy was due to slavery is mostly true. In order to support industry, you need people to sell things to. Slaves don't need that many goods, so producing goods to sell is less enticing in such a market.
>Why are they subjected to a censorship of the press, which dictates to them what they may or may not read, and which punishes booksellers with exile and ruin for keeping for sale what they want to buy? Why must Northern publishers expurgate and emasculate the literature of the world before it is permitted to reach them?
There's a small bit of truth to the censorship, but I only know of one very specific case of censorship. There was an outrage among southerners in 1835 over mailed abolitionist pamphlets, Post Master General Amos Kendall allowed them to be banned them from being mailed to the south. During this time, several southern states also passed laws against distributing abolitionist literature.
The bigger issue here might be that of self-censorship. I think this goes beyond people who might have believed in abolition privately, but publicly denounced it (although those certainly existed as well). Newspapers in the south, even those that took a more liberal stance, seemed unable to reconcile that the system of slavery their part of the country relied on was an inherent evil. A great example of this is Brownlow's Whig, a newspaper created by William Brownlow, who would eventually serve as governor and senator of TN, following the Civil War. I choose Brownlow because he's the perfect example of this confusing dichotomy and the shifting view of some southerners on slavery. When the paper begins in the 1830s, he is decidedly pro-slavery. As the war approaches, he continues to support slavery, but he is staunchly opposed to secession. During and after secession, he continues to oppose secession and in the meantime, his views on slavery shift. First, he begins to admit that Union is more important than slavery before finally taking a flat-out abolitionist stance by the end of the war.
From a transcript published in the July 2, 1864 issue of his paper, illustrating the strange position before advocating complete abolition:
>I do now know that I would be willing to go so far as probably he would. But I cordially agree with him in this -- I think, considering what has been done about slavery, taking the thing as it now stands, overlooking altogether, either in the way of condemnation or in the way of approval, any act that has brought us to the point where we are, but believing in my conscience and with all my heart, that what has brought us where we are in the matter of slavery, is the original sin and folly of treason and secession, because you remember that the Chicago Convention itself was understood today and I believe it virtually did explicitly say that they would not touch slavery in the States. ... We are prepared to demand not only that the whole territory of the United States shall not be made slave, but that the General Government, both the war power and the peace power, to put slavery as nearly possible back where it was -- for although that would be a fearful state of society, it is better than anarchy; or else use the whole power of the Government, both of war and peace, and all the practicable power that the people of the United States will give them to exterminate and extinguish slavery.
It's pretty clear that no one told Brownlow not to talk about abolition. His paper was known for being inflammatory and he didn't really care what the authorities had to say. It was shut down and reopened several times over the years as he fled from public backlash, assassination attempts, and eventually the Confederate army. It changed names almost as often as he changed locations including: Tennessee Whig, The Whig, The Jonesborough Whig, The Jonesborough Whig and Independent Journal, The Knoxville Whig and Independent Journal, and perhaps most colorfully, Brownlow's Knoxville Whig and Rebel Ventilator. My point being, it was pretty clear that he didn't care if he upset people and wasn't the type of man who wouldn't talk about abolition because it might against some regulation. He didn't believe in abolition for other, personal reasons until later on. I think this might be indicative of the more widespread form of "censorship" and not talking about abolition.
As far as the entire article, it seems to fall into the old view of looking reasons why the south was backward rather than seeing the north as revolutionary and the south as being more in step with other countries, like those in Europe and Russia. I agree with James McPherson's assessment in Battle Cry of Freedom that the war was the south's counter revolution to an economic, social, and political revolution that was happening in the north. In short: the article presents a heavily biased, though not completely untrue view of the south and its problems.
edit: added more sources and expanded a bit.
For the American Civil War:
Jean Edward Smith's Grant biography goes into some detail regarding logistics, as Grant's experience as a Quartermaster during the Mexican-American War, in particular when Scott's army was cut off from supplies during the Mexico City campaign, influenced actions like Grant's mule train to Chattanooga to relieve Rosecrans, and Sherman's March to the Sea.
However, it's not purely about the logistics of the war, which is covered in some more detail in McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, especially the comparisons of the economics of the Union and Confederate states.
And regarding World War II, the US Army Center of Military History has published two free books:
> What college departments usually offer logistics courses? Business Administration usually?
Or a dedicated logistics department. MIT has its Logistics and Supply Chain Management course available online.
The most-often recommended single volume is Battle Cry of Freedom.
If Gettysburg is an interest, I found Hallowed Ground by the same author to be a good read. More exhaustive is Sears's Gettysburg, which helped me to understand a very dynamic picture.
Finally, we often get inquiries about the roots of the war. The Pulitzer Prize winning
Impending Crisis is first-rate.
That would be news to the Confederates. They explicitly stated that their cause was slavery. Here's what the Mississippi declaration of secession had to say on the matter:
>Our position is thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery - the greatest material interest of the world. Its labor supplies the product which constitutes by far the largest and most important portions of commerce of the earth. These products are peculiar to the climate verging on the tropical regions, and by an imperious law of nature, none but the black race can bear exposure to the tropical sun. These products have become necessities of the world, and a blow at slavery is a blow at commerce and civilization. That blow has been long aimed at the institution, and was at the point of reaching its consummation. There was no choice left us but submission to the mandates of abolition, or a dissolution of the Union, whose principles had been subverted to work out our ruin.
Still not convinced? Read the other slave states' declarations of secession. Or read a good review book on the Civil War, like McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom.
P.S.: It's actually interesting to note that the slave states didn't support states' rights in their declarations, beyond the right of secession. They actually cite the refusal of certain Northern states to enforce the Fugitive Slave Act as a major cause of secession. Some Northern states had passed laws forbidding state officials from aiding in the capture and return of runaway slaves. South Carolina argued in its declaration of secession that by refusing to enforce federal laws, these Northern states were subverting the Union. They argued that this breach freed South Carolina of its obligations to the Union and justified secession.
Read McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom.
It's brilliantly written, engaging, authoritative, and generally accepted as "the book" for the Civil War in the minds of most historians.
You note you're a Tennessee boy. You may be interested in the older "New South" school vis-a-vis the War. Wm Dunning led a major push to view the War as one of Northern aggression. The Dunning School was quite influential until (roughly) the early Civil Rights Era.
There are also occasional, but lively debates on H-Net, South about how to view the Civil War.
As a side note, the whole Oxford History of the US series is worth reading. Some of the titles are dated, but they are all very good reads. (well, at least the ones I've read ;-) )
Well, actually they did. Manifest Destiny. It wasn't always sea to shining sea, it was by some , pole to pole. USA has no peasant population. Some saw Mexico, Central America and South America as a vast labor pool. There was even an incident where American adventures tried to invade Mexico but their ship was sunk by the British. It's mentioned in 'Battle Cry of Freedom'
Those adventures btw were Democrats
i would direct you to the fine book, battle cry of freedom.
two important things. one, many in the south realized that the slavery situation was not sustainable, and required expansion to survive. this meant slavery in new states was a necessity. northerners opposed this. two, it can be imagined that this is the time that states' rights and federal authority diverged. this is actually an illusion. the south wanted states' rights for slavery, but also demanded federal assistance to return escaped slaves from free territories. in my mind, the conflict is between an industrial, democratic society and a feudal one.
The hard part for majority of people is that Historically events and the motives of individual's actions in those events are never "Black&White". Take the Civil War since that is the crux of this issue. In the book What They Fought For, 1861–1865 by James McPherson reported on his reading of hundreds of letters and diaries written by soldiers on both sides of the war on the question of what they believed they were fighting for. Not all Northerns cared for blacks in fact many were super racist they just didn't like slavery and in every major battle there were slave owning union soldiers fighting for the north, and non slave owning southern soldiers fighting for the south. On the other hand 80% of the Southern soldiers didn't own slaves and many felt that if slavery was to be ended it should like everyone born after 1/1/1861 are set free but given and education before hand.
“I was fighting for my home, and he had no business being there”
-Virginia confederate Solider Frank Potts
“We are fighting for the Union . . . a high and noble sentiment, but after all a sentiment. They are fighting for independence, and are animated by passion and hatred against invaders” - A Illinois officer.
“Believe me no solider on either side gave a **** about slaves, they were fighting for other reasons entirely in their minds. Southerns thought they were fighting the second American revolution norther's thought they were fighting to hold the union together [With a few abolitionist and fire eaters on both sides].”
Robert E. Lee is the biggest and the greatest paradox. He was against Virginia leaving the Union but felt his loyalty and duty, like many, was to his home state above the country: “If Virginia stands by the old Union,” Lee told a friend, “so will I. But if she secedes (though I do not believe in secession as a constitutional right, nor that there is sufficient cause for revolution), then I will follow my native State with my sword, and, if need be, with my life.” While Lee never publicly came out on one side or the other of Slavery. In a letter to his Wife in 1856 he said “In this enlightened age, there are few I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any Country. It is useless to expatiate on its disadvantages. I think it however a greater evil to the white than to the black race, & while my feelings are strongly enlisted in behalf of the latter, my sympathies are more strong for the former. The blacks are immeasurably better off here than in Africa, morally, socially & physically. The painful discipline they are undergoing, is necessary for their instruction as a race, & I hope will prepare & lead them to better things. How long their subjugation may be necessary is known & ordered by a wise Merciful Providence.” But Lee's wife and daughters taught the slaves to read and write which was against Virginia law and Lee officially freed his inherited slaves, he had no other slaves, on December 29, 1862 five years after his father-in-law Georgie Washington Custis' death as stated in his will. And yes Georgie Washington Custis is a descendant of President Georgie Washington.
Besides once universal conscription was instituted by the Confederacy in 1862, it didn't matter what they fought for, whether they wanted to fight, or even if they supported the Confederacy they fought or become deserters and risk execution. The Union started conscription in 1863. One could argue those who were conscripted didn't care about slavery since if they did they would've volunteered earlier. Many were concerned more about their farms and family. One Confederate officer at the time noted, "The deserters belong almost entirely to the poorest class of non slave-holders whose labor is indispensable to the daily support of their families" and that "When the father, husband or son is forced into the service, the suffering at home with them is inevitable. It is not in the nature of these men to remain quiet in the ranks under such circumstances." Which was used by both sides trying to get them on their side the Union offered pardons and the Confederacy offered jobs or land in some cases.
Now those caught deserted in the Union 147 were executed for desertion out of 200,000 deserters. In the Confederacy 229 were executed out of the 100,000 deserters. But since you can't kill off all the 300,000 men that deserted from both sides many were branded with a "D" on their hip. Many were just purely tortured:
"One punishment much affected in the light artillery was called 'tying on the spare wheel.' Springing upward and rearward from the center rail of every cassion was a fifth axel and on it was a spare wheel. A soldier who had been insubordinate was taken to the spare wheel and made to step upon it. His legs were drawn apart until they spanned three spokes. His arms were stretched until there were three or four spokes between his hands. Then the feet and hands were firmly bound to the felloes of the wheel. If the soldier was to be punished moderately then he was left, bound in an upright position on the wheel for five or six hours. If the punishment was to be severe, the ponderous wheel was given a quarter turn after the soldier had been lashed to it, which changed the position of the man from upright to horizontal. Then the prisoner had to exert all his strength to keep his weight from pulling heavily and cuttingly on the cords that bound his upper arm and leg to the wheel." -- Frank Wilkeson, Army of the Potomac in the Union Army.
In the end it is just easier for people paint with broad strokes the "good people"/The Union as saints and "bad guys"/The Confederacy as sinners. It is the same with all of those leaders/people we have had in History. In reality the Slavery had many shades of blue and grey and should be treated as such. There was good and bad in both the Union and the Confederacy.
Sources and other reading material:
This really depends on what aspects of the Civil War you are looking to learn about. If you're just looking for a general overview of the entire war it's hard to go wrong with James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. If you're looking for a shorter read I would recommend Bruce Catton's single volume history called The Civil War. These are common recommendations, but for good reason.
If you're interested in specific battles or topics, let me know and I may be able to recommend something.
I did some research and this is supposed to be one of the better comprehensive American Civil War books out there.
For the Revolutionary War
For the Civil War
I have to recommend Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane and Killer Angels by Michael Sharra, both fantastic military fiction.
Cracks knuckles. I, as what Tony Horwitz calls, "A Civil War Bore" (But also one for the American War of Independence) can give you some recommendations. You gotta read Gen. Grant's memoirs. Out of all the memoirs by the major players, Grant is the most readable of them all, it is so well written. Ken Burns' famous Documentary introduced me to the memoirs of two common soldiers. "Company Aytch" follows Sam Watkins as he fights in the Western Theater, from Shiloh to Nashville, and "All for the Union" by Elisha Hunt Rhodes follows one Federal soldier as he survives the entire war in the East, from 1st Bull Run to Appomattox. For a general history, "Battle Cry of Freedom" by James McPherson is the absolute best. For more detailed studies on the lives of the individual soldiers, the two classic works "The Life of Johnny Reb" and "The Life of Johnny Yank" are fantastic. Similar works and more modern works include "Fighting Means Killing", a detailed study on Civil War combat, and "The War for the Common Soldier", basically a general summary of the life of the common lad during the war. Now, if you want legacy, there is but one place to go: Tony Horwitz's legendary 1998 Magnum Opus "Confederates in the Attic." Over the course of two years, Tony takes you all across the American South, running into everything as varied as the KKK one county over from where I live in Kentucky (Yeah, I apologize on behalf of South-Central Kentucky in advance, but at least they're in Todd County and not Logan!!!), a Scarlet O' Harra impersonator in Atlanta, and a massive Civil War road trip in Virginia with a reactor buddy. Well written, Mr. Horwitz can make you feel whatever he wants. Tony is was of the best writers out there, and it is a shame we lost him in May. May he rest in peace.
Edit: Amazon Links
The Complete Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
All For the Union
Battle Cry of Freedom
The Life of Johnny Reb
The Life of Billy Yank
Fighting Means Killing
The War for the Common Soldier
Confederates in the Attic (If you buy no other book from this list, buy Confederates in the Attic)
Battle Cry of Freedom, your civil war bible.
I'm want to suggest folks looking to read Shelby Foote's Civil War series, consider Battle Cry of Freddom instead. McPherson's book is Pulitzer Prize-winning, included in the Oxford history of the United States, highly praised, and is included (along with Foote's series) in the top books recommended by the Library of Congress on the subject.
> what I've come to realize is the North also was a beneficiary or at least opportunistically benefitted from the assistance of the Slave states
Yes, any book on Civil War history would address that. I recommend McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom for a good one-volume treatment of the war. No one said the North was pure as the driven snow, enlightened, embraced racial equality, etc. To "realize" that a caricature is false isn't that great of a leap. It's like "realizing" Lincoln wasn't an angel crusading since birth to free the slaves. It's true, but also rebuts only a cartoon version of history that no one really believes in.
>but the CSA was kind of caught holding the historical hot potato here that most western European powers previously benefited from while it was convenient.
Let's not act like they lacked agency. Those European powers had abolished slavery. The South was not in the process of moving away from slavery, rather they more of their wealth was tied up in slaves as we get closer to the Civil War. Their ideology and religion both celebrated slavery as a virtuous and enlightened structure of society.
>(in a southern state that never economically recovered 100%
Never recovered from having the slaves freed, but there are other issues too. The South rejected industrialization, rejected higher rates of education, rejected urbanization, etc. The South made cultural decisions regarding a rural, slow, relaxed existence, and decisions have consequences. The North's choices regarding urbanization, industrialization, automation, education, commerce etc also had consequences. These consequences are still playing out, because one set of choices creates wealth and the other does not, at least not nearly as well.
>This isn't really better than racism in a lot of ways.
This isn't about racism, though. It's about admitting what the Rebel flag actually stands for. We need to have the honesty of admitting that the flag was explicitly created as the national flag of a slave empire. Not a "fight the power" middle finger to "the man," but a confederacy of states dedicated explicitly to white supremacy and slavery, forever.
If I festoon my apartment with Nazi regalia, no one would be stupid enough to think maybe I was using the symbols in a value-neutral way. The swastika existed before Hitler, but the Rebel Flag did not exist before the Confederacy. It is not a value-neutral symbol, no more than this is a value-neutral symbol. We're not kids flipping people off at a Marilyn Manson or Insane Clown Posse concert.
So your position is that we should have monuments to monsters in places of high regard like the state house and public parks in order to remind us not to become monsters?
If that's the logic. It sure ain't working.
See the example of the klan standing with the bedford bust in the state house. Or the rally around the Robert E Lee monument in Charlottesville where they marched with torches shouting that the jews "will not replace us" and then murdered a woman.
The monuments aren't a deterrence to monsters, they are an incitement.
Should there be a monument to Osama bin Laden in order to remind us not to commit mass murder in the name of religious insanity? We consigned his corpse to the bottom of the ocean because we knew that was a bad idea.
> It was a different time which required different actions.
No, it wasn't a different time. There have always been people condemning white supremacy. The only difference now is that the white supremacists don't have quite as much power to muffle their critics as they used to.
> The common man fought that war and died never knowing what they were really fighting over.
No, they absolutely knew what they were fighting for. They weren't dummies. The average foot soldier was well aware they were fighting for white supremacy. The declarations of secession explicitly spelled out they were fighting for white supremacy and they used that to recruit the cannon fodder - if black people were equal to white people, then poor whites would no longer have anyone below them in the social hierarchy.
Here's a quote from The Battlecry of Freedom: Civil War Era by James McPherson:
> So they undertook a campaign to convince nonslaveholders that they too had a stake in disunion. The stake was white supremacy. In this view, the Black Republican program of abolition was the first step toward racial equality and amalgamation. Georgia’s Governor Brown carried this message to his native uplands of north Georgia whose voters idolized him. Slavery “is the poor man’s best Government,” said Brown. “Among us the poor white laborer . . . does not belong to the menial class. The negro is in no sense his equal. ... He belongs to the only true aristocracy, the race of white men” Thus yeoman farmers “will never consent to submit to abolition rule,” for they “know that in the event of the abolition of slavery, they would be greater sufferers than the rich, who would be able to protect themselves. . . . When it becomes necessary to defend our rights against so foul a domination, I would call upon the mountain boys as well as the people of the lowlands, and they would come down like an avalanche and swarm around the flag of Georgia.
Battle Cry of Freedom is widely regarded as one of the best SINGLE VOLUME treatments of the US Civil war. There are better multi volume sets, and better treatments of specific events, but as a general knowledge base, this is top shelf material.
The Idea of America Is a great, short read discussing the formative years of the United States.
Older editions of Western Civilizations are quite good and informative. Yes, they're actual college textbooks, but they're easy to follow and surprisingly concise. Pick up a used copy for under $20, ignore the full retail price.
I'd actually take that as advice for just about any book on history. Many university level courses use the sorts of books recommended on this thread, and any used copies Amazon sells through its Marketplace are more likely than not copies read through once for a college course, and sold back for a few extra dollars. I have a substantial collection of used non fiction purchased at a discount for this exact reason, and there's nothing wrong with a few marks in the book, or a crease in the cover. The content is what matters.
I can't tell if you're being sarcastic... first you tell me that Virginia had outlawed slavery prior to the Civil War, and now this?
No, the book Davis wrote in 1881 as an apologia for his causes isn't a good source of Civil War history. The guy wrote the book after the civil war had been lost, and during the Jim Crow era when black citizens were being systematically disenfranchised and denied rights throughout the south. He wrote it to justify these things. It's an argument for why secession was legal, and why the northerners were hypocrites for abolishing slavery.
Seriously, read a history book. Battle Cry of Freedom is an excellent one-volume history.
The American Civil War is a goldmine for books.
For an interesting read about the impact of the Civil War even to this day read:
[Confederates in the Attic] (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confederates_in_the_Attic)
if you want something in depth read:
[Battle Cry of Freedom] (http://www.amazon.com/Battle-Cry-Freedom-Oxford-History/dp/019516895X)
If you have the patience and the time, and are really interested in learning about the Civil War, I cannot recommend Shelby Foote's The Civil War - A Narrative enough. It is an absolute masterpiece.
Another that is definitely worth reading is Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson.
If you want to stick with Shaara, read his son's Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure.
James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is immediately the first book that comes to mind. As mentioned elsewhere in this thread, it is “the book” to read on the Civil War. It is a highly readable account of the build-up to the Civil War, causes, and the war itself. It also won a Pulitzer Prize. For more, I’d also check out Ta-Nehisi Coate’s online book club on Battle Cry of Freedom over at The Atlantic.
Other excellent works on the period I would recommend are:
Also, the Civil War produced some of the greatest memoirs in American letters:
And, I always recommend reading poetry and fiction, so I would also encourage you to look at Stephen Crane’s The Red Badge of Courage, as well as the war poetry of Walt Whitman and Herman Melville, particularly Melville’s poem The Martyr, written days after Lincoln’s assassination. More contemporary fiction would be Michael Shaara’s The Killer Angels, or EL Doctorow’s The March.
Finally, check out David Blight’s Open Yale Lectures on the Civil War. Prof. Blight is a fantastic lecturer. They are free, and the course syllabus is online, and in 26 hours you can take a full Yale course completely on your own.
So you're telling me that if I pick up a history of the civil war, say this one: Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson, which was written in 1988, 123 years after the events it records, then I can't know anything about the Civil War because a scientist didn't bother to verify anything Mr. McPherson wrote?
It seems to me you don't even know what scientific evidence is. Scientific evidence is that which is testable. How, exactly, do you propose we test the events of 2000 years ago to determine if they happened? Or even 150 years ago?
Edit: Got the date of the book's publication wrong.
>Read a history book on the civil war.
I just finished reading The Battlecry For Freedom, actually, by James McPherson. Great book, and you should check it out. Sounds like you're the one who's never actually read a book about the civil war.
Regarding my idiocy, I'm not going to debate my intelligence with a stranger on the internet as I'm sure I've been called worse things by better people but below is a selection of quotes you that rebut your historical revisionism regarding the causes of the South's secession.
"No bill of attainder, ex post facto law, or law denying or impairing the right of property in negro slaves shall be passed."
~ Article IV of the Confederate Constitution
"The Confederate States may acquire new territory... In all such territory the institution of negro slavery, as it now exists in the Confederate States, shall be recognized and protected be Congress and by the Territorial government..."
~ Article IV Confederate Consitution
"We but imitate the policy of our fathers in dissolving a union with non-slaveholding confederates, and seeking a confederation with slaveholding States."
~ South Carolina's Dissolution of Union Statement.
"African slavery, as it exists in the United States, is a moral, a social, and a political blessing."
~ Jefferson Davis, CSA President
"Our new Government is founded... upon the great truth that the negro is not equal to the white man; that slavery, subordination to the superior race, is his natural and moral condition. This, our new Government, is the first, in the history of the world, based upon this great physical, philosophical, and moral truth."
~ Alexander Stephens, CSA Vice President
And that's just a few.
The Civil War was a struggle over States' Rights inasmuch States had the right to enslave people and treat human beings like property. This whole "It wasn't about slavery," revisionism drives me up the wall. Gee well heck yeah the Federal Government SHOULD impugn upon your sovereignty if your soverignty is predicated upon something as immoral as slavery.
The Confederacy made clear in their very own founding documents that they wanted to enshrine human slavery as part of their society FOREVER. Anyone who wants to posit that the CSA seceded for other reasons, such as Federal tyranny, can get right TFOH with their apologetics for White Supremicism and enslavement of other human beings.
James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. This is the first thing I thought of when I read your request for a good single-volume treatment of an entire war. Good luck to her.
There's always Shelby Foote's epic three-volume The Civil War: A Narrative. A huge work that took me months to complete, but definitely worth it. Told mainly from a Southern perspective, but Foote keeps his objectivity throughout.
From the Northern perspective, you can't go wrong with James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom or Bruce Catton's many works on the war, especially the "Army of the Potomac" trilogy.
Right now I'm reading Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln and I'm digging it. One of the few books I've read that really gets into the social relations of the era.
From an autobiographical perspective, Sam Watkin's Company Aytch is one of the best memoirs of a Confederate soldier serving in the Western theater, even if you have to take some of his stories with a grain of salt. Or if you want to take a darker look at the world of the irregular troops fighting west of the Mississippi, there's the Autobiography of Sam Hildebrand for a confederate perspective or William Monks' A History of Southern Missouri and Northern Arkansas for the Union side of things. Monks' book is especially notable because it's the only first person account we have of a Union guerrilla soldier.
If you're looking for fiction, I love The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara about the Battle of Gettysburg. A more recent novel about Sherman's March, The March by E.L. Doctorow is also pretty stellar.
The purpose of history is to learn from it. To discover who we were, where we have made missteps, and to correct them. It’s Santaya’s quote “Those who do not remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” in vivo.
>My sense is that for conservatives, history is about monumentalization and triumphal identification, celebrating the achievements of great men (and sometimes women) who can set good moral examples.
I’d like to hear you say more, because my take on your perceptions is that they are reductivist, biased in the extreme (I’ll clarify when I share how you view the left), and not sufficiently broad to cover basic conservative principles like limited government, self-determination, and personal freedom.
Let’s take the commanding generals of the Union Army and Confederate States of America, Grant and Lee, as an example. Here’s an image to move along the discussion, based on historical fact: when Lee surrendered at Appomattox, he was dressed carefully in his uniform, neatly groomed, and did everything he could to lend honor and dignity to the proceedings. Grant showed up unshaved and slovenly. We can look at this and read into it a lot about the character of each general...but if you do this, you are missing a crucial bit of context: Grant looked unprepared because he didn’t want to keep Lee waiting. His appearance was actually a function of his desire to lend dignity to the general who he could have rightfully punished for being on the losing side. To put a very fine point on what I am trying to say: context matters.
Let me say a bit more about both generals before moving on to how you view the left...
Lee has been vilified in the recent past, hopelessly linked to the institution of slavery due to his southern heritage. Almost everyone who lives north of the Mason-Dixon Line looks at him, and what he accomplished with a jaundiced eye. People call him a “traitor” and worse. This interpretation follows logically from his place in history, since he fought on the losing side. But...
Lee was an amazing general, an outstanding field commander. He was educated at West Point, like almost every general during the Civil War, on both sides. He was a supremely capable leader, one who was able to get his men behind him, inspiring them to fight until they perished. I was looking for a quote from Jay Winik’s fantastic book, April 1865 that goes something like “I’ve heard about God, but I’ve seen General Lee!” to illustrate the fondness the soldiers under his command had for him when I found this quote from the General himself:
>It is well that war is so terrible, otherwise we should grow too fond of it. We must forgive our enemies. I can truly say that not a day has passed since the war began that I have not prayed for them. I cannot consent to place in the control of others one who cannot control himself.
And what I’m hoping you’ll get out of this is that he wasn’t someone who rebelled in armed insurrection against an oppressive government. He was just a damn good general. He was so good, in fact, that scholar James Macphearson has made the intriguing claim in his one volume history of the war that, had it not been for Lee, the war would have been over within six months and slavery would have remained as an institution.
Because I said context matters, and because I think it matters in a way that sometimes causes it to be overlooked, let me provide some context for Lee: He was from Virginia, which was a border state during the Civil War. That means it could have ended up with the Union, although it did not. Virginia was home to the Tredegar Iron Works, a massive asset that, by virtue of it’s capacity to churn out munitions, was a boon to the CSA. If Virginia has not succeeded, the war almost certainly would have been over in less than six months. Today, people in the north like to look down on people from the south, assuming that they have both cultural and moral superiority, simply because they have had the good fortune of being born in a part of the country where slavery was not practiced (because it wasn’t feasible, and really for no other reason). We treat Lee like an outlaw redneck, but there was this type called the “southern gentlemen” that Lee personified. Sir Walter Scott’s “Ivanhoe” was extremely popular during the era in which Lee lived. The story is a romance (literally featuring a main character who rescues a damsel in distress), and I want you to consider how it finds something noble in combat, while featuring a main character who is an exemplar of gentlemanly behavior.
Now for Grant, who was an alcoholic and has also been called an anti-semite. He was also a fantastic general. He was the only military figure on the Union side who was a match for Lee. Lincoln cycled through five generals before finding one who was willing to take massive casualties (the single factor that made Grant successful), telling one of the four who didn’t cut the mustard, “If you aren’t going to use The Army of the Potomac, do you mind if I borrow it?” This is what we would call a “sick burn” in modern parlance.
Now for some context on Grant: Asstated earlier, he had a drinking problem. There are reports of him being drunk during battle, even. But he was able to do the one thing that his predecessors wouldn’t: use the North’s manpower advantage and win through attrition. As for his alleged anti-semitism, he did sign Grant issued General Order No. 11, which expelled all Jews from Kentucky, Tennessee, and Mississippi. But taking the order at face value and coming to the facile conclusion that he did this just to sock it to an ethic population isn’t fair to the historical circumstances that caused Grant to do this. According to his biographer, Ron Chernow, Grant issued the order after Jewish merchants used the high demand for cotton in the North to engage in profiteering, setting prices artificially high in a way that hurt the war effort. Yes, the order hurt Jewish families who were not merchants and had nothing to do with a small population of people who were being greedy, but calling Grant and anti-Semite and then calling it a day misses a very important nuance. Moreover, without Grant, the war drags on, and the outcome is uncertain. That is hard to fathom from our current perspective.
I’ll get to your view of the left in a moment, but first let me test what you said about those on the right against what I believe. And to make it more interesting, let’s take a modern moment and filter it through the perspective you offered: the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville was a reaction to the City Council in that town renaming “Lee Park” “Emancipation Park” and ordering the removal of a statue commemorating Lee. You said “For the right, history is about monumentalization and triumphal identification.” I have no problem with Lee being monumantalized and his efforts receiving recognition...but I don’t see this as a celebration of his “triumph.” He lost, after all. Instead, I see it as a pen acknowledgment that he was a central figure in this nation’s history. Removing the statue and renaming a park that had been named in his honor is an effort to whitewash the role he played, even if we today believe he stood for everything we detest, whether we are on the right or the left. It is important for me that we remember difficult times in American history. It is essential, even. If we fail to do this, it’s a form of hubris that allows us to believe that, because the “good guys” won, we have settled the issues that have plagued our nation through its formative years. Moreover, those statues and honorifics are a tribute to the man, not the things we think he stood for. Had I lived in Charlottesville, I would have proudly marched alongside people chanting “Jews will not replace us.” I’m Jewish. They are misguided. This is America...they have the right to be misguided in this country.
Now then, you wrote of the left:
>For the left, it's about unmasking and unveiling, interrogating and teasing out the complex social, cultural, and economic causes of injustice.
I have to note that this is an extremely rosy view of your own side. We can take the modern day historical phenomenon that is the 1619 project, and test it against what you wrote. Since I do not agree that one side is more virtuous than the other, I’m going to point out some flaws—obvious to me—with this project. The most glaring of which is that there has been a lot of history since slavery was outlawed in this land that has shaped us far more than the historical blight that is slavery: industrialization, globalization, the boom-and-bust of the information economy, as well as the rise-and-fall of American manufacturing to name as many as I can off the top of my head. My question to you is this: what exactly is being “uncovered” by revisiting the date that slaves arrived on American soil? A key follow-up question is from whence you gained these powers of perception.
Having said this, I don’t want you to think that I am dismissing or trying to poke holes in your position. I’m challenging it. I recognize that it is a proper, morally defensible, and self-contained position. It just happens to be one I disagree with. My main criticism of the argument is that it overlooks a lot of context, and basically starts with an answer and works back to an already-arrived-at conclusion. To me, a more valuable question to ask when considering the problems that black Americans face today, which they undeniably do, is “In what ways was slavery not a factor? Provocative, I suppose...but a completely fair question, and one that I feel deserves an answer.
In the history world, there's a trope about the Civil War causes.
People who know nothing about the CW: It was about slavery.
People who know a little : There were many causes.
People who know a lot: It was about slavery.
If you don't believe me get a copy of James McPherson' s Battle Cry of Freedom, basically the go to classic for single volume history of the war. The first 250 pages are all fights over slavery before the first bullet was even fired. I recommend reading the book anyways, cause it's awesome. Plus, it's like 4 bucks on [Amazon] (https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/ol/019516895X/ref=mw_dp_olp?ie=UTF8&amp;condition=all)
Primary documents in isolation of context that flame the passions of your position is confirmation bias. The position I stated is in agreement with the community of professional historians, including a former professor of mine who is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. If you would like to actually educate yourself on the subject, you can read the book for which he won a Pulitzer Prize on the topic: http://www.amazon.ca/Battle-Cry-Freedom-Civil-War/dp/019516895X/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&amp;qid=1372219567&amp;sr=8-1&amp;keywords=james+mcpherson
But it's historical revisionism because it doesn't sync with your little-boy, pop-culture, history by feeling opinion.
I know, but it's fun to talk about these things. Plus I want to get this saved somewhere so I can use it on my Libertarian friends.
Everything about the war was about slavery. What you had was a pervasive, white-superiority culture (that generally pervaded the nation at the time, but especially slave states) that believed that white men were freed to be wealthy, productive aristocrats who could be thinkers, intellectuals and equals to European courtiers by being given the free time they needed to pursue these things on the backs of black slave labor. By given white men the freedom to not be "wage slaves," as they claimed northern men were by working in factories, they were given the chance to truly pursue their superiority. Even poor whites agreed this was a goal, either through loyalty, racism or just conformity to local culture. Everyone sought to protect this at all costs.
State sovereignty was a defense of the right of slave states to continue to own and exploit slaves. This neo-Confederate belief that it has to do with states rights is a construction to water down the fact that these states' citizens, almost uniformly, extolled the virtues of slavery every chance they got. It became such a contentious issue that every time a new state was admitted into the union, it had to have another state of opposing view on the matter added as well to maintain balance. In the case of Kansas, Missouri (Which had a much lower slave ownership rate than even Texas did - 8 percent to Texas's 28 percent at the time of the war) mobilized men to cross the border and stuff ballots to ensure the state entered the Union pro-slavery. Blood was shed in the process. This inter-state war can be considered the first major fight of the Civil War.
Further, after the start of the war, it was an express objective of Southern leadership to eventually establish a pro-slave empire across the Americas, beginning with Cuba. Cuba had experienced a number of invasions of these American military expeditions before the war. Invaders were called filibusters.
I think the strongest evidence of this is in the way Confederate forces treated black prisoners of war: They were usually enslaved, sometimes executed, on the spot. This treatment spurred outrage from Northerners, even back then.
I'd recommend the Battlecry of Freedom, by James McPhearson. The first half is devoted to the political situation and motivations of the war. It's well documented that the South had slavery and belief in the value of slavery as a primary motivator, and this was true across the board. Few Southerners would have denied this at the time. Any claim they weren't is after-the-fact revisionism. The rest of the book is a narrative of the battles, which is fun to read.
I've spent a lot of time dealing with this question and have even written on the subject. I believe a "good" piece of historical writing needs to be able to capture the mind and attention of common people and historians alike. Pure scholarly historical work serves a purpose and has to be inherently accurate, but it does nothing to further the field and bring it to a wider audience. A balance needs to be struck between keeping the information accurate and the story line intriguing. Check out Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson if you haven't already. It is known as one of, if not the best historical books in terms of accuracy and reader interest. http://www.amazon.com/books/dp/019516895X