James McPherson: Biography and Book Analysis

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Was the author effective?

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The author, James McPherson was effective in his writing because he was able to explore a very interesting thesis; 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 honor and duty.. among others. He achieved this through 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 for. 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 fought for. This is a good read because the author was effective in helping the reader understand what the soldiers in grey and blue fought for. The author is also able to explain his thesis in a brief and precise manner which is an interesting effort on his part.

Do you understand and accept the premise?

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 ending slavery. I understand but disagree with the premise of the book that soldiers fight for liberty and independence. This 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 is able to explain his thesis that the soldiers were fighting for a given course which they believed in, in their struggles.

Was the authors writing style effective?

The author uses the persuasive 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 was guided, and therefore the author should revisit the research from the beginning.

Was the format of the book easy to read and was the topic exciting?

The format used to write the book was easy to read, and this was also made effective 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 true 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 books analysis

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 primary 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 are able to 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 passionately had concerns for. His argument is that those recruited as soldiers in the army were knowledgeable about the politics of independence and liberty. To flesh out 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 was 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 strong, and this made the reasons cited by the author to be biased.

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