The Cambridge History of the American Civil War

TitleThe Cambridge History of the American Civil War
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2019
Series EditorSheehan-Dean, Aaron
Number of Volumes3
Number of Pages624, 562, 518
PublisherCambridge University Press

The Civil War was America's great national trauma. Like the Napoleonic Wars in nineteenth-century Europe and World War II in the twentieth, the Civil War birthed a new civic order. Politics, economic and social life, and cultural expression all assumed a new cast for the war's participants and their children. Even a century and a half later, after industrialization, urbanization, the dramatic expansion of America's military and political power in the world, and generations of cultural change, the war's impact is plain to see.

Volume 1: Military Affairs – narrates the major battles and campaigns of the conflict, conveying the full military experience during the Civil War. The military encounters between Union and Confederate soldiers and between both armies and irregular combatants and true non-combatants structured the four years of war. These encounters were not solely defined by violence, but military encounters gave the war its central architecture. 

Volume 2: Affairs of the State – explores the political and social dimensions of the Civil War in both the North and South. Millions of Americans lived outside the major campaign zones so they experienced secondary exposure to military events through newspaper reporting and letters home from soldiers. Governors and Congressmen assumed a major role in steering the personnel decisions, strategic planning, and methods of fighting, but regular people also played roles in direct military action, as guerrilla fighters, as nurses and doctors, and as military contractors.

Volume 3: Affairs of the People – analyzes the cultural and intellectual impact of the war, considering how it reshaped Americans' spiritual, cultural, and intellectual habits. The Civil War engendered an existential crisis more profound even than the changes of the previous decades. Its duration, scale, and intensity drove Americans to question how they understood themselves as people.

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