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Battle Cry of Freedom

The Civil War Era

James M. McPherson

Publication Date - December 2003

ISBN: 9780195168952

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

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $24.95

The definitive one-volume history of the American Civil War, winner of the Pulitzer Prize


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 ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory.

The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict.

This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.


  • The definitive one-volume history of the Civil War
  • Filled with fresh interpretations and punctures old myths
  • Integrates the political, social, and military events
  • A fast-paced narrative which fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox.

About the Author(s)

James M. McPherson is Edwards Professor of American History at Princeton University. His books include The Struggle for Equality, Marching Toward Freedom, and Ordeal by Fire.


"Anyone interested in Texas and the republic to which it belongs should set some weeks aside for this big, smart porcupine of a book" -- Patrick G. Williams , Southwestern Historical Quarterly

"Deftly coordinated, gracefully composed, charitably argued and suspensefully paid out, McPherson's book is just the compass of the tumultuous middle years of the 19th century it was intended to be, and as narrative history it is surpassing. Bright with details and fresh quotations, solid with carefully-arrived-at conclusions, it must surely be, of the 50,000 books written on the Civil War, the finest compression of that national paroxysm ever fitted between two covers."--Los Angeles Times Book Review

"Immediately takes its place as the best one-volume history of the coming of the American Civil War and the war itself. It is a superb narrative history, elegantly written."--Philadelphia Inquirer

"Matchless....The book's political and economic discussions are as engrossing as the descriptions of military campaigns and personalities."--Library Journal

"McPherson cements his reputation as one of the finest Civil War historians....Should become a standard general history of the Civil War period--it's one that will stand up for years to come."--Kirkus Reviews

"Robust, glittering history."--Booklist

"The best one-volume treatment of [the Civil War era] I have ever come across. It may actually be the best ever published....I was swept away, feeling as if I had never heard the saga before....Omitting nothing important, whether military, political, or economic, he yet manages to make everything he touches drive the narrative forward. This is historical writing of the highest order."--Hugh Brogan, New York Times Book Review

"The finest single volume on the war and its background."--The Washington Post Book World

"There is no finer one-volume history of the Civil War than Jim's book. I certainly will adopt it again when I teach my Honors course next time. The students found the book well organized and instructive in the way events were presented."--George Rolleston, Baldwin-Wallace College

Table of Contents

    Editor's Introduction
    Prologue: From the Halls of Montezuma
    1. The United States at Midcentury
    2. Mexico Will Poison
    3. An Empire for Slavery
    4. Slavery, Rum, and Romanism
    5. The Crime Against Kansas
    6. Mudsills and Greasy Mechanics for A. Lincoln
    7. The Revolution o f1860
    8. The Counterrevolution
    9. Facing Both Ways: The Upper South's Dilemma
    10. Amateurs Go to War
    11. Farewell to the Ninety Days' War
    12. Blockade and Beachhead: The Salt-Water War, 1861-1862
    13. The River War in 1862
    14. The Sinews of War
    15. Billy Yank's Chickahominy Blues
    16. We Must Free the Slaves or Be Ourselves Subdued
    17. Carry Me Back to Old Virginny
    18. John Bull's Virginia Rell
    19. Three Rivers in Winter, 1862-1863
    20. Fire in the Rear
    21. Long Remember: The Summer of '63
    22. Johnny Reb's Chattanooga Blues
    23. When This Cruel War is Over
    24. If It Takes All Summer
    25. After Four Years of Failure
    26. We Are Going to be Wiped off the Earth
    27. South Carolina Must Be Destroyed
    28. We Are All Americans
    Epilogue: To the Shoals of VIctory

    Abbreviated Titles
    Bibliographic Note

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