Read 1/31/20 – 2/4/20
The Battle Cry of Freedom is a nonfiction book by James M. McPherson. Coming in at just under 900 pages, it is a massive, one volume outline of the Civil War. The book was fascinating, engaging, and unbelievably informative. I recognize how easy it is to approach this book with a little bit of trepidation. Even ignoring the size, this Pulitzer Prize winner is the 6th in the Oxford History of the United States, and it isn’t hard to imagine all the ways this kind of story could be told in a dull and disengaged manner. McPherson earns the praise, however, as this is amazingly structured and written book.
For me, the biggest flaw was focus on the finer battles throughout the war, but this is a narrative of the Civil War. It is only reasonable that as a piece of the story. I still loved the book because so much time is taken to explore the societal and political changes that lead to the war. Then, he kept the narrative grounded by tying the battles to the greater picture at large. The result is a complete picture of the United States at that time and an depth analysis of the time.
I talk about the details in my Vlog (see above), but I do want to summarize it here. I choose read this book after buying it maybe five years ago when the confederate flag (and monuments) was such a major issue (at least in the south) in the news. As a Georgian, I have always felt I have an obligation to truly understand, remember, and appreciate the past for how it is. It is a common argument from many southerners that honoring the confederacy, its soldiers, and its flag is about heritage and states rights, not slavery.
One doesn’t have to be a historian to figure out that is revisionist history. Nevertheless, I wanted to able to speak on the subject with a more complete background on the topic. The size and content has kept me from reading it, until now, and I am really glad I did because it makes so very clear how the confederacy was entirely about slavery and white supremacy. Hence, we have sects of white supremacy that has pushed to survive since, like a bacteria trying to fight against the antibiotics.
I read this, and made the blog, as a way of reaching out to fellow southerners in hopes of communicating the harm they do when honoring the confederacy. The ways in which racism persists can be subtle, and it requires conscious effort by us to overcome. I read a fascinating article by Toni Morrison briefly after the election of Donald Trump about how white supremacy fueled his election that really illustrates how past racial biases can persist so strongly still today.
I can’t stress enough how impact this book was on me or how important it is that you read it as well. We have to remember history and learn from it. I can’t wait to check out the other books in the Oxford History Series, and I hope you consider checking this one out too (the audiobook was great!).
Rating Break Down
Writing Style (7%): 8/10
Content (15%): 10/10
Structure (15%): 9/10
Summary (1%): 8/10
Engagement (5%): 9/10
Enjoyment (25%): 8/10
Comprehension (20%): 8/10
Pacing (2%): 9/10
Desire to Reread (5%): 8/10
Special (5%): 10/10
Calculated Rating: 4.31/5
Final Rating: 4.50/5
Note, each rating is weighted based on personal importance to calculate a final score that is rounded to the nearest half.