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The search for truth is in one way hard and in another way easy, for it is evident that no one can master it fully or miss it wholly. But each adds a little to our knowledge and from all the facts assembled there arises a certain grandeur… Aristotle

Yet, if God wills that (this war) continue, until all the wealth piled by the bondman’s two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn with the lash, shall be repaid by another drawn with the sword… Abraham Lincoln

And thereby the problem with rhetoric that has descended into bombast and demagoguery lies. To pretend – as some still do – that everything of value in the American States was the product of two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil [when the nation was only 87 years old?] is as foolish as telling people that they didn’t build their businesses.

To assume that you are doing God’s will in a political office is something that we now excoriate as the province of ayatollahs, mullahs and fanatics.

To choose words from the speech to title your book betrays a fatal bias…

Drawn with the sword : reflections on the American Civil War New York : Oxford University Press, 1996 James M. McPherson United States History Civil War, 1861-1865 Hardcover. 1st. ed. and printing. xiv, 258 p. ; 22 cm. Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text.  VG/VG

In Drawn With the Sword, McPherson offers a series of essays on some of the most enduring questions of the Civil War. He explores such questions as why the North won and why the South lost (emphasizing the role of contingency in the Northern victory), whether Southern or Northern aggression began the war, and who really freed the slaves, Abraham Lincoln or the slaves themselves.

McPherson offers memorable portraits of the great leaders who people the landscape of the Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant, struggling to write his memoirs with the same courage and determination that marked his successes on the battlefield; Robert E. Lee, a brilliant general and a true gentleman; and Abraham Lincoln, the leader and orator whose mythical figure still looms large over our cultural landscape.

McPherson discusses often-ignored issues such as the development of the Civil War into a modern “total war” against both soldiers and civilians, and the international impact of the American Civil War in advancing the cause of republicanism and democracy in countries from Brazil and Cuba to France and England.

Ironically the final essay, entitled “What’s the Matter With History?”, a critique of the field of history today which McPherson describes as “more and more about less and less.” He writes that professional historians have abandoned narrative history written for the greater audience of educated general readers in favor of impenetrable tomes on minor historical details which serve only to edify other academics, thus leaving the historical education of the general public to films and television programs such as Glory and Ken Burns’s PBS documentary The Civil War. The irony of course is that his was the principal work consulted by Burns.

Mark Twain wrote that the Civil War “wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations.” In Drawn With the Sword, McPherson offers the penultimate of contemporary northern apologetics to complement his previous exegeces on the topic. We are five generations removed from the war and although some historians are beginning to demythologize Lincoln and his cadre just as many – if not more – are perpetuating the lies that caused the war and destroyed the Republic.


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