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James M. McPherson

james m. mcpherson, james m. mcpherson battle cry of freedom
James M "Jim" McPherson born October 11, 1936 is an American Civil War historian, and is the George Henry Davis '86 Professor Emeritus of United States History at Princeton University He received the 1989 Pulitzer Prize for Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era McPherson was the president of the American Historical Association in 2003, and is a member of the editorial board of Encyclopædia Britannica


  • 1 Early life and education
  • 2 Career
  • 3 Personal life
  • 4 Political activism
  • 5 Filmography
  • 6 See also
  • 7 References
  • 8 Further reading
  • 9 External links

Early life and education

Born in Valley City, North Dakota, McPherson graduated from St Peter High School, and he received his Bachelor of Arts at Gustavus Adolphus College St Peter, Minnesota in 1958 from which he graduated magna cum laude, and his PhD at Johns Hopkins University in 1963 where he studied under C Vann Woodward


McPherson orating before the American Historical Association in January 2014

McPherson's works include The Struggle for Equality, awarded the Anisfield-Wolf Award in 1965 In 1988, he published his Pulitzer-winning book, Battle Cry of Freedom And in 1998 another book, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, received the Lincoln Prize In 2002, he published both a scholarly book, Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam 1862, and a history of the American Civil War for children, Fields of Fury

McPherson published This Mighty Scourge in 2007, a series of essays about the American Civil War One essay describes the huge difficulty of negotiation when regime change is a war aim on either side of a conflict "For at least the past two centuries, nations have usually found it harder to end a war than to start one Americans learned that bitter lesson in Vietnam, and apparently having forgotten it, we're forced to learn it all over again in Iraq" One of McPherson's examples is the American Civil War, in which both the Union and the Confederacy sought regime change It took four years to end the war

There are all kinds of myths that a people has about itself, some positive, some negative, some healthy and some not healthy I think that one job of the historian is to try to cut through some of those myths and get closer to some kind of reality So that people can face their current situation realistically, rather than mythically I guess that's my sense of what a historian ought to do

— James M McPherson, An exchange with a Civil War historian

In 2009, he was the co-winner of the Lincoln Prize for Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief

McPherson was named the 2000 Jefferson Lecturer in the humanities by the National Endowment for the Humanities In making the announcement of McPherson's selection, NEH Chairman William R Ferris said:

James M McPherson has helped millions of Americans better understand the meaning and legacy of the American Civil War By establishing the highest standards for scholarship and public education about the Civil War and by providing leadership in the movement to protect the nation's battlefields, he has made an exceptional contribution to historical awareness in America

In 2007, he was awarded the $100,000 Pritzker Military Library Literature Award for lifetime achievement in military history and was the first recipient of the prize He was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences in 2009

Personal life

Currently, McPherson resides in Princeton, New Jersey He is married to Patricia and they have one child

Political activism

McPherson is known for his outspokenness on contemporary issues and for his activism, such as his work on behalf of the preservation of Civil War battlefields As president in 1993-1994 of Protect Historic America, he lobbied against the construction of a Disney theme park near Manassas battlefield He has also served on the boards of the Civil War Trust as well as the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites, a predecessor to the Civil War Trust From 1990 to 1993, he sat on the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission

Along with several other historians, McPherson signed a May 2009 petition asking US President Barack Obama not to lay a wreath at the Confederate Monument Memorial at Arlington National Cemetery The petition stated:

The Arlington Confederate Monument is a denial of the wrong committed against African Americans by slave owners, Confederates, and neo-Confederates, through the monument's denial of slavery as the cause of secession and its holding up of Confederates as heroes This implies that the humanity of Africans and African Americans is of no significance

Today, the monument gives encouragement to the modern neo-Confederate movement and provides a rallying point for them The modern neo-Confederate movement interprets it as vindicating the Confederacy and the principles and ideas of the Confederacy and their neo-Confederate ideas The presidential wreath enhances the prestige of these neo-Confederate events

Obama put the wreath on the monument anyway, winning the praise of the Sons of Confederate Veterans


Year Film Role Notes
1994 Civil War Journal Himself
2003 National Geographic: Beyond the Movie - The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King Himself
2011 The Conspirator: Mary Surratt and the Plot to Kill Lincoln Himself
2015 The Gettysburg Address Himself

See also

  • American Civil War portal
  • Biography portal
  • Books portal
  • List of publications by James M McPherson


  1. ^ a b c "James McPherson Biography" http://wwwnehgov/ National Endowment for the Humanities Retrieved 14 November 2014  External link in |website= help
  2. ^ "James McPherson: Tried By War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander-in-Chief" http://wwwpritzkermilitaryorg/ Pritzker Military Museum & Library Retrieved 13 November 2014  External link in |website= help
  3. ^ Nagy, Kim "Keeping Time - An Interview with James McPherson" "Wild River Review"November 2007
  4. ^ Walsh, David June 19, 1995 "An exchange with a Civil War historian" International Workers Bulletin 
  5. ^ Itzkoff, Dave "Authors of 2 Books to Share Lincoln Prize" http://wwwnytimescom/ The New York Times Retrieved 13 November 2014  External link in |website= help
  6. ^ Irving Molotsky, "Choice of Clinton to Give Humanities Lecture Meets Resistance", The New York Times, September 21, 1999
  7. ^ "National News Briefs; Clinton Declines Offer To Give Scholarly Talk," New York Times, September 22, 1999
  8. ^ NEH News Archive
  9. ^ "Civil War Historian Wins $100,000 Prize for Lifetime Achievement" Chronicle of Higher Education July 17, 2007
  10. ^ "Book of Members, 1780-2010: Chapter M" PDF American Academy of Arts and Sciences Retrieved April 15, 2011 
  11. ^ Historians Go To War Against Disney's Virginia Theme Park
  12. ^ Civil War Sites Advisory Commission Report Forward
  13. ^ Sebesta, Edward; Loewen, James May 18, 2009 "Dear President Obama: Please Don't Honor the Arlington Confederate Monument" History News Network George Mason University Retrieved October 2, 2011 
  14. ^ Rand, Chuck 2009-05-28 "Sons of Confederate Veterans: SCV Pleased with Obama Sending Wreath to Confederate Monument" Sonsofconfederateveteransblogspotcom Retrieved 2014-05-07 

Further reading

  • Walsh, David June 19, 1995 "An exchange with a Civil War historian" International Workers Bulletin World Socialist Web Site Archived from the original on May 31, 2012 Retrieved May 31, 2012 

External links

  • Barnes & Noble - Meet the Writers
  • Princeton University Biography
  • Democracy Now November 3, 1999: George W Bush and the Confederacy: Where Does He Stand
  • Presentation on the Civil War
  • A Conversation with James McPherson Interview at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library from October 5, 2007
  • Lifetime Literature Award Announcement at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library
  • Audio interview with National Review Online
  • Wild River Review Interview by Kim Nagy
  • McPherson archive from The New York Review of Books
  • James M McPherson No Peace without Victory, 1861-1865, AHA Presidential Address Retrieved April 18, 2010
  • Appearances on C-SPAN
    • Booknotes interview with McPherson on What They Fought For, 1861-1865, May 22, 1994
    • In Depth interview with McPherson, March 4, 2001
  • "Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief" Lecture at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library on March 13, 2008
  • "150 Years After the Emancipation Proclamation" Discussion at the Pritzker Military Museum & Library on September 28, 2012

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