The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

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I was swept away, feeling as if I had never heard the saga before Omitting nothing important, whether military, political, or economic, he yet manages to make everything he touches drive the narrative forward. This is historical writing of the highest order.

James M. He is the author of many works of history, including Battle Cry of Freedom , which won the Pulitzer Prize. Toggle navigation. New to eBooks. I realize now that I have not given him nearly enough credit. Lincoln was truly a hero. His understanding and appreciation of history helped him in his decisions and policies. I feel that he could see the mistakes of the past and truly did not want to make those same mistakes.

He understood that the events occurring during his time would have a lasting impact on our country. He was trying to insure a "legacy of freedom and democracy for future generations. I memorized this speech in 5th grade-now I have a much better understanding of it. Chapter 12 helped me realize that the war did not end in as I have taught my students. In many regards, the war is still being fought today.

The different ideas concerning reconstruction, the passing and implementation of the 13th,14th, and 15th amendments, the rise of the Ku Klux Klan. The quest for equal treatment for all continues. Deron, I love how you bring up the questions that all of us teachers get weekly if not more often. I try to answer this question and make it meaningful for my students. With the Civil War and Civil Rights and the issues in the news every other week it is easy to illustrate how pertinent and important it is for us today. I loving reading these books and discussing the issues.

I can only help us be better educators and citizens of the world. Daren, It seems the common question asked by most, if not all, students, is "why do we have to learn this? Why does this matter"?

James McPherson: Why the Civil War Still Matters

I honestly think these questions are more easily answered when studying something like the Civil War, because I believe it gets down to the basic concept of "we learn from our mistakes," or "we learn from our experiences. I agree with Faulkner, "The past is not dead; in fact, it is not even the past".

I have repeatedly said in a number of these blogs, that I believe the past always comes back to us. It may be in a different form, but in some way, it always comes back. I agree with you in that we are still fighting the same war, and will continue to fight the same war. I missed the quote in chapter 1 "For better or worse, the flames of Civil War forged the framework of modern America," so thank you for pointing that out.

It speaks volumes of how significant the Civil War was and will continue to be. Like you, it is hard for me to understand why people would fight for things like slavery or genocide, but the fact that they will, means it must matter to them. Such a simple word but used as justification for pretty much everything our government does both past and present. When I saw this I said of course, everyone should have equal rights no matter their race, religion, sexual preference, or any other differences. But the more I talk to family, friends, co-workers, and my students the more I really understood how controversial this simple definition really is.

While I might think all people should have equal rights under the law other people see that as an infringement on their own liberty. So we have to ask ourselves, if we truly want to solve the civil rights problem in this country, is where is the liberty line? Arguments I have heard concerning marriage and immigration is people are concerned that if everyone can get married then it takes away from the sanctity of their marriage, if we allow all immigrants to come in or make it easier then that takes away jobs from Americans.

NO depending on your opinion you can view either of these arguments in a variety of ways but it all goes back to that simple word liberty. It seems to me that if we can better understand that word then we can better understand how to figure out civil rights for our time. I have so much for presidents and the Supreme Court under these circumstances because it seems to be their job to define liberty, and no matter how they choose to do that half the country if not more will disagree especially since the country's attitude seems to change frequently based on popular opinion.

Thank you for your thoughtful response about the difficulty of people reconciling their different beliefs about a word that most people would claim they understand. It is so much more complicated that it would seem. However most people think it is simple from their own viewpoint and this seems to be where the conflict comes in when both sides fight for liberty. These chapters did a good job of helping me to more deeply consider this and how it plays out in my own beliefs.

The word unfettered puts a vision of the slaves shackles in heaps on the ground while those who had felt that cold metal against their skin joyfully skipping away. And laudable worthy of praise pursuit brings to mind the sacrifices that was made by so very many to bring freedom to all and make this country great. Perfect quote. Erin - I also thought that the portion of chapter 1 that Mr. McPherson devoted to the term liberty was really thought provoking.

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

I had never thought of both sides fighting for liberty, so fighting for the same goal, and yet fighting for completely opposing goals. It is always tricky to determine where your liberty ends and mine begins as they may clash. I think this is something that is valuable to teach our students, especially since they have been labeled "the me generation.

Erin, I thought that the idea of positive and negative liberty was fascinating. No matter who gets a new liberty or freedom positive liberty , no matter what there is going to be someone who feels that their liberty or freedoms are taking away negative liberty.


It makes me think of something like the current healthcare debate. The new healthcare program has negative liberty for those who are poorer or don't have as easy of access to healthcare. But it is positive liberty for people to not have to pay more taxes.

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Erin, I agree that liberty is not well understood. We live in a time where the buzz words are rights, rights, rights, and more rights. I am nearing the completion of my sixth decade on this planet, and the more I live the more I am convinced that the secret to obtaining liberty lies not in the receiving and exercising of "rights", but in the exercising of SELF discipline--self discipline in thought, in action, and especially in interaction with those around us. In the cacophony associated with the clamoring factions for civil rights, rarely do we hear the call for self-restraint! And yet, that is exactly what is needed if we--as a society, community, people, neighborhood--are to engage in conversational dialogues which will lead to understanding and peaceable coexistence.

Is that too much to hope for? Martin Luther King, Jr. Erin, I love learning more about things that I think I already know. This book did a great job talking about liberty and giving me a deeper meaning and perspective to its meaning. It has caused me to look inward and think about ways I can give liberty to everyone in my life. It is sometimes hard not to have preconceived notions about people or groups of people. I just wish that liberty did not depend on popular opinion.

Applying this concept to the Civil War is the focus of Chapter 1 about trying to decipher why the Civil War still matters. People are fascinated with the Civil War for many reasons that are fairly easy to discern. From the important historical figures of the war to the catastrophic loss of life it seems easy to understand why people are drawn to the study of this conflict. But the importance of this war goes much deeper than this. The Civil War forced an issue on our country that revolves around the multiple meanings that have been applied to the word liberty and how our country has struggled with reconciling this problem.

This struggle persisted through the hundred years following the Civil War and in some large and small ways still persists today.

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This concept continues to make the Civil War remain important today. Lincoln is one of those people that makes the Civil War still matter for a lot of people. In fact Lincoln so understood the issue that faced the country and the impact it would have on the future that I could finish this essay with just quotes from Lincoln. This idea shows the struggle which our country has been engaged in largely beginning with the Civil War and continuing through today. This again shows me why Lincoln is a figure to which many have focused their attention.

The primary source information in chapter 11 shows that individual soldiers also saw the importance of fighting for the union. As a country called the United States it is obvious why this concept is a lesson for our time. We continue to struggle for this idea today. I of course know the Gettysburg Address but did not consciously make the connection until reading this book today to both of these ideas liberty and democracy in its words.

Even with the surrender of the South at the end of the war it was obvious that the problems fought over would continue to infect our country. Even when we seem to have moved past a conflict it seems that we have only shifted the arena in which the conflict is fought and the weapons that are used. This was the case at the end of the Civil War. That great war was only a part of the large conflict over liberty and democracy that continues to present itself today. So as I consider the lessons for our time brought to light by these chapters I see that the Civil War is important for reasons that can be traced back to the foundations of our country and for reasons that are still concerning today.

As horrible as the Civil War was its importance in bringing these issues to a head and starting our country down the long and winding road towards clearer and more stable liberty and democracy was essential. It is a fatal mistake to hold that this war is over because the fighting has ceased. This war is not over. Civil War books are the most popular among history books.

My husband and I fall right into the statistics.


We have many shelves filled to over flowing with books on the Civil War and Abraham Lincoln. I think that it intrigues so many because of its tragic nature — a country torn apart and on the brink of destroying itself. It could be compared to a wreck on the freeway. We are filled with sorrow as we read the accounts of those who are caught in the throws of the war and hear of the grim statistics of lives lost, but yet we read on, partly because we know how it ends.

While we hope that our country is never divided and faces the violence of the Civil War era, we have seen the ebb and flow of civil rights and have seen the violence that still erupts as forces clash. This was also a very violent time in our history. I thought it was interesting that the centennial remembrances of the civil war are overshadowed by the Civil Rights Movement. I then think of the recent events that culminated in the Black Lives Matter movement and realize that as Mr.

McPherson pointed out that before , the United States was a plural noun, but from on, it has been a singular noun. When the war started it was said that the North was fighting to defend and preserve the Union, but at the end of the war a nation had been created. I think this is powerful as we move forward, we are not singular states bound together in a union, but we are one nation.

McPherson did a great job of getting me to think about the lessons of the Civil War that can still be applied and are very relevant today. Kim, I too feel very anxious when I read the stories in "Voices of Freedom" or I read about current issues where people refuse to see or understand the differences in opinion.

The debate over Black Lives Matter takes on so much more significance when viewed with the eyes of history. It doesn't make one side right or wrong it just gives perspective and allows for understanding. I agree, as I am reading McPherson I'm reminded of how much the Civil War did matter and still profoundly matters today! Kim, I remember hearing somewhere that any understanding of United States history begins with an complete understanding of the Civil War. I believe this to be true and that it also applies to current events like you mentioned with the Black Lives Matter movement.

I totally agree with the quote you mentioned that "Many of the issues over which the Civil War was fought still resonate today. Kim, I like how you emphasized that Lincoln kept the Union together and that our country is one and should be undivided. It is a simple idea, that we should be one and together and unified.

It is simple to see but hard to do in actuality. It is so important for teachers and students to understand the hardships of our past so we can continue to grow stronger in unity as one undivided nation. Blog Post 1 Lessons for our time There are three profound lessons that are learned in these chapters.

I have always pointed out to my students the concept McPherson discusses about the singularity of the United States. This nation was a nation of individual states bound together by necessity after the Revolution. The confederation failed after the Revolution and a federal system was put into place. As Lincoln changed his use of those words, so did the rest of the United States.

Today we still battle over who should be in charge and who has sovereignty. We debate over federal lands, over the election of the President and over issues such as education and marriage—who should make those decisions? The people of a state or the people of a nation?

[The War That Forged a Nation] and [Lincoln's Last Speech] |

To whom does the Bear Ears area in Utah really belong? The Civil War came to head over these same issues and we still have not settled them today. The survival of democracy. To read that Lincoln and much of the world believed that the war was over the very survival of democracy begs the question—did it survive?

The words of the Declaration for some have come to pass, for many around the world the concept is as foreign to them as to the slaves before and during the war and to many in the United States still today. To think that so many lost their lives fighting for the survival of democracy and liberty and yet millions live today without them is disheartening. Should a nation founded on such noble principles have known better? Why did we have to pay so high a price for our sins?

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If the Civil War is was our punishment what have other nations embroiled in Civil War today done to incur the same wrath? Finally, the war. It is not really over. That sentiment continued into the Civil Rights movement and looking at issues throughout the nation for many still continues. I always show that clip to my students and point out that this was nearly years after the end of the Civil War and these men are still fighting a war.

Today, we have to ask ourselves who really won the war? If it was only about the enslavement of African Americans then yes, the war is over and the North did win. LeNina, I have always thought that it would be fascinating to sit in a US History class in a southern state to hear how the Civil War is presented from a southern perspective. I think the may be some in the South who still feel like the reporter in the Emmitt Till clip that the war is not ended. I think the states rights issue with the Civil War and today is often overlooked in history classes.

I'm glad that you point that still current issue out to your classes.

Or even the 14th or 15th I agree that there have been many battles won recently for this same Civil Rights War. There was lots of "rights " awarded to blacks in the 60's with the help the Civil Rights Movement. Just two years ago the supreme court gave more rights allowing gays to get married across the country. I don't know if the war will ever be won.

It gives me hope that we are a country with the ability to change and we have been improving since we started. At its purest essence, history is about connections. Without an ability to connect what we know of history to our present time, then the study of the past would become simply an academic frivolity.

This certainly applies to the Civil War. In reading The War that Forged a Nation I was struck over and over at the ways in which the legacy of the Civil War is still with us today, and the need to impress upon my students the interconnected nature of history. Although all history has bearing on the present, the Civil War seems to feel more immediate than many other events.

Perhaps the reason for this is the large impact the Civil War has had on the nature of our nation. As McPherson points out, the Civil War is largely responsible for turning the United States into a single unified nation, as opposed to a plurality of independent states. It also propelled the northern US into the industrial age, and did away with a generations-old system of agriculture in the south. In my opinion, though, the most important legacy of the Civil War is the seeds of the Civil Rights movement contained within the Reconstruction amendments.

Without the Fourteenth Amendment and its guarantee of equal protection under the law, there would be no Brown v the Board of Education, no desegregation, no March of Washington, no Selma. The legacy of the Civil War is complex and messy, mired in death, assassination, political backsliding, and Jim Crow; the issues raised by the war continue to be timely and largely unresolved.

Andrew - I agree that all history has impact on the present, some events have more impact than others. We all know — or think we know — the major questions the Civil War settled. It answered, definitively, the question of secession. It answered the question of slavery: The United States would no longer exist as half slave and half free.

And it also began to redefine the relationship of citizens to their government. As McPherson points out, the first 12 amendments to the U. The next 15 amendments, beginning with the Civil War Amendments, basically stated what the government should do. Reaching this point was neither quick nor painless. McPherson examines closely the diplomatic, military and political constraints under which the Civil War was fought.

He reviews why it was essential that the European powers remained neutral, and the diplomacy and espionage undertaken to ensure this was the case. He identifies the profound military challenges the Union faced. George McClellan , the commander of the Army of the Potomac. In an interesting footnote, McClellan was elected to be the first president of the University of California in The news was met with shocked and widespread protest throughout California, and McClellan ultimately declined the presidency.

The path of political leadership was a rocky one for him, with notable low points, among them his recommendation to a group of blacks in that he would offer government assistance to any blacks who volunteered to emigrate to Haiti.

The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters
The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters

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