Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson is an authoritative book on The Civil War between the years of 1861-1865. It is in fact one of the books listed in the Oxford History of the United States. I really felt that we are living in a politically unstable period and that the upcoming 2020 election not just for the POTUS but for all local legislature is one of the most important one I will be participating in so far. With such a divided nation, I believed it was a good idea to take a step back to learn about how it was formed and basically how was it different during its founding days up to this point. To be more precise, I wanted to learn about just how exactly did the slavery issue became such a problem as to tear the nation apart to the point where 600,000+ people have lost their lives to defend what they thought was just. Although I had no prior knowledge of the Confederacy, I do know how their flag looks like and have heard of famous battle generals during that time. So why are people a century a more later still waving this flag around with pride? Are these people wishing for slavery to be renewed or are they representing something else entirely? Are these people racists? Why are the statues of these famous Confederate generals being torn down en-mass throughout the south?
“There are only two sides to the question. Every man must be for the United States or against it. There can be no neutrals in this war, only patriots–or traitors.” – Stephen Douglas
Battle Cry of Freedom is massive and encompasses all the major events and skirmishes of the civil war as well as what lead up to this monumental moment of American history. Prior to chapter 6 or so, you could really feel the tension building up in regards to the slavery problem/question. I’m ashamed to have learned so much things about our Constitution that I think everyone ought to have known prior. The actual permission of slavery in states below a certain lattitude was shocking to me. Yes, I knew it was the southern states but again, many things were new to me and not taught during my high school days. It just felt inevitable that the free states of the North which did away with slavery would clash with the south. It was impossible to be a whole nation when an issue such as this was so divided between the two and this is why reading this book and learning about the events is so interesting because at that time, it technically wasn’t really an “issue”. Certain events happened and slowly but surely, things came to a standstill. Neither party would budge an inch.
Of the many important figures mentioned in the book that played a role in this war, none other than Abraham Lincoln stole the show. It made me realize once again how little I knew about our nation’s history. Yes, I know he is on the Lincoln Memorial but little did I know of what he actually did in the civil war that changed our very nation. This book highlights how if it wasn’t for his contributions, we might very well be living in a completely different world today. Who could tell what would have happened if the Confederacy actually won? Would future major events around the world have happened the way it did or would it have altered? The book obviously highlights how journalists can have such a huge influence on public opinions and all that really mattered was battlefield success. It also highlights how oratory skills of politicians are so crucial. It was important during the Roman empire and Hitler’s reign and it was no different here.
“I have no heart in this war if the slaves cannot be free.” – Wisconsin private
In regards to the actual civil war events itself, its hard to fathom how numb I got while reading. When losing 2000 lives in a fight was actually considered a positive, it highlights just how awful and brutal war can be. There are many battles that took place throughout the years of the war and majority of them revolve around the same theme of either army trying to outflank the other or winning the fight through superiority in numbers alone. This can get really tiring to read after a while but when you don’t have airplanes or tanks, the soldiers of those times were limited in what they can accomplish. The amount of work the author must have poured over each battle not to mention putting this book together must have been one huge task because of so much happening. I did wish that the author spent just a bit more time in regards to Lincoln’s assassination at the end of the war. It was treated almost as an afterthought.
“Those who deny freedom to others deserve it not for themselves.” – Abraham Lincoln
Battle Cry of Freedom is definitely an eye opener. It helped me at least understand a bit more on why things stand as it is today. Although I live in a state that is one of the last to be admitted into the United States of America and therefore is fairly “new” to the nation, this book helped me understand how it was literally won with blood so long ago. Yes, I know that not everything the nation did during its beginning days were positive but I’ll leave that to another book to explain in detail. As the author states, freedom and liberty can have different meanings to different people. Are you ready to go to war to fight for what you believe is for your freedom if threatened? Although Battle Cry of Freedom is an excellent read, I believe it will just be too much for the majority of readers especially during current times when people can be easily distracted. I do hope that people do spend at least some of their time to look up what the civil war was about and how even after all the time that has past since it ended, we can still be affected by it.