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This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War
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This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War

4.22 of 5 stars 4.22  ·  rating details  ·  325 ratings  ·  41 reviews
The author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning Battle Cry of Freedom and the New York Times bestsellers Crossroads of Freedom and Tried by War, among many other award-winning books, James M. McPherson is America's preeminent Civil War historian. In this collection of provocative and illuminating essays, McPherson offers fresh insight into many of the enduring questions about one ...more
Kindle Edition, 273 pages
Published (first published 2007)
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Jenny Karraker
Each chapter commented or critiqued on different aspects of the Civil War that various authors have written about. The chapter describing how over time the South has changed its view as to the causes of the Civil War was interesting. Author assets that early on, Southerners staunchly defended slavery; but later on when winning the war was seeming impossible justified their efforts as defending states rights. Having grown up in the South and being taught the war was all about states rights, it wa ...more
John
Sixteen essays all related to the Civil war and finally a book that firmly declares the true cause of the war, slavery, instead of all the other stated reasons usually trotted out in books and articles. These secondary causes have been offered for more than a century as primary causes and historians are now moving to correct the myth, a myth postulated even as the war was drawing to a close. As McPherson points out “The Civil War is a highly visible exception to the adage that victors write the ...more
Dale
A "Must" For All Students of the Civil War

This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War
is a collection of 16 essays by well-known historian James McPherson on a number of Civil War-related topics. Some of the essays are brand new, but most have been published before but have been re-worked for this book.

They fall into five broad categories:

1) Slavery and the Coming of War; 2) The Lost Cause Revisited; 3) Architects of Victory; 4) Home Front and Battle Front; 5) Lincoln.

McPherson discusses
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Steven Peterson
The historian James McPherson is an accomplished author and a hard-eyed student of his subjects. This volume, containing a series of some works already previously published and some that had not yet appeared in print, leaves one asking for more. The issue? The "chapters" are quite brief, and the insights and wisdom of the author only cover so much territory. Chapters run to maybe 10-15 pages each, for the most part. And that can only give one a taste that leaves one desiring yet more.

At that, t
...more
Judy
This is a series of 16 essays each dealing with a different aspect of the Civil War. McPherson details life during the Civil war in the the military and the civilian communities and discusses why soldier's on both sides loved to receive newspapers and what motivated the soldiers both emotionally and politically. He draws fascintating personality sketches of such individuals as Harriet Tubman, Jesse James, John Brown, Ulysses S. Grant, and William Tecumseh Sherman and discusses the role that the ...more
Mike
McPherson, the author of the excellent one-volume Civil War history "Battle Cry of Freedom" is in top form here with a series of essays and book reviews that illuminate and discuss particular figures and facets of the Civil War era. In-depth looks at Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Grant, Sherman, and Lincoln can be found in "This Mighty Scourge", as well as fascinating analyses on the formation of Southern revisionist post-bellum notions of the "Lost Cause", Lincoln's invocation of Presidential war ...more
Jon
McPherson masterfully illuminates the truth of the Civil War, that the South fought to defend their backward society built on slavery, and the North fought to save the Union and end it. The most rewarding area of this volume for me are his essays that touch on the post war southern revisionist history campaign, which sought to change the narrative (of the southern motive for secession) from slavery to states rights.

I value McPherson’s scholarship as much for his conclusions as for the light he
...more
Quinndara Woodworth
Excellent contribution to filling in the reader with 16 essays that clarify continuing questions about the civil war. Just learning about the South's denial of defeat and refusal to have factual accounts of the conflict part of the school curriculum was a fascinating eye-opener to me. In the South's view, they never lost. McPherson also gives more details about John Brown and other important figures of the time. The book is a good supplement to his other writings on the Civil War.
Shana
More like three-and-a-half stars, but McPherson is one of the most respected scholars in the field so I don't feel uncomfortable spotting him the extra half-star. This Mighty Scourge is a series of essays about the Civil War, including sections on Lincoln, on Civil War scholarship, on several myths of the Confederacy, and on Generals Grant and Sherman. The essay about young men from Massachusetts who volunteered for the army made me tear up a bit, and the analogy he makes between the Battle of A ...more
Ryan
One the bargain specials at Audible turned out to be an interesting collection of essays on different aspects of the Civil War ranging from the real reasons the war began, to how close foreign powers came to intervening, to Southern revisionism in history books after the war, to whether Sherman was an underrated general, to the political life of Abraham Lincoln. Most of the pieces are written as responses to some existing work or theory in Civil War scholarship, but McPherson does a good job of ...more
Urey Patrick
Terrific collections of essays by the author - will give you a penetrating, thoroughly credible and compelling insight into the Civil War, its causative factors and contributing issues. I would give this book to anybody interested in the Civil War. It will enhance understanding of the factors and elements that led to the war, that swirled in about the war, and that have reached down through the years - it will open the door to an appreciation for the times, the people, underlying philosophies an ...more
Bookmarks Magazine

James M. McPherson has written and edited nearly 30 books, including the Pulitzer Prize?winning Battle Cry of Freedom. Turf battles aren't uncommon in Civil War studies, and McPherson has a wide reputation as a thoughtful, fair, and readable historian whose insight brings fresh perspective to some often-scrutinized topics. Although McPherson intended some of the essays for an academic audience, each is accessible and worthwhile, and "displays an admirable transparency, showing the historian at w

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Bryce
Essays of various Civil War related topics. Some of the essays (On the realities behind Harriet Tubman and on reforming Ulysses S. Grant's reputation) were just fascinating, even to a reader with the most casual interest in the Civil War. Some of the writings were clearly intended for readers of a more serious scholastic bent -- the essay reviewing many of the keystone books in Lincoln scholarship, for example.

But whether the essay was for Civil War beginners or for professors in the subject, t
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Dr.
Another enjoyable collection of essays from McPherson. I especially liked the portion dealing with the "lost cause", but it was all insightful. Suggests for anyone from the buff to the casual reader.
Gill
“The thing I like most about McPherson's books is that he discusses the historian's craft as well as the Civil War. When he speaks of a controversy of interpretation, he cites the best sources on all sides and then explains how he comes out on the issue. The last chapter, on what we know about Lincoln, was fascinating. As in all things, there are urban myths to which we all fall prey, and he gives us an example of a mistake he made.

The next time some moron forwards an email to you full of false
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Sandy
Just reread. Very,very highly recommended.
John
This is a pretty impressive little book, cutting immediately to longstanding questions and controversies about the Civil War and adding context and nuance as needed. That McPherson seems to answer his questions so completely, or at least lays the foundations for answers so fairly, makes this seem like THE Civil War book to read for students and others who wouldn't normally read a lot of history.

Now I don't think you could make an HBO miniseries about it, but what do I know?
Ed
Having read McPherson's Tried by War, I picked up this collection of essays to follow up on themes that had caught my interest. I was not disappointed. Each essay takes an historical question about the war and argues a point. Should Sherman's march be remembered for its brutality? Why did Lincoln take so long to proclaim the Emancipation? Etc. My pleasure in this book was helped by the fact that my memory of the events of the war were fresh from reading the earlier book.
Greg Brown
The best book to read about the Civil War if you want synthesis and answers to the big questions: why did the South enter the war? Was Sherman an asshole? Was Grant a drunk? How did it start that people claimed it wasn't about slavery? How close did the South get to the masterstroke of recognition by foreign governments?

It's all incredibly interesting stuff, and thoughtfully explained by one of the premier Civil War historians out there. It's the best.
Julie
I listened to the audio version of this book. From a well known Civil War expert, this is a compilation of essays which explores a Civil War subject from many sides. The topics vary from things like: "was slavery or states rights the cause of the Civil War" to the part newspapers played in the war. I have read a lot about the CW and thought this contained a wide variety of topics, was very well researched and well worth reading.
Ruth
Academic-style essays on the Civil War. Some went into more detail than I wanted on a narrow topic, but others, including one on Harriet Tubman and John Brown, were just right for me. His views on the causes of the Civil War were fascinating and convincing. I love to read really good essays now and then. Something of a dying art, perhaps.
George
The book is a series of essays on subjects about the American civil war. Several of them are about people, including Lincoln, John Brown, Jeff Davis and Jessie James. Those were the most interesting. Some of the political discussions were down right boring. The author did provide some new insights and I generally enjoyed the book.
Meredith
I actually only read the parts that are relevant to my research/novel, and eh, it wasn't so helpful.... but I will admit I had an agenda coming at this book, and my hopes for its content weren't necessarily in line with McPherson's goals in writing it. Still, after Battle Cry of Freedom, this seems quite thin
Jonathan Blanks
Absolutely terrific book; dispels a lot of Civil War myths (eg, Sherman was an indiscriminate butcher; South was a Lost Cause from jump). Easily accessible, draws from a number of sources. Pointed me to several more in depth sources I want to read. (Looking forward to retirement just to tackle my to-read list.)
Katy
I listened to this as an audiobook - I think I would have enjoyed it more on paper. Very interesting, though, I learned a lot from this set of essays. I especially liked his analysis of the history of Grant and of the different Lincoln historians and biographies. I always do love getting the story behind the story.
Jamille Parks
My history professor told me to get this book and I'm glad that I listened to his advise. This book had a comprehensive look at what happened during the war and what was happening to society. I thoroughly enjoyed reading it and I hope I can read more of the Civil War in the future.
Eileen
This book takes look at a number of different topics related to the Civil War and McPherson gives his reflections on them. Sometimes he puts forward his own thoughts on topics, in others he rebuts other scholars. An interesting, approachable book.
Megan Taylor
A good read, but probably not the best for a "newbie" to the Civil War like me (my knowledge of the Civil War is limited to what I learner over a decade ago in high school). Overall, I found McPherson to be very readable.
Robert Glustrom
Chapter on the revisionist history of the Civil War by southern historians is particularly penetrating and disturbing. Great read for the less serious civil war aficionado.
Stella
As historical nonfiction goes (this being not my general subject of choice), this was actually quite a coherent and readable collection of often interesting essays.
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James M. McPherson (born October 11, 1936) is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He received the Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom, his most famous book. He was the president of the American Historical Association in 2003, and is a member of the editorial board of Encyclopædia Britannica.

Bor
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More about James M. McPherson...
Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

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