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Last Updated on August 6, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 746

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Here are some quotes from Battle Cry of Freedom by James M. McPherson:

Both sides in the American Civil War professed to be fighting for freedom. The South, said Jefferson Davis in 1863, was "forced to take up arms to vindicate the political rights, the freedom, equality, and State sovereignty which were the heritage purchased by the blood of our revolutionary sires." But if the Confederacy succeeded in this endeavor, insisted Abraham Lincoln, it would destroy the Union "conceived in Liberty" by those revolutionary sires as "the last, best hope" for the preservation of republican freedoms in the world. (Preface)

McPherson's contention is that both sides in the Civil War believed they were fighting for freedom. The Confederacy was fighting for states' rights over the powers of the federal government, and the Union was fighting for the preservation of the Republic and the freedoms it offered to its people.

The greatest danger to American survival at midcentury, however, was neither class tension nor ethnic division. Rather it was sectional conflict between North and South over the future of slavery. To many Americans, human bondage seemed incompatible with the founding ideals of the republic. If all men were created equal and endowed by the creator with certain inalienable rights including liberty and the pursuit of happiness, what could justify the enslavement of several millions of these men (and women)? (8)

McPherson sets the stage for the Civil War by explaining how the question of slavery had divided the nation by the mid 1800s. Many people believed slavery was inconsistent with American ideals.

Meanwhile, a wave of Protestant revivals known as the Second Great Awakening swept the country during the first third of the nineteenth century. In New England, upstate New York, and those portions of the Old Northwest above the 41st parallel populated by the descendants of New England Yankees, this evangelical enthusiasm generated a host of moral and cultural reforms. The most dynamic and divisive of them was abolitionism. Heirs of the Puritan notion of collective accountability that made every man his brother's keeper, these Yankee reformers repudiated Calvinist predestination, preached the availability of redemption to anyone who truly sought it, urged converts to abjure sin, and worked for the elimination of sins from society. The most heinous social sin was slavery. (8)

The author explains that the Second Great Awakening gave rise to abolitionism, as many northerners began to express their faith in God through good works, such as eliminating slavery.

It was an opinion he had long wanted to write. Eighty years old, the chief justice was frail and ill. The death of his wife and daughter two years earlier in a yellow fever epidemic had left him heart-stricken. Yet he clung to life determined to defend his beloved South from the malign forces of Black Republicanism. (173)

The author discusses the decision of Justice Roger Taney to preserve slavery in the territories in the famous Dred Scott Supreme Court case of 1857. Taney ruled that Dred Scott, a black man, was not a citizen and could not sue for his freedom and that the government could not regulate slavery in the territories. The justice, though old, sought to defend southern states' rights and to prevent the government from regulating slavery.

The entreaty in Lincoln's second inaugural address for "malice toward none" and "charity for all" provided few clues on this question, though it seemed to endorse generous treatment of ex-rebels. At the same time this address left no doubt of Lincoln's intention to fight on until slavery was crushed forever. (844)

It is unclear what Lincoln's plans for Reconstruction were, but it was clear in his second inaugural address that he planned to abolish slavery and fight for freedom.

But certain large consequences of the war seem clear. Secession and slavery were killed, never to be revived during the century and a quarter since Appomattox. These results signified a broader transformation of American society and polity punctuated if not alone achieved by the war. Before 186 1 the two words "United States" were generally rendered as a plural noun: "the United States are a republic." The war marked a transition of the United States to a singular noun. The "Union" also became the nation, and Americans now rarely speak of their Union except in an historical sense. (859)

The Civil War marked the strengthening of the Union, shown by its development into a single noun. The grammatical change of the country into a singular noun mirrored its political unity after the war.