Drawn with the Sword
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Drawn with the Sword : Reflections on the American Civil War

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James M. McPherson is acclaimed as one of the finest historians writing today and a preeminent commentator on the Civil War. Battle Cry of Freedom, his Pulitzer Prize-winning account of that conflict, was a national bestseller that Hugh Brogan, in The New York Times, called "history writing of the highest order." Now, in Drawn With the Sword, McPherson offers a series of thoughtful and engaging essays on some of the most enduring questions of the Civil War, written in the masterful prose that has become his trademark. Filled with fresh interpretations, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Drawn With the Sword explores such questions as why the North won and why the South lost (emphasizing the role of contingency in the Northern victory), whether Southern or Northern aggression began the war, and who really freed the slaves, Abraham Lincoln or the slaves themselves. McPherson offers memorable portraits of the great leaders who people the landscape of the Civil War: Ulysses S. Grant, struggling to write his memoirs with the same courage and determination that marked his successes on the battlefield; Robert E. Lee, a brilliant general and a true gentleman, yet still a product of his time and place; and Abraham Lincoln, the leader and orator whose mythical figure still looms large over our cultural landscape. And McPherson discusses often-ignored issues such as the development of the Civil War into a modern "total war" against both soldiers and civilians, and the international impact of the American Civil War in advancing the cause of republicanism and democracy in countries from Brazil and Cuba to France and England. Of special interest is the final essay, entitled "What's the Matter With History?," a trenchant critique of the field of history today, which McPherson describes here as "more and more about less and less." He writes that professional historians have abandoned narrative history written for the greater audience of educated general readers in favor of impenetrable tomes on minor historical details which serve only to edify other academics, thus leaving the historical education of the general public to films and television programs such as Glory and Ken Burns's PBS documentary The Civil War. Each essay in Drawn With the Sword reveals McPherson's own profound knowledge of the Civil War and of the controversies among historians, presenting all sides in clear and lucid prose and concluding with his own measured and eloquent opinions. Readers will rejoice that McPherson has once again proven by example that history can be both accurate and interesting, informative and well-written. Mark Twain wrote that the Civil War "wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." In Drawn With the Sword, McPherson gracefully and brilliantly illuminates this momentous conflict.
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Product details

  • Paperback | 272 pages
  • 118 x 202 x 24mm | 322.05g
  • New York, United States
  • English
  • Revised ed.
  • 0195117964
  • 9780195117967
  • 1,077,982

Review quote

"McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage"Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen....McPherson is uniformly interesting and, to the general reader's eternal relief, both lucid and uncondescending."--Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post"These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose. Whether he is discussing the persistent appeal of the Civil War, tracing the manner in which a war of limited goals evolved into the first total war, evaluating competing theories on the causes of the Confederate defeat, or explaining the genesis of Ulysses S. Grant's military strategy, Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious....These pieces provide a lively reminder that the best scholarship is also often a pleasure to read."--The New York Times Book Review"McPherson has compiled a series of thoughtful essays on some of the most thought-provoking questions of the Civil War....In these essays the author has proven that history can be accurate, informative, and interesting."--Library Journal"Clear, luminous writing matched by incisive, original thinking makes this collection irresistible to anyone interested in U.S. history."--Booklist"Thoughtful essays on the Civil War by one of its foremost contemporary students....McPherson is successful in explaining why popular interest in the Civil War endures, and indeed why it should endure. Fine historical writing, and required reading for both Civil War buffs and scholars--divided audiences, as McPherson notes."--Kirkus Reviews"A must for all buffs, McPherson's book not only gives us an astute survey and summary of recent work on the Civil War but also many brilliant insights of his own."--C. Vann Woodward, Professor of History, Yale University"A marvelous collection, Drawn With the Sword enhances James McPherson's reputation as a major scholar of the Civil War. Impressive in their range and their incisiveness, these essays illuminate diverse areas of the great American conflict. The writing is clear and forceful; the arguments are always thoughtful, and often compelling. For McPherson there was nothing inevitable about the outcome of the Civil War. The battlefield was central, and individuals did make a difference. Anyone interested in the Civil War should read this book."--William J. Cooper, Jr., Boyd Professor of History, Louisiana State University"James McPherson is the master historian of the Civil War in our time."--Gabor Borritt, Director, Civil War Institute, Gettysburg"These perceptive essays deliver just what readers have come to expect from the pen of our generation's leading Civil War historian. Learned, original, quick to question convention, and written in McPherson's clear and often eloquent prose, they challenge readers to think anew about important issues and personalities associated with the nation's great trauma."--Gary W. Gallagher, Professor of American History, Penn State University"Drawn with the Sword is an assured winner. These are among the finest essays from the pen of one of America's premier historians. Written with verve and chock full of clever ideas and brilliant analysis, this book is certain to inform and impress its readers."--Joseph Glatthaar, Professor of History, University of Houston "McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage"Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen.... McPherson is uniformly interesting and, to the general reader's eternal relief, both lucid and uncondescending."--Jonathan Yardley, The Washington Post"These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose. Whether he is discussing the persistent appeal of the Civil War, tracing the manner in which a war of limited goals evolved into the first total war, evaluating competing theories on the causes of the Confederate defeat, or explaining the genesis of Ulysses S. Grant's military strategy, Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious.... These pieces provide a lively reminder that the best scholarship is also often a pleasure to read."--The New York Times Book Review"McPherson has compiled a series of thoughtful essays on some of the most thought-provoking questions of the Civil War.... In these essays the author has proven that history can be accurate, informative, and interesting."--Library Journal "Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen."--The Washington Post "These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose....Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious."--The New York Times Book Review "McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage "Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen."--The Washington Post"These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose....Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious."--The New York Times Book Review"McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage "Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen."--The Washington Post "These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose....Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious."--The New York Times Book Review "McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage "Not merely is McPherson the leading living historian of the Civil War, but he is a scholar whose knowledge and authority are unsurpassed; when McPherson speaks, even in a minor key, people listen."--The Washington Post"These essays present some very complex ideas in vigorous, succinct prose....Mr. McPherson is exact, convincing, and judicious."--The New York Times Book Review"McPherson takes the latest professional thinking on the war and gives it clear and popular shape."--American Heritage
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About James M. McPherson

James M. McPherson is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor of American History at Princeton University where he has taught since 1962. The author of ten books on the Civil War era of American History, he won the Pulitzer Prize in History in 1989 for Battle Cry of Freedom.
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Rating details

267 ratings
4.03 out of 5 stars
5 32% (86)
4 43% (116)
3 21% (55)
2 3% (9)
1 0% (1)
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