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Battle Cry of Freedom (Oxford History of the United States #6)

4.32  ·  Rating Details ·  18,580 Ratings  ·  791 Reviews
Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War.
James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the endi
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Paperback, 867 pages
Published December 11th 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published 1988)
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Mike Seaman McPherson's work is non-fiction and is a seminal single volume account of the civil war era. McPherson is one of the foremost voices of Civil War…moreMcPherson's work is non-fiction and is a seminal single volume account of the civil war era. McPherson is one of the foremost voices of Civil War history.(less)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Bryan  Jones
Jul 10, 2007 Bryan Jones rated it it was amazing
It is reported that there are 15,000 books on the Civil War in the Library of Congress, so the natural question is where do you start? Furthermore, Most of the "seminal" Civil War works are volumes and thousands of pages. Well in 850 pages, McPherson provides succint, yet thorough historical writing of the highest caliber. It unmuddies the waters as to the reasons for the country's schism and the start of the war and provides the necessary level of detail as to the prosecution of the war without ...more
Mustafa Ahmad
Jan 05, 2016 Mustafa Ahmad rated it it was amazing
Being a young history buff, it took me 3 weeks and 3 days to read this. That is, 3 weeks of contemplating reading it and proceeding to finish it in 3 days. This book is undoubtedly the best 1-volume book on the war that divided and reunited America but ended some of our back-then traditions such as slavery. In other words, the Civil War. It has a good balance of the battles such as Gettysburg and Antietam while it does discuss the social, political, and economic factors that also fueled the war. ...more
Eric
Mar 02, 2010 Eric rated it really liked it
Shelves: history, us-civil-war
The times, they change so fast, and the Young People Today know nothing of drive-ins… of paper routes…of bizarrely racist street parades:

Indiana Democrats organized a parade which included young girls in white dresses carrying banners inscribed “Fathers, save us from nigger husbands!”
(p. 159)

A Democratic float in a New York parade carried life-size effigies of Horace Greeley and a “good looking nigger wench, whom he caressed with all the affection of a true Republican.” A banner proclaimed tha
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Steven Peterson
Nov 09, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it it was amazing
If you want detailed discussion of battles, this is not the book for you. If you want detailed descriptions of key actors during the Civil War, this will not be the book for you. But if you want an all encompassing volume, linking the battles, economic issues, social life, culture, and politics, then this book will be a wonderful resource.

Where does the title of the book come from? A Civil War song, "The Battle Cry of Freedom," written in 1862. Illustrative lines:

"The Union forever, Hurrah boys
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Aaron Arnold
Dec 17, 2013 Aaron Arnold rated it it was amazing
Widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of the Civil War around, this is another entry in the Oxford History of the United States, which I am enjoying immensely. The preface had an interesting observation: though this book covers the shortest span of all the books in the series (albeit with some significant overlap), it's one of the longest books in the series. The Civil War is the most-written about period in American history simply because there's so much history in it, as it did mo ...more
M
Jul 01, 2010 M rated it it was amazing
THE Civil War book. Many thanks to the blogging of Ta-Nehisi Coates to teach me this fact. Reads like Greek myth or Shakespearian tragedy, but with incredible footnotes. And with an unbelievably good first 300 pages about the politics that made war inevitable, and which includes evidence that demolishes the idea that some unsullied struggle for "states' rights" was what spawned the secession.

All I can think about now is who would play Grant in the movie, and how much of a dick McClellan was, and
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Richard
Oct 02, 2010 Richard rated it it was amazing
James McPherson has created a monumental work on the Civil War and its origins. I read it several years ago and recently re-read the first half, which concerns the United States at mid-nineteenth century and the many political and social issues working toward a collision course between the northern and southern states over the cause of slavery. McPherson is very possibly America's highest regarded Civil War author. This book won him the Pulitzer Prize.

The first time I read this book, I was amaz
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Esdaile
Mar 19, 2013 Esdaile rated it it was ok
Shelves: american, history
This work is certainly very extensively researched and annotated and abounds in comments from contemporaries-quotations, extracts from diaries etc. This is so much the case that it is arguable that McPherson did not so much write a historical account as piece together as produce a series of quotations from eye-witnesses and those who lived through events and has interspersed them with a linking narrative and his own biased comments. The book is rather like a printed version of popular tv histori ...more
Jim
Jul 10, 2016 Jim rated it it was amazing
“Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era” by James McPherson is widely considered to be the best one volume history of the American Civil War era ever published. When I first read it twenty years ago I came to that same conclusion. Re-reading it again now has not led me to alter my opinion. If you are looking for a comprehensive survey of the cultural, political, economic, and social landscape of the period, the nature of which all fed into the ultimate decision by the South to try and leave th ...more
Jeremy Perron
Aug 03, 2012 Jeremy Perron rated it it was amazing
James McPherson's Pulitzer winning work Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era is often referred to as being the best single volume account of the American Civil War*. This book is all it was cracked up to be. It exams the major causes leading up to the conflict and the war itself by exploring them from multiple angles. The book shifts smoothly from the bottom Union ranks to the presidential chair, from radical abolitionists to powerful slave holders. One of the main themes of the book is 'lib ...more
Mary
Dec 04, 2012 Mary rated it it was amazing
McPherson's book is a wonderful history of the Civil War. He begins by setting the scene describing what was happening politically, culturally, and socially in the United States before the war began. Using this same wide scope he takes readers through the war years, through the end of the war, and Lincoln's death.

I had not read anything about the Civil War since my college American History survey and so I learned a great deal. Although it took me a longtime to read this book, it wasn't because
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Jim
Sep 03, 2010 Jim rated it it was amazing
As other reviewers have noted, this magnificent book is almost certainly the best single-volume history of the American Civil War. It is hard to imagine that there will ever be another to match it.

Here is the way that I have heard the question: "I think I might be interested in learning something about the Civil War. If I wanted to read one book and find out for sure, what should I get?" The simple, unequivocal answer to that question is "Battle Cry of Freedom".

James McPherson is, for me, one of
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Carol
Jun 11, 2011 Carol rated it it was amazing
This is a book I have long intended to read. The hard bound edition is 860 pages so it was a challenge. I have long had an affinity for books about the Civil War and biographies of Abraham Lincoln. This book starts at the Mexican War in 1847. The politics of this war shows clearly the persistent greed for more land and the lengths we would go to obtain it. More to the point, many of the best who fought in the Mexican War became the officers who would fight against each other in the Civil War. Th ...more
Pete Sikora
Jan 02, 2010 Pete Sikora rated it it was amazing
Any review that starts with "this is the definitive X of Y" has to be suspect. But this really is the definitive history of the civil war.

The political pressure on Lincoln... the battles... the economic conditions... the battles... the run up to the war... the battles... the increasingly impossible slave/free state compromises... the battles... the generalship... and did I mention the battles? It's readable, exciting and insightful.

The most interesting segment of the book is the run up to the
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Mary JL
Apr 29, 2009 Mary JL rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: anyone interested in the Civil War
Recommended to Mary JL by: Read book review--don't recall whose
I have always been interested in the Civil War. So when this book was described as "one of the best one-volume histories of the Civil War", I set out at once to read it.

And I agree. It won the Pulitzer Prize for History and deservedly so. MCPherson's style is easy to follow. No words seem wasted. He takes a history we all know at least some details of and keeps you reading. It is long, but omits very little.

NOt only miltary details are given, but the political and social feelings of the era are
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Mark Mortensen
Mar 08, 2012 Mark Mortensen rated it it was amazing
Shelves: civil-war
McPherson appears to have written the best single-volume history of the Civil War. The 860 plus pages flow smoothly and chronologically with an abundance of interesting information. Throughout the North / South conflict the author reveals both the political atmosphere as well as the character of generals in a very impartial manner. The often hyped battles are relegated to their proper level of significance, while many other engagements that I was not as familiar with were appropriately reference ...more
Amy Kannel
Jun 07, 2016 Amy Kannel marked it as abandoned
I picked this one up after an awkward conversation with some Southern friends in which this Yankee girl stuck her foot in her mouth :) I wanted to better understand the South's perspective on the "War Between the States," and this is supposed to be the definitive, balanced book on the subject. I didn't realize it was going to be 800 pages. OY. I persevered through 557 of them before I stopped being able to renew it at the library and gave up. And to be honest I still didn't come away from the bo ...more
Mark Henshaw
Feb 25, 2016 Mark Henshaw rated it it was amazing
McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom is the best one volume study of the US Civil War available, without exception. It is not a quick or easy read; for example, the author spends the first 250 pages just reviewing the underlying causes for the war. But even a casual reader of the first chapters will come away with a much deeper understanding of the political and cultural currents and how the US had developed into two nations well before the first shots were fired at Sumter.

Once the war begins, McPh
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Mark
Nov 07, 2014 Mark rated it really liked it
Excellent and very readable account of the Civil War. It starts at the end of the Mexican-American War, and covers the rising tensions tensions in the 1850s--including 'Bloody Kansas', the Dred Scott decision, and the splintering of American politics into a primarily sectional dispute. The war itself is primarily an account of the campaigns, interspersed with chapters on the economy, political disputes, emancipation and other domestic concerns.

Presumably because it's part of the Oxford History
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John
Mar 21, 2014 John rated it really liked it
I listened to this as an audiobook. Listening to part 1 of the book during a one-day 13-hour drive was a wrenching experience: 40 years of the Union being slowly pulled apart until Lincoln ordered Fort Sumter resupplied and the Confederates fired.

This book added great meaning to the common American phrase "the Civil War," presenting not just the causes of the war (very interesting), but numerous details about the war that public school never provided: the foreign policy difficulties for the Con
...more
Anna
Dec 27, 2015 Anna rated it really liked it
Dense (so, so dense), but thorough history of the Civil War. I asked my grandfather (a Civil War buff) for just one book to read for some background knowledge--I guess 11th grade history failed me--and he recommended this one, the "definitive single-volume history of the War." Prose is generally great, and McPherson clearly knows his stuff. If you want to brush up on your Civil War history, this is a good place to start.
Mitchell
Dec 08, 2015 Mitchell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-misc
This book is an amazing treat. There really isn't much more to say. It is a highly readable, fast paced journey through our Civil War years. This masterpiece should be required reading at the High School and College levels. As Shelby Foote said: "Any understanding of this nation has to be based, and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believe that firmly. It defined us." Highly recommended
Mitchell Szczepanczyk
Mar 08, 2007 Mitchell Szczepanczyk rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Everyone
Maybe the best history of the U.S. Civil War in print. The book is a joy to read, assumes nothing from no one, goes through a ton of intricate detail, and takes the reader on a great ride through a hugely influential episode in American history.
Bernie Charbonneau
Oct 20, 2014 Bernie Charbonneau rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone interested in American History
Shelves: civil-war, ebook
Yes, finally! This book took over two years for me to finish. It wasn’t due to the writing or content, it was I who would find an excuse to move on to the next great read. This may not make sense to some and may sound contradictory when I get to my review but the only thing that I can attribute it to is that this is not the only novel that I have read on the Great American Skirmish. Ok, that said, I decided in the last month to clear my reading list and get down to finishing this bad boy. Superb ...more
Mickey
Oct 07, 2014 Mickey rated it it was amazing
I had the very good luck to attend a lecture by James McPherson at NCSU right as I was finishing up reading this book. He was an extremely gracious and engaging speaker. He even made a joke about the technical difficulties involving his microphone (causing him to have to talk from the corner of the room (right near where I was sitting!) instead of in the center). He also did a good job of dealing with the crowd, which had some very outspoken Lincoln-buffs who shouted out answers. Of course, I'm ...more
J.
Mar 09, 2016 J. rated it it was amazing
Exceptional book about the war and about Lincoln. It's easy to miss how close the North came to loosing; they lost about 100,000 more troops than the South. I was also fascinated to learn having grown up in KY that during the 1864 election for his second term Lincoln won all the Union states except NJ, DE, and KY. The book does an excellent job of framing the period and the arguments made in the book. This was actually my second read and I'm fascinated by how much I picked up the second time I d ...more
Max
Jun 21, 2014 Max rated it it was amazing
Shelves: american-history
Comprehensive, concise and well written, “Battle Cry of Freedom” digs deeply into the politics, economics and social attitudes leading up to the Civil War as well as giving a blow by blow accounting of the battles and their greater impact on the home front. Disparate economies pave the road to war as the North takes off with the transportation and industrial revolutions and the South remains a stagnant agrarian society dependent on slavery. McPherson highlights many points in the conflict where ...more
Stefanebaugh
Sep 22, 2009 Stefanebaugh rated it it was amazing
I would highly recommend this book to anyone whose faith in the character or potential of America is in doubt. This excellent history gives a very compelling account of the events and political tensions that ignited America's bloodiest and deadliest war. After reading the details of a series of merciless battles pitting millions of unflinching Americans against each other, the awe-inspiring resolve of Lincoln's second inaugural address can be better appreciated:
"Fondly do we hope - fervently do
...more
Jerome
May 17, 2014 Jerome rated it it was amazing
Shelves: civil-war, favorites
I was at Gettysburg yesterday and decided to purchase a copy since I have only a grade-school knowledge of the war.

In "Battle Cry of Freedom", the author does an excellent job portraying the views of all sides and tracing the American Civil War back to General Scott's victory over Mexico 25 years earlier. While slavery was always an issue in America, after the Revolution many felt it would eventually wither on the vine. The constitution prohibited the slave trade after a few years, many northern
...more
Mark
Feb 17, 2015 Mark rated it it was amazing
WOW - What a book on the US Civil War! A great single volume on the Civil War era. The author covers this conflict well. From the run up of the South and North competing to extend or deny slavery into western states, to the Lincoln election, secession, the ebb and flow of the war and ultimate Union victory - it’s all here. The author describes battles, emotions and people very well. We see the great battles come to life - Chancellorsville, Antietam, Gettysburg, the siege of Atlanta, Sherman's ma ...more
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  • The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
  • Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution 1863-1877
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  • The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
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  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776
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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.

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Other Books in the Series

Oxford History of the United States (8 books)
  • The Glorious Cause: The American Revolution, 1763-1789
  • Empire of Liberty: A History of the Early Republic, 1789-1815
  • What Hath God Wrought: The Transformation of America, 1815-1848
  • Freedom from Fear: The American People in Depression and War, 1929-1945
  • Grand Expectations: The United States, 1945-1974
  • Restless Giant: The United States from Watergate to Bush v. Gore
  • From Colony to Superpower: U.S. Foreign Relations Since 1776

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“Not surprisingly, South Carolina acted first. “There is nothing in all the dark caves of human passion so cruel and deadly as the hatred the South Carolinians profess for the Yankees.” wrote the correspondent of the London Times from Charleston. The enmity of Greek for Turk was child’s play “compared to the animosity evinced by the ‘gentry’ of South Carolina for the ‘rabble of the North.’ … The State of South Carolina was,’ I am” 3 likes
“His captors asked why he, a nonslaveholder, was fighting to uphold slavery. He replied: “I’m fighting because you’re down here.”7” 3 likes
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