Title: The Civil War
Author: Louis P. Masur
Publisher: Oxford University Press
Spartacus Website: American Civil War
One hundred and fifty years after the first shots were fired on Fort Sumter, the Civil War still captivates the American imagination, and its reverberations continue to be felt throughout the nation's social and political landscape. Louis P. Masur's The Civil War: A Concise History is a masterful and eminently readable overview of the war's multiple causes and catastrophic effects. Masur begins by examining the complex origins of the war, focusing on the pulsating tensions over states rights and slavery. He then proceeds to cover, year by year, the major political, social, and military events, highlighting two important themes: how the war shifted from a conflict over restoring the Union to an all-out war that would transform Southern society, and the process by which the war ultimately became a battle to abolish slavery. Masur explains how the war turned what had been a loose collection of fiercely independent states into a nation with new political, cultural, and social institutions. But he also focuses on the soldiers themselves, both Union and Confederate, whose stories constitute nothing less than the American Iliad. In the final chapter Masur considers the aftermath of the South's surrender at Appomattox and the clash over the policies of reconstruction that would divide President and Congress, conservatives and radicals, Southerners and Northerners, for years to come. In 1873, Mark Twain and Charles Dudley wrote that the war had "wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations." From the vantage of the war's sesquicentennial, this concise history of the Civil War era offers an invaluable introduction to the dramatic events whose effects resonate even today.