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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Important Quotes

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“‘You couldn’t get American soldiers today to make an attack like that,’ he marveled.”

(Chapter 1, Page 5)

This quote comes from General John A. Wickham, after seeing the Antietam battlefield in the 1980s. He knew about the Union assaults in what was called “Bloody Lane,” and wondered, like the author, why they did it. This leads McPherson to think more macroscopically about the reasons why soldiers fought in the Civil War.

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“Helping a wounded comrade to the rear was a favorite device to escape further fighting.”

(Chapter 1, Page 8)

Here, McPherson offers one way in which soldiers avoided fighting. He looks into the motivations of soldiers and delves into their social class to see if he can find some reason for their behavior in battle. He does so to attempt to understand why those who did not flee chose to stay, looking to the exception to prove the rule. 

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“I would strike down my own brother if he dare to raise a hand to destroy that flag.”

(Chapter 2, Page 15)

McPherson begins Chapter 2 by calling the Civil War “The Brothers’ War.” By doing so, he outlines the divide at the heart of the nation. In the above quote, James Welsh, who has declared for the Union, tells his brother John he cannot believe that John would betray the flag. John believes James is the traitor, and that he has signed up to murder his friends and family, sacrificing all for the slaves. Those who declared for the South believed they were upholding their way of life, while those from