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James McPherson, For Cause and Comrades (1998)


James McPherson, For Cause and Comrades (1998)


For Cause and Comrades was written by James McPherson. McPherson, a Civil War historian and professor at Princeton University, read over 25,000 letters written during the Civil War by soldiers to conclude the causes that soldiers fought to preserve. He studied only primary documents and used these letters to defend his stance. From this personal correspondence he presumed that those men were fighting to maintain their honor - honor as white Americans, honor as sons, husbands, and friends to fight for those back home. They even fought for personal honor to ensure that they were not cowards.

The Civil War has been referred to as the brothers’ war. This reference not only includes brothers who fought alongside one another but they also those who fought on different sides of the Mason-Dixon line. This imagery summarized the only war in our nation’s history where we fought both for and against ourselves. McPherson summarized the soldier’s belief that dying was far better than being disgraceful in any way. Another aspect the soldiers fought for was for religious reasons. These soldiers wanted to honor their God through their actions amidst a fight that was probably going to lead to an early death. Soldiers also had a deep patriotism for the cause of the Confederate South and their undivided beliefs for why they seceded and fought against the Union. The soldiers sacrificed immeasurably, ultimately sacrificing their youth, their bodies, and their lives by fighting like “bulldogs” until the end. Many succumbed to disease, illness, and death because they were willing to sacrifice their very existence for the war that was being fought.


McPherson, James


James McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought the Civil War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1998).




Tim Justice



Original Format



I would rather live a soldier for life [than] see this country made a mighty sepulcher in which should be buried our institutions, our nationality, our flag, and every American that today lives, than that our Republic should be divided into little nothings by an inglorious and shameful peace.


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McPherson, James, James McPherson, For Cause and Comrades (1998), Civil War Era NC, accessed July 14, 2024,