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 8Chapter Summaries & Analyses

Chapter 8 Summary: “The Cause of Liberty”

Chapter 8 focuses on the patriotism of Civil War soldiers, examining what ideological beliefs each side holds. What McPherson finds is that both sides hold similar beliefs—they often even use the same words, “liberty” and “slavery” being chief among them. They also focus on the same event: the Revolutionary War. Both sides believe they are upholding the values of the Founding Fathers: they are fighting for liberty and freedom from tyranny. Both Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln, McPherson points out, reference the Founding Fathers in speeches (104). 

The difference in the two sides is how they define liberty and freedom. The South sees the North as tyrannical aggressors, intent on destroying the South’s way of life (euphemistically called “institutions”). They believe they are fighting for freedom from oppression, freedom to their way of life, and freedom from government overrule: “‘If we was to lose,’ a Mississippi private wrote his wife in 1862, ‘we would be slaves to the Yanks and our children would have a yoke of bondage thrown around there [sic] neck’” (106).

The North sees something very similar, except that to the North, it’s the South bringing about the oppression.