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Let's Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War: The Books

Learn more about the Spring 2012 UMass Lowell Discussion series.

The Books

March

March

Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam

America's War

America's War

Learn More About the Books

 

March by Geraldine Brooks

From Publishers Weekly

Brooks's luminous second novel, after 2001's acclaimed Year of Wonders, imagines the Civil War experiences of Mr. March, the absent father in Louisa May Alcott's Little Women. An idealistic Concord cleric, March becomes a Union chaplain and later finds himself assigned to be a teacher on a cotton plantation that employs freed slaves, or "contraband." His narrative begins with cheerful letters home, but March gradually reveals to the reader what he does not to his family: the cruelty and racism of Northern and Southern soldiers, the violence and suffering he is powerless to prevent and his reunion with Grace, a beautiful, educated slave whom he met years earlier as a Connecticut peddler to the plantations. In between, we learn of March's earlier life: his whirlwind courtship of quick-tempered Marmee, his friendship with Emerson and Thoreau and the surprising cause of his family's genteel poverty. When a Confederate attack on the contraband farm lands March in a Washington hospital, sick with fever and guilt, the first-person narrative switches to Marmee, who describes a different version of the years past and an agonized reaction to the truth she uncovers about her husband's life. Brooks, who based the character of March on Alcott's transcendentalist father, Bronson, relies heavily on primary sources for both the Concord and wartime scenes; her characters speak with a convincing 19th-century formality, yet the narrative is always accessible. Through the shattered dreamer March, the passion and rage of Marmee and a host of achingly human minor characters, Brooks's affecting, beautifully written novel drives home the intimate horrors and ironies of the Civil War and the difficulty of living honestly with the knowledge of human suffering.
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • Check your local library for copies
  • UML have copies for program participants
  • Buy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble
 

Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam by James Mc.Pherson

From Publishers Weekly

Contributing significantly to Oxford's new academic series Pivotal Moments in American History and to the literature on the Civil War, McPherson convincingly establishes the Battle of Antietam as the conflict's pivotal moment militarily, politically and morally. His depiction of the spring 1862 Confederacy shows it reeling under blockade while the North was learning how to practice "hard war." Yet McPherson tracks Robert E. Lee in the Seven Days' Battles and the Second Manassas campaign, placing him, by September, in Maryland and threatening Washington. Foreign nations were poised to recognize the Confederacy, and Lincoln had postponed his plans to liberate its slaves. With an election coming in November, demoralized Northern voters were in position to give control of Congress to a Democratic party with a vocal peace wing. The Union general George B. McClellan never took a risk he could avoid; on September 17, at Antietam, he failed to commit his full force, yet managed to get a defeated, demoralized army to the field at the end of the single bloodiest day in American history: over 6,000 men from both sides dead. Before the battle, McPherson carefully demonstrates (with the aid of 30 duotones and seven maps), the Civil War's outcome had been disputable. In Antietam's aftermath, Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. France and Britain discreetly backed away from recognition. The Republicans kept control of Congress and of most state governments. The war was now the Union's to lose.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Get the book:

  • Check your local library for copies
  • UML has copies for program participants
  • Buy from Amazon or Barnes and Noble
 

America's War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on their 150th Anniversaries, Edited by Edward L. Ayers

Edited by Edward L. Ayers, America’s War is an anthology of Civil War writing originally published between 1852 and 2008. Co-published by the American Library Association and the National Endowment for the Humanities, America’s War was created in support of a national reading and discussion program for libraries called “Let’s Talk About It: Making Sense of the American Civil War.”

The selections in America’s War include works of historical fiction and interpretation, speeches, diaries, memoirs, biographies, and short stories. Together, these readings provide a glimpse of the vast sweep and profound breadth of Americans’ war among and against themselves, adding crucial voices to our understanding of the war and its meaning.

Get the book:

Free copies

Copies at UML:

UMass Lowell has a number of free copies available of all three books for participants.  To get a copy of the books you must register for the program.  You will only be able to pick up the next book we are reading.  When you come to the next program you will be given a copy of the next book. 

 

Public Libraries:

Many of the public libraries in the towns surrounding UMass Lowell have been given multiple copies of the books for participants to check out.  Please check your local library catalog to see if there is a copy available to you.  If not, ask the librarian about getting you a copy.

Edward L. Ayers Keynote

Listen to Edward L. Ayers discuss how readings were selected to this program.  This keynote was part of a training the ALA ran for libraries participating in this program.