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Für die Freiheit sterben. Die Geschichte des amerikanischen… (1988)

von James M. McPherson

Weitere Autoren: C. Vann Woodward (Einführung)

Reihen: The Oxford History of the United States (6)

MitgliederRezensionenBeliebtheitDurchschnittliche BewertungDiskussionen
4,582641,888 (4.45)265
Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.… (mehr)
  1. 50
    Ulysses S. Grant : Memoirs and Selected Letters : Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant / Selected Letters, 1839-1865 von Ulysses S. Grant (wildbill)
    wildbill: This is the Library of America edition of Grant's memoirs which I think is preferable. Any edition of Grant's memoirs will be informative and enjoyable.
  2. 20
    A Stillness at Appomattox von Bruce Catton (wcfreels)
    wcfreels: Just finished it for the first time last week. Best read on the Civil War I've ever read. So well written that, unlike the soldiers, I hated to see it end.
  3. 10
    The Man Who Saved the Union: Ulysses Grant in War and Peace von H. W. Brands (charlie68)
  4. 10
    Gateway to Freedom: The Hidden History of the Underground Railroad von Eric Foner (charlie68)
    charlie68: History of the Underground Railroad during the same era.
  5. 10
    In the Presence of Mine Enemies: The Civil War in the Heart of America, 1859-1863 von Edward L. Ayers (eromsted)
  6. 00
    The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery von Eric Foner (charlie68)
  7. 11
    The Civil War Dictionary von Mark Boatner (wildbill)
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Widely acclaimed as the best single-volume history of the Civil War around, this is another entry in the Oxford History of the United States, which I am enjoying immensely. The preface had an interesting observation: though this book covers the shortest span of all the books in the series (albeit with some significant overlap), it's one of the longest books in the series. The Civil War is the most-written about period in American history simply because there's so much history in it, as it did more to turn a bunch of squabbling states into the United States than anything since 1789. McPherson doesn't even get to recounting the actual war until over a third of the way into the book as the country splits and splinters and tries and fails to resolve a vast number of contradictory pressures and choices about its future, and the Federalists' nightmares about factions turned into reality: Northerners vs. Southerns, those who wanted to settle the West vs. those who wanted to preserve the existing balance of the states, wets vs. dries, immigrants vs. nativists, Catholics vs. Protestants, tariff supporters vs. free traders, developers favoring Hamiltonian projects vs. laissez faire adherents, plantation owners vs. industrialists, rural folk vs. urban dwellers, Democrats vs. Whigs, Democrats vs. Know-Nothings, Democrats vs. Republicans, war hawks vs. doves, but most of all, slavery supporters vs. abolitionists.

It's a truism that in elementary school you learn that the Civil War was about slavery, in high school you learn that it was about states' rights, and that in college you learn that actually it was still really about slavery. McPherson completely demolishes the idea that it could have possibly been about anything other than the South's "peculiar institution" - slavery was the bedrock of the South's economy, the keystone of its social structure, and the altar on which they convinced themselves that they were the highest, most advanced civilization on Earth. McPherson somehow works that discussion smoothly into the book among a million other things, from advanced demographic analysis (like his eye-opening mythbusting of the "rich man's war, poor man's fight" canard), to the background political scheming that Lincoln had to overcome, to the shockingly large tolls that disease and poor sanitation took on each army, to the massive economic chasm opening between the modernizing North and the magnolia-tinged South, and most especially, to the battles. You can't really be interested in this greatest of all American wars if you're not fascinated by the senseless, bloody, magnificent meetings between two of the mightiest armies of the 19th century, and McPherson seemingly covers every cavalry raid and clash of picket lines. It's an impressive feat, well-worthy of its 1988 Pulitzer Prize, and though it's rare to describe a book as being the last word on a subject, surely even rarer is the reader who finishes this masterwork unsatisfied. ( )
1 abstimmen aaronarnold | May 11, 2021 |
It stresses the tetheredness military, political and social histories of the antebellum states and of the war with clarity and without much confusion. Easy to read, and strikes the perfect balance between being concise and comprehensive. ( )
  poirotketchup | Mar 18, 2021 |
As best I can tell, Battle Cry of Freedom is the most well-regarded one volume, generalist account of the Civil War era. Beginning at the end of the Mexican-American war, the first third of the book navigates the escalating political crisis around the expansion of slavery during the 1850s. Roughly the final two-thirds of the book deal with the war itself: military campaigns, political developments, social transformation, diplomacy. It is silly to think that one book could cover such a complex era in anywhere near sufficient detail (most histories of the period are in the 3 to 7 volume range) but Battle Cry of Freedom tries, and mostly succeeds. It synthesizes the famously enormous and contested secondary literature on the Civil War into a compelling narrative. As someone who knew little about the Civil War before starting this book, this is a gift.

Surprisingly (to me anyway) my favorite portion of the book was the build-up to the war, not the war itself. The 1850s saw the American political system grind to a halt over disagreement about slavery’s expansion into the western territories. There had been talk of secession in the south for decades, but only after Lincoln’s election to the presidency by a severely geographically polarized electorate, with a mandate to limit the expansion of slavery with an eye toward its inevitable demise, did the south finally make good on its promises. But war, however inevitable it may seem in retrospect, was not fated. It is to McPherson’s credit that the events preceding secession, the Mexican-American war, the compromise of 1850 and the Fugitive Slave Act, the death of the Whigs and the birth of the Republicans, Bleeding Kansas, and John Brown’s raid, are not presented as mere prelude to the bloodletting to come, but historical turning points that could have swung things in a different direction.

When the fighting does arrive, the narrative slows down, sometimes tracking daily developments, so great were the speed and magnitude of the changes underway. There is an overwhelming focus on military affairs. Reams of pages are dedicated to advances in weaponry, tactics, battlefield play-by-play narration, the character of individual officers. Unless you are specifically interested in the above, there is little to be learned from this approach. The series editor (the book is a part of the multivolume Oxford History of the United States) claims that the attention to military history is justified because the outcomes of individual battles directly affected the political questions the war was fought to settle. In a limited sense, this is true. In historical writing there is always a balance between the contingent behavior of individual actors and the more diffuse influence of larger social forces. At least in terms of the fighting of the war itself, Battle Cry of Freedom leans way too heavily into the contingent. While it was interesting, in a vacuum, to learn, say, about the way rifled muskets created a revolution in military tactics still predicated on Napoleonic-era technology, or the double-envelopment strategy employed by the Union at Gettysburg (and amusing foibles such as the use of wooden cannons to give the appearance of strength, or of Stonewall Jackson falling asleep during battle), such things have no place in a 10,000-foot history of the period. McPherson repeatedly uses phrases such as “Lee’s choice not to attack that day has echoed down through the ages.” This kind of formulation, while attractive, distorts our ability to properly weight different kinds of historical developments. Since Battle Cry was written, Civil War historiography (and the historical inquiry in general) has moved away from military history in favor of other approaches, in recognition of its limited usefulness in resolving larger historical questions. Were Battle Cry written today, it would look very different.

Still, knowing the stakes of the war—the freedom of tens of millions of Black Americans and the continued existence of the United States—makes it easier to sit through granular analysis of some cavalry campaign or siege blow-by-blow. It also renders comprehensible the horrendous scale of the bloodshed. Clear ideological commitments on both sides (preservation of the union and the continuance of slave society, respectively), modern technology that outpaced pre-modern tactics, and rampant disease among the ranks ensured that the casualty count would be high. In every battlefield strewn with thousands of maimed fighters and disfigured corpses lies evidence of a nation that could not purge its violence without more violence.

Given our own current political polarization, people are given to speculate about the outbreak of a second Civil War. This is partially what drove me to this book, so now I’m going to talk about it. After reading Battle Cry, I find this outcome unlikely, mostly because there is no single issue like slavery that galvanizes such intense, sectional disagreement. Plus, politicians on both sides of the aisle, totally owned by various sectors of capital, have absolutely no incentive to disrupt the flow of money in the most important consumer economy on earth, in contrast to Southern politicians willing to secede to protect the source of their wealth. In addition, though Americans as a whole are armed to the hilt, there is less of a civilian connection to the military than ever. And, despite the heightening political tensions, ask yourself: will Americans trained to be passive consumers get off the couch, en masse, and enlist to fight and die for some cause more abstract than the continuance or abolition of slavery? The answer is no; how many of us have even the willpower to stop Netflix before it automatically plays the next episode? All of this is not to say that political violence won’t break out on a large scale, it just won’t look like it did in 1860. In fact, such violence is already here, but we are inured to it (remember the Las Vegas shooting?). I think fantasies of a second Civil War have more to do with the desire for some kind of catharsis, a single moment when one’s political opponents will be punished and politics will be made functional as a result. The first Civil War was something like a reckoning, the idea goes, and we’re ready for another. We feel this way because we cannot imagine the kind of sustained political struggle from below that might effect actual improvement over time. Movies do not tell this story. It is telling that this fantasy has begun to take the form of a second Civil War, rather than, say, a Sorkin-esque debate or trial, or a moment when the scales fall from the eyes of the opposition and they admit their wrongdoing. To be sure, these other fantasies, no more realistic than another Civil War, still exist, typified these days on the left by the figure of the principled Republican who would stand up to Trump (still waiting) and on the right by the deep state operative Q fighting secret leftist pedophiles. The proliferation of such bedtime stories is an index of how little democratic control the average politics-following American feels they have over their nation’s affairs. The more rational response to this situation would be to tune out of politics altogether, as many have done. It is those still paying attention that have these ridiculous fantasies of retributive violence. The sad truth is that the most likely outcome is not a second Gettysburg in which dueling visions of the nation’s future battle it out on some guy’s farm in Pennsylvania, but a slow and steady decline in which inequality and living standards get worse over the course of decades, an increasing number of people cease to believe that a better future is possible, and violence sporadically breaks out among those still invested, with increasing state repression in response. The even sadder truth is that the first Civil War was not even the reckoning we imagine it to be. The abuses of slavery did not end at Appomattox, but continue to this day under other names, in other guises.
  trotta | Mar 4, 2021 |
Summary from Novelist: Abraham Lincoln wondered whether "in a free government the minority have the right to break up the government." Jefferson Davis felt "forced to take up arms" to guarantee his states' rights. McPherson merges the words of these men and other political luminaries, housewives, and soldiers from both armies with his own concise analysis of the war to create a story as compelling as any novel.
  mackfuma | Oct 17, 2020 |
A fantastic, in depth telling of the lead up and progress of the civil war told in a narrative fashion that never gets dull. Its a rare author that can weave political, military, and social history into a seamless whole but McPherson more than accomplishes this here. ( )
  andrem55 | Jul 31, 2020 |

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AutorennameRolleArt des AutorsWerk?Status
McPherson, James M.AutorHauptautoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
Woodward, C. VannEinführungCo-Autoralle Ausgabenbestätigt
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Both sides in the American Civil War professed to be fighting for freedom. (Preface)
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Literaturhinweise zu diesem Werk aus externen Quellen.

Wikipedia auf Englisch (53)

16th Wisconsin Volunteer Infantry Regiment

20th Indiana Infantry Regiment

21st Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

29th Regiment Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry

68th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment

Appomattox Campaign

Camp Douglas (Chicago)

Caning of Charles Sumner

Chambersburg Raid

Confederate Memorial (Wilmington, North Carolina)

Daniel H. Reynolds

Dix–Hill Cartel

Josiah Gorgas

List of American Civil War generals

List of American Civil War generals (Union)

List of publications by James M. McPherson

Military medicine

Militia Act of 1862

Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. James McPherson's fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War--the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry--and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself--the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson's new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union's victory. The book's title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war--slavery--and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This "new birth of freedom," as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America's bloodiest conflict. This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing "second American Revolution" we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

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