McPherson, James M.

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James M. McPherson


Born October 11, 1936, in Valley City, ND; son of James Munro (a high school teacher and administrator) and Miriam (an elementary school teacher; maiden name, Osborn) McPherson; married Patricia A. Rasche (an editor), December 28, 1957; children: Joanna. Education: Gustavus Adolphus College, B.A. (magna cum laude), 1958; Johns Hopkins University, Ph.D. (with highest distinction), 1963. Politics: Democratic. Religion: Presbyterian. Hobbies and other interests: Tennis, bicycling, sailing, reading mystery and adventure novels, playing with his granddaughter.


Home— 15 Randall Rd., Princeton, NJ 08540-3609. Office— Department of History, Dickinson Hall, Princeton University, Princeton, NJ 08544.


Princeton University, Princeton, NJ, instructor, 1962-65, assistant professor, 1965-68, associate professor, 1968-72, professor of history, 1972-82, Edwards Professor of American History, 1982-91, George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History, 1991—. Commonwealth Fund Lecturer, University College, London, England, 1982. Fellow, Behavioral Sciences Center, Stanford University, 1982-83. Consultant on the film Gettysburg, Turner Pictures, 1993; on the television documentary The Civil War by Ken Burns, Public Broadcasting System, 1999; and on the television documentary Abraham and Mary Lincoln: A House Divided, Public Broadcasting System, 2001; also consultant, Social Science program, Educational Research Council, Cleveland, OH. Member of board of directors, Civil War Trust and Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (now the Civil War Preservation Trust), 1991-93; member of Civil War Sites Advisory Committee, a committee created by the U.S. Congress, 1991-93. Member of advisory board, George Tyler Moore College of the Study of the Civil War, Shepherdstown, WV. Member of board of advisors, Lincoln Forum.


Organization of American Historians, Protect Historic America (president, 1993-94), Society of American Historians (president, 2000-01) American Philosophical Society, American Historical Association (president, 2003-04), Southern Historical Association, Phi Beta Kappa.

Awards, Honors

Woodrow Wilson National Fellowship, 1958; Danforth fellow, 1958-62; Proctor & Gamble faculty fellowship; Anisfield Wolff Award in Race Relations, Cleveland Foundation, 1965, for The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction; Guggenheim fellow, 1967-58; Huntington fellowship, National Endowment for the Humanities, 1977-78; Huntington Seaver fellow, 1987-88; National Book Award nomination, 1988, National Book Critics Circle nomination, 1988, Pulitzer Prize in history, 1989, Distinguished Book Award, U.S. Military Academy, West Point, 1989, and citation, 100 Best English-Language Books of the 20th Century, Board of the Modern Library, 1999, all for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era; Lincoln Prize, 1998, for For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought the Civil War; Michael Award, New Jersey Literary Hall of Fame, 1989; Gustavus Adolphus College Alumni Award, Gustavus Alumni Association, 1990; R. Stanton Avery fellow, Huntington Library, 1995-96; Theodore and Franklin D. Roosevelt Prize in Naval History, 1998, with wife, Patricia McPherson, for Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy; Jefferson Lecturer in the Humanities, National Endowment for the Humanities, 2000; Richard Nelson Current Award of Achievement, 2002; recipient of honorary degrees from Gustavus Adolphus College, Gettysburg College, Muhlenberg College, Lehigh University, Bowdoin College, and Monmouth University.


The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1964, 2nd edition with new preface by the author, 1995.

The Negro's Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted in the War for the Union, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1965, published as The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted during the War for the Union, Ballantine Books (New York, NY), 1991.

The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1975, 2nd edition, with a new preface by the author, 1995.

Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, Knopf (New York, NY), 1982, published as The Civil War (reprint of the second part of Ordeal by Fire), Knopf (New York, NY), 1982, published as two separate volumes, Ordeal by Fire: The Coming of War and Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War, McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1993, 3rd edition, 2001.

Images of the Civil War, paintings by Mort Künstler, Gramercy Books (New York, NY), 1982.

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1988, published as collector's edition, Easton Press (Norwalk, CT), 2002.

Gettysburg (companion volume to film of the same name), paintings by Mort Künstler, Turner Publishing (Atlanta, GA), 1993, Rutledge Hill Press (Nashville, TN), 1998.

What They Fought For, 1861-1865, Louisiana State University Press (Baton Rouge, LA), 1994.

Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1996.

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, the Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2002.

Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg, Crown (New York, NY), 2003.


Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender, Gettysburg College (Gettysburg, PA), 1984.

How Lincoln Won the War with Metaphor, Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum (Fort Wayne, IN), 1985.

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1990, published as collector's edition, Easton Press (Norwalk, CT), 1991.

Why the Confederacy Lost, edited by Gabor S. Boritt, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1992.

Is Blood Thicker Than Water? Crises of Nationalism in the Modern World, Vintage Canada (Toronto, Ontario, Canada), 1998, Vintage Books (New York, NY), 1999.

(With Douglas J. Wilson) Accepting the Prize: Two Historians Speak, Lincoln and Soldiers Institute (Gettysburg, PA), 2000.

"For a Vast Future Also": Lincoln and the Millennium, National Endowment for the Humanities (Washington, DC), 2000.


(With others) Blacks in America: Bibliographical Essays, Doubleday (Garden City, NY), 1971.

(With Corner Vann Woodward and J. Morgan Kousser) Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essaysin Honor of C. Vann Woodward, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1982.

Battle Chronicles of the Civil War, six volumes, Grey Castle Press (Lakeville, CT), Macmillan (New York, NY), 1989.

(Consulting editor) Steve O'Brien and others, editors, American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present, ABC-CLIO (Santa Barbara, CA), 1991.

The Atlas of the Civil War, Macmillan (New York, NY), 1994.

"We Cannot Escape History": Lincoln and the Last Best Hope on Earth, University of Illinois Press (Urbana, IL), 1995.

(With Bruce Catton) The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, Viking (New York, NY), 1996, revised edition, with contributing editor Noah Andre Trudeau, MetroBooks (New York, NY), 2001.

(With wife, Patricia R. McPherson) Lamson of the Gettysburg: The Civil War Letters of Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, U.S. Navy, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 1997.

(With William J. Cooper) Writing the Civil War: The Quest to Understand, University of South Carolina Press (Columbia, SC), 1998.

To the Best of My Ability: The American Presidents, Dorling Kindersley (New York, NY), 2000, revised edition, 2001.

Encyclopedia of Civil War Biographies, Sharpe Reference (Armonk, NY), 2000.

(Editor and contributor, with Alan Brinkley and David Rubel) Days of Destiny: Crossroads in American History: America's Greatest Historians Examine Thirty-one Uncelebrated Days That Changed the Course of History, DK Publishing (New York, NY), 2001.

The Civil War Reader, 1862, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 2002.


Marching toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 1861-1865, Knopf (New York, NY), 1968, published as Marching toward Freedom: Blacks in the Civil War, Facts on File (New York, NY), 1991.

(With Joyce Oldham Appleby and Alan Brinkley) The American Journey (textbook; student edition), National Geographic Society/Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 1998, also published as The American Journey: Building a Nation, teacher's wraparound edition, National Geographic Society/Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 2000.

Fields of Fury: The American Civil War, Atheneum (New York, NY), 2002.

(With Joyce Oldham Appleby, Alan Brinkley, Albert S. Broussard, and Donald A. Ritchie) The American Vision (textbook), National Geographic Society/Glencoe/McGraw-Hill (New York, NY), 2003.


Also author of How Abolitionists Fought On after the Civil War, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ), a reprint in book form of an article from the quarterly magazine University, 1968-69; White Liberals and Black Power in Negro Education, 1865-l915, 1969; First Black Power Bid in U.S. Education, Princeton University (Princeton, NJ), from University, 1970; and Who Freed the Slaves?: Lincoln and Emancipation, Lincoln Memorial Association (Redlands, CA), 1993. Contributor to books, including The Anti-Slavery Vanguard: New Essays on Abolitionism, edited by Martin M. Duberman, Princeton University Press (Princeton, NJ), 1965; Towards a New Past: Dissenting Essays in American History, edited by Barton J. Bernstein, Pantheon (New York, NY), 1968; and How I Met Lincoln: Some Distinguished Enthusiasts Reveal Just How They Fell under His Spell, compiled by Harold Holzer, American Heritage (New York, NY), 1999. Contributor of forewords and afterwords to books, including Brother against Brother, edited by Diane Stine Thomas, Silver Burdett Press (Englewood Cliffs, NJ), 1990; Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, by Ulysses S. Grant, Penguin Books (New York, NY), 1999; and The Birth of the Grand Old Republican Party: The Republicans' First Generation, edited by Robert F. Engs and Randall M. Miller, University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia, PA), 2002. Contributor to periodicals, including American Historical Review, Caribbean Studies, Journal of American History, Journal of Negro History, Mid-America, and Phylon. Member of editorial board of magazine Civil War History.

McPherson's works have been translated into other languages, including French, German, and Spanish. McPherson provided the narration for the video Abraham Lincoln, Atlas Video, 1990; is interviewed in the documentary Smithsonian's Great Battles of the Civil War, Volume One, Mastervision Studio, 1992, on the videos The Civil War Legends: Robert E. Lee and The Civil War Legends: Abraham Lincoln (both from Acorn Video), and on the audio cassette American Heritage's Great Minds of History, Simon & Schuster, 1999. He also provided the audio commentary on the DVD of the film Gettysburg, Turner Home Entertainment, 2000.


Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era was released on audio tape by Books on Tape, 1989; Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution was released on audio tape by Books on Tape, 1992; Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam was released as an audio CD by Oxford University Press, 2002.


James M. McPherson has been called the preeminent living expert on the American Civil War. The war, which took place from 1861 to 1865, pitted the Union Army from the northern United States against the Confederate Army from the southern United States. More than six hundred thousand soldiers died in the Civil War—more than in any other war involving Americans. A prolific writer, McPherson has written and edited numerous books about the Civil War and its aftermath, the Reconstruction, and about President Abraham Lincoln. McPherson is noted for his coverage of African Americans during the mid-nineteenth century, especially their service as soldiers and their efforts to secure their freedom from slavery, and of the abolitionists who worked to obtain equal rights for the freed slaves. He is also a preservationist, working to protect Civil War battlefields and other important sites as well as resource materials in libraries and other places. Finally, McPherson is credited with helping to initiate a resurgence of interest in the Civil War among the American public. Several of his books have been bestsellers and are considered to have paved the way for the success of the films Glory and Gettysburg and the television documentary The Civil War by Ken Burns. McPherson wrote the text for a book of paintings by Mort Künstler that was issued as a companion to the motion picture Gettsyburg and also provided narration on the DVD of the film; in addition, McPherson served as a consultant in the making of the Ken Burns documentary.

McPherson is best known for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, published in 1988 and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for history the next year. Often acknowledged as the best single-volume study of the Civil War, Battle Cry of Freedom offers readers a reassessment of the war and its outcome. McPherson theorizes that the victory of the Union Army was not inevitable; in addition, he calls the Civil War a turning point in American history, a revolutionary event that brought sweeping changes to society, such as the end of slavery and a new emphasis on industrialization.

McPherson emphasizes the moral and ideological aspects of war. He is noted for being empathic in his treatment of the soldiers who fought on both sides of the Civil War and for writing works that stress the human dimension of this event. In several of his books, McPherson draws upon letters and diaries, many of which are unpublished, and he also includes little-known facts about his subjects. As a literary stylist, McPherson characteristically uses a narrative approach rather than the topical or thematic approaches that historians often favor. He is credited for the thoroughness of his research and for writing with authority, balance, eloquence, and clarity. In addition, McPherson has been commended for his ability to satisfy both scholars and general readers with his works, which are praised for providing accurate facts and insightful opinions in an accessible, engaging manner.

The Son of Teachers

Born in Valley City, North Dakota, McPherson grew up in a small town in Minnesota. He is the son of James Munro McPherson, a high school teacher and administrator, and Miriam Osborn McPherson, an elementary school teacher who went back to get her degree after her children were grown. The author told Joseph Deitch of Publishers Weekly that having two teachers as parents "clearly had an influence on me. I see them as role models." Some of McPherson's siblings also became educators: both of his sisters have taught in elementary schools and one of his brothers was a teacher at the university level. McPherson's interest in the Civil War also has roots in his family background: his great-grandfather and great-great-grandfather both fought in the Union Army, a fact of which McPherson was unaware until he became a historian. McPherson was first inspired to study the past by a history teacher at his high school, a man who had fought in World War II. The author told Deitch that he and his classmates "got a lot of personal reminiscences about the war that aroused my interest in the historical dimensions and in the war itself." After high school, McPherson went to Gustavus Adophus College in Saint Peter, Minnesota. McPherson once explained, "I became fascinated with American history while in college, and it was natural that I should combine my interest in teaching and history to become a teacher of history and a writer of books about American history that I hope have been useful in teaching and learning."

Fascinated with the South

While attending Gustavus Adolphus College, McPherson married Patricia A. Rasche; the couple have a daughter, Joanna. With her husband, Patricia McPherson served as the coeditor of a collection of letters by Lieutenant Roswell H. Lamson, one of the most talented naval officers of the Civil War. After graduating from college, James McPherson decided to attend graduate school to acquire his doctorate in history. At the time, the Civil Rights Movement was beginning to take place in the South. McPherson told Walsh, "This was in the late '50s, at the time of the Little Rock school desegregation crisis and the Montgomery bus boycott. I was just becoming conscious of what was going on in the world at this time, so I thought, 'This is a strange place, this South.' So I decided that maybe I'd like to find out more about it, study Southern history." McPherson decided to attend graduate school at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland. He told Walsh, "I really went to Hopkins because C. Vann Woodward [a specialist on Southern history and on segregation] was there. And when I got there, … I was suddenly struck by the parallels between the times in which I was living and what had happened exactly, I mean exactly in some cases, 100 years earlier." In 1982, McPherson coedited Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward. As he noted in a statement that he made to the U.S. House of Representatives regarding the preservation of historical documents, a statement that was reprinted in National Humanities Alliance (NHA) Testimony, McPherson also chose to attend Johns Hopkins for another reason: "its proximity to Washington and to one of the great research libraries of the world, the Library of Congress. Nor was I disappointed in the wealth of sources in that marvelous institution just up the street. I remember with fondness my many trips from Baltimore on the old Pennsylvania Railroad or the B&O or by carpooling with other graduate students in an ancient Volkswagen Beetle or Chevrolet gas-guzzler. I spent many hundreds of happy hours going over books, pamphlets, and newspapers as well as manuscript collections for my doctoral dissertation."

As a northerner, McPherson became fascinated by the role that the North had played in trying to change race relations in the South. He studied eighteenth-century abolitionists and wrote about their role during and after the Civil War in trying to obtain equal rights, equal justice, and education for the freed slaves. In an interview with William R. Ferris in Humanities, McPherson recalled, "I did my Ph.D. dissertation on people that I called—perhaps with a little bit of exaggeration—the civil rights activists of the 1860s, the abolitionists, both black and white." He told Amy Lifson on the Meet James McPherson Web Site, "I was struck by all of these parallels between what was a freedom crusade of the 1860s and a freedom crusade of the 1960s. My first entrée into Civil War scholarship focused on that very theme." While attending Johns Hopkins, McPherson participated in civil rights activities in the Baltimore area. In 1962, he moved to Princeton, New Jersey, to work as an instructor of history at Princeton University. The next year, McPherson received his doctorate from Johns Hopkins. His doctoral dissertation became his first book, The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction, a volume published in l964. In NHA Testimony, McPherson called this work "a study of the continuing activities of abolitionists on behalf of civil rights and education for freed slaves after the abolition of slavery." He added, "The challenges and excitement of discovery in this research really launched my career as a historian."

Three years after the publication of The Struggle for Equality, McPherson produced The Negro's Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted in the War for the Union, the same material later rendered for younger readers as Marching toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 1861-1865. In this work, McPherson presents a history of how African Americans served in the Civil War, first in supporting roles and then, after they were allowed to enlist, as effective soldiers. The author supplements his story with passages from diaries, letters, speeches, newspapers, and songs as well as prints and photographs from the period. Writing in the New York Times Book Review about McPherson's accomplishment in Marching toward Freedom, Mel Watkins commented, "Using numerous quotes from politicians, slaves, and freedmen, he shows that military and political expediency, not idealism, dictated the Union's altered stance." A writer in Commonweal dubbed Marching toward Freedom a "well-documented account" and "an impressive study" before noting, "its brevity is an additional asset." Writing in Book World, Paul M. Angle remarked, "McPherson brings a fresh approach. Half of the text, perhaps more, consists of quotations from what the historians call first-hand sources.…Skillfully used by the author, these sources give the book an unusual degree of directness (read 'punch') and realism. The story—and the facts—give more credit to the black man than to the white." A critic in Booklist concluded, "Numerous excerpts … add authenticity and conviction to McPherson's telling portrayal of Negro attitudes and experiences, including impressive performances on the battlefield." McPherson once explained, "I enjoyed the experience of writing Marching toward Freedom. My two youngest brothers were then in junior high and high school, and I tried out the book on them as I was writing it in order to see whether it would appeal to a high-school age audience. They liked it, and I hope that other students who have read it have also liked it."

In 1972, McPherson became a full professor of history at Princeton University; he later became the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History at the school. In addition to his academic career, McPherson continued to write and edit books on the Civil War and its key players. Asked by C. Vann Woodward and Richard Hofstadter to contribute a volume to the Oxford History of the United States, a multi-volume collection of individual books by historians that was published by Oxford University Press, he began to write about the period 1848 to 1865. In 1988, McPherson produced Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, the book that established him as one of the best historians ever to have written about the War between the States. In this work, which takes its title from a song adopted by both the North and the South, the author outlines the history of the period by incorporating its most relevant political, social, economic, and military aspects. In addition, he combines scholarship on the subject with his own research and interpretations and tells the story of the Civil War as if he were writing fiction, with plot, conflict, character development, and other literary characteristics.

Battle Cry of Freedom

Battle Cry of Freedom was a best seller in both hard-cover and paperback. In addition, critical commentary on the volume was almost unanimously laudatory. McPherson was praised for his ability to synthesize a wealth of information—material that previous writers had taken from three to eight volumes to decipher—and place it into a single, cohesive, well-written volume. Writing in the New York Times Book Review, Hugh Brogan noted, "This is the best one-volume treatment of a subject I have ever come across. It may actually be the best ever published. It is comprehensive and succinct, scholarly without being pedantic, eloquent but unrhetorical. It is compellingly readable. I was swept away, feeling as if I had never heard the saga before. It is most welcome.…A deeply satisfying book." Huston Horn of the Los Angeles Times Book Review commented, "Deftly coordinated, gracefully composed, charitably argued, and suspensefully laid out, McPherson's book is just the compass of the tumultuous middle years of the 18th century it was intended to be, and as narrative history, it is surpassing. Bright with details and fresh quotations, sold with carefully-arrived-at conclusions, it must surely be, of the 50,000 books written on the Civil War, the finest compression of that national paroxysm ever fitted between two covers." Writing in School Library Journal, Audrey B. Eaglon dubbed Battle Cry of Freedom "probably the best one-volume history of the Civil War ever written; it reads like a suspense novel, pulling readers into the story of a nation riven by conflict."

In 1991, the United States Senate appointed McPherson to the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, which was responsible for determining the major battle sites of the war, evaluating their condition, and recommending proposals for their preservation. As a teacher, he has taken his students on regular tours of Civil War battlefields; for example, they go to Pennsylvania every spring to visit Gettysburg. At the battlefields, McPherson often is asked by his students why the soldiers were willing to fight—and to stay in the war—when they knew that they may not be coming home. These questions prompted For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, a title published in 1997. In order to create this work, McPherson studied the diaries and letters of over a thousand enlistees from both the Union and Confederate armies. He concluded that the soldiers were motivated by courage, self-respect, and group cohesion and were sustained by duty, faith, personal honor, patriotism, and ideology, especially the preservation of liberty. Writing about For Cause and Comrades in Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, Raymond L. Puffer commented, "A good scholar can always be depended upon to come up with an interesting new approach to a worked-over subject. In this title, Princeton historian McPherson shows again why he deserves to be called the dean of Civil War scholars." Puffer concluded by calling For Cause and Comrades a "legitimate and readable antidote to the romanticized motives so often cited in other works. This book also packs a visceral punch; it is full of fascinating quotations and first-person recollections, making it an often vivid experience for the reader. This is 'living history' indeed." For Cause and Comrades was awarded the Lincoln Prize in 1998.

In 2002, McPherson produced Fields of Fury: the American Civil War, a history of the war for young readers that spans events from the initial Confederate attack at Fort Sumter to the triumph of the Union at Appomattox. McPherson defines major battles; provides eyewitness accounts, many by children; profiles historical luminaries; gives personal anecdotes from the soldiers; and addresses such issues as slavery, the roles of women and African Americans, health care on the battlefield, treatment of prisoners of war, and the effects of Reconstruction. McPherson also includes sidebars of information; a timeline; and many photographs, drawings, and maps. With this volume, the author is credited for doing for a young audience what he did for adults with Battle Cry of Freedom. Writing in School Library Journal, Starr E. Smith commented, "A distinguished historian has used his formidable talents to produce a concise, accessible, and appealing history in an attractive format.…McPherson summarizes the major facts of the war and relates anecdotes that bring to life the conflict's participants." Carolyn Phelan of Booklist stated, "This large-format book provides an attractive and readable introduction to the Civil War.… McPherson writes with authority, offering a broad overview as well as many details and anecdotes that give his account a human dimension." Phelan concluded by calling Fields of Fury a "good balance of information and illustration on a topic of perennial interest."

McPherson continues to write and edit books on his specialties, to teach at Princeton, to serve as a consultant and on committees, and to act as a crusader for the preservation of the major battle sites of the Civil War. He has argued publicly against the exploitation of these sites by commercial vendors; in addition, he guides both new students and the general public through battlefields and other locations that are relevant to the war. In 2003 McPherson published Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg, based on the many guided walks he has conducted with students at the site of the largest battle in the Western Hemisphere. McPherson's account describes a walk throughout the town and battlefield, noting the many memorials to be found, along with the structures, fields, and other locations to be examined. Elizabeth Morris in the Library Journal found that "McPherson writes in a conversational tone as he describes the atmosphere of the site and what Gettysburg has come to mean." McPherson "knows this ground intimately and has conducted uncountable tours there," the critic for Kirkus Reviews explained. "He educates, even inspires with fluid ease."

If you enjoy the works of James M. McPherson

you might want to check out the following books:

Shelby Foote, The Civil War: A Narrative (three volumes), 1974.

Eric Foner, Reconstruction: America's Unfinished Revolution, 1988.

Michael Shaara, The Killer Angels, 1974.

In his interview with William R. Ferris of Humanities, McPherson suggested why he thinks that the Civil War has an enduring fascination: "One reason is the continuing salience of many of the issues over which the war was fought. Even though the War resolved the issues of Union and slavery, it didn't entirely resolve the issues that underlay those two questions. The relationships between the national government and regions, race relations, the role of government in trying to bring about change in race relations—these issues are still important in American society today.…The continuing relevance of these issues, I think, is one reason for the continuing fascination with the Civil War." When asked why writers in academia do not create more books for general readers, McPherson said, "Look at the large membership in the history book club, the interest in the History Channel on television, and the interest in documentaries by Ken Burns and by other historical filmmakers. There is a real hunger out there which is not always reached by academic historians. I think they ought to reach out more than they do, and that is what I try to do." He concluded, "I think it's possible to break new ground or offer new interpretations or to write a narrative work of history in such a way as it can appeal to a general audience, but also have something for a more academic and specialized audience. It has something to do with being convinced that history is a story of change over time, with a beginning, a development, a climax of consequences, and writing that story in such a way as it will retain the interest of a broad audience, but also have something new and inter esting in the way of insight or interpretation for the specialist as well. It is not easy to explain. I just try to do it, and sometimes I think I've succeeded."

Biographical and Critical Sources


America, September 16, 2002, Tom O'Brien, "A Qualified Victory," p. 23.

Booklist, October 1, 1968, review of Marching toward

Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 186l-1865, pp. 189-190; February 1, l997, Roland Green, review of For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 924; November 15, 2002, Carolyn Phelan, review of Fields of Fury: The American Civil War, p. 586.

Book World, May 5, 1968, Paul M. Angle, "The Battle against Prejudice," p. 30.

Civil War History, September, 2003, George C. Rable, review of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, the Battle that Changed the Course of the Civil War, p. 290.

Commonweal, May 24, 1968, review of Marching toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 186l-1865, p. 302.

Humanities, May-June, 2000, William R. Ferris, "'The War That Never Goes Away': A Conversation with Civil War Historian James M. McPherson."

Journal of Southern History, February, 2004, T. Michael Parrish, review of Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam, p. 160.

Kirkus Reviews, September 1, 2002, review of Fields of Fury: The American Civil War, p. 1315; March 15, 2003, review of Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg, p. 445.

Kliatt Young Adult Paperback Book Guide, January, 1999, Raymond L. Puffer, review of For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 31; November, 2003, John E. Boyd, review of Crossroads of Freedom (audiobook), p. 54.

Library Journal, March 15, 2003, Elizabeth Morris, review of Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg, p. 97.

Los Angeles Times Book Review, March 20, 1988, Huston Horn, "The Finest One-Volume Civil War Ever Written," p. 10.

New York Times Book Review, May 5, 1968, Mel Watkins, review of Marching toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 186l-1865, p. 49; February l4, 1988, Hugh Brogan, review of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, p. 1.

Parameters, winter, 2003, Samuel Watson, review of Crossroads of Freedom, p. 163.

Presidential Studies Quarterly, summer, 1997, Daniel Baracskay, review of For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 612.

Publishers Weekly, January 18, 1991, Joseph Deitch, "James M. McPherson: The Civil War Historian Continues to Find New Material about That Profoundly Influential Conflict," p. 40; March 3, 2003, review of Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg, p. 61.

School Library Journal, March, 1989, Audrey B. Eaglon, "Beautiful Losers," p. 131; October, 2002, Starr E. Smith, review of Fields of Fury: The American Civil War, p. 188; August, 2003, Hugh McAloon, review of Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg, p. 189.

Times Educational Supplement, March 13, 1992, Martin Flagg, review of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, p. 28.


National Endowment for the Humanities, (March 22, 2003), Amy Lifson, "Meet James McPherson."

National Humanities Alliance (NEH) Testimony, (April 18, 1991), "James M. McPherson, 18 April 1991."

Salon, (March 22, 2003), Katherine Whittamore, review of Drawn with the Sword.

World Socialist Web Site, (May 19, l999), David Walsh, "Historian James M. McPherson and the Cause of Intellectual Integrity."*

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