Themes

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Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 204

One prominent theme in Battle Cry for Freedom is the social pervasiveness of the effects of war. McPherson focuses not only on the events of the actual battles of the Mexican-American War and Civil War, but also on their political and social resonances. For example, he researches how news of American victories and losses were translated, propagated, and distorted through media for mass consumption. Some outlets can be interpreted as early examples of propaganda machines, stirring populist American support for its leadership's war efforts. As a result, the fabric of American nationalism became partially predicated on a positive attitude towards war. War, to McPherson, overflows and surrounds the battlefield.

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Another central theme is the multiplicity of the concept of human freedom. McPherson notes that during the Civil War, each side asserted that it was the one that was truly protecting the Constitution and its tenets of democracy and liberty. The difference lay in the North and South's interpretation of these concepts. To the South, "freedom" meant a secession from the tyranny they perceived in the North's dominance over politics. For the North, "freedom" was tied to a more modern and egalitarian interpretation, hence its emphasis on concrete changes such as the abolition of slavery.

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