Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “What They Fought for, 1861-1865” as Want to Read:
What They Fought for, 1861-1865
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

What They Fought for, 1861-1865

3.75  ·  Rating Details ·  276 Ratings  ·  19 Reviews
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 Confed ...more
Paperback, 112 pages
Published March 1st 1995 by Anchor (first published 1994)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.

Reader Q&A

To ask other readers questions about What They Fought for, 1861-1865, please sign up.

Be the first to ask a question about What They Fought for, 1861-1865

John Adams by David McCullough1776 by David McCulloughTeam of Rivals by Doris Kearns GoodwinA People's History of the United States by Howard ZinnBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson
Best Non-fiction American History Books
440th out of 1,257 books — 1,744 voters
The Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBattle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPhersonCold Mountain by Charles FrazierThe Civil War by Shelby Foote
Best Civil War Books
253rd out of 650 books — 741 voters

More lists with this book...

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 276)
filter  |  sort: default (?)  |  Rating Details
Amanda Tero
Oct 08, 2016 Amanda Tero rated it really liked it
I swiped this book from my brother's bookshelf and, as it's only 69 pages, it wasn't a long read. I would estimate that half of this book is quotes from Civil War soldiers' journals and letters, compiled in three chapters: the South, the North, and the Slavery. It was very interesting to read. According to the quotes shared, the Confederates fought for Liberty and independence, viewing the North as tyrants and invaders. The Unionists fought for freedom and peace, viewing the Confederates as trai ...more
Steven Peterson
Sep 02, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
James McPherson is an eminent historian, who has written some classics, such as "Battle Cry of Freedom." This is a slender volume (part of a larger research project and the basis for a lecture) that is based on an interesting thesis: that soldiers, both north and south, fought to a considerable extent for ideology, and not solely as brothers in arms with other troops, for ideals of manhood, for the notions of honor and duty, and so on..

He used as his "data base" hundreds of letters and diaries
Bill Homan
Nov 13, 2015 Bill Homan rated it liked it
This is a supplementary text for McPherson's classic text on the Civil War, "The Battle Cry of Freedom." At first I thought it was like reading an appendix crammed full of facts and figures but then I discovered its structure. It is roughly divided into three chapters presenting the Southern view, the Northern view and the issue of slavery. I don't want to give any spoilers but it veers away from the modern "popular romanticization of the Civil War" and suggests that the South had not fought for ...more
Zach Vaughn
Sep 29, 2015 Zach Vaughn rated it liked it
Shelves: history, non-fiction
In "What They Fought For," James McPherson presents us with his study of the correspondence of Confederate and Union soldiers during the Civil War as an examination of what these men believed they were fighting war. There is constant debate about what the Civil War was about and why these men chose to fight, and McPherson presents us words straight from the horse's mouths. The first chapter covers the correspondence of Confederate soldiers, while chapter 2 that of Union soldiers. The last chapte ...more
Dec 12, 2010 Luis rated it liked it
Shelves: history
A great hour long read that helps you understand the reasons the North and South went to war. McPherson with the help of the thousands of soldier letters he read shows what the soldiers on the battlefield thought of fighting their neighbors and what they believed they were going to war for.
Margaret Madden
Oct 05, 2015 Margaret Madden rated it liked it
Shelves: library-book
A short look at what the soldiers, fighting in The Civil War, really thought they were fighting for...
A bit too choppy to make it a comfortable crossover from academic, reference book to an accessible non-fiction title. Enjoyable read all the same.
May 13, 2016 James rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this short read very much. Gained much insight into the motivations of both sides--very relevant today, in my opinion, given the seeming tendency of millennials to project modern views on our nation's past. Best to read the words straight from the soldiers themselves.
Avis Black
Jun 06, 2009 Avis Black rated it did not like it
A rather feeble book. This is the sort of work you produce when you've decided to coast on your laurels. McPherson deservedly won acclaim with The Battle Cry of Freedom, which was a good synopsis of the Civil War, but he's gone badly downhill ever since.
Jun 13, 2008 Missmath144 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: my siblings
Shelves: history, civil-war, war
McPherson explores the reasons Union soldiers fought, the reasons Confederate soldiers fought, and attitudes of both sides towards slavery. An easy read while still being very informative. A precursor to a longer book titled For Cause and Comrades : Why Men Fought in the Civil War.
Jun 18, 2009 Jody rated it liked it
Extremely interesting read for anyone interested in the Civil War. Essentially, the novel is composed of thousands of letters of officers in the Civil War. This novel gives readers a true look into the insight of what soldiers who were on the battle lines were going through.
Apr 11, 2009 Michael rated it liked it
Although it is a short book of less than one hundred pages, quite a lot is packed into the book. The author succinctly articulates the motivations of Union and Confederate soldiers based largely on letters written by the men in blue and gray.
Daniel Graff
Mar 10, 2016 Daniel Graff rated it it was amazing
Truth in an age of political correctness. Documents through analysis of private letters the insignificance of slavery as a motivating factor for war participants both north and south.
Milan Homola
Nov 11, 2011 Milan Homola rated it liked it
I really enjoyed this great super quick read. It is a well organized use of quotes from personal letters that support well formulated theories about the motivations and issues in the civil war
Mr Salyer
Dec 25, 2013 Mr Salyer rated it it was amazing
An excellent primary source (letters/diaries) review!! This would be an excellent book for those attempting to make sense of the Civil War.
Joseph Stieb
Oct 16, 2014 Joseph Stieb rated it really liked it
Shelves: us-civil-war
Basically the same thing as For Cause and Comrades. Still good, but just read for Cause and Comrades.
MaryAnn rated it liked it
Jan 22, 2014
Sean Andres
Sean Andres rated it it was amazing
Apr 14, 2013
Nick rated it really liked it
Dec 17, 2015
Molly Harrington
Molly Harrington rated it really liked it
Mar 22, 2013
Paul rated it really liked it
Feb 19, 2013
Timothy Beverly
Timothy Beverly rated it it was amazing
Feb 03, 2016
Abby Gowland
Abby Gowland rated it liked it
Dec 25, 2014
Kathy Brown
Kathy Brown rated it liked it
Jan 20, 2011
Tyler rated it liked it
Aug 20, 2013
C Baker
C Baker rated it really liked it
Jan 06, 2015
Grant Volle
Grant Volle rated it liked it
Jan 19, 2008
Michelle Everhart
Michelle Everhart rated it it was amazing
Sep 13, 2014
David Sligh
David Sligh rated it really liked it
Jul 30, 2012
Berniemaccpd rated it really liked it
Aug 13, 2014
Hailey Morgan
Hailey Morgan rated it liked it
Dec 29, 2015
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 next »
There are no discussion topics on this book yet. Be the first to start one »
  • The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy
  • Mary Chesnut's Civil War
  • The State of Jones
  • Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
  • Look Away!: A History of the Confederate States of America
  • Forever Free: The Story of Emancipation and Reconstruction
  • Contempt of Court: The Turn-of-the-Century Lynching That Launched a Hundred Years of Federalism
  • To Purge This Land with Blood: A Biography of John Brown
  • Lee The Last Years
  • Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
  • Glory Road
  • In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1864
  • The Uprooted: The Epic Story of the Great Migrations that Made the American People
  • Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander
  • The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861
  • Southern Honor: Ethics And Behavior In The Old South
  • The Last Indian War: The Nez Perce Story
  • Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865
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.

More about James M. McPherson...

Share This Book