The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era , by James M. McPherson

Book Classification : North American / United States History - Military History -
American Civil War - Abolition of Slavery in the U.S. - Abraham Lincoln Administration

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The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era , by James M. McPherson
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First Edition - 800 pages - October 2003
Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-515901-2 / ISBN 0195159012

Book Review

Buy the book The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson

The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era (2003) by Princeton University history professor James M. McPherson is a masterpiece extension of his 1988 book, Battle Cry of Freedom. The original volume, part of the Oxford University Press Oxford History of the United States series, was on the New York Times Bestseller List for Hardcover Nonfiction in 1988, and won the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for History.

In 2003, McPherson has expanded the work to an 800-page volume with more than 700 illustrations, at least 150 of them in color. The illustration captions alone now total 40,000 words. The text, encompassing "new scholarship", McPherson says, is "not a revision of the original in the usual sense." [ix]

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The story begins several years before the first shot has been fired. It's McPherson's genius to take us back in time to live in the period when tensions are rising and emotions boiling. The daily newspapers report on fistfights among the elected representatives on the floor of Congress. Senator Henry S. Foote of Mississippi drew a loaded pistol and pointed it at a colleague during a debate. [56]

The book is so abundantly illustrated, we feel as though we are reading the equivalent of Time or Newsweek of the day. Through the media of this photojournalism, the lithographs, woodcuts, paintings, and a newfangled contraption called the camera, we peer into daily life. The Mormon immigration leads to the organization of collective farming communities. [37] Everyone worries about the uncertain relations with the Indian tribes. [39] A book describing the horrors of slavery, Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe , with a million copies sold by 1853, is the bestseller. [71]

A poster on a street in Georgia is an advertisement for a slave auction. In the accompanying painting, the auctioneer offers a mother and her daughter on the block -- they are sold separately and will never see each other again. [33] But the posters along Boston streets are very different; angered by the law requiring the return of escaped slaves, a few radicals have posted papers denouncing the police as kidnappers. [69]

Numerous events described in the early chapters of The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson foreshadow the coming of a great Civil War ...

1842 - U.S. Supreme Court overruled the Personal Liberty Law of Pennsylvania and upheld the mandatory return of escaped slaves to their "owners" (Prigg vs. Pennsylvania)

1850 - The Missouri Compromise determined that California would become a non-slavery state, while several U.S. territories acquired as a result of the Mexican War would have "popular sovereignty" -- the power to determine for themselves whether to permit slavery.

1854 - After escape slave Anthony Burns was arrested in Boston and returned to bondage, abolitionists held large demonstrations and riots directed at federal marshals.

1854 - Persuaded by Illinois Senator Stephen Douglas, Congress voted to allow "popular sovereignty" for the Kansas and Nebraska territories.

1857 - U.S. Supreme Court upheld a lower court decision that a slave "owner" could travel with a slave to a non-slavery territory and then force him to back into slavery after their return trip home (the Dred Scott Decision).

1859 - Abolitionists led by John Brown assassinated several supporters of slavery and seized the U.S. arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia. Brown was captured and hanged.

Anger erupts when people sense that the South is economically dependent on the North; Southern cotton is transported by Northern railroads to Northern textile mills. Although visionaries encourage the South to build mills and railroads, the North has the means to build them faster. [74-77] Ironically, supporters of slavery cite freedom as their guiding principle -- traditionalists who maintain that agriculture is "closeness to God" describe the abominable working conditions in Northern factories as "wage slavery". [13-20, 78-89]

Pennsylvania has passed an anti-kidnapping law to resist the the recapture of escaped slaves, but the Supreme Court declares that law unconstitutional. Federal marshals and local sheriffs receive court orders to arrest runaway slaves, and wanted posters offer rewards. The Mexican War has brought new territories into the Union. Political factions form over whether these lands should become slave or free states, and the House of Representatives is unable to elect a Speaker until the vote is taken for the sixty-third time. While one member of Congress denounces "the harlot of slavery", another rises to declare, "I am for disunion." Jefferson Davis of Mississippi challenges an Illinois representative to a duel. [56-67]

While this isn't a mystery -- we know that events led to a terrible but transformative War Between the States (1861-1865) -- one of the most exciting parts of the book is the first several chapters, where the sequential growth of animosities foreshadows what is to come.

in response to the election of Abraham Lincoln, The South Carolina legislature votes to secede from the United States (December 20, 1860). In his inauguration address, Lincoln rejects the right of states to secede, declaring: "I hold that, in contemplation of universal law and of the Constitution, the Union of these States is perpetual. Perpetuity is implied, if not expressed, in the fundamental law of all national governments" (March 4, 1861). Seven Southern states initially adopt a Constitution for the Confederate States of America. (March 11, 1861). Angered by Lincoln's decision to sent troops to the battle at Fort Sumter, four additional states secede from the Union and join the Confederacy (April 12, 1861). The Confederacy chooses Richmond, Virginia as its capital city (May 24, 1861) and elects Jefferson Davis of Mississippi and Hamilton Stephens of Georgia as its President and Vice-President (November 6, 1861).

24 color battle maps, most of them full pages or double pages, are new additions to The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era by Princeton University history professor James M. McPherson
Buy the book The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson
(Shown above -- pages 444-445)

Book dimensions are -- height: 11.46 inches (29.11 cm), width: 8.82 inches (22.40 cm), thickness: 1.92 inches (4.88 cm).

The war turns out to be a problematic oscillation of victories and defeats for both sides, whose respective predictions of quick triumph are shattered. As though it were planned to be an exciting novel, the vascillation in luck weighs noticably one way, and then the other. For more than two years, fortune seems to favor the South, as Union troops are defeated at Bull Run near Manassas, Virginia, (July 21, 1861), the Second Battle of Bull Run (August 30, 1862), Fredericksburg, Virginia (December 16, 1862) Chancellorsville, Virginia (May 4, 1863), and Chickamauga, Tennessee (September 20, 1863). Luck gradually reverses as Confederate troops are defeated at Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1, 1863), Vicksburg, Mississippi (July 4, 1863), Chattanooga, Tennessee (November 25, 1863) and Atlanta, Georgia (September 1, 1864).

The reader also sees modern military strategy, which some call a science, being invented. The tactic of cutting off an enemy's vital supply line is demonstrated as Union troops, having sailed on the Mississippi River, capture the Corinth, Mississippi railroad station (May 30, 1862) [349, 417]. The tactic of unveiling a secret weapon made possible by the latest technology is shown when the Confederacy uses an iron-clad steam ship, the Merrimack, to sink several wooden Union ships at Norfolk Harbor, Virginia (March 8, 1862) [254, 307].

Throughout, McPherson maintains a highly visual mode of reporting, including rare photographs kept at historical archives, oil painting reproductions, newspaper editorial cartoons, etc. Although I therefore recommend the new Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom , note that the 1988 book which inspired it is still available. The earlier work is also available in the form of three audio books on tape, sold separately (links for audio cassettes Volume 1 / Volume 2 / Volume 3 ).

Book review by Mike Lepore for crimsonbird.com

28 chapters, 4 prologue and epilogue articles, table of maps, 26-page 3-column index.
Author James M. McPherson is the President of the American Historical Association.

The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era , by James M. McPherson
The current price of the book at amazon.com is indicated to the right ...
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First Edition - 800 pages - October 2003
Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-515901-2 / ISBN 0195159012

Book Description from the Publisher

Winner of the Pulitzer Prize for History and a New York Times bestseller, Battle Cry of Freedom has been acclaimed as the finest one-volume history of the American Civil War ever published. James McPherson's epic narrative captures 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. This illustrated edition adds a rich new dimension to the acclaimed text with more than seven hundred pictures chosen by the author -- many rarely or never before published, and over one hundred and fifty in full color. James McPherson has supplied extensive original commentary for each illustration, including new information unavailable in the original edition. Twenty-four new maps in full color have been prepared specially for this volume.

Battle Cry of Freedom matches stirring drama with analytical insight, presenting the critical episodes of the era in vivid detail against the backdrop of economic and social changes that hastened war as well as those that followed in its aftermath. McPherson traces 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 panoramic chronicle of the war itself. The bloody struggles at Manassas, Shiloh, Antietam, Gettysburg, and many other battlefields are grippingly retold; we read of the fall of Richmond and, in a truly moving passage, of the surrender of Lee's army. McPherson brilliantly illuminates the genius of Abraham Lincoln as both a wartime commander and the political leader of the Union, and he crisply sketches portraits of the main participants, from Jackson and Lee to Grant and Sherman.

Since its first publication, Battle Cry of Freedom has helped shape our understanding of such matters as the origins of the war; the formation of the Republican Party; internal dissent and antiwar opposition in North and South; and the fateful contingencies that determined the course of the conflict. It offers a coherent understanding of the vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, an era that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty. Both readers who already admire it as a classic, and those who have not encountered it before, will treasure this magnificent new edition.

Book Reviews for the 1988 Edition

"The best one-volume treatment of its subject 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, McPherson yet manages to make everything he touches drive the narrative forward. This is historical writing of the highest order."

-- New York Times Book Review

"The finest single volume on the war and its background."

-- The Washington Post Book World

"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."

-- The Philadelphia Inquirer

"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

The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom : The Civil War Era , by James M. McPherson
The current price of the book at amazon.com is indicated to the right ...
The BUY button will add this book to your amazon.com shopping cart
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First Edition - 800 pages - October 2003
Published by Oxford University Press
ISBN 0-19-515901-2 / ISBN 0195159012

Link to our BOOK EXCERPT