Synopses & Reviews
Even one hundred and fifty years later, we are haunted by the Civil War—by its division, its bloodshed, and perhaps, above all, by its origins. Today, many believe that the war was fought over slavery. This answer satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gary W. Gallagher shows in this brilliant revisionist history, it is an anachronistic judgment.
In a searing analysis of the Civil War North as revealed in contemporary letters, diaries, and documents, Gallagher demonstrates that what motivated the North to go to war and persist in an increasingly bloody effort was primarily preservation of the Union. Devotion to the Union bonded nineteenth-century Americans in the North and West against a slaveholding aristocracy in the South and a Europe that seemed destined for oligarchy. Northerners believed they were fighting to save the republic, and with it the world's best hope for democracy.
Once we understand the centrality of union, we can in turn appreciate the force that made Northern victory possible: the citizen-soldier. Gallagher reveals how the massive volunteer army of the North fought to confirm American exceptionalism by salvaging the Union. Contemporary concerns have distorted the reality of nineteenth-century Americans, who embraced emancipation primarily to punish secessionists and remove slavery as a future threat to union—goals that emerged in the process of war. As Gallagher recovers why and how the Civil War was fought, we gain a more honest understanding of why and how it was won.
"Brimming with insights, eloquent in argument, and filled with new evidence from the men who fought for the Union, this revisionist history will cause readers to rethink many of the now-standard Civil War interpretations. An essential work." ---Library Journal Starred Review
Author Gary W. Gallagher presents a brilliant reinterpretation of the Civil War, arguing that it was the preservation of the Union, rather than abolition of slavery, that motivated the war effort in the North.
About the Author
Gary W. Gallagher is the John L. Nau III Professor of History at the University of Virginia. He is the author of several previous books, including The Confederate War, Lee and His Army in Confederate History, and Causes Won, Lost and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know about the Civil War, and has edited or coauthored many more. The recipient of numerous fellowships, grants, and honors for his research and teaching, Gary received his Ph.D. from the University of Texas at Austin. Mel Foster is a former ad agency executive who used to record test tracks for commercials. An audiobook narrator since 2002, he won an Audie Award for Finding God in Unexpected Places by Philip Yancey and an AudioFile Earphones Award for the novel Match Made in Heaven by Bob Mitchell. Mel is the author of several novels, including Shaking Hands with Lefkowitz, and he hopes that one day listeners will get the opportunity to hear him reading something that he's written himself.