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Battle Cry of Freedom

(Oxford History of the United States #6)

4.35  ·  Rating details ·  24,503 ratings  ·  1,119 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
Paperback, 867 pages
Published December 11th 2003 by Oxford University Press, USA (first published February 25th 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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Embarking on reading or in this case rerereading McPherson's civil war at 800 plus pages feels like committing to refighting that four year conflict. One feels the need of a logistics corps to support the reading effort at the front as the page counts mounts and mounts. The book itself, particularly in a hardback incarnation, is virtually a civil war, it could be lobbed with hostile intent at a passerby, or laid on the ground to make a defensive position or strapped to the chest to protect the ...more
Mustafa Ahmad
Apr 08, 2012 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
Bryan  Jones
May 29, 2007 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
Steven Peterson
Nov 09, 2009 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
Jan 14, 2010 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
B. P. Rinehart
Oct 31, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Anyone who watches the news and wants to know...why?
Recommended to B. P. by: Ta-Nehisi Coates
"The terms of...peace and the dimensions of black freedom would occupy the country for a decade or more. Meanwhile the process of chronicling the war and reckoning [with] its consequences began immediately [after it ended] and has never ceased. More than 620,000 soldiers lost their lives in four years of conflict-360,000 Yankees and at least 260,000 rebels. The number of southern civilians who died as a direct or indirect result of the war cannot be known; what can be said is that the Civil ...more
Nick T. Borrelli
Mar 08, 2017 rated it it was amazing
As I have gotten older I have definitely become more interested in reading about history, especially books about the Civil War. My reading tastes have evolved from someone who only used to read Fantasy to someone who now reads a lot of non-fiction. Battle Cry of Freedom has been touted as the best SINGLE volume account of the Civil War. I have read Shelby Foote's magnum three-book, 3,500 page opus, found that to be an amazing experience and one that kept me engrossed for over a year. So I picked ...more
Jan 16, 2013 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 ...more
Aaron Arnold
Mar 27, 2012 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 ...more
Donna Davis
Aug 27, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: those seeking one definitive American Civil War source.
If you only choose to read one (challenging and sizable) resource on the American Civil War, this is the one. It won the Pulitzer, and although it is a large piece of work, it is immensely readable. It begins with the Mexican-American War because that is where much of the Civil War's military leadership is forged. It also makes it much more interesting to see whose fortunes rise, and whose fall (although these are, naturally, secondary to the issue of the war itself).

This is unquestionably the
Jun 09, 2010 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
Jan 28, 2019 rated it it was amazing
This is a very well-written, readable, comprehensive single-volume compendium on the Civil War. McPherson begins in the mid-19th century detailing the events leading up to the war including Lincoln's rise in politics, the Dred Scott decision, and Harper's Ferry. He covers the causes, the political and social climate, and the economic outlook of the times. Interspersed between the various battles of the war, McPherson covers specific side information such as conscription, medical needs, POW ...more
Sep 22, 2010 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
Aug 28, 2010 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
Pete Sikora
Jan 02, 2010 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
May 28, 2014 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
RM(Alwaysdaddygirl) Griffin (alwaysdaddyprincess)
5 star. Will reread down the road. ...more
John Nellis
May 08, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: black-powder-era
Still the best one volume history of the Civil War era.
Feb 17, 2014 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 ...more
Jun 11, 2011 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. ...more
Anastasia Fitzgerald-Beaumont
I read this when I was still at school, an excellent one-volume overview of a great American tragedy.
Jeremy Perron
Aug 03, 2012 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 ...more
When American Civil War picked my interest some twenty years ago, two books bubbled up to the top of the pile as a reasonably good place to start digging into that conflict and get a ‘quick’ overview. The first was Shelby Foote’s three volume narrative, the other one was McPherson’s ‘Battle Cry of Freedom’. I went with Foote’s seminal work and the fact that it started my ‘love affair’ with American Civil War that lasts to this very day could be used as some sort of indication of how great that ...more
Oct 15, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read James McPherson's classic history of the Civil War era when I was in high school. At the time I had a pretty callow understanding of history; because of this, while I took a lot from McPherson's book, many of his arguments and details went largely unappreciated. In the years that followed his book remained on my shelf as a valued resource that I drew from, even as I moved on to more focused studies about the period. Recently, however, a friend's request brought me back to the book ...more
Aug 21, 2012 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
Feb 11, 2013 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
This is a really magisterial overview of the US Civil War, especially when one considers the sheer amount of material that McPherson compresses down into less than a thousand pages. I was left longing for coverage of other aspects of the war—what women were doing; the social impact; more things from an African-American perspective—but McPherson clearly set out to write the political and military history of the war, and in that he succeeds triumphantly. It's clearly a work of synthesis—my ...more
Mary JL
Apr 29, 2009 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
Mark Mortensen
Jan 28, 2012 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 ...more
probably the standard one-volume political history of the US civil war. lotsa good maps. is not a military history, however--and should be supplemented with something like How the North Won.
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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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Oxford History of the United States (1 - 10 of 11 books)
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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” 4 likes
“His captors asked why he, a nonslaveholder, was fighting to uphold slavery. He replied: “I’m fighting because you’re down here.”7” 4 likes
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