The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

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9780190658533: The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
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More than 140 years ago, Mark Twain observed that the Civil War had "uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." In fact, five generations have passed, and Americans are still trying to measure the influence of the immense fratricidal conflict that nearly tore the nation apart.

In The War that Forged a Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson considers why the Civil War remains so deeply embedded in our national psyche and identity. The drama and tragedy of the war, from its scope and size--an estimated death toll of 750,000, far more than the rest of the country's wars combined--to the nearly mythical individuals involved--Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson--help explain why the Civil War remains a topic of interest. But the legacy of the war extends far beyond historical interest or scholarly attention. Here, McPherson draws upon his work over the past fifty years to illuminate the war's continuing resonance across many dimensions of American life.

Touching upon themes that include the war's causes and consequences; the naval war; slavery and its abolition; and Lincoln as commander in chief, McPherson ultimately proves the impossibility of understanding the issues of our own time unless we first understand their roots in the era of the Civil War. From racial inequality and conflict between the North and South to questions of state sovereignty or the role of government in social change--these issues, McPherson shows, are as salient and controversial today as they were in the 1860s.

Thoughtful, provocative, and authoritative, The War that Forged a Nation looks anew at the reasons America's civil war has remained a subject of intense interest for the past century and a half, affirms the enduring relevance of the conflict for America today.

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About the Author:


James M. McPherson is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University. He is the author of many works of history, including Battle Cry of Freedom, which won the 1989 Pulitzer Prize.

Review:


"[O]ffers a welcome and much-needed challenge to the rigidity displayed by some accounts of that conflict. ... [C]ontains a wealth of oft-overlooked information and solid conclusions concerning many salient facets of the American Civil War. It is highly recommended." -- Joseph A. Rose, The NYMAS Review


"Those readers unfamiliar with the history of the conflict can expect to learn much of the war's military, diplomatic, political, and social history, even as McPherson's sharp prose and narrative style keep the writing brisk." -- Cameron Givens, Origins: Current Events in Historical Perspective


"[O]ffers a welcome and much-needed challenge to the rigidity displayed by some accounts of that conflict....[C]ontains a wealth of oft-overlooked information and solid conclusions concerning many salient facets of the American Civil War. It is highly recommended."--Joseph A. Rose, The NYMAS Review


"McPherson's mastery of the Civil War literature and the field's historiographic debates allows him to present nuanced answers to those questions and many others, and his gift for narrative clarifies even the most obscure scholarly disputes." -Foreign Affairs


"Brisk and engrossing "The War That Forged a Nation" [McPherson] distills a lifetime of scrupulous scholarship into 12 essays--two new, the others extensively revised from previously published versions. Yet the book has none of the haphazard feel of an anthology, and readers will finish it with the sense that they have received a succinct history of the whole struggle, as well as numerous fresh and occasionally controversial observations." --Wall Street Journal


Previous praise for Battle Cry of Freedom:

"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 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, The New York Times Book Review


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


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