39 pages 1 hour read

James M. Mcpherson

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War

Nonfiction | Book | Adult | Published in 1997

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Chapter 12Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 12 Summary: “The Same Holy Cause”

By the last year of the war, both armies are exhausted. Many of the men suffer from what we would call PTSD today: they have fought daily for months, marched hundreds of miles, and eaten and slept little. In some cases, soldiers are so tired they refuse to fight. Others desert out of mental and physical exhaustion. McPherson writes:

[A] major in the 11th Georgia defined courage in 1863 as not merely bravery in battle but also ‘the nerve to endure rain, and snow, and sleet, and the privations of Winter, and the scorching sun of Summer […] to undergo extreme fatigue, to subdue the pains of hunger […] to do battle with sickness and despondency and gloom as with the Country’s enemies’ (164).

As he does in the rest of the book, McPherson asks here what keeps these men going. Certainly some deserted, and certainly some lose their sense of duty. But, McPherson says, for the most part, the soldiers who are still fighting at the end held the same beliefs as those who fought at the beginning, with their sense of duty and honor and courage sustaining them:

For the fighting soldiers who enlisted in 1861 and 1862 the values of duty and honor remained a crucial component of their sustaining