The book What they fought for by James McPherson talks about the motivations that influenced the soldiers who fought the Civil War. This book was curved from letters sent by the soldiers to their parents and friends, and also the lectures given by the author at the university. The book has various ideologies and themes, but this paper seeks to find out the effectiveness of the book to the general audience, that is if the author was able to meet the needs of the readers.
To begin with, James McPherson was active in his writing because he was able to explore a fascinating thesis. His argument stated that soldiers, both north and south, fought to a considerable extent for ideology, and not solely as brothers in arms with the troops, for ideals of manhood, for the notions of honour and duty.. among others. He achieved this by going through all the letters and diaries that the soldiers wrote. In the introduction, the author talks of the various motivators, but also notes that his thesis is a combination of other perspectives and that most soldiers had no idea of what they were fighting. Through the letters and diaries, he is also able to bring out some of the causes that the soldiers were fighting for, that is independence, liberty and to preserve the declaration of independence that the founding fathers defended. It was a good read because the author was useful in helping the reader understand what the soldiers in grey and blue defended. The author is also able to explain his thesis in a brief and precise manner which is an exciting effort on his part.
According to the letters and diaries of the soldier, the goals of fighting in the war were to fight for liberty and independence. The last chapter also talks about the only way to end the Civil War, which is by putting an end to slavery. I understand but disagree with the premise of the book that soldiers fight for liberty and independence. That is because, in my beliefs, the soldiers are dependent on each other, and often fight to save their skin. Though this was the case for other world wars, the author alleges that this was not the case during the Civil War. He can explain his thesis that the soldiers were fighting for a given course which they believed in, in their struggles.
The author uses the powerful style of writing in a moving way to address the issues in his thesis. It is arguably true that the writer starts his research with a supposition already in mind. The author uses the evidence he has, to show the reasons why soldiers fought in the civil war while disregarding the evidence that did not identify such reasons. Realistically, most authors start with a thesis in mind, but they live the possibility of discarding it as the research progresses. In my opinion, the writing style was not effective in that the thesis got supervised, and therefore the author should revisit the research from the beginning.
The format used to write the book was easy to read, and this was also made efficient by the fact that the book was a short read. The topic was exciting, and the author gives an excellent introduction as to why the soldiers fight. The book is impeccable because the author uses the actual feelings of the soldiers regarding the war which makes it interesting. The fact that the evidence used for the research is not from publications, but through letters to friends and family makes it a good read.
The principal source of information used in this book is the primary sources, which are letters and diaries. Though the writer relies mostly on the main sources, he also uses secondary sources such as lectures the author had done concerning the topic. The choice of primary sources makes the account of events believable in that the readers can connect with the feeling and firsthand thoughts of the soldiers. These sources, in my opinion, make the book stronger. On the other hand, I believe that the book is biased because the author starts the research with a conclusion. His ideology is that during the Civil War, the soldiers knew why they were fighting the war. Therefore, he rejects the assertions made by other historians that the soldiers had no idea why they were fighting.
The author maintains that the men in blue and grey had an awareness of the issues before hand which they were deeply concerned. His argument is that those recruited as soldiers in the army were knowledgeable about the politics of independence and liberty. In reviewing the thesis, the author uses primary sources of data, which is the use of uncensored diaries and letters written by the soldiers to their friends and relatives. These sources were biased because the diaries and letters were from the slaveholders, those in actual combat and those recruited early in the war. The union sample that got used in the research included soldiers that were literate, educated and those that had political awareness. Such people were considered more patriotic and expressed their beliefs of honour and duty to their country. Their sentiments were powerful, and this made the reasons cited by the author to be biased.
In summary, the book is powerful in explaining the historical views of soldiers during the Civil War, in that it reminds people the reasons why the solders died in the name of their ideologies. This is a good read especially for the young people as it encourages them to take up the struggle against issues such as capitalism by exuding the determination and self-sacrifice set by the soldiers who fought during the Civil War.
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