Battle Cry of Freedom (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
With fifty thousand books already published on the Civil War, the task of the writer who attempts a synthesis of the period would seem to be overwhelming, but James M. McPherson has managed it with a scholar’s skill and a good writer’s gift for telling an absorbing story. Winner of the Putlitzer Prize for history, this volume in The Oxford History of the United States begins with a sketch of the country at midcentury, 25 percent larger as a result of the southwestern territory acquired at the conclusion of the Mexican War in 1848 and confronting long-simmering tensions over the westward expansion of slavery that were now rising toward the boiling point. Integrating social, political, and military history into one almost seamless fabric, McPherson covers the sectional conflict of the 1850’s, the “crisis of the Union” that culminated in the secession of the southern states, and the war itself, from Bull Run to Robert E. Lee’s surrender at Appomattox.
A work of such vast scope necessarily emphasizes synthesis at the expense of theme. If there is a unifying idea in the book, it is McPherson’s acknowledged emphasis on “the multiple meanings of slavery and freedom, and how they dissolved and reformed into new patterns in the crucible of war.” In spite of the existence of a growing class of urban workers and a burgeoning immigrant population, McPherson finds that “the greatest danger to American survival midcentury . . . was neither class...
(The entire section is 1923 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1989)
Booklist. LXXXIV, January 15, 1988, p. 826.
Chicago Tribune. March 20, 1988, XIV, p. 3.
Choice. XXV, July, 1988, p. 1745.
Kirkus Reviews. LVI, January 1, 1988, p. 42.
Library Journal. CXIII, March 1, 1988, p. 65.
Los Angeles Times Book Review. March 20, 1988, p. 10.
The New York Review of Books. XXXV, June 2, 1988, p. 9.
The New York Times Book Review. XCIII, February 14, 1988, p. 1.
Newsweek. CXI, April 11, 1988, p. 77.
The Washington Post Book World. XVIII, March 13, 1988, p. 1.
(The entire section is 60 words.)