Battle Cry Freedom Book Review

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“Battle Cry of Freedom”. The Civil war Era, James McPherson. Oxford University Press. NewYork, 1988 James McPherson James McPherson tackles problems in his one-volume history of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom. The reasons are evident: the war that separated the country in the mid nineteenth century still drives a wedge between some; the war, its causes, and effects were abundant and difficult and affected nearly every part of American society; and it seems that the bloodier, more complex the event, the more words we use to describe, and justify its events and effects. Through a narrative telling of the Civil War, McPherson is able to focus on two major themes, which he carries throughout the book. These themes appear consistently, and act as a thesis. The first is to examine “the multiple meanings of slavery and freedom, and how they dissolved and re-formed into new patterns in the crucible of war” (viii). McPherson's constant reminders that slavery (and its opposite, freedom) is central to the story. By using a narrative style, McPherson traces the development of the role of slavery, emancipation, and freedom throughout the period. A second theme is that of possibility. He is serious about former literature that he says “lack the dimension of contingency—the recognition that at numerous critical points during the war things might have gone altogether differently” (858). His narrative style allows him to point out such serious moments that a current organization would have varnished over. Without conveying into the risks of counter-factual history, McPherson is cautious to recognize examples where additional consequence was possible, or even likely. By agreeing to contingency and not avoiding complexity, McPherson's action of both sides in the war is, for the most part, evenhanded. "The Civil War Era," opens with a summary of mid-19th century America,
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