The Union War

The Union War

Book - 2011
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Harvard University Press

Even one hundred and fifty years later, we are haunted by the Civil War—by its division, its bloodshed, and perhaps, above all, by its origins. Today, many believe that the war was fought over slavery. This answer satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gary Gallagher shows in this brilliant revisionist history, it is an anachronistic judgment.

In a searing analysis of the Civil War North as revealed in contemporary letters, diaries, and documents, Gallagher demonstrates that what motivated the North to go to war and persist in an increasingly bloody effort was primarily preservation of the Union. Devotion to the Union bonded nineteenth-century Americans in the North and West against a slaveholding aristocracy in the South and a Europe that seemed destined for oligarchy. Northerners believed they were fighting to save the republic, and with it the world’s best hope for democracy.

Once we understand the centrality of union, we can in turn appreciate the force that made northern victory possible: the citizen-soldier. Gallagher reveals how the massive volunteer army of the North fought to confirm American exceptionalism by salvaging the Union. Contemporary concerns have distorted the reality of nineteenth-century Americans, who embraced emancipation primarily to punish secessionists and remove slavery as a future threat to union—goals that emerged in the process of war. As Gallagher recovers why and how the Civil War was fought, we gain a more honest understanding of why and how it was won.

Today, many believe the Civil War was fought over slavery. This view satisfies our contemporary sense of justice, but as Gallagher's searing revisionist history shows, it is an anachronistic judgment. Northern citizen-soldiers fought the war to preserve the Union. Emancipation was secondary to the war’s primary goal of safeguarding the republic.

Baker & Taylor
Puts forth the idea that the Union's relentless effort during the American Civil War was less about the end of slavery and more about the conviction that preserving the Union was the world's best hope for democracy. By the author of The Confederate War.

Book News
Gallagher (history, U. of Virginia) presents this new history of the Civil War, examining the makeup and motivations of the Union armies and positing that a philosophical and political devotion to the Union as a concept, as an indicator of American exceptionalism and the righteousness of American history as it had progressed so far, motivated the hundreds of thousands of volunteers that fed the Northern army's ranks. The volume includes numerous illustrations as well as several reproductions of period photographs. Annotation ©2011 Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (

Publisher: Cambridge, Mass. : Harvard University Press, [2011]
Copyright Date: ©2011
ISBN: 9780674045620
Branch Call Number: 973.7 GALLA
Characteristics: 215 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm


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Aug 21, 2017

I highly recommend this book. For those new to the history of the era, it is not too difficult to follow. The author makes his points clearly and concisely, and it is not of overwhelming length. It is an example of how good history is written; the author's conclusions are derived from a study of primary source material--what was read, written and said during the Civil War; he is not looking at the past through the lens of contemporary socio-political concerns.

JWolf Nov 16, 2011

Extremely boring. Useful for my term paper, though.


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