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Armies of Deliverance

A New History of the Civil War

College Edition

Elizabeth R. Varon

Publication Date - February 2020

ISBN: 9780199335398

560 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Offers both a sweeping narrative of the Civil War and a bold new interpretation of Union and Confederate war aims


In Armies of Deliverance, Elizabeth R. Varon argues that Northerners imagined the war as a crusade to deliver the Southern masses from slaveholder domination and to bring democracy, prosperity, and education to the region. And that Confederates, fighting to establish an independent slaveholding republic, were determined to preempt, discredit, and silence Yankee appeals to the Southern masses. Interweaving military and social history, Varon shows how the Union's politics of deliverance helped it to win the war but also ultimately sowed the seeds of postwar discord.


  • Provides a comprehensive history of the Civil War based on fresh research, vividly written by an eminent scholar
  • Integrates battle front and home front, and the stories of politicians, soldiers, and civilians, white and black
  • Offers a new perspective on debates and divisions within the Union and Confederacy
  • Argues that hard war tactics and soft war appeals were present throughout the war and were harmonized by the idea of "deliverance"
  • Presents an overview of the western theater campaigns and pays substantial attention to the prisoner-of-war and parole systems, the experiences of black soldiers, civil liberties controversies, and women's changing roles as the war ground on
  • Incorporates a timeline of key events and a list of suggested readings
  • An access code, included with every new copy of the text, provides students with integrated digital learning resources including an eBook, quizzes, flashcards, and seventy primary sources
  • A Companion Website at www.oup.com/he/varon offers a Test Item File and PowerPoint lecture slides for instructors

About the Author(s)

Elizabeth R. Varon is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History and a member of the Executive Council of the John L. Nau III Center for Civil War History at the University of Virginia.


"Elizabeth R. Varon's highly original and sweeping new study is one of the few histories of the war that deserve to be ranked as essential reading. Varon never veers too far from her overarching theme, but she has done her readers an enormous service by resisting the temptation to use 'deliverance' as a cudgel to reframe every last aspect of the war. When she returns periodically to her main argument, she does so with admirable deftness backed by persuasive research."--The Wall Street Journal

"Varon's main theme, offered in clear, straightforward prose, is that, contrary to what many have maintained, the Union tended to see the war as one of liberation--a mission of freeing a broad mass of poor deluded whites (and, for some, enslaved blacks) from the thrall of a tiny elite of oligarchical slaveholders. Varon shows that we can often learn more about what led to victory from politics than from battles."--The New York Times

"This is some of the finest battle writing around, and a sweeping analysis of both United States and Confederate strategy and tactics."-The Washington Post

"Armies of Deliverance argues that the Northern government's anti-slavery, Unionist political coalition created a message of liberation that was then taken up as its main reason for fighting the Civil War. Union armies embraced this liberation theme, claiming that a small coterie of wealthy planters deceived Southerners who did not own slaves into agreeing to secession. Summing Up: Recommended" -- CHOICE

"This book is an enjoyable read, engaging and well researched ... This is a substantial contribution to our understanding of the motivations, strategies, tensions, controversies, and triumphs that had characterized their lives and experiences. This reviewer highly recommends this for anyone interested in the Civil War." -- David Marshall, The NYMAS Review

"This is not a traditional story of North versus South but rather a story of North and South versus the Confederacy. Running alongside this revisionist narrative in Armies of Deliverance is a more-or-less straightforward political and military history of the Civil War, done very well. Varon creates thrilling set pieces of all the familiar battles and controversies."--The Christian Science Monitor

“Elizabeth Varon’s Armies of Deliverance promises a ‘new history of the Civil War.’ She satisfies this bold claim by offering an interpretation of the conflict that subsumes the competing perspectives on northerners and slaveryEL. Most existing one-volume histories of the war adopt a rigorously chronological approach, centering the military narrative and following the contingencies of battles and campaigns through to Appomattox. Although Varon’s book likewise moves forward through time, her strong interpretive framework distinguishes the approach. For teachers reluctant to assign a single text because students protest the anodyne feel of textbooks, the strength of Varon’s argument makes this book a welcome choiceEL.Her narrative carries the story with remarkable effectiveness and concision."—Aaron Sheehan-Dean, Journal of the Civil War Era

Table of Contents

    About the Author

    Introduction: "We Are Fighting for Them"
    Setting the Stage: The Secession Crisis in the North
    Building a Wartime Unionist Coalition
    The Confederate Response
    1. March of Redemption: From Bull Run to Fort Donelson

    Green Together
    Advent of the "Contraband" Policy
    Missouri and Irregular Warfare in the Trans-Mississippi Theater
    Kentucky and "Armed Neutrality" in the Western Theater of War
    2. Ripe for the Harvest: To Shiloh
    Deliverance Diplomacy
    Winter Doldrums
    War Work
    Battle Hymns
    Compensated Emancipation
    3. Sacred Soil: Virginia in the Summer of 1862
    The Peninsula Campaign
    The Seesaw of Deliverance in the Valley
    Seven Days
    "A Conservative Course"
    Portents of Hard War
    Military Necessity and Black Labor
    The Second Confiscation Act
    Lincoln's Road to Emancipation
    Lincoln's August Gambit
    4. The Perils of Occupation
    Carrot and Stick
    The "Woman Order" and Female Accountability
    Second Bull Run
    The War in the West
    "My Maryland"
    Combat Motivation
    5. Countdown to Jubilee: Lincoln's Hundred Days
    The Righteous Decree
    "Liberating" Kentucky
    Vicksburg Is the Key
    Forlorn Hope at Fredericksburg
    Lincoln's Second Annual Message
    6. The Emancipation Proclamation
    New Birth of Freedom
    Reactions to the Proclamation in the North
    "Contraband" Camps
    Confederate Reactions to the Proclamation
    7. Fire in the Rear: To Chancellorsville
    Hell's Half Acre
    Return to Vicksburg
    Slough of Despond
    Vallandham and Civil Liberties
    Union Leagues
    The Lieber Code and the Laws of War
    8. Under a Scorching Sun: The Summer of 1863
    Lee's Second Invasion
    Meade Takes Charge
    Gettysburg Begins
    July 2: Day Two
    July 3: Day Three
    Vicksburg's Circle of Fire
    Port Hudson and Milliken's Bend
    Vicksburg Falls at Last
    A Turning Point?
    The New York Draft Riot
    The Fighting 54th
    Fort Wagner
    9. Rallying Point: Lincoln's Ten Percent Plan
    Chickamauga and Chattanooga
    The Liberation of East Tennessee
    "Internal Reconstruction" in the Border States
    Military Reconstruction in the Confederate States
    The Gettysburg Address
    Lincoln's Ten Percent Plan
    Confederate Dissent and Southern Unionism
    10. Is This Hell? Fort Pillow to Atlanta
    Fort Pillow
    Prisoners of War
    The Overland Campaign
    Atlanta Campaign, Phase One
    Challenges to Lincoln
    The Wade-Davis Bill
    The Crater
    Siege and Stalemate
    11. Campaign Season: The Election of 1864
    The Fall of Atlanta
    The Burning
    The National Union Party
    Confederate Reactions to the 1864 Campaign
    The Result
    Sherman's March
    Special Field Order No. 15
    12. Malice Toward None: The Union Triumphant
    The Richmond-Petersburg Front
    The Richmond Underground
    Confederate Emancipation
    The Thirteenth Amendment
    Lincoln's Second Inaugural
    The Fall of Richmond
    The Surrender at Appomattox
    The Advent of Peace
    Confederate Interpretations of Lee's Surrender
    The Assassination
    The Final Surrenders
    Conclusion: "Deliver Us from Such a Moses": Andrew Johnson and the Legacy of the Civil War
    Johnson's Amnesty Plan
    Congressional Reconstruction and Beyond
    Suggested Readings
    Table of Contents
    for Sources for Armies of Deliverance

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