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In these years when many have worried aloud about a neo-civil war brewing between American shores it is somewhat unnerving to study the years leading to the first. Long in the making, five presidents before Lincoln knew that the slavery question had the potential to sunder the union.  Negotiation, legislation, elections were centered on the question. Newspapers, North and South, mobilized and reflected public opinion. The language of contempt from the Houses of Congress to the man in the street was common and shouted and headlined. Demonstrators took to the streets, condemning those on the other side, while urging bold action and the end of weakness on their own. Blood was let, in the Senate, in the streets and in the territories.

Secession and war had been on people’s minds for over a decade, some with great fear, some with great anticipation.  When the guns began, on April 12, 1861, with the Confederate shelling of Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston harbor, cheering and war fever erupted North and South. Seven states had already declared secession, Lincoln’s Republican victory being all they needed to see. The four remaining joined soon after.  In the almost exactly four years before Lee’s surrender to Grant on April 9, 1865 at Appomattox something close to 850,000 men would die.

Nowhere is a better place to start understanding the long and increasingly vituperative quarrel than James M. McPherson’s Pulitzer Prize winning, Battle Cry of Freedom, 1988 in the Oxford History of the United States series. What interests me, in 2018, is not the war itself.  Strategy, tactics, famous generals and historical place names have never been high on my interest list.  The long years of contention, however, and particularly that the issues then, that the tenor of opinion, the role of mass-media, and even that the geography of division resembles that of today, make for serious and compelling reading.

The first ten chapters of twenty-eight (904 pages) put us on the fraught road — the arguments made, the compromises attempted, the struggle to persuade, especially in the eight border states.  Strong feelings against immigrants, and those of other religions contributed to partisan fury. Voting fraud and coercion were common place. War fever grew steadily fueled by questions of identity, honor, betrayal and treason.

Real raids and mob action gave credence to widely believed false news of plunder and rape. The two long-standing political parties shook and shattered; the Whigs collapsed and the Republicans came into being.  Democrats North and South split. One million Know-Nothings formed a short-lived American Party which, like the Democrats and Whigs, split over the slavery question.

Cuba was also in play, a rich source of land and slaves in southern eyes, ripe for the taking from a corrupt Spanish colonial power.  In fact, in a proto Bay of Pigs invasion, in May of 1850 one Narciso Lopez led 600 men on an expedition to the north-west coast of Cuba — sent off by cheering crowds in New Orleans– where they captured the town of Cardenas and torched the governor’s mansion before being chased back to their ships by Spanish soldiers.



Although questions of slavery and citizenship had been part of the American founding — the original sin, as it is sometimes called– they did not surface as national issues until forced by the equally large question of territorial expansion.

The Louisiana Purchase in 1803 added enormous territory between the Mississippi and the Rocky Mountains, along with dreams of wealth and opportunity, North and South.  Southern slave holders had been put on notice, however, by the 1807 British, and U.S. federal, abolition of the slave trade and the rising voice of abolitionism in the North. Whether they could “take their property” with them to new territories immediately became an issue but reached wide public notice with the Missouri Compromise of 1820.  Missouri and Maine came in to the Union together so as not to upset the balance of power between slave and free states in Congress, where legislation concerning slavery, and its extension, were under steady debate.  Matters became even more urgent with the the 1846-8 War with Mexico. 

The land acquired after the U.S. victory –the present day.states of CaliforniaNevadaUtah, most of Arizona, about half of New Mexico, about a quarter of Colorado, and a small section of Wyoming— triggered fierce feelings.  Was slavery to be allowed?  As one newspaper asked:

“When the war-worn soldier returns to his home … is he to be told that he cannot carry his property to the country won by his blood?”

President Polk himself, who had called for the war, realized too late what it meant.

“The slavery question is assuming a fearful … aspect,” he wrote in his diary in 1846, It “cannot fail to destroy the Democratic Party, if it does not ultimately threaten the Union itself.”

The next four administrations, prior to Lincoln, found little respite from tension and anger over expansion, slavery and statehood. Following Polk, the short tenure of Zachary Taylor, a Whig and Mexican War hero, was dominated by questions of slavery in the Mexican-acquired territories.  Millard Fillmore, a Whig from New York, stepped in for the deceased Taylor and supported the Fugitive Slave Act under threat of southern secession. Franklin Pierce, a Democrat and expansionist who championed and signed the Kansas-Nebraska Act of 1854, strongly enforced the Act.  James Buchanan, a Democrat, fully endorsed the Dred Scott decision of the Supreme Court and wanted Kansas admitted as a slave state.  In fact he asked Northerners to stop their criticism and join the south in adopting a Constitutional amendment to protect slavery.

The slavery extension push was not only in formerly Louisiana and Mexican territory.  Cuba, Nicaragua and other lands in Central America and the Caribbean looked promising for large land acquisition and slave labor. There were some 600,000 slaves in Cuba under Spanish rule — land and labor for the taking as many saw it. Raids by free-booting “filibusters” captured headlines and were supported throughout the South.

President Pierce actually gave diplomatic recognition to William Walker’s makeshift government on the west coast of Nicaragua after his 1856 invasion, in which he re-instituted slavery which had been banned in 1822.  The South praised him. Hundreds of planters went south to set up holdings.  When Walker was finally sent back to New Orleans, succumbing to military defeat and cholera, he was greeted by wild celebrations in the streets.

“The safety of the south is only to be found in the extension of its peculiar institutions,” as one commentator put it.

The trigger which, after many threats to do so, finally set secession in motion was the election of Abraham Lincoln in November of 1860.  Would slave-holders be able to take their “property” to these new territories.


Contrary to a recent assertion by General John Kelly, President Trump’s Chief of Staff, the Civil War could not have been avoided  but for lack of compromise.   Not even close!  Since 1820 sectionalists and disputing members of the two main political parties — Democrats and Whigs– had compromised and re-compromised. The best known –to this day– was the Missouri Compromise of 1820. Devised by Henry Clay, he offered two more great slavery compromises in 1833 and again in 1850 which was actually a package of five separate bills, arrived at after months of acrimonious debate. The Fugitive Slave Act, an extension of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1793, was strengthened, to benefit the slave states and California was admitted to the Union as a free state.

There were so many compromises proposed in the summer and early fall of 1860 that committees were set up in both Houses to sift through them.  After Lincoln’s election November of 1860, Senator John J Crittenden (a Constitutional Unionist –yet another political party– of Kentucky)  proposed another set of compromises.  They failed in both the House and Senate.

“We spit upon every plan to compromise,” wrote one secessionist.

Even as the armed show-down at Fort Sumter loomed, General Winfield Scott (the Army’s highest ranking general and a Virginian) suggested the abandonment of both Sumter and near-by Fort Moultrie in order to “instantly soothe and give confidence to the eight remaining save-holding states and render their cordial adherence to this union perpetual. ”

However, when “the existence of such a party [Republican] is an offense to the south … and an outrage to Southern honor” compromise would seem to be impossible…

Party Growth and Party Collapse

Reading McPherson’s  history will sort out — at last!– the difference between the Whigs and the Democrats and show how differences within each party (e.g. “conscience Whigs” vs “cotton Whigs”) eventually split them.  Free-Soilers, many of them previously northern Democrats formed the short-lived Free Soil party and nominated a Presidential candidate in 1848.  The Know-Nothings were far more than the caricature we imagine today.  Initially forming into secret societies –about which members said ‘I know nothing’– some one million pledged to vote only for native-born candidates.  No Germans or Irish, please! From this was born the American Party, rivaling the nascent Republicans both North and South, and controlling legislatures from California to Connecticut. In the 34th Congress (1855-57) five of sixty-two senators were American Party, and forty-three of two hundred thirty-seven in the House. It too split over the slavery-territory issue, its nativists finding a home in the South while in the North many became Republicans.

Voting Fraud

Vote tampering, intimidation and harassment, much in the news recently, became routine as tensions grew high.  At the polls in the Kansas territorial elections of 1854 and 55, pro-slavery Missourians, ‘border ruffians’ as they were called, came across the border on election day claiming that, as they were there with no date set to return or move on, they were residents and legal voters.

Senator David Atchison  of Missouri put out the call to  “Enter every election district in Kansas and vote at the point of a bowie-knife or revolver.”  To his followers he said, “There are eleven hundred men coming over from Platte County to vote … and if that ain’t enough we can send five thousand –enough to kill every God-damned abolitionist in the Territory!”

In one election “two remote districts, with 130 legal voters … reported 2,900 ballots.”

The burning of Lawrence, Kansas, home of anti-slavery in the territory

Baltimore gangs called the Plug Uglies and the Blood Tubs were enforcers for the Know Nothings, patrolling polling places with shoemaker’s awls, and dipping “foreign looking people” in buckets of blood brought from the slaughter houses.


Threats to secede were voiced from 1850 onward, rising to a near boil in the election of 1864 when John C Fremont was the first presidential candidate for the new Republicans.  When September elections in Maine, 1864, went overwhelmingly Republican threats flew fast and hard. Senator James Mason of Virginia declared that the South ‘should not pause but proceed at once to ‘immediate, absolute and eternal separation.”

The mood was strongest in the seven states with the highest proportion of slaves.  Of the population in these states, the original Confederacy, 47% were slaves while in the eight states of the “Upper South,” only 24% were. Slave owners constituted 37% of the white families in the Confederate states compared to 20% of the families in the Upper South. Interest following livelihood, voters in these border states, including in Virginia, were slower to talk of secession.  Indeed, at a constitutional convention on Feb 4, 1861, Lincoln having been elected three months earlier, only these seven states came  to Montgomery. In short order a constitution was drafted, copying much of the original United States constitution but with key phrases left out, or changed, to make slavery the law of the land — in perpetuity.

Elsewhere, states held referendums on whether to hold their own conventions or to send delegates to Montgomery.  Voters in Virginia, Arkansas and Missouri elected a majority of Unionists to their conventions.  Voters in North Carolina and Tennessee voted against holding a convention. Virginia  rejected secession by a  two to one margin  as did Missouri and Arkansas.

The North, of course, was vitally interested in keeping these states in the Union, and not only for the principle of it.  The seven taking the lead had only 10% of the entire country’s white population and 5% of the industrial capacity. Keeping the border states in the Union would cripple the ability of the Confederacy to maintain itself, or to gain international recognition. Lincoln recognized this and urged moderation to keep none too strong Union sentiment in these states from swinging to the South.  As he is reported to have said,

“I hope to have God on my side, but I must have Kentucky.”

His light-handed approach brought fury in abolitionist circles and even military disobedience from General John C Fremont who issued an order in Missouri to shoot southern guerrilla fighters and to free the slaves of Confederate activists, in July of 1861.  He was relieved of his command. [Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation was not declared until January, 1963.]

The eleven states of the CSA were,  in order of secession: South Carolina (December 20, 1860), Mississippi (January 9, 1861), Florida (January 10, 1861), Alabama (January 11, 1861), Georgia (January 19, 1861), Louisiana (January 26, 1861) and Texas (February 1, 1861).

Jefferson Davis, a compromise choice of the convention for President, told a cheering crowd in Montgomery, two days before his inauguration on February 18,

“The time for compromise has now passed  The South is determined to maintain her position and make all who oppose her smell Southern powder and feel Southern steel.”

The Northern minstrel tune “Dixie” was played and soon became the Confederate anthem.

One month later, the Battle of Fort Sumter, April 12-13, 1861 decided the rest.

Virginia (seceded April 17, 1861), Arkansas (May 6, 1861), North Carolina (May 20, 1861), and Tennessee (June 8, 1861). Secession was also declared by supporters in Missouri and Kentucky, but did not become effective as it was opposed by their pro-Union state governments.


Horace Greeley’s famed New York Tribune, founded in 1841, with writers such as Margaret Fuller, Henry James Sr., Charles Dana, and Karl Marx, was initially a Whig paper.  In 1854 as the Whig split became final,  Greeley (of “Go West, Young Man” fame) left the Whigs and the Tribune became the Republicans’ largest voice.

While FOX news and the Twenty-Four hour news cycle have been at the center of the fracturing of the 21st century, newspapers in mid 19th century did their part as well. Following the expansion of telegraphy, the founding of the Associated Press and the new ‘penny-presses’ in 1850 there were some 370 newspapers printing thrice weekly or more in the 35 states.  New York itself had 59.  Many of the papers were printed directly by political parties or by those enjoying political patronage. Hyperbole, then as now, sold papers.

Civil War – The First Blow Struck! read one in September 1851,  after a group of armed blacks in Pennsylvania repelled a Maryland slave-owner attempting to recover “his property.”

Another opined that,

“A barbarous people can never become civilized without the salutary apprenticeship which slavery secured.”

McPherson writes that “Stories of slave uprisings … follow[ing] the visits of mysterious Yankee strangers, reports of arson and rapes and poisonings by slaves crowded the Southern press” in 1860.

Anti-slavery Democratic newspapers accused pro-slavery competitors of having gotten up  “falsehoods and sensation tales … to arouse the passions of the people and drive them into the Southern Disunion movement.”

As the south began to secede and armed conflict only waited the first cannon shot, another proclaimed:

“The idea of waiting for blows, instead of inflicting them , is altogether unsuited to the genius of our people.

War Fever

War fever raged hot and wide.  Not just a few hard-driven abolitionists, or slave holders mounted the barricades, but tens of thousands from Wisconsin to Arkansas. Many with no immediate dog in the fight, took up pen and marched in rallies in favor of war and volunteered in state militias, or privately raised troops to join the fight.

“To be engaged in the glorious cause of liberty and justice,” said a South Carolinian.  And from New Jersey “Our glorious institutions are likely to be destroyed … we will be held responsible before God…

Partisans North and South argued over who was engaged in a revolution or in defending a revolution.  Said on disunionist in Georgia

“We will go for revolution, and if you…opposes us…we will brand you as traitors, and chop off your heads.”

In the North

After Lincoln’s election but before his inauguration on March 4, 1861, war was in the air.  President Buchanan, anxious not to fire the first shot, left the orders for the U.S. army commander in Charleston unclear.  Major Robert Anderson, a Kentuckian and former slave owner, decided on his own to secretly move his 80 man force onto strongly fortified Fort Sumter island which controlled the entrance to Charleston Harbor.

When word reach the North, celebrations broke out.  He was hailed as a hero “for thumbing his nose at the arrogant Carolinians.”

Said one:

“You are the one true man in the country.  While you hold Fort Sumter I shall not despair of our noble, our glorious union.”

Buchanan nearly ordered Anderson to abandon the fort but knew he would lose the last shred of respect in the north.  One prominent Democrat said

“Anderson’s course is universally approved and if he is recalled or if Sumter is surrendered,  Northern sentiment will be unanimous in favor of hanging Buchanan,  I am not joking.  Never have I known the entire people more unanimous on any question. We are ruined if Anderson is disgraced or if Sumter is given up.”

When Lincoln took office Anderson was still at Sumter, almost out of food, and with little ammunition. Bringing in either would surely begin live firing which he desperately wanted to avoid.  As plans and options were discussed he “was hearing from the constituency that had elected him.”  Many Republicans were outraged by reports that Sumter was to be surrendered.

‘Have We a Government?’ shouted newspaper headlines.  ‘The bird of our country is a debilitated chicken disguised in eagle feathers, “commented a disgusted New York lawyer.

”If Fort Sumter is evacuated the new administration is done forever,’ declared another.”

“The administration must have a policy of action!.” proclaimed the New York Times.
‘Better almost anything than additional suspense,’ echoed other northern papers.

“The people want something to be decided on to serve as a rallying point for the abundant but discouraged loyalty of the American heart.”

Such opinions helped to harden Lincoln’s resolve.

It was not just a matter of the eastern seaboard ready for war but the whole western frontier.

 “The people of the north-west would never negotiate for free navigation of the [Mississippi] River  It is their right and they assert it to the extremity of blotting Louisiana out of the map,” said the Chicago Tribune

A Columbus, Ohio editorial proclaimed

“All squeamish sentimentality should be discarded, and bloody vengeance wreaked upon the heads of the contemptible traitors who have provoked it by their dastardly impertinence and rebellious acts.”

In the South

Secession was …  “a catharsis for pent-up fears and hostilities, it was a joyful act that caused people literally to dance in the streets.”  … though hardly anyone in the South thought that the cowardly Yankees would actually invade.

As in the North, it was thought that actual battle would steel nerves:

“Sir, unless you sprinkle blood in the face of the people of Alabama they will be back in the old union in less than ten days.”
 Wrote another,
“The shedding of blood will serve to change many voters in the hesitating states, from the submission or procrastinating ranks, to the zealous for immediate secession.”
 Even before the election in November, 1860 a Georgia Democratic paper thundered:
“…whether the  Potomac  is crimsoned in human gore and Pennsylvania Ave is paved 10 fathoms deep with mangled  human bodies the South will never submit to such humiliation”


Reading these effusions of war-readiness confirms a feeling I’ve increasingly had that the willingness to go to war, while always joined with a particular, material cause — here, the question of slavery and it’s extension — the language of identity, of belonging and position, pride, humiliation, honor and insult is the overwhelming emotion among all partisans.  There are fifty-five reference to honor alone in the book.

The attempt to pass the Wilmot Proviso “raised a point of honor” according to southern Democrats, who vowed never to “consent to be thus degraded and enslaved ” by such a “monstrous trick and injustice.”

“No true Southerner would submit to such social and sectional degradation … Death is preferable to acknowledge inferiority.”

Others complained of a “degrading vassalage” to Northern commerce.

One New Orleans editor regarded every Northern vote as a ‘deliberate cold-blooded insult and outrage to Southern honor.”

You will be reminded, at several turns, how sexualized Southern fears were, the tap-root of all feelings of honor, status and shame.

“Submit to have our wives and daughter choose between death and gratifying the hellish lust of the negro!  Better ten thousand deaths than submission to Black Republicanism!”

Religion, and foreignness, then as now, tapped deeply into people’s fear. Then Roman Catholicism and the certainty that the Pope governed Irish and German lives; now Islam and fears that Sharia Law will follow Arab and African immigrants.

And if all this were not enough, economic implosions added to the unease and anger.  Much of the U.S. debt was held by foreign banks and investors: Europe, then, China, now. The Panic of 1857, much like the Financial Crisis of 2007 was set-off by speculative bubbles, over leveraging and financial corruption;  lay-offs, business collapses and unemployment followed.  Since the Panic fell less heavily on the South than the North, Southern confidence in making their own way, increased.


What we have experienced in in the United States from the 1960s and especially from 2016 onward bears a good deal of similarity to this.  Not identical, to be sure, but kin:  moral issues of inclusion and exclusion, hope for gain versus anxiety at loss, racial fears close to the surface, high sensitivity to insult along with high use of it towards others, newspapers heightening excitement and fear rather than soberly reporting and attempting to bring light.

Though ‘honor’ is no longer spoken of as it was in mid 19th century — there are 55 instances of it in the book– the underlying emotion is a constant in human behavior: the fear of humiliation, of loss of status, and among men, that fear pinned to notions of masculinity, and sexual dominance.

Lyndon Johnson, the President of the United States, claimed “those who opposed the war were women: ‘They have to squat to piss.”  In front of reporters, he.

“Unzipp[ed] his fly and pulling out his penis asked them ‘Has Ho Chi Minh got anything to match that?

His successor, Richard Nixon had similar worries:

“Let us understand: North Vietnam cannot defeat or humiliate the United States. Only Americans can do that.”—President Richard Nixon in his address to the nation on the war in Vietnam on November 3, 1969.

When President Obama came to office public figures worried about his “emasculating” America.”

The similarity of the 1850s with the 2015s is not predictive of course.  But certain, deeply rooted patterns of human behavior are repeating.  Nativism has again found a new purchase among the native-born. Arguments about citizenship and voting rights roil the Congress as well as the man in the street. Congressman Preston Brooks beat Senator Charles Sumner to bloody disability  in 1856 — to wide Southern approval– while in 2017 several Congressmen were shot at a baseball practice; a Congressman body-slammed a reporter for asking too many questions.

Our two main political parties have not split, although traditions of negotiation in Congress towards mutual goals now, as then, has deteriorated into impossible, jagged edges of Never; impossible-to-pass legislation is smuggled into omnibus bills leading to more division and vituperation, and of course to back-lash, one party’s actions making converts to the other. The Supreme Court was then divided along Sectional lines, as now along Party; decisions scandalous to one side –The Dredd Scott decision, Citizens United —  were written more of out political beliefs than legal argument. States rights versus Federal power are argued by both sides, depending on the issue: the North wanted States to be able to ban slavery, no matter the Federal legislation; the South wanted the Federal government to enforce the Fugitive Slave act against States passing Personal Liberty Laws, and if it couldn’t have that that States rights to seceded were brandished.

Arguments that the States preceded the Union and created it, therefore taking precedence, were pushed back by arguments that there were no States at all until the Union (they were merely colonies). Double-speak, before the term was coined, was in full operation as the South denounced their loss of liberty (to transport slaves!) Conspiracy theories and rumors circulated and were widely believed –about the conduct, motives and intentions of men and legislation.

No new party with potential long-term strength has yet formed in today’s roiling times but anticipation is there.  Many are actively calling for it. The Tea-Party is a movement, not a Party, yet. Sanders supporters in Our Revolution, are a party-in-formation, perhaps in the position of the nascent Republicans of 1854.

Strong currents for and against public schools existed in the 1850s as they do now.  Though the religious antagonism against Roman Catholicism no longer exists, adherents of Protestant fundamentalism continue, as a group, to attack forces they feel disruptive to their beliefs: science, secularism, sexuality.

Calls for secession today are not as loud and angry as they once were.  They are used to underscore grievances and shape opinion but not (yet) coming in tandem with bloody riots and calls to arms.

‘The world is more complicated now with many more issues dividing attention and emotions.  The issues run against each other — immigration and nativist identity, public corruption and public anger, free expression and vicious slander,  sexual freedom and sexual abuse, nuclear striving and nuclear fear.  The the centripetal force of slavery is missing. No issue at the moment is likely to provide the earthquake of the Kansas-Nebraska Act.  The election of Donald Trump has not yet set off the decisive rebellion that Lincoln’s election did in the South of 1860.


All this, and the shooting war itself doesn’t start until Chapter 10, page 308, “Amateurs Go to War.” Although interesting legislative, social and political issues continue during the war, McPherson now turns his attention to the battles themselves – the usual stuff of Civil War history, and about which much is written. As he says in his bibliographic note, there are many, many earlier, multi-volume works about the war, its tactics and consequences, to which he and many others still turn.  Research and writing has continued after his 1998 version, some of which he acknowledges and praises in the re-issue of the 2003 volume.  Some 100, 873 books appear in an Amazon search for “civil war” while only 33, 419 do for WWII. My choice to begin with Battle Cry of Freedom was from a Ta-Naheshi Coates recommendation, as one of the best histories of the Civil War.  In his latest book, We Were Eight Years in Power, one of the chapters is “Why Do So Few Blacks Study the Civil War?”  Indeed. Why do so few citizens, except for the perfunctory memorization of the battles and a few code words to show what side we are on?

These 330 odd pages, of the full 904, are a deep excursion not only of ‘history’ as a set of facts about people, places and events, but about human behavior, the rooted concerns with honor, liberty, autonomy, belonging and betrayal which none of us escape. Sociologists, psychologists, anthropologists alert!  Novelists of course have long been aware of what is to be unearthed, and have written and continue to write from it. 8,379 civil war novels appear in Amazon’s list compared to 4,339 for WWII.

As long as Battle Cry of Freedom is, I wish more had been included about public resistance to the slave trade.  Several scenes of widely broadcast rescues, in Boston, of escaped slaves held by Federal authorities are included, some by mixed white and black abolitionists, one by black men alone. How many such rescues occurred? How did they affect people’s perception and men’s willingness to vote? Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is noted, and the enormous impact it had. What else, other than headlines and pamphlets contributed to changing sentiment?  Frederick Douglas is referred to and quoted often; there is nothing of Harriet Tubman or Sojourner Truth.  While we see in great detail the forces that destroyed the Whigs and created the Republicans, as parties, the change of public perception in home and neighborhood had to have been slow and uneven.  Despite growing anti-slavery consensus, almost no one, from Lincoln to the fiercest Free-Soiler, felt black and white social equality was even possible.  How did this “equal but separate” notion cohere and grow into a willingness to fight (and hate)?  The process is, I am sure, closely similar to the last fifty years of wide social change, slow advance and retreat, sudden shifts, legislation-attitude-resistance-legislation-attitude chains.

While predicting nothing from history, we can be ready for much.

The Audible version of the book, admirably read by Jonathan Davis is divided into two CDs, of 20 hours each.

McPherson’s earlier book, also written for Oxford, For Cause and Comrade: Why Men Fought in the Civil War,  (1997) might find its way onto my stack of books as I pursue the obsessive question about why we go to war despite its unholy promise.  It weighs in at a much briefer 237 pages