What is the thesis of A Battle Cry For Freedom? What events, rules, laws, and more does the author use to prove his point? How would you classify the authors writing techniques? How does this...

What is the thesis of A Battle Cry For Freedom?

What events, rules, laws, and more does the author use to prove his point?

How would you classify the authors writing techniques?

How does this topic impact American history as a whole?

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kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

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James M. McPherson attempts to synthesize the aspects of military and political history and that of social history to provide a comprehensive, synthesized view of one of the most complex periods of modern history, that of the American Civil War period. Of this period, McPherson says that that generation lived "a lifetime in a year." When the history of so short a time is so complex and when synthesis of all historical points of view are attempted in a single volume, then thesis gives way, in the main, to the synthesized points of view.

The editor of McPherson's Oxford History Series published history singles out McPherson's statement that the Civil War generation "lived through an experience in which time and consciousness took on new dimensions" as having thematic importance. McPherson states in his first chapter that cotton from the Southern plantations was, metaphorically speaking, the oil that drove the machinery of England's and New England's industrialization and, thus, economic power, and that, similarly, slavery was the oil that drove the machinery making the South rich and all-important.  

The cascade of cotton from the American South dominated the world market, paced the industrial revolution in England and New England, and fastened the shackles of slavery more securely than ever on Afro-Americans. (Battle Cry of Freedom)

Time and consciousness, as McPherson expressed it, were wrapped up in the ideas of a divided human race (slave and free), an economically dominant form of agriculture and lifestyle, and a privileged position in Western economy. New dimensions of time and consciousness were demanded once the officers who fought together successfully in the Mexican War were called upon to fight against each other in the Civil War, a war that debated (1) the divisiveness of slavery, (2) the privilege of Southern power in Western economy (then, tantamount to world economy), (3) and the unity of their national bonds, the continuance of the United States, as the Civil War was "testing whether that nation, ... [might] long endure" (Abraham Lincoln, "Gettysburg Address").

Based on these concepts, the thesis of Battle Cry of Freedom might be stated as the editor suggests in the Editor's Introduction: The changing meanings of slavery and freedom arose from an experience "in which time and consciousness took on new dimensions," in which was demanded a changing consciousness of the meaning and dimensions of freedom, slavery, and domination.

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