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The principle for which we contend is bound to reassert itself, though it may be at another time and in another form… Jefferson Davis


This book perpetuates all of the flaws of the usual arguments about the American Civil War assuming that it somehow started at Sumter – or ended at Appomattox. The war came as part of what was perceived to be an essential reordering of the American state – the first triumph of a central government and a central economy to facilitate the westward expansion. While this book does a fine job of examining the public charade that led up to the war it ignores the issues of immigration – and the changes that wrought on the electorate – and the railroads and their ability to buy politicians wholesale. This is like reading a post World War II history that ignores the military industrial complex – the sociology of public opinion may be interesting but the relationship between that and causality is scant.


Why the Civil War came  edited by Gabor S. Boritt ; essays by David W. Blight … [et al.]  New York : Oxford University Press, 1996  Hardcover. 1st ed. and printing. xvii, 253 p. ; 22 cm. Includes bibliographical references (p. [239]-253). Clean, tight and strong binding with clean dust jacket. No highlighting, underlining or marginalia in text. VG/VG


In the early morning of April 12, 1861, Captain George S. James ordered the bombardment of Fort Sumter, beginning a war that would last four horrific years and claim a staggering number of lives. Since that fateful day, the debate over the causes of the American Civil War has never ceased.


What events were instrumental in bringing it about? How did individuals and institutions function? What did Northerners and Southerners believe in the decades of strife preceding the war? What steps did they take to avoid war? Indeed, was the great armed conflict avoidable at all?


Why the Civil War Came brings a chorus of voices together to recapture the feel of a very different time and place, helping the reader to grasp more fully the commencement of our bloodiest war. From William W. Freehling’s discussion of the peculiarities of North American slavery to Charles Royster’s disturbing piece on the combatants’ savage readiness to fight, the contributors bring to life the climate of a country on the brink of disaster.


Mark Summers, for instance, depicts the tragically jubilant first weeks of Northern recruitment, when Americans on both sides were as yet unaware of the hellish slaughter that awaited them. Glenna Matthews underscores the important war-catalyzing role played by extraordinary public women, who proved that neither side of the Mason-Dixon line was as patriarchal as is thought. Gabor Boritt examines the struggle’s central figure, Lincoln himself, illuminating in the years leading up to the war a blindness on the future president’s part, an unwillingness to confront the looming calamity that was about to smash the nation asunder.


William E. Gienapp notes perhaps the most unsettling fact about the Civil War, that democratic institutions could not resolve the slavery issue without resorting to violence on an epic scale. With gripping detail, Why the Civil War Came takes readers back to a country fraught with bitterness, confusion, and hatred – a country ripe for a war of unprecedented bloodshed – to show why democracy failed, and violence reigned.




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