What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War
Owens, Patricia Ann, The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography
What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War * Chandra Manning * New York: Alfred A. Knopf, 2007 * x, 356 pp. * $26.95 cloth; $15.95 paper
Chandra Manning, assistant professor of history at Georgetown University, has writ- ten a stimulating history of the Civil War by presenting the views of common Union and Confederate soldiers. This chronological history of the war focuses not on the military officers nor on the politicians but instead on the men who fought on the front lines, men who sacrificed everything to preserve their way of life and their ideals about America.
Divided into six chapters, the book begins with Abraham Lincoln's election in 1 860 and the call to arms after the Confederacy fired upon Fort Sumter. Chapter rwo looks at events of 1862 and elucidates Union soldiers' desires to maintain their republican form of government and their growing recognirion that slavery was the greatest threat to its existence. Confederate soldiers believed that the abolition of slavery jeopardized their way of life-the importance of social order and white men's ability to protect their families. The Emancipation Proclamation in 1863 and black enlistments in the Union army had a profound affect on Union soldiers' views toward the war and their growing realization and acceptance that it was being fought to abolish slavery. Manning, in chapter three, refers to this as "[t]he revolution of 1862-63" (p. 85). Chapter four analyzes the second half of 1 863 when Confederates took the war into Union territory. Defeated at Gettysburg and Vicksburg, Confederate soldiers nonetheless held to the belief that they were bound to win the war because God was on their side; slavery was divinely ordained. Chapter five reflects Union soldiers' increasing grasp of the intertwining goals of the abolition of slavery and preservation of the Union. …