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Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Penguin history) [Paperback]

James M. McPherson
4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
RRP: 16.99
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Book Description

29 Mar 1990 Penguin history
McPherson recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War including the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. From there it moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering by each side, the politics, and the personalities.

Frequently Bought Together

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Penguin history) + The American Civil War: Causes, Course and Consequences 1803-1877 (Access to History) + The Causes of the Civil War (Touchstone)
Price For All Three: 34.50

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Product details

  • Paperback: 944 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin; New Ed edition (29 Mar 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0140125183
  • ISBN-13: 978-0140125184
  • Product Dimensions: 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (68 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 4,706 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Product Description


what will surely become the standard one-volume history of the great conflict which forged America as a united nation. Godfrey Hodgson, The Independent _

probably the best single-volume history of America's Civil War yet written. (The Economist) --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

Book Description

A sweeping account of the USA's most turbulent decades --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
95 of 96 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Probably the best history book I ever read.... 25 Aug 2002
I read this book around 8 years ago, and my opinion hasn't changed: if you're only going to read one book on the American civil war make it this one!
Mr McPherson's achievement is nothing short of miraculous, he encapsulates every aspect of the civil war from the political and social factors to the personalities involved, and some tremendous military details, the descriptions of the battles are so engrossing you can almost smell the gunpowder wafting off the pages. It's remarkable that he can cram so much detail into 900 or so pages and make it all so absorbing and readable.
But what really sets this great work apart in my opinion are two things:
1. The wealth of first hand accounts, from contemporaneous letters of all the soldiers private to the most famous generals, politicians and ordinary members of the public. These all contribute to make the war seem far more alive and real, it may have happened 140 years ago but when reading this book you'll sometimes feel like it happened yesterday.
2. The wealth of fascinating little details that puts the history into context, I quote a typical example "The casualties at Antietam numbered four times the total suffered at the Normandy beaches on June 6, 1944", I just plucked that one at random from my well thumbed copy here.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A stunning evocation of the Civil War 5 Jan 2010
As a non-American reader, who knew precious little about the Civil War, I wasn't especially keen to read this book. But it was a truly enlightening experience, bringing a personal dimension to the key players at Gettysburg so effectively that I will never forget any of them. Riveting stuff. How well and absorbingly this is written. If you haven't read it, you are in for a real experience.
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35 of 37 people found the following review helpful
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
This is one of the finest historical volumes I have ever read on any subject. McPherson's strengths are are threefold: firstly his research is astonishing in its detail and expertly referenced, secondly he writes with wonderful clarity and linguistic dexterity, and thirdly he remains passionately impartial about his subject. The only weakness I can think of in this superb work is the extremely poor quality of the maps and diagrams some of which are nearly illegible, responsibility for which rests with the publisher (Penguin). Those seeking an easy read focusing primarily on the famous battles of the Civil War might be better off looking elsewhere (such as the Osprey volume "The American Civil War"), because while McPherson does cover military matters extensively, he is at least if not more concerned with an analysis of the political and social climate surrounding them and in this respect his book must surely stand out as an astonishingly well researched and scholarly work. Which is not to say that this book is anything other than a compelling read - despite the wealth and density of detail, Macpherson writes with elan and lucidity for over 850 brilliant pages. Thoroughly recommended, even if you will need at least a week of solid reading to get through it!
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars stimulating the appetite for more 15 Aug 2011
By rob crawford TOP 1000 REVIEWER
Format:Kindle Edition
This book - probably the best one-volume Civil War history - is more than a simple survey: it is a very strong literary work as well, beautifully written and balanced. For all 900 or so pages, I was completely absorbed. Never once did I glumly look at the last page and calculate the percentage of the book that remained. It is the ideal starting point for anyone wishing to investigate the most disturbing episode of American history, a stepping off point that is also a pleasure to read. Afterall, what other survey histories won the Pulitzer prize?

However, as a broad-brush history, I found myself quibbling with the author's choice of detail in the areas that I knew well. For example, I would have liked to see more coverage of the brutal race riots that occured in the Northern states, incidents that revealed extremely disturbing fault lines in race relations that persist to this day. By choosing to neglect this and other details, I felt that the author refrained from contemplating the deeper meaning of the war, even or providing the building blocks to do so. While interpretation is certainly not his primary task in a survey, it does get short shrift here.

Nonetheless, every American should read this book.
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36 of 39 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
James McPherson has done an outstanding job of condensing the story of American Civil War into 900 just pages. The book details not just the war itself, but the crucial events that led the South to cesession. As the author uses a narrative style throughout, the book is easy to read and is in no way dry, as many historical accounts can be. I knew virtually nothing about the American Civil War before I read this book but now I can tell my Butternuts from my Copperheads with no problem. If you are looking for an introductory work on the American Civil War look no further. This is it.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An outstanding book 6 Jun 2004
By A Customer
As a visitor to the USA, I was surprised at how much Civil War literature there is. However, it should be remembered that more Americans died in that war than in all other wars in which Americans have ever fought put together, and its effects on the USA linger to this day. Moreover, it was the first modern war and the shape of the First World War could be discerned for anyone willing to look. For an introduction to the Civil War, I find it hard to believe that this volume could be bettered. Not just a battle by battle account, it sets the scene of the preceding years, with the issue of slavery like the viper in the bosom of the USA right from its inception and the rise of the Republican Party and its first president Abraham Lincoln with its mildly abolitioinist platform (the Republican Party has fallen a long way since then!). The language is crisp and clear and the whole thing flows easily and comprehensibly in a style of which many novelists would be envious. If you want a good one-volume overview of this critical episode in the history of the world, look no further.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
4.0 out of 5 stars Interesting well written view of a war in a distant ...
Interesting well written view of a war in a distant land (to me) a long time ago (to me again) . I got it because I was going the Northern Virginia on my holiday.
Published 1 month ago by A. M. Beaumont
5.0 out of 5 stars A "Must Read"
A must read for anyone interested in US history in the 19th Century. In one volume, it does what many writers have failed to do in three. Read more
Published 2 months ago by StephenH
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent!
I am currently studying the American Civil War and this book is an essential aid to that Study. Thank You.
Published 3 months ago by MR BARRY VOICE
5.0 out of 5 stars outstanding history
A very readable book. The English flows beautifully, so do not be daunted by its length. The civil war was a tragedy brought about by the tensions that had remained buried since... Read more
Published 3 months ago by Amazon Customer
1.0 out of 5 stars repetitive,repetitive,repetitive,
this is the first book i have ever given up reading.i took a punt and paid a lot off money for this book so kept on reading it even though i hadnt a clue what was going on most off... Read more
Published 4 months ago by skaterboy
5.0 out of 5 stars A different perspective and understanding of American Politics for us...
Highlights the painful Politics of the American Society and the pains those involved went to to make their points,justify their decisions and prosecute a most cruel war. Read more
Published 5 months ago by David Hart
5.0 out of 5 stars Balanced, insightful, vivid
If I was to read only one book, I was particularly concerned to find one that avoided ahistoric value judgments and the bias that would follow. Read more
Published 6 months ago by R. M. M.
5.0 out of 5 stars Peerless
If there was only one book to read giving a general view of the American Civil War especially all the Politics and Economics wrapped up in the build up to the fighting, this has to... Read more
Published 6 months ago by Bryn y Groes
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent overview of the key elements of the American Civil War
I was expecting more of a military perspective than this which is more generalist. That said, it is well written, reads relatively easily and addresses the key challenges logically... Read more
Published 7 months ago by Grant F Ferguson
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent
Excellent overview of the civil war, it causes, and turning point. On top of that the writing is top notch.
Published 7 months ago by Errol
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