A People's History of the Civil War: Review

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Review Essay of A People’s History of the Civil War
In this book, the professor conveys major points throughout the Civil War that have been given scant attention, which America herself had previously tried to keep hidden. Professors name exposes the class warfare between rich planters and common folk or “plain folk”, and the economic injustice the planters forced upon the starving men and women on the home front and war front (14). Women fought for their families’ survival, equal rights, and became spies in both armies. Volunteers and conscripted men demanded respect, but the affluent brass ignored any cries and used them for their own economic interest. The professor emphasizes how the actions of deserters and draft evaders had previously been condemned by other Civil War documents and gives justice for their desertion. The spirit and resentment the soldiers and civilians had towards the elites are shown throughout the book as what they perceived as a “rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight” (75). The professor detailed how African Americans fought for their freedom long before Lincoln “emancipated” them and how Lincoln continually showed a vague attitude towards them, and brought light to the fact of the military reasoning for the Emancipation Proclamation. Professor elucidates how Native Americans were continually disposed, massacred, and ripped from their land with no adequate repayment. This book broadens history’s contracted lens by sharing fascinating firsthand accounts of the war and the overall consensus most Americans felt.

The professors book helped me to understand the truths of the Civil War and introduced a critical view of the war never presented to me before now. Previously, I had been taught and held as truth that the Civil War was fought for slavery, economic purposes, and won by the industry in the North overpowering the agriculture in the South. History books, documents, and movies never told the actual truth, only the bold glory of America persevering through the worse time in our past. Stonewall Jackson, Jefferson Davis, and Robert E. Lee became southern heroes, while the soldiers, (both men and women), African Americans, and Native Americans were white-washed. America, until recently, has always romanticized slavery and the notion that all plantation owners treated their slaves kindly. Former President Lincoln was viewed as the man who freed the slaves and that his generals, soldiers, and civilians were fighting for the abolishment of slavery when in actuality truth had been misrepresented. The professor has taught me to always investigate the truth, never to believe what the television, books, or teachers indoctrinate us in. His book brings to life the unheard voices that had been muffled throughout the years by telling the gruesome, yet heartfelt story of the struggles the real Americans (plain folk, soldiers, African Americans, and Native Americans) battled through.

Class warfare has always been a strenuous fight America has had to deal with since the beginning. This book illustrates a more in depth analysis explaining why the Civil War happened by concentrating on the elite class’ agenda to further their lives and wealth by any means necessary. The elite were 2.8 percent of the South’s total population, yet controlled the other 97.2 percent who were plain folk or slaves. Three fourths of common folk owned no slaves at all, and only a fourth of them owned any land. Common folk were always working to pay off debt or just to keep their lives afloat. Planters, however, had an enormous amount of leisure time, which resulted in those planters becoming politicians, or at least aiding and supporting other planters.

Planters becoming politicians increased the corruption facing the South long before the war started. Tension between the North and South began when Americans started to head west for cheap land. The South wanted to expand slavery to the territories, but the northerners did...
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