Armies of Deliverance: A New History of the Civil War

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Description

Loyal Americans marched off to war in 1861 not to conquer the South but to liberate it. So argues Elizabeth R. Varon in Armies of Deliverance, a sweeping narrative of the Civil War and a bold new interpretation of Union and Confederate war aims. Northerners imagined the war as a crusade to deliver the Southern masses from slaveholder domination and to bring democracy, prosperity, and education to the region. As the war escalated, Lincoln and his allies built the case that emancipation would secure military victory and benefit the North and South alike. The theme of deliverance was essential in mobilizing a Unionist coalition of Northerners and anti-Confederate Southerners.

Confederates, fighting to establish an independent slaveholding republic, were determined to preempt, discredit, and silence Yankee appeals to the Southern masses. In their quest for political unity Confederates relentlessly played up two themes: Northern barbarity and Southern victimization. Casting the Union army as ruthless conquerors, Confederates argued that the emancipation of blacks was synonymous with the subjugation of the white South.

Interweaving military and social history, Varon shows that everyday acts on the ground--from the flight of slaves, to protests against the draft, the plundering of civilian homes, and civilian defiance of military occupation--reverberated at the highest levels of government. Varon also offers new perspectives on major battles, illuminating how soldiers and civilians alike coped with the physical and emotional toll of the war as it grew into a massive humanitarian crisis.

The Union's politics of deliverance helped it to win the war. But such appeals failed to convince Confederates to accept peace on the victor's terms, ultimately sowing the seeds of postwar discord. Armies of Deliverance offers innovative insights on the conflict for those steeped in Civil War history and novices alike.

Product Details

Price
$34.95  $32.15
Publisher
Oxford University Press, USA
Publish Date
March 13, 2019
Pages
528
Dimensions
6.2 X 1.5 X 9.4 inches | 2.0 pounds
Language
English
Type
Hardcover
EAN/UPC
9780190860608

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About the Author


Elizabeth R. Varon is Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History at the University of Virginia. She is the author of numerous award-winning books, including Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, A Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy (OUP, 2003), Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859, and Appomattox: Victory, Defeat and Freedom at the End of the Civil War (OUP, 2013).

Reviews


"Elizabeth Varon has served up a fresh and convincing interpretation of Northern policy and goals in the Civil War. She portrays how an initial purpose to deliver the presumed legions of white Unionists in the South from suppression by Confederate domination evolved into a crusade to liberate whites and blacks alike from the iron grip of the slave power and slavery. This book offers a new perspective on the searing conflict of 1861-1865 that continues to provoke controversy today." - James M. McPherson, author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era


"Drawing on her mastery of the Civil War era, Elizabeth Varon delivers a sweeping and bold synthesis that seamlessly blends the military, political, cultural, racial, and religious currents of the tragic conflict. Her deft use of 'deliverance' as a motif for understanding the wartime motivations of both nations provides an astute perspective on this endlessly fascinating period in United States history." -- Joan Waugh, co-author of The American War: A History of the Civil War Era


"After reading about that conflict [the Civil War], I've had another surprise: Despite everything that has been written about it, there is always something new and interesting to say about the war and what it means. This thought was inspired by Armies of Deliverance. This impressive work is explicitly a political study of the war rather than a military one. As such, it makes a good companion volume to James McPherson's classic Battle Cry of Freedom."--Thomas Ricks, New York Times Book Review


"In this sweeping, comprehensive, and informed analysis of the Civil War and Reconstruction, Varon suggests new ways of interpreting old issues and questions. Northerners, she tells us, came to see the war in almost biblical terms; delivering white Southerners from an ill-fated course of secession and slaves from bondage. In white Southerners' rejection of these lofty Northern objectives is to be found the failure of Reconstruction." -- Richard Blackett, author of The Captive's Quest for Freedom: Fugitive Slaves, the 1850 Fugitive Slave Law and the Politics of Slavery


"Witnessing intense debates over the meaning of Confederate monuments, many twenty-first-century Americans assume that Lost Cause southerners have long had the upper hand in the battle over Civil War memory. In her well-crafted and perceptive narrative, Elizabeth Varon offers a necessary corrective to that view. It was the rhetoric of deliverance, she contends, that not only won the hearts and minds of Union soldiers and shaped Lincoln's policies, but also, in the end, made military victory possible."-- Nancy Isenberg, author of White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America


"A fresh interpretation of the Civil War that illuminates why Americans took up arms against each other. An accessible work of scholarship that will be of great interest to students of Civil War history." - Kirkus Reviews


"Elizabeth R. Varon's highly original and sweeping new study, Armies of Deliverance, [is] one of the few histories of the war since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom (1988) that deserve to be ranked as essential reading. Had Ms. Varon devoted a smaller book to her case, she would undoubtedly have produced a valuable academic resource. But she has bravely aimed for something bigger, not only inviting us to reconsider the motivation but providing a thorough, highly readable history of the war itself." -- The Wall Street Journal


"Armies of Deliverance offers a fresh, innovative, and quite readable account of the American Civil War. By recasting the conflict as a 'war of liberation, ' Varon presents new insights along with revealing evidence (especially from more moderate voices) that make this an important book for historians as well as a most enlightening one for general readers. Students and veteran scholars alike will learn a great deal from this fine book." -- George C. Rable, author of Damn Yankees! Demonization and Defiance in the Confederate South


"Thought-provoking Varon paints a portrait of the Civil War-era South that is counterintuitive; it's not a traditional story of North versus South but rather a story of North and South versus the Confederacy. Varon creates thrilling set pieces of all the familiar battles and controversies, and she does a particularly shrewd and sensitive job of parsing the significance of both the Emancipation Proclamation and the 1864 election."-Steven Donoghue, Christian Science Monitor


"Everyone knows that Confederates fought the Civil War to preserve and extend the slave system that produced their wealth and shaped their society. But what, exactly, did white Northerners fight for? In her often-riveting Armies of Deliverance, Elizabeth R. Varon answers that question in a new way, with important ramifications for how we understand the nation's most significant conflict, the meaning of anti-slavery politics and the disappointments of postwar Reconstruction. Varon...narrates battles and campaigns with an unusually deft, at times even gorgeous touch. This is some of the finest battle writing around, and a sweeping analysis of both United States and Confederate strategy and tactics."- Gregory Downs, Washington Post


"An outstanding book-one of the best accounts of the Civil War we have.Varon is determined to tell as much of the story as possible through the voices of the men and women who experienced it. No other general history of the war so lavishly quotes from the letters of soldiers, the diaries of women, the self-serving excuses of incompetent generals, the editorials of partisans, the denunciations of critics, and the speeches of politicians. The highest ideals held by the combatants come through as clearly as the most repellent outbursts of racist demagoguery. Through these voices, readers can get a feeling for the ground-level, tactile experience of the war as well as the dramatic debates in the halls of Congress. The myriad horrors of battle are vividly rendered, and so is the 1864 presidential election." --James Oakes, The Nation


"Armies of Deliverance is, in one respect, not actually a 'new history of the Civil War' so much as it is a new interpretation of the Civil War. And in that departure, Varon succeeds grandly... I would argue... that... getting the Civil War narrative into the workable space Varon has achieved means that some highly prized clutter simply has to go, and I do not think she has made her cast-asides unwisely. This is, after all, a history wrapped around a single theme -- deliverance of the mass of the Southern people from oligarchy -- from which too many other Civil War stories would only serve as distractions." --Allen Guelzo, Law and Liberty blog


A Wall Street Journal Best Book of 2019