Rather than a comprehensive history of the Civil War, McPherson presents a series of essays featuring: Lincoln as a political strategist and Commander in Chief; the Mexican War and California's entry into the United States as a free state; contrasts between commanders, notably McClellan, DuPont, Grant and Farragut; and the horrors of Reconstruction in the South.
Other chapters deal with philosophical questions such as: Liberty; What is a Just War; How the objectives of anti-slavery and winning the war came together to produce the Emancipation Proclamation.
Several of the chapters, such as the ones on “Mexico, California and the Coming of the Civil War”, and “Death and Destruction in the Civil War” critique the books of other historians. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on how California entered the United States as a free as opposed to slave state. I had never read some of that history. It is fascinating and adds another dimension to the tensions leading to the conflict.
I highly recommend this book. Whether you're a Civil War scholar, or just enjoy reading history, this is a book that will captivate you. The discussions of liberty, just war, and what Lincoln's legacy means for our times are well worth reading for anyone looking at today's political situation.
I reviewed this book for the Amazon Vine Program.