The Battle Cry of Freedom:

A condensed history of the Civil War

Published July 6, 2021: This is part of my (admittedly sporadic) series of book reviews as I continue to try and increase the amount of offline reading that I do.
I have owned this book since it was published over 20 years ago. Back then, I fancied myself a scholar and great reader, and so joined a book of the month club. This book was one of the books recommended.

Earlier this year, I picked it up after finishing (finally) Volume I of the Shelby Foote (definitely not condensed) history of the Civil War. That series was purchased as a result of Ken Burns' Civil War series, but again I bought it, but didn't read it. However, my thoughts on that book/series will be a separate entry. I picked up the The Battle Cry of Freedom from my bookshelf after so many years because it was mentioned in a piece online that I was reading. It was highly praised, and that jogged my memory that I had the book. So I began reading.

My offline business doesn't leave me much time to read (or write, hence the sorry publishing schedule here) so it took months to get through the book. I don't think a detailed review of the book is a worthy use of my time because it was published so long ago, and has already won numerous awards. It's a good book. It's a narrative telling of the Civil War and the events that led up to it. It took almost a third of the book to even get to the war, thus it was plain that it wasn't going to present an exhaustive catalogue of the battles or commanders.

It, obviously, hit all the main points, and for anyone who's watched the Ken Burns documentary or read Shelby Foote, some of he quotes will be familiar (though perhaps the same quotes are used in most Civil War accounts, I haven't read that many to know. The narrative approach to history makes it approachable, and fits all the pieces together neatly into that narrative. I think because I've read the first third of the Foote history and watched the Burns documentary meant I noticed where the author had to short cut the telling.

I did like that he focused on US Grant and the success of his campaign. Perhaps this book is where Grant's rehabilitation began? I also liked that he focused on the Union calvary and how good and successful it was. Burns focused (and since Foote was a big source for him perhaps he continue to as well into the latter stages of the war) on the southern calvary, especially the so-called brilliance of Nathan Bedford Forrest. The fact that Forrest is well known and the Union calvary officers are not (despite doing the same exploits in ENEMY territory that Forres did in FRIENDLY territory) is a crime.

This is a long book that is part of a series of books that covered the era before during and after the Civil War. It stops at Lincoln's funeral and doesn't cover the reconstruction period at all. That is left to subsequent books. Not sure why so much of the pre-war period had to be included in the book, however, as this is the only book of the series I own, perhaps it's just as well as the causes of the war (first and foremost SLAVERY) were discussed.

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