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The statutes of the Lord are right, rejoicing the heart: the commandment of the Lord is pure, enlightening the eyes. The fear of the Lord is clean, enduring for ever: the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether. More to be desired are they than gold, yea, than much fine gold: sweeter also than honey and the honeycomb… Psalm 19

This mighty scourge : perspectives on the Civil War      James M. McPherson  United States , History , Civil War, 1861-1865  Oxford ; New York : Oxford University Press, 2007 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xii, 260 p. ; 24 cm.  Includes bibliographical references (p. 223-251) and index. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG   

In this collection of provocative essays McPherson offers his speculations on many of the most enduring questions about one of the defining moments in our nation’s history. The fact that he is unwilling to consider that it was a war of northern aggression as well as a War for Southern Independence proves that this well is poisoned before you take your first sip.

Since the title is taken from Lincoln’s second inaugural and reads, “Fondly do we hope, fervently do we pray, that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said ‘the judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether’,” the context of a delusional jeremiad by a megalomaniac should tell the observant reader where the author’s sympathies lie – and lie they do!

McPherson discusses topics large and small, from the average soldier’s avid love of newspapers to the postwar creation of the mystique of a Lost Cause in the South. Readers will find pieces on such figures as Harriet Tubman, John Brown, Jesse James, and William Tecumseh Sherman, and on such vital issues such as Confederate military strategy, the failure of peace negotiations to end the war, and the realities and myths of the Confederacy – at least those that make it seem like the slave power aggressor.

This Mighty Scourge includes several never-before-published essays – pieces on General Robert E. Lee‘s goals in the Gettysburg campaign, on Lincoln and Grant in the Vicksburg campaign, and on Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief. In that capacity, in which he failed miserably only to be rescued to butchers like Grant and Sherman, Lincoln invented the concept of presidential war powers out of whole cloth while rewriting the Constitution.

All of the essays have been revised, according to the publisher, “to give the volume greater thematic coherence and continuity, so that it can be read in sequence as an interpretive history of the war and its meaning for America and the world,” but in reality it is simply to mesh with currently politically correct speculations. Just like the writers at Minitrue in 1984 yesterday’s truth, or any inconvenient facts, are consigned to the incinerator while book burning is attributed as one of the major vices of the other side.

Publishing on demand has reduced modern historical writing to a par with journalism and this book is no exception. Probably written in search of another lucrative PBS contract, combining northern apologetics with anemic prose, and packed with the newest revisionist ideas, this book brings together the most recent conjectures by the north’s leading troubadour on the war. It may be read by those interested in the war and American history although for those interested in accuracy it will require several very large grains of sand.

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