James McPherson: Princeton professor brings perspective to conflict that split nation

Sesquicentennial Update: Civil War at 150

HISTORY PROFILES:

Source: The Times of Trenton, 4-3-11

382998_2_$$ttjame00.JPGPrinceton University History Department Professor Emeritus James McPherson in his home in Princeton, March 2, 2011. (Cie Stroud for The Times)

(Editor’s note: First of three parts.) The occasion may have escaped the notice of most people, but there’s a sesquicentennial going on. That is, a 150th anniversary of — in this case — the Civil War. One hundred and fifty years ago this month Confederate troops fired on a Union-held fort in Charleston, S.C., the opening salvo in a four-year war that would claim 620,000 American soldiers’ lives and end the nation’s legal endorsement of slavery.
Considering that Princeton historian and Pulitzer prize-winning author James McPherson filled over 900 pages of his book “Battle Cry of Freedom” with the history and fallout of the Civil War, it would be folly to draw overly generalized conclusions about it here, even 150 years later. But one thing is certain, particularly for McPherson. The myths surrounding the war persist. One in particular.
“There was a myth that prevailed for a long time as a central theme among especially white southerners that slavery was not the reason that they went to war,” McPherson said during an interview at his Princeton home. “That’s an example of a big myth and it’s still circulating today.
“By this point, 98 percent of historians agree that slavery was the principal reason of the secession. Without slavery there wouldn’t have been a war.
“All one needs to do to see that slavery was the main cause of secession, and therefore of the war that followed, is to read the declarations of secession conventions, speeches to those conventions and newspaper editorials supporting secession,” he added. “They all pointed to the issue of slavery as the reason.”…READ MORE

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1 Comment

  1. Gloria Andersen

     /  April 26, 2011

    Thank you for writing “Tried By War”, a well documented good read about Lincoln and his role as Commander and Chief.

    Reply

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