"For Cause and Comrades; Why Men Fought in The Civil War" by James McPherson

Bartow93

Cadet
Joined
Nov 5, 2020
Good Afternoon All,

Recently, I used Audible to "read" this work, and was AMAZED that there is not yet a thread on it nor is there a large awareness of it. McPherson goes into a detailed, statistically backed, primary-source study of the WBTS from perspective of both North an South. He foregoes modernism and modern political ideologies, editorializing only when reflecting on his research process or clarifying the circumstances of the respective Soldier, Sailor, or Marines' writing (for example, after a battle).

McPherson establishes the causes of the men as told in their own words in a methodical way that transcends class, economic status, rank, or branch of service. He addresses the issue of Slavery as a cause particularly well, and objectively, offering quite a bit of beneficial- albeit, politically incorrect- information. His work does not pander to the anti-lost cause foolishness, no does it support the moral high ground both sides feel entitled to. Hs work is beyond invaluable to the objective historian.


What are your thoughts?

Nick C.
 

unicornforge

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 14, 2007
Location
Near Gettysburg, PA
I prefer to read autobiographies where people describe their experiences and reasons for participating.

Time Life Books reprinted a bunch of autobiographies of soldiers and civilians who lived through the War of the Rebellion. They provide insight into life, politics, and details that I have not seen elsewhere.

Such as:

Hardtack and Coffee, or The Unwritten Story of Army Life (Collector's Library of the Civil War) – January, 1983 By John D Billings (Author), Charles W. Reed (Author)

Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Leather Bound – October, 1982 by Carlton McCarthy (Author)

The Citizen-Soldier; Or, Memoirs of a Volunteer (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Hardcover – March, 1983 by John Beatty (Author)

Mosby's Rangers (Collector's Library of the Civil War) reprinted January, 1983
byJames Joseph Williamson (Author)

Four Years in the Saddle: 1861~1865 (Abridged, Annotated)Paperback – November 11, 2016
by Author Harry Gilmor (Author)

Campaigning with Grant (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Leather Bound – 1985
By General Horace Porter (Author)

If you wish to know the infighting, politics, profiteering and self-sabotaging by the leaders and business folks and selling access to spys in Richmond I suggest reading:

- A Rebel War Clerk's Diary-Vol I Hardcover – January 1, 1982 By John B. Jones (Author)

- A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital: Vol 2 (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Hardcover – January, 1983 by John B. Jones (Author)

For even further background on why some people make parallels to the Revolutionary War,

I humbly suggest reading the book, “1775: A Good Year for Revolution”, 1st (first) Edition by Phillips, Kevin [2012]
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BXUCBG2/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

Another good book on the Revolutionary Was is:

A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 2010
by Joseph Plumb Martin (Author), Thomas Fleming (Introduction), William Chad Stanley (Afterword)

Light-Horse Harry Lee: The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary Hero - The Tragic Life of Robert E. Lee's Father by Ryan Cole | Jan 15, 2019
 

Bartow93

Cadet
Joined
Nov 5, 2020
I prefer to read autobiographies where people describe their experiences and reasons for participating.

Time Life Books reprinted a bunch of autobiographies of soldiers and civilians who lived through the War of the Rebellion. They provide insight into life, politics, and details that I have not seen elsewhere.

Such as:

Hardtack and Coffee, or The Unwritten Story of Army Life (Collector's Library of the Civil War) – January, 1983 By John D Billings (Author), Charles W. Reed (Author)

Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Leather Bound – October, 1982 by Carlton McCarthy (Author)

The Citizen-Soldier; Or, Memoirs of a Volunteer (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Hardcover – March, 1983 by John Beatty (Author)

Mosby's Rangers (Collector's Library of the Civil War) reprinted January, 1983
byJames Joseph Williamson (Author)

Four Years in the Saddle: 1861~1865 (Abridged, Annotated)Paperback – November 11, 2016
by Author Harry Gilmor (Author)

Campaigning with Grant (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Leather Bound – 1985
By General Horace Porter (Author)

If you wish to know the infighting, politics, profiteering and self-sabotaging by the leaders and business folks and selling access to spys in Richmond I suggest reading:

- A Rebel War Clerk's Diary-Vol I Hardcover – January 1, 1982 By John B. Jones (Author)

- A Rebel War Clerk's Diary at the Confederate States Capital: Vol 2 (Collector's Library of the Civil War) Hardcover – January, 1983 by John B. Jones (Author)

For even further background on why some people make parallels to the Revolutionary War,

I humbly suggest reading the book, “1775: A Good Year for Revolution”, 1st (first) Edition by Phillips, Kevin [2012]
https://www.amazon.com/dp/B00BXUCBG2/?tag=civilwartalkc-20

Another good book on the Revolutionary Was is:

A Narrative of a Revolutionary Soldier: Some Adventures, Dangers, and Sufferings of Joseph Plumb Martin (Signet Classics) Mass Market Paperback – June 1, 2010
by Joseph Plumb Martin (Author), Thomas Fleming (Introduction), William Chad Stanley (Afterword)

Light-Horse Harry Lee: The Rise and Fall of a Revolutionary Hero - The Tragic Life of Robert E. Lee's Father by Ryan Cole | Jan 15, 2019
Sam Watkins' CO. Aytch is, in my opinion, the best :smile:
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Even if it's not someone's personal favorite, For Cause and Comrades should be in everyone's top five list for better understanding the overall American Civil War. There are memoirs and other books of greater depth, but as a broad study it can't be beat.

It was assigned reading for a Military History class I took two decades ago and a Civil War class I took a decade ago, both with good reason.

That said, I actually didn't much care for it the first time around. I "got it" much better the second go round.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
It seems that you were unaware that McPherson is widely recognized as one of the best Civil War historians ever.

He has authored many excellent books. I don't follow the year-to-year statistics, but McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom has often been the most popular text for college and university courses on Civil War-era history. He has dominated a whole generation of thinking about the War.
 
Last edited:

rpkennedy

Lt. Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
May 18, 2011
Location
Carlisle, PA
It seems that you were unaware that McPherson is widely recognized as one of the best Civil War historians ever.

He has authored many excellent books. I don't follow the year-to-year statistics, but McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom has often been the most popular text for college and university courses on Civil War-era history. He has dominated a whole generation of thinking about the War.
It's probably the best one-volume book on the war as a whole.

Ryan
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Rereading my Goodreads review, one point about this book in particular stands out: the American Civil War was pre-cynicism.

Americans, North and South, mostly viewed the conflict with as much, perhaps more, sincere interest that Americans did WW2.

For everyone alive today, the events of the 1960s permanently altered society's perception of our wars and our government. We have trouble understanding the motivations of those in the 1860s because we can no longer see the world way they did.
 

Paul Yancey

Corporal
Joined
Jan 13, 2019
Location
Kentucky
Just finished reading this book. Provides good insight into the motivations that compelled men to fight and the factors that sustained them through the many hardships they endured. Patriotism, honor, and a sense of duty ranked high on both sides. Highly recommend.
 

Bruce Vail

1st Lieutenant
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
What does McPherson have to say about coercion as a reason that men fought the Civil War? I'm curious because it is my pet theory that coercion was a more important factor than most historians credit.
 

Similar threads

Top