The History Book Club discussion


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message 1: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
This thread is available to discuss the origin and the causes of the American Civil War. This thread is not a non spoiler thread so all discussions regarding what caused the civil war can take place here.

Please feel free to cite all book and author sources; we add the book cover, author's photo and author's link to help folks research these citations. If there are websites, urls to support your arguments, please feel free to add those.

message 2: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod

message 3: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Here is a new book:

We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861

We Have the War Upon Us The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 by William J. Cooper William J. Cooper William J. Cooper


In this carefully researched book William J. Cooper gives us a fresh perspective on the period between Abraham Lincoln’s election in November 1860 and the firing on Fort Sumter in April 1861, during which all efforts to avoid or impede secession and prevent war failed. Here is the story of the men whose decisions and actions during the crisis of the Union resulted in the outbreak of the Civil War.

Sectional compromise had been critical in the history of the country, from the Constitutional Convention of 1787 through to 1860, and was a hallmark of the nation. On several volatile occasions political leaders had crafted solutions to the vexing problems dividing North and South. During the postelection crisis many Americans assumed that once again a political compromise would settle yet another dispute. Instead, in those crucial months leading up to the clash at Fort Sumter, that tradition of compromise broke down and a rapid succession of events led to the great cataclysm in American history, the Civil War.

All Americans did not view this crisis from the same perspective. Strutting southern fire-eaters designed to break up the Union. Some Republicans, crowing over their electoral triumph, evinced little concern about the threatened dismemberment of the country. Still others—northerners and southerners, antislave and proslave alike—strove to find an equitable settlement that would maintain the Union whole. Cooper captures the sense of contingency, showing Americans in these months as not knowing where decisions would lead, how events would unfold. The people who populate these pages could not foresee what war, if it came, would mean, much less predict its outcome.

We Have the War Upon Us helps us understand what the major actors said and did: the Republican party, the Democratic party, southern secessionists, southern Unionists; why the pro-compromise forces lost; and why the American tradition of sectional compromise failed. It reveals how the major actors perceived what was happening and the reasons they gave for their actions: Lincoln and Jefferson Davis, Stephen A. Douglas, William Henry Seward, John J. Crittenden, Charles Francis Adams, John Tyler, James Buchanan, and a host of others. William J. Cooper has written a full account of the North and the South, Republicans and Democrats, sectional radicals and sectional conservatives that deepens our insight into what is still one of the most controversial periods in American history.

message 4: by Peter (new)

Peter Flom Bryan wrote: "Here is a new book:

We Have the War Upon Us: The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861

We Have the War Upon Us The Onset of the Civil War, November 1860-April 1861 by William J. Cooper[authori..."

Sounds excellent

message 5: by Debi (new)

Debi (celticsky) | 13 comments I'll definitely check this one out. Thanks.

message 6: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Another book by Cooper which traces the life of Jefferson Davis, President of the CSA. Although a biography, it provides wonderful insight into how the origins and causes of the war affected not only Davis but his compatriots in Washington as the issue of states' rights, slavery, etc. divided friends and further divided foes. Highly recommended.

Jefferson Davis, American

Jefferson Davis, American by William J. Cooper by William J. Cooper William J. Cooper


From a distinguished historian of the America South comes this thoroughly human portrait of the complex man at the center of our nation's most epic struggle.

Jefferson Davis initially did not wish to leave the Union-as the son of a veteran of the American Revolution and as a soldier and senator, he considered himself a patriot. William J. Cooper shows us how Davis' initial reluctance turned into absolute commitment to the Confederacy. He provides a thorough account of Davis' life, both as the Confederate President and in the years before and after the war. Elegantly written and impeccably researched, Jefferson Davis, American is the definitive examination of one of the most enigmatic figures in our nation's history.

message 7: by Josh (new)

Josh Liller (joshism) The Impending Crisis America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861 by David M. Potter by David M. Potter

This is a Pulitzer winner from the 1970s and I feel it has aged well with excellent writing. Potter's thesis is slavery was THE the South's secession.

A pair of books which I want to read:

The Road to Disunion Volume I Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 by William W. Freehling & The Road to Disunion Volume II Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861 by William W. Freehling by William W. Freehling

message 8: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Great, Josh, I own this book. I probably should read the Freehling volumes, as well.

The Impending Crisis America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861 by David M. Potter David M. Potter

The Road to Disunion Volume I Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 by William W. Freehling The Road to Disunion, Volume 2 Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861 by William W. Freehling William W. Freehling

message 9: by Alisa (new)

Alisa (mstaz) New release:

The Fall of the House of Dixie: The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South
The Fall of the House of Dixie The Civil War and the Social Revolution That Transformed the South by Bruce Levine by Bruce Levine

In this major new history of the Civil War, Bruce Levine tells the riveting story of how that conflict upended the economic, political, and social life of the old South, utterly destroying the Confederacy and the society it represented and defended. Told through the words of the people who lived it, The Fall of the House of Dixie illuminates the way a war undertaken to preserve the status quo became a second American Revolution whose impact on the country was as strong and lasting as that of our first.

In 1860 the American South was a vast, wealthy, imposing region where a small minority had amassed great political power and enormous fortunes through a system of forced labor. The South’s large population of slaveless whites almost universally supported the basic interests of plantation owners, despite the huge wealth gap that separated them. By the end of 1865 these structures of wealth and power had been shattered. Millions of black people had gained their freedom, many poorer whites had ceased following their wealthy neighbors, and plantation owners were brought to their knees, losing not only their slaves but their political power, their worldview, their very way of life. This sea change was felt nationwide, as the balance of power in Congress, the judiciary, and the presidency shifted dramatically and lastingly toward the North, and the country embarked on a course toward equal rights.

Levine captures the many-sided human drama of this story using a huge trove of diaries, letters, newspaper articles, government documents, and more. In The Fall of the House of Dixie, the true stakes of the Civil War become clearer than ever before, as slaves battle for their freedom in the face of brutal reprisals; Abraham Lincoln and his party turn what began as a limited war for the Union into a crusade against slavery by issuing the Emancipation Proclamation; poor southern whites grow increasingly disillusioned with fighting what they have come to see as the plantation owners’ war; and the slave owners grow ever more desperate as their beloved social order is destroyed, not just by the Union Army, but also from within. When the smoke clears, not only Dixie but all of American society is changed forever.

message 10: by Colleen (new)

Colleen Browne Jill wrote: "Another book by Cooper which traces the life of Jefferson Davis, President of the CSA. Although a biography, it provides wonderful insight into how the origins and causes of the war affected not on..."

I read this book some time ago and I felt a bit let down by it. (I always feel like there is something wrong with me when I criticize a book that has won a Pulitzer Prize). I didn't think that there was much new information in the book and the interpretation wasn't new. Is it just me or does anyone else agree? The Impending Crisis America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861 by David M. Potter David M. Potter David M. Potter

message 11: by Jacob (last edited Dec 09, 2013 03:36PM) (new)

Jacob 1858: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See
Bruce Chadwick
Bruce Chadwick
I found this book very informative of the events that stimulated the Civil War, and it offers small biographies of Abraham Lincoln, James Buchanan, Robert E. Lee, Jefferson Davis, William Seward, and others as well. Though not an excellent read, this book expanded my horizons regarding the causes of the war. This book mainly emphasizes that slavery, John Brown, Dred Scott v. Sandford(Sanford),and other sectional disputes caused the Civil War.

message 12: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) JJ......the book citations should look like this. It just takes a little practice.

1858 Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis, Robert E. Lee, Ulysses S. Grant and the War They Failed to See by Bruce Chadwick by Bruce Chadwick(no photo)

message 13: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Thanks, J.J. good stuff and thanks Jill for the citation help.

message 14: by Rebecca (new)

Rebecca (iowareader) | 129 comments I recently finished Goodheart's "1861:The A Civil War Awakening" and highly recommend it. I loved the introduction to young Professor Garfield (later our 20th President) as he comes to his own awakening. I grew up near St. Louis, MO, so I loved the vivid telling of how the Union kept the St. Louis Arsenal from falling into enemy hands.

Goodreads synopsis:

As the United States marks the 150th anniversary of our defining national drama, 1861 presents a gripping and original account of how the Civil War began.

1861 is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom.

The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes—among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision.

1861 The Civil War Awakening by Adam Goodheart by Adam Goodheart (no photo)

message 15: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Becky - I really enjoyed your post.

message 16: by Ryan (new)

Ryan I'm looking for a book that covers the decades before the civil war began and the events that eventually caused the nation to split apart.

Events like
-1850 compromise
-Dredd Scott vs Sandford
-Raid on Harpers Ferry

I'm looking for a rather thick book that goes into great detail and is well reviewed by other readers.

message 17: by Martin (new)

Martin Zook | 615 comments What Hath God Wrought The Transformation of America, 1815-1848 by Daniel Walker Howe by Daniel Walker Howe (no picture)

An excellent survey for the period you're after, Ryan.

message 18: by Ryan (new)

Ryan Thanks I'll look into it.

message 19: by Bryan (new)

Bryan Craig Ryan:

Here are some I would recommend:

The Impending Crisis America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861 by David Morris Potter by David Morris Potter (no photo)

The Road to Disunion Volume I Secessionists at Bay, 1776-1854 by William W. Freehling The Road to Disunion Volume II Secessionists Triumphant, 1854-1861 by William W. Freehling by William W. Freehling (no photo)

Disunion! The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 by Elizabeth R. Varon by Elizabeth R. Varon (no photo)

message 20: by Ryan (new)

Ryan I appreciate the help Bryan

message 21: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) A great book of the events leading up to the War Between the States.

The Scorpion's Sting

The Scorpion's Sting Antislavery and the Coming of the Civil War by James Oakes by James Oakes (no photo)


Surrounded by a ring of fire, the scorpion stings itself to death. The image, widespread among antislavery leaders before the Civil War, captures their long-standing strategy for peaceful abolition: they would surround the slave states with a cordon of freedom. They planned to use federal power wherever they could to establish freedom: the western territories, the District of Columbia, the high seas. By constricting slavery they would induce a crisis: slaves would escape in ever-greater numbers, the southern economy would falter, and finally the southern states would abolish the institution themselves. For their part the southern states fully understood this antislavery strategy. They cited it repeatedly as they adopted secession ordinances in response to Lincoln's election. The scorpion's sting is the centerpiece of this fresh, incisive exploration of slavery and the Civil War: Was there a peaceful route to abolition? Was Lincoln late to emancipation? What role did race play in the politics of slavery? With stunning insight James Oakes moves us ever closer to a new understanding of the most momentous events in our history.

message 22: by Jerome, Assisting Moderator - Upcoming Books and Releases (new)

Jerome | 4352 comments Mod
Good add, I enjoyed Oakes' history of abolition:

Freedom National The Destruction of Slavery in the United States, 1861-1865 by James Oakes by James Oakes (no photo)

message 23: by Brian (new)

Brian Sandor (briansandor) | 70 comments Two books I have read on the subject that have tons of info on the run up to the Civil War:
Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War with a New Introductory Essay by Eric Foner Eric Foner
Very informative but not the most exciting read. Was for a college Civil War class. Primarily focuses on the differing political factions that come together to create the Republican Party.

The Dred Scott Case Its Significance in American Law and Politics by Don E. Fehrenbacher Don E. Fehrenbacher

This brick of a book is not only exhaustively informative, but very readable. Read in high school for an English book report. Even though it focuses mainly on the legal aspects of the case, Fehrenbacher covers all the facets from Dred's life and the trip that instigated the case, Taney's court and the ramifications the case had for the future conflict.

message 24: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Two very good recommendations, Brian. Don't forget to put the book citations at the end of the post for easier reading and add the author link thusly:

Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men The Ideology of the Republican Party Before the Civil War with a New Introductory Essay by Eric Foner by Eric Foner Eric Foner

The Dred Scott Case Its Significance in American Law and Politics by Don E. Fehrenbacher by Don E. Fehrenbacher Don E. Fehrenbacher

message 25: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Fort Sumter and the beginnings of the war in which brother fought brother.

Gate of Hell: Campaign for Charleston Harbor

Gate of Hell Campaign for Charleston Harbor, 1863 by Stephen R. Wise by Stephen R. Wise (no photo)

Known for sharply affecting the Civil War's outcome, the Charleston campaign of 1863 included the assault on Battery Wagner, so vividly depicted at the culmination of the film "Glory." Stephen R. Wise vividly re-creates the campaign in Gate of Hell, and his retelling of the battle pits not only black against white and North against South but also army against navy. Wise contends that the significance of the campaign extends beyond its outcome, arguing that an understanding of the strategy used at Charleston is vital to understanding the very nature of the Civil War.

Lasting almost two months and resulting in thousands of casualties, the campaign began as a joint army-navy operation. Wise continues to follow the campaign through the capture of Battery Wagner and near-demolition of Fort Sumter to its final days, when the Confederates prevented Union forces from entering the port city. Wise describes the campaign as a major testing ground for African-American troops and attributes Lincoln's expansion of African-American recruitment to the admirable performance of the 54th Massachusetts. Wise ultimately concludes that the skill, and in some cases foolish theatrics, of the campaign's leaders determined the course of the campaign.

message 26: by Donna (last edited Feb 23, 2015 04:32PM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) Gateway to Freedom The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad by Eric Foner by Eric Foner Eric Foner

More than any other scholar, Eric Foner has influenced our understanding of America's history. Now, making brilliant use of extraordinary evidence, the Pulitzer Prize winning historian once again reconfigures the national saga of American slavery and freedom.

A deeply entrenched institution, slavery lived on legally and commercially even in the northern states that had abolished it after the American Revolution. Slaves could be found in the streets of New York well after abolition, traveling with owners doing business with the city's major banks, merchants, and manufacturers. New York was also home to the North s largest free black community, making it a magnet for fugitive slaves seeking refuge. Slave catchers and gangs of kidnappers roamed the city, seizing free blacks, often children, and sending them south to slavery.

To protect fugitives and fight kidnappings, the city's free blacks worked with white abolitionists to organize the New York Vigilance Committee in 1835. In the 1840s vigilance committees proliferated throughout the North and began collaborating to dispatch fugitive slaves from the upper South, Washington, and Baltimore, through Philadelphia and New York, to Albany, Syracuse, and Canada. These networks of antislavery resistance, centered on New York City, became known as the underground railroad. Forced to operate in secrecy by hostile laws, courts, and politicians, the city s underground-railroad agents helped more than 3,000 fugitive slaves reach freedom between 1830 and 1860. Until now, their stories have remained largely unknown, their significance little understood.

Building on fresh evidence, including a detailed record of slave escapes secretly kept by Sydney Howard Gay, one of the key organizers in New York, Foner elevates the underground railroad from folklore to sweeping history. The story is inspiring and full of memorable characters making their first appearance on the historical stage. It eventually took a civil war to destroy American slavery, but here at last is the story of the courageous effort to fight slavery by "practical abolition," person by person, family by family."

message 27: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) José Luís Pinto wrote: "Thank you for your add, Donna. Just take the last parenthesis - it seems there was a copying mistake. I would appreciate if you did it."

I did a little editing on the final paragraph that should make it more readable.

message 28: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thanks Donna

message 29: by Donna (last edited Feb 24, 2015 01:13AM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) Midnight Rising John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz by Tony Horwitz Tony Horwitz

Author Tony Horwitz tells the electrifying tale of the daring insurrection that put America on the path to bloody war

Plotted in secret, launched in the dark, John Brown's raid on Harpers Ferry was a pivotal moment in U.S. history. But few Americans know the true story of the men and women who launched a desperate strike at the slaveholding South. Now, Midnight Rising portrays Brown's uprising in vivid color, revealing a country on the brink of explosive conflict.

Brown, the descendant of New England Puritans, saw slavery as a sin against America's founding principles. Unlike most abolitionists, he was willing to take up arms, and in 1859 he prepared for battle at a hideout in Maryland, joined by his teenage daughter, three of his sons, and a guerrilla band that included former slaves and a dashing spy. On October 17, the raiders seized Harpers Ferry, stunning the nation and prompting a counterattack led by Robert E. Lee. After Brown's capture, his defiant eloquence galvanized the North and appalled the South, which considered Brown a terrorist. The raid also helped elect Abraham Lincoln, who later began to fulfill Brown's dream with the Emancipation Proclamation, a measure he called "a John Brown raid, on a gigantic scale."

message 30: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) The Coming Fury by Bruce Catton by Bruce Catton Bruce Catton

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award! A thrilling, page-turning piece of writing that describes the forces conspiring to tear apart the United States--with the disintegrating political processes and rising tempers finally erupting at Bull Run. "...a major work by a major writer, a superb re-creation of the twelve crucial months that opened the Civil War."--The New York Times.

message 31: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) Apostles of Disunion Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War by Charles B. Dew by Charles B. Dew (no photo)

In late 1860 and early 1861, state-appointed commissioners traveled the length and breadth of the slave South carrying a fervent message in pursuit of a clear goal: to persuade the political leadership and the citizenry of the uncommitted slave states to join in the effort to destroy the Union and forge a new Southern nation.

Directly refuting the neo-Confederate contention that slavery was neither the reason for secession nor the catalyst for the resulting onset of hostilities in 1861, Charles B. Dew finds in the commissioners' brutally candid rhetoric a stark white supremacist ideology that proves the contrary. The commissioners included in their speeches a constitutional justification for secession, to be sure, and they pointed to a number of political "outrages" committed by the North in the decades prior to Lincoln's election. But the core of their argument--the reason the right of secession had to be invoked and invoked immediately--did not turn on matters of constitutional interpretation or political principle. Over and over again, the commissioners returned to the same point: that Lincoln's election signaled an unequivocal commitment on the part of the North to destroy slavery and that emancipation would plunge the South into a racial nightmare.

Dew's discovery and study of the highly illuminating public letters and speeches of these apostles of disunion--often relatively obscure men sent out to convert the unconverted to the secessionist cause--have led him to suggest that the arguments the commissioners presented provide us with the best evidence we have of the motives behind the secession of the lower South in 1860-61.

Addressing topics still hotly debated among historians and the public at large more than a century after the Civil War, Dew challenges many current perceptions of the causes of the conflict. He offers a compelling and clearly substantiated argument that slavery and race were absolutely critical factors in the outbreak of war--indeed, that they were at the heart of our great national crisis

message 32: by Martin (new)

Martin Zook | 615 comments Raising Holy Hell A Novel by Bruce Olds byBruce Olds(no photo)

We know what John Brown didn't do. He didn't succeed is sparking a slave revolt that would have armed rebelling slaves up and down the Appalachia. We're not real sure if he did something else: helped spark the Civil War with his failed slave rebellion. And, we probably never will know the answers with the same certainty that we know other, documented, historical figures.

Brown operated out of his head, leaving almost no written record to study and mull over.

Thank goodness for Olds' insightful examination into this important ghost of American history.

Olds' imaginative narrative weaves the relatively few historical facts known about Brown's plans for the raid on the federal armory at Harper's Ferry with facts such as how slaves were repressed and tortured, and other historical events of and around Brown's life, to create what I think is the clearest picture of this man who "failed" at everything he did, except sparking the Civil War.

A pivotal question about Brown's actions at Harpers Ferry surrounds his original estimate of men necessary to succeed in arming slaves he anticipated would flock to the armory once he took control. On the night he and his men launched their attack, Brown was far short of those he thought he needed. So, the pivotal question is: what was his intent at that point?

Once Brown took possession of the armory, it soon became obvious that slaves from nearby were not going to respond as he originally anticipated, yet he stayed at the armory rather than escape despite the fact that he could have easily escaped. Why?

While imprisoned at Charles Town and awaiting trial, he conducted visits (we can't call them press conferences, but that in effect is what they were) with the press to get out his message, which amplified the intent behind the raid and fanned southern fears of a slave revolt. Was this part of a plan B that proved far more effective in setting the fire he intended? Or, was he just making it up as he went along and taking advantage of opportunities?

Neither Olds, nor historians, have enough information to answer these questions with certainty. Brown took the answers to the grave. But, if I'm reading Olds' text right, it's not unreasonable to connect the dots and arrive at a conclusion that Brown did have a plan B in mind, or at least he cast his lot with the raid and took advantage of events as they unfolded favorably to his cause.

Subsequent to reading Olds' text - I really can't label it either a novel or history - I read "historical" texts (biographies and essays) on Brown's life and his raid, and for my money, Olds' portrait seems the most accurate and the richest. It's worth noting that Olds drew from many of the same sources.

John Brown has been a special presence in my life for more than half a century now. On the way back from church to my grandmother's house in Charles Town, W.Va., as a boy I got the heebeejeebies walking by the historical marker commemorating the site of Brown's execution. That was before I knew who he was, or what he hadn't done, or what he had done. Some decades later, after traveling much of the world and the US as the son of a diplomat and as a journeyman newspaper reporter, I settled down and married in the Washington, DC area. My wife selected a house for us while I was on a business trip. When I returned, I discovered I would be living six, or so, miles due east of Harpers Ferry. I ride by it biking on the C&O canal and visit Harpers Ferry regularly chauffeuring my children to events. The wagon that took Brown to the scaffold and delivered his corpse was in our family for some time.

For whatever reason, Brown was some nebulous, haunting presence in my life. But at least that presence was given enough form after reading Olds' book to call it a ghost.

It would be inaccurate to promise satisfaction in reading this book. Olds' highly imaginative approach will not satisfy those more comfortable with a traditionally structured book, but this book best defines Brown, for my money.

message 33: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Thank you Donna and Martin

message 34: by Donna (last edited Feb 24, 2015 11:05AM) (new)

Donna (drspoon) Martin wrote: "Raising Holy Hell A Novel by Bruce OldsbyBruce Olds(no photo)

We know what John Brown didn't do. He didn't succeed is sparking a slave revolt that would have armed rebelling ..."

Martin, I recommend highly the Horwitz book for nonfiction about Brown. He fleshes out the man a bit and makes a domino-effect argument about Harper's Ferry being a pivotal event leading to the Civil War.

We are probably about 4 hours from Harper's Ferry but haven't visited yet. It's on the list!

Midnight Rising John Brown and the Raid That Sparked the Civil War by Tony Horwitz b Tony Horwitz y Tony Horwitz

message 35: by Martin (new)

Martin Zook | 615 comments Donna,
Thanks. Will check it out.

message 36: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) One of the reasons for the cause of the War Between The States was states' rights. This book points out the weakness of that position.

The Fallacies of States' Rights

The Fallacies of States' Rights by Sotirios A. Barber by Sotirios A. Barber (no photo)


The idea that states rights restrain national power is riding high in American judicial and popular opinion. Here, Sotirios A. Barber shows how arguments for states rights, from the days of John C. Calhoun to the present, have offended common sense, logic, and bedrock constitutional principles.

To begin with, states rights federalism cannot possibly win the debate with national federalism owing to the very forum in which the requisite argument must occur a national one, thanks to the Civil War and the ordinary rules of practical argumentation. Further, the political consequences of this self-defeating logic can only hasten the loss of American sovereignty to international economic forces. Both philosophical and practical reasons compel us to consider two historical alternatives to states rights federalism. In the federalism of John Marshall, the nation s most renowned jurist, the national government s duty to ensure security, prosperity, and other legitimate national ends must take precedence over all conflicting exercises of state power. In process federalism, the Constitution protects the states by securing their roles in national policy making and other national decisions. Barber opts for Marshall s federalism, but the contest is close, and his analysis takes the debate into new, fertile territory.

Affirming the fundamental importance of the Preamble, Barber advocates a conception of the Constitution as a charter of positive benefits for the nation. It is not, in his view, a contract among weak separate sovereigns whose primary function is to protect people from the central government, when there are greater dangers to confront."

message 37: by Donna (new)

Donna (drspoon) I just ordered this one.

Our Man in Charleston Britain's Secret Agent in the Civil War South by Christopher Dickey by Christopher Dickey (no photo)


Between the Confederacy and recognition by Great Britain stood one unlikely Englishman who hated the slave trade. His actions helped determine the fate of a nation.

As the United States threatened to break into civil war, the Southern states found themselves in an impossible position: Their economic survival would require reopening the slave trade, banned in America since 1807, but the future of the Confederacy could not be secured without official recognition from Great Britain, which would never countenance such a move. How, then, could the first be achieved without dooming the possibility of the second? Believing their cotton monopoly would provide sufficient leverage, the Southerners publically declared the slave trade dead, even as rapacious traders quickly landed more and more ships on the American coast.

The unlikely man at the roiling center of this intrigue was Robert Bunch, the ambitious young British consul in Charleston, S.C. As he soured on the self-righteousness of his slave-loving neighbors, Bunch used his unique perch to thwart their plans, sending reams of damning dispatches to the Foreign Office in London and eventually becoming the Crown's best secret source on the Confederacy—even as he convinced those neighbors that he was one of them.

In this masterfully told story, Christopher Dickey introduces Consul Bunch as a key figure in the pitched battle between those who wished to reopen the floodgates of bondage and misery, and those who wished to dam the tide forever. Featuring a remarkable cast of diplomats, journalists, senators, and spies, Our Man in Charleston captures the intricate, intense relationship between great powers as one stood on the brink of war

message 38: by Bentley, Group Founder, Leader, Chief (new)

Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Looks good Donna - let us know how you like it

message 39: by Jill (last edited Aug 29, 2015 10:41AM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) The link below contains the Secession Acts of the 13 states that seceded from the Union which began the American Civil War. Very interesting documents.

(Source: Thesportsbank)

message 41: by Jill (last edited Nov 22, 2015 07:33PM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Thanks so much for the recommendations, Allen but please don't forget to use our citation guidelines.

Year of Meteors Stephen Douglas, Abraham Lincoln, and the Election that Brought on the Civil War by Douglas R. Egerton by Douglas R. Egerton (no photo)
Unionists in Virginia Politics, Secession and Their Plan to Prevent Civil War by Larry Denton by Larry Denton (no photo)

message 42: by Allen (new)

Allen | 15 comments Jill,

I'm not sure how to get the author and the book.

message 43: by Jill (last edited Aug 30, 2015 04:59PM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Allen:

Please go to the link below for full instructions.

This process is also mentioned on the "Introduce Yourself" thread, along with other of our guidelines. Please visit there if you haven't already and introduce yourself to the rest of the membership. That link is:

message 44: by Jill (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry: A Brief History with Documents

John Brown's Raid on Harpers Ferry A Brief History with Documents by Jonathan Earle by Jonathan Earle (no photo)


Despised and admired during his life and after his execution, the abolitionist John Brown polarized the nation and remains one of the most controversial figures in U.S. history. His 1859 raid on Harpers Ferry, Virginia, failed to inspire a slave revolt and establish a free Appalachian state but became a crucial turning point in the fight against slavery and a catalyst for the violence that ignited the Civil War. Jonathan Earle’s volume presents Brown as neither villain nor martyr, but rather as a man whose deeply held abolitionist beliefs gradually evolved to a point where he saw violence as inevitable. Earle’s introduction and his collection of documents demonstrate the evolution of Brown’s abolitionist strategies and the symbolism his actions took on in the press, the government, and the wider culture. The featured documents include Brown’s own writings, eyewitness accounts, government reports, and articles from the popular press and from leading intellectuals. Document headnotes, a chronology, questions for consideration, a list of important figures, and a selected bibliography offer additional pedagogical support.

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Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) Visit this PBS site for videos from the History Detective series covering the causes of the Civil War. Very interesting.


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Bentley | 44207 comments Mod
Allen we are delighted to have you - but we have strict rules about self promotion.

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Allen | 15 comments Thanks for the caution. I am still finding my way around Goodreads.

Good article in Smithsonian Magazine (March 2016) on the Free State of Jones. A movie on the same topic will be coming out In May.

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Teri (teriboop) Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War

Clash of Extremes The Economic Origins of the Civil War by Marc Egnal by Marc Egnal (no photo)


Clash of Extremes takes on the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles. Marc Egnal contends that economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861. Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, Egnal shows that between 1820 and 1850, patterns of trade and production drew the North and South together and allowed sectional leaders to broker a series of compromises. After midcentury, however, all that changed as the rise of the Great Lakes economy reoriented Northern trade along east-west lines. Meanwhile, in the South, soil exhaustion, concerns about the country’s westward expansion, and growing ties between the Upper South and the free states led many cotton planters to contemplate secession. The war that ensued was truly a “clash of extremes.” Sweeping from the 1820s through Reconstruction and filled with colorful portraits of leading individuals, Clash of Extremes emphasizes economics while giving careful consideration to social conflicts, ideology, and the rise of the antislavery movement. The result is a bold reinterpretation that will challenge the way we think about the Civil War.

message 49: by Jill (last edited Jun 28, 2016 08:34PM) (new)

Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) You may ask why Andrew Jackson is mentioned on this thread since his terms as POTUS were years before the Civil War. But there is much in this book that answers the questions "why the war", as it was boiling on the back burner during his time in the White House.

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House

American Lion Andrew Jackson in the White House by Jon Meacham by Jon Meacham Jon Meacham


Andrew Jackson, his intimate circle of friends, and his tumultuous times are at the heart of this remarkable book about the man who rose from nothing to create the modern presidency. Beloved and hated, venerated and reviled, Andrew Jackson was an orphan who fought his way to the pinnacle of power, bending the nation to his will in the cause of democracy.

Jackson’s election in 1828 ushered in a new and lasting era in which the people, not distant elites, were the guiding force in American politics. Democracy made its stand in the Jackson years, and he gave voice to the hopes and the fears of a restless, changing nation facing challenging times at home and threats abroad. To tell the saga of Jackson’s presidency, acclaimed author Jon Meacham goes inside the Jackson White House.

Drawing on newly discovered family letters and papers, he details the human drama–the family, the women, and the inner circle of advisers–that shaped Jackson’s private world through years of storm and victory.

One of our most significant yet dimly recalled presidents, Jackson was a battle-hardened warrior, the founder of the Democratic Party, and the architect of the presidency as we know it. His story is one of violence, sex, courage, and tragedy. With his powerful persona, his evident bravery, and his mystical connection to the people, Jackson moved the White House from the periphery of government to the center of national action, articulating a vision of change that challenged entrenched interests to heed the popular will–or face his formidable wrath. The greatest of the presidents who have followed Jackson in the White House–from Lincoln to Theodore Roosevelt to FDR to Truman–have found inspiration in his example, and virtue in his vision.

Jackson was the most contradictory of men. The architect of the removal of Indians from their native lands, he was warmly sentimental and risked everything to give more power to ordinary citizens. He was, in short, a lot like his country: alternately kind and vicious, brilliant and blind; and a man who fought a lifelong war to keep the republic safe–no matter what it took.

Jon Meacham in American Lion has delivered the definitive human portrait of a pivotal president who forever changed the American presidency–and America itself.

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Jill Hutchinson (bucs1960) CSA President Davis defends the concept of states' rights.

Jefferson Davis' Views on General Robert E. Lee & The Doctrine of States' Rights

Jefferson Davis' Views On General Robert E. Lee & The Doctrine Of States Rights (With Interactive Table Of Contents) by Jefferson Davis by Jefferson Davis Jefferson Davis


"Jefferson Davis' Views On General Robert E. Lee & The Doctrine Of States Rights" by Jefferson Davis, President, C. S. A. is a candid assessment of General Robert E. Lee, legendary commander of the Army Of Northern Virginia & justifies the Doctrine Of States Rights which the Southern leaders used to implement Secession, bringing on the American Civil War.

Jefferson Davis 1808-1889 was born in Christian County, Kentucky. After a distinguished military career, Davis served as a U.S. senator and as Secretary of War before his election as the president of the secessionist Confederate States of America. After the war, he was indicted for treason, though never tried, and remained a symbol of Southern pride until his death in 1889.

The first of the two short essays is a first person, intimate view of General Lee. Davis, who as President of the Confederacy, worked closely with Lee who as commander of one of the principal armies of the Confederacy was responsible for safeguarding Richmond, Virginia the Confederate capital. Davis paints a sympathetic picture of Lee as a man whose devotion to Virginia & honor drove him to try his best to defeat the North even as the dwindling supplies of men & materials made the Southern Cause hopeless.

In the second essay, Davis gives the South's defense of Secession through his argument of the Doctrine Of States Rights. Even though these writings were published in 1890, long after the war was lost, Davis still vehemently defends the reasoning behind the "Lost Cause" and maintains the position that the South was justified to secede. At first the population of the South resented Davis, blaming him for the war's loss & idolizing General Lee. It was writings like this one & public speeches along the same lines that eventually restored Davis to champion of the "Lost Cause." He also sought to contribute to reconciliation of the South with the North at numerous public appearances, but remained a symbol for Southern pride.

A must read for both the student of Civil War for background material regarding the people and philosophies that fueled the War.

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