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Friday, July 23, 2010

The Negro's Civil War: How American Blacks Felt and Acted During the War for the Union by James McPherson

James McPherson is the gold standard when it comes to writing Civil War history. In The Negro's Civil War, Mcpherson has compiled a fantastic amount of source material concerning how Blacks felt and acted during the Civil War.

In the forward McPherson notes that there is "a need for a documentary collection that will present all aspects of the Negro's role in the war largely in the Negro's own words...this book is designed to fill that need." McPherson strings together quote after quote from Black newspapers, letters and speeches with relatively sparse commentary in between. There was an unexplained hole in the record and, thankfully, McPherson filled it.

The book addresses 22 topics - from pre-war commentary on Abraham Lincoln to postwar lamentations about the failure of Reconstruction.

James McPherson
My thoughts:

Unfortunately, the very strength of this book (all of the quotes) made it, at times, a tedious read for me. I found the style of the book to be a chore to read. I'll keep this book in my personal collection of Civil War material because as a collection of source material it is unmatched and it would be a fantastic source for anyone writing any history on the Civil War or African American history. As a striaght history of the Civil War it is effective, informative but ultimately a chore to read.

I rate this one 3 stars out of 5 strictly as a readable history.

As a valuable historical resource, 5 out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: The Negro's Civil War by James McPherson.

Reviewed on May 14, 2004.

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