free hit counter code For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War - GoBooks - Download Free Book
Ads Banner
Hot Best Seller

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War

Availability: Ready to download

General John A. Wickham, commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in the 1970s and subsequently Army Chief of Staff, once visited Antietam battlefield. Gazing at Bloody Lane where, in 1862, several Union assaults were brutally repulsed before they finally broke through, he marveled, "You couldn't get American soldiers today to make an attack like that." Why did thos General John A. Wickham, commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in the 1970s and subsequently Army Chief of Staff, once visited Antietam battlefield. Gazing at Bloody Lane where, in 1862, several Union assaults were brutally repulsed before they finally broke through, he marveled, "You couldn't get American soldiers today to make an attack like that." Why did those men risk certain death, over and over again, through countless bloody battles and four long, awful years ? Why did the conventional wisdom -- that soldiers become increasingly cynical and disillusioned as war progresses -- not hold true in the Civil War? It is to this question--why did they fight--that James McPherson, America's preeminent Civil War historian, now turns his attention. He shows that, contrary to what many scholars believe, the soldiers of the Civil War remained powerfully convinced of the ideals for which they fought throughout the conflict. Motivated by duty and honor, and often by religious faith, these men wrote frequently of their firm belief in the cause for which they fought: the principles of liberty, freedom, justice, and patriotism. Soldiers on both sides harkened back to the Founding Fathers, and the ideals of the American Revolution. They fought to defend their country, either the Union--"the best Government ever made"--or the Confederate states, where their very homes and families were under siege. And they fought to defend their honor and manhood. "I should not lik to go home with the name of a couhard," one Massachusetts private wrote, and another private from Ohio said, "My wife would sooner hear of my death than my disgrace." Even after three years of bloody battles, more than half of the Union soldiers reenlisted voluntarily. "While duty calls me here and my country demands my services I should be willing to make the sacrifice," one man wrote to his protesting parents. And another soldier said simply, "I still love my country." McPherson draws on more than 25,000 letters and nearly 250 private diaries from men on both sides. Civil War soldiers were among the most literate soldiers in history, and most of them wrote home frequently, as it was the only way for them to keep in touch with homes that many of them had left for the first time in their lives. Significantly, their letters were also uncensored by military authorities, and are uniquely frank in their criticism and detailed in their reports of marches and battles, relations between officers and men, political debates, and morale. For Cause and Comrades lets these soldiers tell their own stories in their own words to create an account that is both deeply moving and far truer than most books on war. Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Civil War, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times, called "history writing of the highest order." For Cause and Comrades deserves similar accolades, as McPherson's masterful prose and the soldiers' own words combine to create both an important book on an often-overlooked aspect of our bloody Civil War, and a powerfully moving account of the men who fought it.


Compare
Ads Banner

General John A. Wickham, commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in the 1970s and subsequently Army Chief of Staff, once visited Antietam battlefield. Gazing at Bloody Lane where, in 1862, several Union assaults were brutally repulsed before they finally broke through, he marveled, "You couldn't get American soldiers today to make an attack like that." Why did thos General John A. Wickham, commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in the 1970s and subsequently Army Chief of Staff, once visited Antietam battlefield. Gazing at Bloody Lane where, in 1862, several Union assaults were brutally repulsed before they finally broke through, he marveled, "You couldn't get American soldiers today to make an attack like that." Why did those men risk certain death, over and over again, through countless bloody battles and four long, awful years ? Why did the conventional wisdom -- that soldiers become increasingly cynical and disillusioned as war progresses -- not hold true in the Civil War? It is to this question--why did they fight--that James McPherson, America's preeminent Civil War historian, now turns his attention. He shows that, contrary to what many scholars believe, the soldiers of the Civil War remained powerfully convinced of the ideals for which they fought throughout the conflict. Motivated by duty and honor, and often by religious faith, these men wrote frequently of their firm belief in the cause for which they fought: the principles of liberty, freedom, justice, and patriotism. Soldiers on both sides harkened back to the Founding Fathers, and the ideals of the American Revolution. They fought to defend their country, either the Union--"the best Government ever made"--or the Confederate states, where their very homes and families were under siege. And they fought to defend their honor and manhood. "I should not lik to go home with the name of a couhard," one Massachusetts private wrote, and another private from Ohio said, "My wife would sooner hear of my death than my disgrace." Even after three years of bloody battles, more than half of the Union soldiers reenlisted voluntarily. "While duty calls me here and my country demands my services I should be willing to make the sacrifice," one man wrote to his protesting parents. And another soldier said simply, "I still love my country." McPherson draws on more than 25,000 letters and nearly 250 private diaries from men on both sides. Civil War soldiers were among the most literate soldiers in history, and most of them wrote home frequently, as it was the only way for them to keep in touch with homes that many of them had left for the first time in their lives. Significantly, their letters were also uncensored by military authorities, and are uniquely frank in their criticism and detailed in their reports of marches and battles, relations between officers and men, political debates, and morale. For Cause and Comrades lets these soldiers tell their own stories in their own words to create an account that is both deeply moving and far truer than most books on war. Battle Cry of Freedom, McPherson's Pulitzer Prize-winning account of the Civil War, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times, called "history writing of the highest order." For Cause and Comrades deserves similar accolades, as McPherson's masterful prose and the soldiers' own words combine to create both an important book on an often-overlooked aspect of our bloody Civil War, and a powerfully moving account of the men who fought it.

30 review for For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jay Schutt

    What is the full measure of devotion and in how many ways can it be defined? Those questions and more are answered in this book. In reading the usual Civil War books, which are about tactics and winners and losers, this book goes deep to explore the many reasons why men and women gave their lives for their countries. Drawing from letters and diaries of nearly 1,000 Northern and Southern soldiers from all walks of life, this book tells those stories in the soldiers own words. It can be somewhat rep What is the full measure of devotion and in how many ways can it be defined? Those questions and more are answered in this book. In reading the usual Civil War books, which are about tactics and winners and losers, this book goes deep to explore the many reasons why men and women gave their lives for their countries. Drawing from letters and diaries of nearly 1,000 Northern and Southern soldiers from all walks of life, this book tells those stories in the soldiers own words. It can be somewhat repetitious due to the nature of the book, but no matter whose side you were on, the combatants were still human beings with feelings and ideals for why they fought. A good book to read before starting the "blood and guts" books on the Civil War or any war for that matter. An educational read.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    James McPherson is a fine historian. Many of his works on the Civil War are impressive. This ranks among his more interesting works—and makes a contribution in its own right. The book is an effort to find the answer to a fundamental question (Page 5): “What enabled [Civil War soldiers:] to overcome that most basic of human instincts—self-preservation?” More basically (Page 5): “Why did Civil War soldiers do it?” The book, then, focuses on a fundamental question about those fighting in combat: Why James McPherson is a fine historian. Many of his works on the Civil War are impressive. This ranks among his more interesting works—and makes a contribution in its own right. The book is an effort to find the answer to a fundamental question (Page 5): “What enabled [Civil War soldiers:] to overcome that most basic of human instincts—self-preservation?” More basically (Page 5): “Why did Civil War soldiers do it?” The book, then, focuses on a fundamental question about those fighting in combat: Why do they fight when death is a very real possibility? What impels them to face that possibility and still fight on? McPherson uses the words of troops themselves, based on their writings (letters, memoirs, journals or diaries. The author reports reading 25,000 personal letters and 249 diaries. Among answers supplied by these primary sources—a concern for honor or to display manhood and courage; discipline; religion; fear of being branded as a coward; bonds with fellow troops (e.g., those in a particular regiment would feel loyalty one toward another); patriotism and nationalism and, especially for the south, love of state; for some northern troops, a desire to end slavery; and so on. This is a fascinating book, well worth reading. It uses the words of the soldiers themselves—North and South—to help us understand why troops would stand and fight and risk death and injury. In short, recommended highly for those interested in the motivations of soldiers in wartime.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    By studying tens of thousands of representative letters and diaries written by combatants in the American Civil War author McPherson has attempted to understand what motivated Unionists and Confederates to go to war, to stay at war and to participate in battle. What, in other words, did they think they were doing? The most notable overall impression I obtained from this was that the primary initial motivation of those devoted to the North was to preserve the Union while that of the Southerners wa By studying tens of thousands of representative letters and diaries written by combatants in the American Civil War author McPherson has attempted to understand what motivated Unionists and Confederates to go to war, to stay at war and to participate in battle. What, in other words, did they think they were doing? The most notable overall impression I obtained from this was that the primary initial motivation of those devoted to the North was to preserve the Union while that of the Southerners was to maintain their liberties and property, most notably their right to own slaves. However, as the war progressed so did the motivations of the Northerners. As they witnessed the slave system, actually met and sometimes fought with blacks, they increasingly saw their fight as one to destroy the institution. Freeing the slaves became seen as a good though few fought for racial equality. In addition to discussing various motivational factors--such as religion, honor, duty, revenge etc.--McPherson also compares and contrasts the attitudes of American soldiers in the Civil War to those held in subsequent conflicts, demonstrating its relative popularity despite its exceptional brutality.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Donna Davis

    McPherson has written another great book on the American Civil War, a keen interest of mine. If you are interested in the war only in passing and want to read only one nonfiction book on the topic, read his heavy duty Pulitzer winner, Battle Cry of Freedom. However, if like me you have read it and been thirsty for more, and had other writers sometimes come up lacking, this is a wonderful choice. For me, though I have read books about this battle or that one, they are not as compelling as getting McPherson has written another great book on the American Civil War, a keen interest of mine. If you are interested in the war only in passing and want to read only one nonfiction book on the topic, read his heavy duty Pulitzer winner, Battle Cry of Freedom. However, if like me you have read it and been thirsty for more, and had other writers sometimes come up lacking, this is a wonderful choice. For me, though I have read books about this battle or that one, they are not as compelling as getting down to the question of what made a soldier not only sign on for this war, but stay there. Initially, most states recruited for a finite time period; in the north, 9 months was standard. Some soldiers kept track daily and were ready to go home when their time was up, even in the midst of battle. Commanders despaired when an appreciable number of soldiers woke up one day and said their time was up, regardless of circumstances. Some chose to stay; others went home for a visit for a couple of weeks, and then signed up again. These were the best fighters, the ones upon whom McPherson says, and I agree after seeing the evidence, the outcome of the war largely depended. McPherson points out that toward the end of the war, one of these veterans (such as Sherman took to Atlanta) would be worth ten of a conscripted or paid soldier, and if I recall, Sherman said the same in his memoir. The first 6 chapters talk about the bonds that tie many to the armed services: patriotism; in the north, knowledge that this second American revolution would determine the staying power of the first, and in the south, the equally fervent, primarily among plantation owners, belief that the national government lacked the authority to tell southern states "what to do". Naturally, many southern young men felt the immediacy of invasion; they signed on in many cases to protect their homes. He distinguishes the fervor with which various states embraced the coming conflict. Texans and South Carolinians were the most fiercely united in favor of secession, in contrast to North Carolina, which was tepid, and as many know, Virginia, once it had lost the western half of the state to the Union (thus creating the state of West Virginia), was likewise virulently pro-secession. This distinction is notable, with 84 percent of soldiers from South Carolina stating patriotic motives for enlisting vs. 46 percent of those from North Carolina. The bond of comradeship and sense that one must not desert one's brother soldiers was also examined. Unlike other wars in which US soldiers (and cavalry) took part, units were raised locally. Sometimes, brothers joined the same unit together. McPherson goes on to document cases where promotions were declined because it would mean transferring to a unit of strangers. There is the usual concern about manhood and honor, and he also mentions class, which made me want to stand up and cheer. After all, though every man must do his "duty", a wealthy man could avoid service even after conscription by paying $300 to avoid it, or to pay someone else to fight in his stead. Lots of wealthy plantation owners paid someone to do their fighting, then stepped the delicate white flowers in their family onto the family yacht and weathered the war in European waters. Northerners didn't need to flee, but many did more or less the same thing. Just when I was starting to think, "ho hum", I got to chapter 7. This is where this writer rolls up his sleeves and says a thing or two that made me sit up and pay attention. After setting up the dominoes other historians have stood up--on a shaky table, it appears--he knocks them down with such grace and elegance that one who loves historical analysis can only react with awe. Other historians have presupposed that the common foot soldier did not really know what he was doing, he says, and he quotes them before he knocks them on their quasi-scholarly butts. They went because the women told them to. They went because they didn't want to work on the farm. Once they were there, they became unthinking parts of two respective and opposing machines. McPherson says that's a lie, and he goes on to prove it. He tells us: "Research in the letters and diaries of Civil War soldiers will soon lead the attentive historian to a contrary conclusion...men in blue and gray were intensely aware of the issues at stake and passionately concerned about them. How could it be otherwise? This was, after all, a Civil War. Its outcome would determine the fate of the nation--or of two nations, if the Confederacy won. It would shape the future of American society and of every person in that society. Civil War soldiers lived in the world's most politicized and democratic country in the mid-nineteenth century. They had come of age in the 1850's when highly charged partisan and ideological debates consumed the American polity." (106) He goes on to say that soldiers largely enlisted "to shoot as they had voted". (ibid.) He painstakingly documents, by quoting solely from letters sent home and diaries of those who fought, the high literacy level of soldiers and their attachment to newspapers. "Newspapers were the most sought-after reading material in camp--after letters from home. Major metropolitan newspapers were often available only a day or two after publication, while hometown papers came weekly when the mail service functioned normally". (107) He goes on to document the fact that commanding officers often subscribed to a handful of different newspapers and passed them around the camp, in addition to individual soldiers who either subscribed or purchased an individual copy for a dime, particularly during lulls between battles. In 1864, "Two years later a lieutenant in the 4th Virginia reported that the "boys" spent much of their time in winter quarters reading the papers. We "make comments on the news and express our opinions quite freely about the blood and thunder in the Richmond papers, smoke again and go to bed"... "Some European officers who attached themselves to Civil War armies expressed astonishment at this phenomenon". He quotes Gustave Paul Cluseret, a French army officer who served for two decades, then wrangled a brigade under General John C. Fremont in 1862. Looking back on this experience shortly afterward, he wrote that "If the American volunteers accomplished prodigies of patience, energy, and devotion it is because they fought with knowledge of the cause." (108) Some of the regiments or brigades even had debating societies during winter. He quotes one of my heroes, Ulysses S. Grant as having noted that "our armies were composed of men who were able to read, men who knew what they were fighting for." (109) He also says that Confederate soldiers were similarly well informed. In the latter years of the war, Confederate desertion increased when soldiers found their units transferred to fight in other states when their own seemed at risk. This was documented by Arkansas soldiers leaving when Sherman invaded Georgia and they were sent to try to rescue Atlanta, and desertions were especially abundant in Tennessee in 1863. An officer remarked that "the army has no confidence in Bragg and thought he was giving up their homes without proper attempt to defend them." General John Bell Hood's "quixotic" decision to attack Tennessee in November 1864 was because he wanted to lift morale; desertions there had been unprecedented. Instead,he was forced to retreat, and so his goal remained unmet. He also points to the fact that language at the time was more sentimental and less cynical than it is today; thus, letters that current soldiers might mock, using words such as "valor", "glory", and "honor", meant a great deal to the soldiers of that time period, and were used naturally and normally. And, he points out, they did not know at the time that they would be published; these were personal writings, meant for friends and family, or even private diaries. He pounds this home by again and again quoting soldiers who wrote using such language in conjunction with offering their lives for their country, and he almost exclusively uses the writings of soldiers who were subsequently killed in battle. He defends the sampling provided as fully representative, stating that both Confederate and Union soldiers' writings had been examined in numbers just over 400, and in both cases, the percentage of soldiers citing such motives as stated above were in the sixty-plus percentile. (p.116) Once more, we can virtually hear the rustle as McPherson sits up a bit straighter to tackle the question of Northern motivation. If Confederates had so rich a goal as to fight for their homeland, what kept Northern soldiers marching till their feet bled, sleeping in the rain with no shelter, wading through mud, often returning after one or more injuries with which they could have manfully chosen to be discharged? In the beginning, it is about keeping the Union intact. He goes on to extensively document this. Then we get to the meaty issue of the Emancipation Proclamation. In the beginning, this was a divisive issue; many Northern soldiers were angry, and felt they had been sent on a fool's errand. Most said they had signed on to save the Union rather than to fight “a n****’s war” (sorry, can’t use that word, even for accuracy in a quotation). Over the course of time, their viewpoint changes markedly as Union soldiers made their way further south. Several wrote home and said that slavery was a “blight” that “withered all it touched”. This was not always an abolitionist viewpoint ; in many cases, it was an ”observation as well from the antebellum free-labor ideology, and the fact that outside towns and cities, according to a colonel who wrote home to his wife in Indiana, “the people are a century behind the free states.” (p. 133) Northern armies who invaded the South were agents of Emancipation simply by arriving, McPherson states. “It is all a humbug about Slaves liking to stay with their masters…Men and women & children run off whenever they can get a chance”. (p. 133, quoting an Ohio farmer’s son). Gradually the practical aspects of emancipation became manifest. The Proclamation made it possible to declare slaves who ran to the Union lines “contraband” and hide them from their masters, and soldiers not only enjoyed the demoralizing and frustrating effect this had on their masters, they also began to see how removing slaves from the Southern labor force could cause a sooner and surer Union victory. As is true throughout the book, he quotes extensively from letters sent home to back up the bloom of pragmatic enlightenment on this issue among Northern soldiers. However, there was no one more motivated for Union victory than the Black people of the South, and as they shouldered the burden not only of menial labor but also of taking bullets alongside their liberators, many Northern soldiers came to appreciate the importance of Emancipation as a moral issue as well. “After black troops had captured a portion of the Confederate line at Petersburg on June 15, 1864, a sergeant in the 20th Indiana expressed surprise at ‘how civily our boys treated them. They used to make fun of, and ill treat every negro, soldier or slave, that we passed.’” (ibid.) By 1864, Union soldiers who opposed freeing slaves were a distinct minority. I rarely write a book review this long, particularly when it is only for the use of others as opposed to some sort of academic credit, which I no longer need, but the fact is that I looked forward greatly to reading this book, took my time with it, and as you can see, was much impressed. There is no greater Civil War historian than James McPherson, and we are fortunate to have his meticulous research to clarify such a critical time in American history.

  5. 5 out of 5

    robin friedman

    Duty, Honor, And Devotion Although Professor James McPherson wrote this study of the motivation of the Civil War soldier, it is not a great exaggeration to say that in this book the soldiers speak for themselves. Professor McPherson has read and analyzed a prodigious amount of source material written by Civil War combatants, Union and Confederacy, officer and enlisted soldier. For this book, he has taken a sample of the letters home and the diaries of 1076 soldiers, 647 Union and 429 Confederate Duty, Honor, And Devotion Although Professor James McPherson wrote this study of the motivation of the Civil War soldier, it is not a great exaggeration to say that in this book the soldiers speak for themselves. Professor McPherson has read and analyzed a prodigious amount of source material written by Civil War combatants, Union and Confederacy, officer and enlisted soldier. For this book, he has taken a sample of the letters home and the diaries of 1076 soldiers, 647 Union and 429 Confederate to analyze their candid, uncensored reflections of why they fought. Professor McPherson also draws on many modern studies of combat psychology and utilizes their findings in discussing the Civil War soldiers. Professor McPherson's sample is not statistically random and it may be skewed in some ways. For example, the sample does not include illiterate soldiers or black soldiers. It tends to be tilted in the direction of those individuals who did most of the fighting and who were committed to their respective causes. Professor McPherson recognizes that many of the combatants were unwilling participants, particularly as the draft was instituted in both armies and that both armies included many shirkers. These individuals are not represented in his sample of letters. But still, these letters, written in the activity of soldiering and not intended for publication, are revealing of their authors' thoughts and feelings in a way impossible to replicate in other writings. The letters reveal much about the motivation of the combatants and about life in Civil War America. Professor McPherson finds that many of the soldiers in the Civil War had a firm idea of why they were fighting. On both sides soldiers fought for the preservation of liberty and the duty they perceived they owed to their country. Patriotism, in a word. Southern soldiers fought to achieve their independence and to avoid what they viewed as "subjugation" and "slavery". Northern soldiers fought to preserve the Union and, increasingly as the War progressed, to end slavery. Soldiers in both the Union and the Confederacy drew sustenance from religious convictions. They were motivated deeply by the camaraderie that developed with their fellows, particularly in their own units. In the Civil War in particular, soldiers fought side-by-side with others from their own state and community. They developed a strong bond with each other, based on the terrors of war and the privations of the camps, and fought in solidarity with each other. The letters in the book speak well for themselves with Professor McPherson's organization and commentary. It is moving to read about how many Americans were driven by high ideals in enlisting and fighting in this, the most deadly and formative of the wars of the United States. There is a sense of poignancy throughout the book. For the Civil War generation, concepts of duty, honor, family, manhood, and patriotism were not viewed with the skepticism that became common following WW I and that remains prevalent with many people today. It was a romantic generation, in part, but one with commitments and ideals. I think there is much contemporary Americans may learn by the devotion shown by the American Civil War soldiers and by the ideals of liberty, duty, and courage for which they fought. Robin Friedman

  6. 5 out of 5

    Relstuart

    It's over 150 years since the American Civil War ended and it's still a contentious subject. Dozens of new books about it are written every year and I feel sure thousands have been written about it. One of the things people didn't agree on when it was being fought was why it was being fought. Unsurprisingly, this question continues to be discussed today. This book from Oxford University Press looks at why men fought the war. It goes beyond the typical sources of books and looks at diaries and th It's over 150 years since the American Civil War ended and it's still a contentious subject. Dozens of new books about it are written every year and I feel sure thousands have been written about it. One of the things people didn't agree on when it was being fought was why it was being fought. Unsurprisingly, this question continues to be discussed today. This book from Oxford University Press looks at why men fought the war. It goes beyond the typical sources of books and looks at diaries and thousands of letters to answer the question as to why people were willing to lay down their lives in the war. The author points out that the American Civil War is different than many others in that so many people were literate (over 80% on both sides) and there was no censorship on their letters. Additionally, these letters are usually written to family or friends without the idea that the content will be read by others or intended for a broad audience unlike those that wrote a memoir. The interesting conclusion is that people on both sides thought they were fighting to uphold the legacy of their greatest generation, the Revolutionary War generation that founded the country. The Union soldiers were fighting to preserve the union built by that generation against traitors that fired on the flag and the Southern soldiers thought they were following in the greatest generation's footsteps by supporting their right to separate and defend themselves from invasion. These ideas made up about two-thirds of the reasons listed by men writing home during the war on both sides - in sum, patriotism. The author also talks about other reasons people talked about: not wanting to be a coward, to prove one was a man, answering your nation/state's call of duty. Slavery was a significant subject to some but in both North and South, especially in the first 18 months of the war this was very much a minor subgroup. Of motivations: "Duty and honor were indeed powerful motivating forces. They had to be, for some other traditional reasons that have caused men to fight in organized armies have little relevance to the Civil War. Religious fanaticism and ethnic hatreds played almost no role. Discipline was notoriously lax in most Civil War regiments. Training was minimal by modern standards. The coercive power of the state was flaccid.... Yet the Union and Confederate Army mobilized three million men." One historian noted that in the first 18 months of the war maybe one in ten Union soldiers thought they were fighting for the abolition of slavery. Review of Union letters home during this time shows abolitionist sentiments were very rare - to the point that one in ten could well be an exaggeration. However, this changed over the course of the war with the Emancipation proclamation driving fierce arguments among Union soldiers. One regiment voted on whether they supported it and about 50% voted in support, a quarter against it, and the rest abstaining. "Convictions of duty, honor, patriotism, and ideology functioned as the principal sustaining motivations of Civil War soldiers, the impulses of courage, self-respect, and group cohesion were the main sources of combat motivation." If you are serious about looking at something solid and scholarly about why the Brother War was fought this is an excellent resource.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Sylvia McIvers

    Why did people fight in the War of Northern Aggression? Why did people fight in the War of Southern Secession? Why did they sign up, where did they find the courage for their first battle, why did they stay after they realized that death is real and messy? Did people really fight 'to end slavery'? How could slave-owners claim to be fighting for liberty? What did the folks back home - wives, parents, kids - think about the main bread-earner risking his life for Mr Lincoln's War? Is "well, everyone Why did people fight in the War of Northern Aggression? Why did people fight in the War of Southern Secession? Why did they sign up, where did they find the courage for their first battle, why did they stay after they realized that death is real and messy? Did people really fight 'to end slavery'? How could slave-owners claim to be fighting for liberty? What did the folks back home - wives, parents, kids - think about the main bread-earner risking his life for Mr Lincoln's War? Is "well, everyone else was doin' it" a good reason to sign up? Apparently it is. Each chapter addresses another question. At least half the book is direct quotations from diaries & letters home. It was fascinating to read (and to notice the variants in spelling), especially since both sides of the war were represented and contrasted with each other.

  8. 5 out of 5

    John Lathers

    I really appreciated the scholarly effort that went into this piece by a reknowned historian. The piece, in a way, humanizes the soldiers of both sides, drawing on their personal letters and journals. I was actually directed to the book by someone seeking to counter the argument that preserving slavery was a key motivation of the civil war. However, the book really doesn't do much in that direction. While the author does explore how young men were often driven to enlist for reasons of honor, in I really appreciated the scholarly effort that went into this piece by a reknowned historian. The piece, in a way, humanizes the soldiers of both sides, drawing on their personal letters and journals. I was actually directed to the book by someone seeking to counter the argument that preserving slavery was a key motivation of the civil war. However, the book really doesn't do much in that direction. While the author does explore how young men were often driven to enlist for reasons of honor, in pursuit of a thirst for adventure, or to avoid a draft, ideology and/or the cause of preserving slavery and the superiority of white southerners played a central role for Confederate troops, especially among leaders. The author points out the irony of soldiers claiming to fight for liberty against the tyrannical Yankees seeking to free the slaves. The work is carefully researched and the primary sources were selected to be as representative as possible. When the sampling was not necessarily representative, the author works to be as transparent as possible, providing invaluable context. If I have one criticism, it is that I think the version of the book I had some distractingly frequent editing issues where punctuation was misplaced (beyond the direct quotes from soldiers diaries which the author purposely preserves), but this is at worst a minor annoyance. I highly recommend for those with an interest in the history and details of the Civil War.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Carly Krewitsky

    This book was really interesting! I learned a lot about the Civil War. Three future presidents fought in the Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Rutherford B. Hayes. Grant and McKinley fought on the same side and in the same regiment. The men who fought in the Civil War were more religious men than the men who fought in other wars. Some of the men were quite racist in their descriptions of slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was announced during the Civil War, and it led many me This book was really interesting! I learned a lot about the Civil War. Three future presidents fought in the Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant, William McKinley, and Rutherford B. Hayes. Grant and McKinley fought on the same side and in the same regiment. The men who fought in the Civil War were more religious men than the men who fought in other wars. Some of the men were quite racist in their descriptions of slaves. The Emancipation Proclamation was announced during the Civil War, and it led many men fighting on the Union side (some of whom were lifelong Democrats) to become Republicans and supporters of President Abraham Lincoln. This outraged some of these mens' family and friends. This book was composed mostly of soldiers' diaries and letters to family and friends. Some of the men were not as educated as others and so their spelling is not as good as others.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Jaimie Teekell

    This is really great for when you get into arguments with someone about having read skewed sources about why the Civil War was fought. Primary sources, yo! (I forgot to add this book to GR until now, after getting into said argument.)

  11. 4 out of 5

    Rob Williams

    Wonderful primary source driven exploration on soldier motivations before and during the war. A must read for any student of the civil war or of what makes soldiers fight.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Denise

    It had never occurred to me before, but there is more first-hand information about why men fought in the Civil War than there is for any other conflict. Many more soldiers were literate than ever before, and in later wars the letters home were censored. McPherson combed through thousands of letters and diaries, and turned up some surprising insights. Both Yankees and Rebels, for instance, thought they were fighting to uphold the values of the American Revolution. Many northerners thought secessio It had never occurred to me before, but there is more first-hand information about why men fought in the Civil War than there is for any other conflict. Many more soldiers were literate than ever before, and in later wars the letters home were censored. McPherson combed through thousands of letters and diaries, and turned up some surprising insights. Both Yankees and Rebels, for instance, thought they were fighting to uphold the values of the American Revolution. Many northerners thought secession would destroy the country their grandparents fought and died for, and many southerners, without irony, were fighting against subjugation and oppression. Surprisingly few on either side, at least at the beginning of the war, talked much about slavery. And in fact, after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation, there was a wave of desertions from the Union army of men who disagreed with freeing the slaves. Other northern soldiers, who saw slavery firsthand as they fought through the southern states, came around to the abolitionist viewpoint over time. And the government of the Confederacy voted, toward the end, to free slaves who would join the army and fight. The most common motivations seemed to be duty and honor, two things modern men seldom speak of. Their integrity, their reputation, was literally worth dying for. I kept thinking of Marty McFly, from Back to the Future, getting himself in all kinds of pickles in response to "What are you, chicken?" And that's how we think of those old Victorian values today, as kind of quaint and mockable. One of the most valuable books I have ever read is Jonathan Haidt's The Righteous Mind, about his research on moral foundations theory. He talks about the five (or six) foundational values which drive our ideas of right and wrong, and how reliance on or rejection of one or more of them impacts our politics. Liberals, for instance, rely almost exclusively on the first two; libertarians on the sixth; and conservatives on a mix of all. And because we don't share the same moral foundations, we misunderstand the motivations of people we disagree with. Here's the list: The Five Foundations Care: cherishing and protecting others; opposite of harm. Fairness or proportionality: rendering justice according to shared rules; opposite of cheating. Loyalty or ingroup: standing with your group, family, nation; opposite of betrayal. Authority or respect: submitting to tradition and legitimate authority; opposite of subversion. Sanctity or purity: abhorrence for disgusting things, foods, actions; opposite of degradation. And a possible sixth foundation, Liberty: absence of coercion by a dominating power or person; opposite of oppression. I think we are actually witnessing a dramatic rise of ingroup loyalty as a motivating force in our politics, as we break apart into red and blue tribes, and the fact that loyalty to Cause and Comrades drove the butchery of the last Civil War should terrify all of us.

  13. 4 out of 5

    Margaret Sankey

    Re-read as I approach the Civil War in my military history class, this is a rich collation and analysis of a huge variety of letters and diaries from both sides of the Civil War, showing both a unique 19th century mindset, as well as a kind of universality of experience borne out by WWII social science questionnaires. I'd also like to put this in the hands of, or rather, upside the head of, the next person who tells me that Confederates were all about states rhats. Yes, indeed, the rhat to howl Re-read as I approach the Civil War in my military history class, this is a rich collation and analysis of a huge variety of letters and diaries from both sides of the Civil War, showing both a unique 19th century mindset, as well as a kind of universality of experience borne out by WWII social science questionnaires. I'd also like to put this in the hands of, or rather, upside the head of, the next person who tells me that Confederates were all about states rhats. Yes, indeed, the rhat to howl about the threat of "slavery," defined as not getting to own and abuse other human beings.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Joseph Belser

    McPherson argues that ideals and duty were at the heart of why soldiers fought in the Civil War. It amazes me to see that the definitions of concepts such as “democracy” and “liberty” vary so much between Union and Confederate soldiers. It’s as if they were from different planets.

  15. 5 out of 5

    Brentley Campbell

    Great read on why men fought in the civil war.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Nathan Albright

    For Cause & Comrades: Why Men Fought In The Civil War, by James M. McPherson In this book, noted Civil War historian James McPherson provides a work that demonstrates the potential of statistical analysis in history and the combination of social and military history when handled skillfully by someone with a full respect for the texts and the people who wrote them. This particular volume seeks to use the voluminous letter writing and unpublished diaries of Civil War soldiers on both sides to prese For Cause & Comrades: Why Men Fought In The Civil War, by James M. McPherson In this book, noted Civil War historian James McPherson provides a work that demonstrates the potential of statistical analysis in history and the combination of social and military history when handled skillfully by someone with a full respect for the texts and the people who wrote them. This particular volume seeks to use the voluminous letter writing and unpublished diaries of Civil War soldiers on both sides to present a statistical answer as to why men fought in the Civil War—whey they joined up in the first place, and why they continued to fight despite the risk of death by disease or bullets, in the face of letters from home from people who were not able to understand the horrors of the war they faced. Not only is this book very well argued from a narrative and statistical perspective, with the author including useful cross-tabs, unlike some attempts at similar studies [1] that have much less command of the statistical approaches necessary to enrich history, but the historian also manages to write with gorgeous prose about the difficulties in understanding soldiers of that time from our own cynical age [2]. In comparison to many of his other writings, this is a work that is more fragmented and less narrative [3] than his most famous and well-recognized works. Nevertheless, this work is a masterpiece of its own type, a work that depends for its power both on a familiarity with a wide group of tens of thousands of letters and unprinted manuscript diaries from Civil War veterans who the author refers to by rank and unit in the text, unless they are particularly well-known to the target demographic of readers, and comments about at greater length in the extensive endnotes that follow this book, which even with its statistical appendices included is short of 200 pages. It contains twelve chapters that deal with several overlapping sets of concerns that appear frequently in the private writings of soldiers, such as the feeling that the war was a crusade, that both sides fought in earnest, that they were anxious to fight at first, that they desired to preserve their honor and manhood by not flinching in fear or running from battle, that religion was important to their bravery, that they and their fellow members of their units were a band of brothers, that they were willing to lay down their lives on the altar of their country, that they fought for the cause of liberty, that slavery was a major element of why they fought, that they felt or expected the support of the home front, that they fought to avenge losses suffered, and that they shared with their comrades a devotion to the same holy cause. This book has many strengths. It is forthright and honest about its sampling techniques and approach, it is generous in its quotation and sound in its discussion of the writings of the soldiers in the sample selected, and it is part of a larger conversation with other books about the thoughts and motivations of the common soldier in the Civil War. Although quite a few of the people who wrote these letters were officers, by and large this is not elite history but is a history of the people, by the people, for the people. The author expresses his regrets that more letters from black soldiers were not able to be found, but given that the book is about the writings of soldiers, and given that the vast majority of black soldiers, and at least some portion of the poorer farmers on both sides in general, were not particularly literate, the author uses the sources available as best as possible. Another aspects of this book that serves to tie it together despite its thematic organization is the fact that the author uses skillful transitions to tie one chapter to the next, which makes the book flow very well. This is an accomplished work by a master historian about that most difficult of questions—what motivated Civil War soldiers to fight and, if necessary, die, even if such conditions are not likely to be present in contemporary society. [1] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... [2] See, for example, the following quotes: “Why not? That is probably the wrong question. The right question is: Why did Civil War soldiers do it? It was not because their lives were somehow less precious to them than ours to us. Nor was it because they lived in a more violent culture that took fighting and dying for granted more than we do. And it was not because they were professional soldiers or coerced conscripts; most Union and Confederate soldiers were neither long-term regulars nor draftees, but wartime volunteers from civilian life whose values remained rooted in the homes and communities from which they sprang to arms and to which they longed to return. They did not fight for money. The pay was poor and unreliable; the large enlistment bounties received by some Union soldiers late in the war were exceptional; most volunteers and their families made economic sacrifices when they enlisted. What prompted them to give up several of the best years of their lives—indeed, to give up life itself in this war that killed almost as many American soldiers as all the rest of the wars this country has fought combined? What enabled them to overcome that most basic of human instincts—self-preservation (5)?” “Glorious cause. Lives sacrificed on the country’s altar. Hearts bleeding for the country’s welfare. Some modern readers of these letters may feel they are drowning in bathos. In this post-Freudian age these phrases strike many as mawkish posturing, romantic sentimentalism, hollow platitudes. We do not speak or write like that anymore. Most people have not done so since World War I which, as Ernest Hemingway and Paul Fussell have noted, made such words as glory, honor, courage, sacrifice, valor, and sacred vaguely embarrassing if not mock-heroic. We would justly mock them if we heard them today. But these words were written in the 1860s, not today. They were written not for public consumption but in private letters to families and friends. These soldiers, at some level at least, meant what they said about sacrificing their lives for their country. Our cynicism about the genuineness of such sentiments is more our problem than theirs, a temporal/cultural barrier we must transcend if we are to understand why they fought. Theirs was an age of romanticism in literature, music, art, and philosophy. It was a sentimental age when strong men were not afraid to cry (or weep, as they would say), a time when Harriet Beecher Stowe’s great novel and Stephen Foster’s songs could stir genuine emotions. What seems like bathos or platitudes to us were real pathos and convictions to them. Perhaps readers will take another look at the expressions by soldiers quoted two paragraphs above when they learn that all four of them were subsequently killed in action. They were not posturing for public show. They were not looking back from years later through a haze of memory and myth about the Civil War. They were writing during the immediacy of their experiences to explain and justify their beliefs to family members and friends who shared—or in some cases questioned—those beliefs. And how smugly can we sneer at their expressions of a willingness to die for those beliefs when we know they did precisely that (100)?” [3] See, for example: https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress... https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress...

  17. 4 out of 5

    Anson Cassel Mills

    Historian James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the fine Battle Cry of Freedom, here attempts to delineate motivations of Civil War soldiers from the letters and diaries of what he calls a “quasi-representative group”—though that sample unavoidably skews the results toward early volunteers from the upper and middle classes. The strength of this book is also its weakness. McPherson is a great stylist, but (as he notes in the preface) in large measure the book was written by the Historian James M. McPherson, the Pulitzer Prize-winning author of the fine Battle Cry of Freedom, here attempts to delineate motivations of Civil War soldiers from the letters and diaries of what he calls a “quasi-representative group”—though that sample unavoidably skews the results toward early volunteers from the upper and middle classes. The strength of this book is also its weakness. McPherson is a great stylist, but (as he notes in the preface) in large measure the book was written by the Civil War soldiers themselves with the author essentially arranging extracts under appropriate topical headings and then supplying the resulting compilation with introductions, conclusions, occasional comparisons to later American wars, and a frequent doleful reporting of when and where the quoted soldiers were killed. One could do worse than to listen to these soldier voices, many at least as articulate as those of modern historians. As McPherson has argued, Civil War soldiers seem to have been more politically engaged and to have used more ideological and patriotic rhetoric in their letters and diaries than their twentieth-century counterparts. By contrast with participants in more recent wars, these nineteenth-century men, made “extraordinary sacrifices, even of life itself, for the principles they perceived to be at stake.” (178)

  18. 5 out of 5

    Karl

    Well-sourced and argued from both sides relying mostly on letters home from the most literate armies on earth at the time. Letters of those who died in the Civil War were largely kept by their families for generations, whereas later biographies and reminiscences could not be as trusted a source. With this approach he paints a very compelling portrait of why soldiers both blue and gray followed their leaders into battle to save their way of life, as slavery brought the nation to a halt until its Well-sourced and argued from both sides relying mostly on letters home from the most literate armies on earth at the time. Letters of those who died in the Civil War were largely kept by their families for generations, whereas later biographies and reminiscences could not be as trusted a source. With this approach he paints a very compelling portrait of why soldiers both blue and gray followed their leaders into battle to save their way of life, as slavery brought the nation to a halt until its place in history could be resolved.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer

    we are going to Gettysburg soon, and I was hoping this book would provide insight for the trip. the author would give excruciating details as to why one group fought. the next set of the essays was the opposite reason why the people did what they did. there was no joining theory tying it together besides men believe fighting for honor is worthy of everything. this book scared me because we haven't changed a bit since then, and our polarizations are just as strong.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Adam Burke

    Good book. Loved the methodology. McPherson analyzed causes by separating into why soldiers joined, why they stayed, and why they threw themselves into deadly combat. He also took the time to parse opinions of soldiers based on side, and on whether they were volunteers, drafted, or were substitutes.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Cameron

    It's a little dry reading a bunch of excerpts of letters, but it's worth it to really understand the soldiers' motivations. The war was about slavery and union. Soldiers were remarkably aware of politics and had daily discussions in camp.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ryan Garza

    McPherson does a great job at capturing the challenges of civil war soldiers through countless numbers of letters and diaries he’s read. Although it does feel a little slow at some points, his arguments as to why civil war soldiers fought are very interesting.

  23. 5 out of 5

    David

    too boring to finish, but interesting.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Edward

    A great and interesting book! Had a lot of fun going through this one. Would highly recommend

  25. 4 out of 5

    Marly Lemanski

    I love just about everything written by James McPherson.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Are Two

    Highly recommend if you are interested in the reasons “why” soldiers fought in the civil war.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Erin

    I read this one for school. It was interesting to see things the soldiers were feeling and thinking throughout the war and how both sides were similar at times.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brian Maddy

    Great read! Excellently researched and written. I hope and pray that Americans of this age can measure up to the standards of those who fought in the Civil War.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jacqueline Muske

    Factual facts about the Civil War.

  30. 4 out of 5

    RJ

    Great summation of the war The american civil war was a constant barrage of battles fought by Americans on both sides. This novel is a great summation of the war based in diaries and letters from soldiers on both sides. While it often times praised the wives' position at home, and the northern side, it was a generally balanced perspective. I most definitely plan to read this again, and will probably pick up more the second time around.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.