“Battle Cry of Freedom” is simply the best single volume history of the United States Civil War. It’s a big book at over 1000 pages, but the narrative and writing style will grip your attention from the beginning.
It will be one of the shortest thousand page books you have ever read. Dr. McPherson has not just created a military history, but it covers the range of social, political, and economic topics that give an overall understanding of this event. As with any complex subject, a good background is crucial to properly see the American Civil War in context. “Battle Cry of Freedom” spends 8 chapters upfront giving the reader this needed information. Make no mistake though, the military side of the war is covered in great detail. 30 years since it was first written, and after winning the Pulitzer Prize, there is a new illustrated version of this book, which I recommend as it has a wealth of maps, photos, etchings, etc… with captions written by Dr McPherson. One final word is that Dr. McPherson is a professor of American History at Princeton as of this writing, and this work is a scholarly work – footnotes, sources, end notes abound. If only all academics can write as well.