The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984 Page: 333
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Without such a confrontation, secession and war would have remained
Almost two-thirds of McPherson's text concerns the war years. One
chapter, "The Balance Sheet of War," sets the stage well, examining
relative advantages, weaknesses, and strategies. He describes the cam-
paigns and battles with enough graphic detail and comments of partici-
pants to make these portions especially engaging. Concurrent nonmili-
tary legislation, economic issues, and the wrenching effects of the war
on both homefronts also receive perceptive treatment, as do the mili-
tary practicality of emancipation, the role of black soldiers in the fight-
ing, and Lincoln's wartime Reconstruction efforts. Throughout this sec-
tion McPherson accentuates the constant political and social dissension,
North and South, that made the war's prosecution so precarious. Lin-
coln's aggravating experience with General George B. McClellan, one
of the most arrogant and obstructive of dissenters, underscores the
power and temperament of a Democratic opposition to the free-labor
principles Republicans found essential to the Union itself.
McPherson attributes Reconstruction's chaos and bitterness mainly
to Andrew Johnson's support of southern whites in their defiance of
Congress's attempts to protect the rights of freedmen. But he also real-
izes Republican moderates controlled policy, producing measures that
gave no means of federal enforcement except military occupation, a
tactic that proved erratic and highly offensive to the majority of white
Americans. And although the programs of southern Republicans ap-
pear generally laudable, he points out that an elitist and oftentimes di-
vided or racist leadership contributed directly to the party's structural
weakness and growing unpopularity. In this context, he also might
have considered the negligible support party leaders in the North pro-
vided. Ultimately, Reconstruction failed because the free-labor ideol-
ogy that had called for slavery's restriction also demanded that freed-
men settle for nominal equality before the law, and little else. In
superb summaries of the unsuccessful movement for land confiscation
immediately after the war and the vicious cycle of poverty in southern
agriculture at large, McPherson concludes that "the economic promise
of emancipation, like the political promise of Reconstruction, re-
mained only half-fulfilled" (p. 582). Those few real advances blacks did
achieve, particularly in the realm of education, therefore came largely
from their own strong local programs. The reactionary era following
Reconstruction also receives brief attention, the total abandonment of
blacks to the Redeemer Democrats providing a fitting conclusion. For-
tunately, McPherson includes a fine bibliographical essay extending to
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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 87, July 1983 - April, 1984, periodical, 1983/1984; Austin, Texas. (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth117150/m1/385/: accessed October 22, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Texas State Historical Association.