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 Posted: Tue May 15th, 2012 04:40 pm
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JG6789
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Wordsmith wrote:
Have you read Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson?  He won the Pulitzer Price.

The thing about “The Battle Cry of Freedom” is that it’s one volume in the Oxford History of the United States series and is thus a comprehensive history, not strictly a military history. McPherson places the military aspects of the war in their broader context, so it might seem to military history buffs that they sometimes receive short shrift (consider that Gettysburg receives about 20 pages in McPherson compared to, what, 150 pages in Foote?). But I think that given the wider context they probably receive just about the proportion of space they should.

So, how is the book? The first half of the book--dealing with the politics and social developments of the 1850--is first rate. Similarly the chapters dealing with politics, economics, and social developments after the war starts. The sections on the military history of the war are definitely the weaker portions. After all, McPherson is not really a military historian (ironically, he cites Foote fairly often when dealing with the military aspects. I’m not quite sure how one justifies citing a writer who doesn’t use citations himself, but that’s a discussion topic for another day…). These sections are solid, but not stellar.

If someone wants a military history of the war that’s primarily a rollicking adventure story, “The Battle Cry of Freedom” is probably not the book for them. If someone wants a serious, scholarly work that places the military developments in their broader context then they really can’t go wrong with it.

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