What They Fought For, 1861-1865

James M. McPherson, Author Louisiana State University Press $16.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-8071-1904-4
McPherson ( Battle Cry of Freedom ), a Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War scholar, here calls on letters and diaries, many unpublished, to present a strong case that both Union and Confederate soldiers made war motivated primarily by considerations of principle. Slavery was a crucial factor, he observes: Southerners regarded it as part of their way of life. Northerners, on the other hand, combined morality and pragmatism in their acceptance of abolition as essential in preserving the Union. McPherson, however, perceives the Civil War basically as a struggle for the heritage of 1776, a struggle in which Southerners sought freedom from a tyrannical government, while Northerners believed the republican experiment could not survive if the legitimacy of secession were established. More than 80% of the war's combatants were literate, which may help to explain why McPherson's sources convincingly reflect the character and experience of the armies. Frontline idealism seemed to prevail on both sides, perhaps to the surprise of a more cynical 20th century. McPherson's emphasis on moral and ideological factors in war gives his book a significance well beyond its specific subject. (Mar.)
Reviewed on: 05/02/1994
Release date: 05/01/1994
Genre: Nonfiction
Paperback - 112 pages - 978-0-385-47634-8
Prebound-Glued - 88 pages - 978-1-61383-629-3
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