From 1861 to 1865, the United States fought a war over the right of secession, as eleven states wanted to separate from the Union. The causes for the war, and the reasons for its outcome, remain topic for debate over a hundred years later. And Americans continue to celebrate a holiday that was originally designed to honor the approximately 620,000 soldiers who died during the action: Memorial Day, which was founded in 1868. In honor of Memorial Day, we at Questia are offering five free resources for top research topics on Civil War facts. You can also find even more resources on Civil War topics, including specific battles like the Battle of Gettysburg or topics like African-American Soldiers in the Civil War, in our Civil War library.
Author: James M. McPherson
One of America’s preeminent historians on the American Civil War, Pulitzer Prize winner McPherson compiles a number of his essays, several previously unpublished and all updated and revised, in this 2007 collection. Dealing with everyday topics, such as the love soldiers had for newspapers, to larger topics, such as the creation of the Lost Cause mystique in the postwar South, McPherson provides an interpretive history of the war and its meaning for America. McPherson spotlights famous figures including Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Jesse James and William Tecumseh Sherman, and offers new insights into General Robert E. Lee’s goals in the Gettysburg Campaign, Lincoln and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, and Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief.
Editor: Gabor S. Boritt
The reasons for the Civil War — and why events led to such an outbreak of violence rather than a strictly diplomatic resolution — have been hotly debated since the beginning of the war in 1861. In this 1996 collection, editor Boritt compiles essays by a number of historians who offer insight into some of the reasons behind the war and its outcomes. William W. Freehling discusses the peculiarities of North American slavery; Charles Royster reveals the combatants’ savage readiness to fight; Glenna Matthews focuses on the war-catalyzing role played by extraordinary public women; and David Blight reveals an African-American world that “knew what time it was,” and welcomed war. These authors and others, including Boritt, create a picture of an America on the brink of disaster, when democracy failed and violence reigned.
Author: James A. Rawley
The Union came into the Civil War with distinct advantages: a complex industrial economy, an already formed and stable government, and a modern railroad system among them. But despite those strengths, a win was never guaranteed, and Rawley looks at seven turning points during the U.S. Civil War — junctures in history when force and counterforce met with such intensity that the outcome could go against the expected course of development. In this 1989 work, Rawley argues that there were a number of times during the war when, even with its advantages, the Union might have “snatched defeat from the jaws of victory.”
Freedom, Union, and Power: Lincoln and His Party during the Civil War
Author: Michael S. Green
In this 2004 history, Green analyzes the beliefs of the Republican Party during the Civil War, how those beliefs changed, and what those changes foreshadowed for the future. With Lincoln’s election, Republicans faced something new: responsibility for the government. With responsibility came the need to wage war for the survival of that government, the country and the party. And with victory in the war came responsibility for saving the Union by ending slavery — and for pursuing policies that fit their belief in a strong, free Union. Green shows how Republicans wielded federal power to stop a rebellion while maintaining their hold on that power — the intersection of policy and politics.
Author: Gary W. Gallagher
Despite the wealth of books published on the Civil War, most Americans rely on Hollywood — movies, television and other popular media — for their ideas on why the war was fought. Gallagher investigates how popular culture has portrayed the U.S. Civil War in recent film and art, and how the media’s representations of the Civil War are impacted by the social, political and racial currents of their times. In this 2008 work, Gallagher posits that an understanding of the war is hampered by the four traditional of views on the Civil War that continue to be perpetuated today: the Lost Cause, in which Confederates are seen as having waged an admirable struggle against hopeless odds; the Union Cause, which frames the war as an effort to maintain a viable republic in the face of secessionist actions; the Emancipation Cause, in which the war is viewed as a struggle to liberate 4 million slaves and eliminate a cancerous influence on American society; and the Reconciliation Cause, which represents attempts by northern and southern whites to extol “American” virtues and mute the role of African Americans. Gallagher tracks how the media has swung from the Lost Cause to a predominantly Emancipation view, and looks at how popular entertainment impacts the opinions formed on current matters of debate.
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