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 2Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 2 Summary: “We Were in Earnest”

Chapter 2 delves into the reasons soldiers on both sides enlisted in the war. McPherson opens by calling the Civil War “The Brothers’ War.” He explains, through several letters between different sets of brothers, the opposing beliefs of each. James and John Welsh enlist on opposite sides, James for the Union and John for the Confederacy. James claims John is destroying the country. He says “Jeff Davis and his crew of pirates” had committed “treason and nothing more or less” (14). John claims James is betraying his homeland and family: he was “very much pained to find […] that I have a brother who would advocate sending men here to butcher his own friends and relations” (14).


These beliefs exemplify the divided country. As war comes closer, a patriotic furor sweeps the nation, one that sends thousands of men to enlist. Some do so out of a sense of duty to their country; these men believe they must protect the Union, and the rule of law. Others enlist for their honor, and defense of their way of life. Some young men enlist for the adventure. Some Northerners enlist to stop slavery, while Southerners enlist to preserve it.