"We are of opinion that instead of letting books grow moldy behind an iron grating, far from the vulgar gaze, it is better to let them wear out by being read." - Jules Verne
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Sunday, February 6, 2011

Fields of Fury: The American Civil War by James McPherson

A great introduction to the Civil War by a first-rate historian

James McPherson
Pulitzer Prize winner James McPherson's foray into children's literature, Fields of Fury: The American Civil War is a beautiful, well-written book that fits the bill perfectly.

McPherson briefly covers all aspects of the conflict, from "Bleeding Kansas" to the difficulties in Reconstruction. As a Civil War buff (I have over 75 books and have read dozens more) I can think of no main topic he did not touch upon. In fact, I added a few stories to my repertoire for my classes.

Most topics are covered with a two page spread - text on the even pages and a full page photo, map or painting spread on the facing page. Also, with every topic there is a "Quick Facts" section.

A famous photo of an escaped
slave named Gordon. This is one
tough images I mention in the
review. The picture is entitled
"The Scourged Back"
McPherson's descriptions of the personalities, the battles and the general strategies of the war are first-rate. He also touches on such topics as how the war was financed, the role of women in the war, the difficulties faced at home by the families of the soldiers.

 The publisher recommends this book for 4th to 8th graders. I would have to say 5th-8th graders. There are some graphic images of the war, including famous, but still arresting, photos of African Americans digging up buried soldiers (with 6 skulls and a leg still wearing a boot and pants on a litter) for re-burial and a photo of an escaped slave showing his heavily scarred back courtesy of repeated whippings from his owner. Also, the text about the Battle of Shiloh mentions an eyewitness account of a man who was leaning against a tree with his bloated intestines piled up in his lap. I'm not against children learning the awful truth of war and slavery but I'd wait one more year before introducing those images to kids.

I rate this book 5 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Fields of Fury: The American Civil War

Reviewed on June 16, 2009.


  1. We will use this book for our museum education, school and family programs at Strawbery Banke Museum in Portsmouth, NH, as we explore Civil War at 150. Thank you for this!

  2. I'm glad you found the review helpful. McPherson is always a good bet.