What They Fought for 1861-1865

By James M. McPherson
Anchor Books, Paperback, 9780385476348, 112pp.

Publication Date: March 1, 1995

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In "Battle Cry Of Freedom," James M. McPherson presented a fascinating, concisegeneral history of the defining American conflict.With "What They Fought For," hefocuses his considerable talents on what motivatedthe individual soldier to fight. In an exceptionaland highly original Civil War analysis, McPhersondraws on the letters and diaries of nearly onethousand Union and Confederate soldiers, giving voiceto the very men who risked their lives in theconflict. His conclusion that most of them felt a keensense of patriotic and ideological commitmentcounters the prevailing belief that Civil War soldiershad little or no idea of what they were lightingfor. In their letters home and their diaries --neither of which were subject to censorship -- thesemen were able to comment, in writing, on a widevariety of issues connected with their warexperience. Their insights show how deeply felt andstrongly held their convictions were and reveal far morecareful thought on the ideological issues of thewar than has previously been thought to be true.Living only eighty years after the signing of theDeclaration of Independence, Civil War soldiers feltthe legacy and responsibility entrusted to them bythe Founding Fathers to to preserve fragiledemocracy -- be it through secession or union -- assomething worth dying for. In "What TheyFought For," McPherson takes individual voicesand places them in the great and terrible choir ofa country divided against itself. The result isboth an impressive scholarly tour de force and alively, highly accessible account of the sentimentsof both Northern and Southern soldiers during thenational trauma of the Civil War.

About the Author
James M. McPherson is a distinguished Civil War historian. He won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for his book BATTLE CRY OF FREEDOM: THE CIVIL WAR ERA. His other publications include MARCHING TOWARD FREEDOM: BLACKS IN THE CIVIL WAR, Second Edition (1991); ORDEAL BY FIRE: THE CIVIL WAR AND RECONSTRUCTION, Third Edition (2001); ABRAHAM LINCOLN AND THE SECOND AMERICAN REVOLUTION (1991); FOR CAUSE AND COMRADES: WHY MEN FOUGHT IN THE CIVIL WAR (1997), which won the Lincoln Prize in 1998; CROSSROADS OF FREEDOM: ANTIETAM (2002); HALLOWED GROUND: A WALK AT GETTYSBURG (2003); and TRIED BY WAR: ABRAHAM LINCOLN AS COMMANDER IN CHIEF (2008), which won the Lincoln Prize for 2009. Professor McPherson served as president of the American Historical Association (2003-2004).

Praise For What They Fought for 1861-1865

"[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.

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