Defining Documents in American History: Civil War (1860-1865) surveys key documents produced during the Civil War with special attention devoted to the war-time policies of President Abraham Lincoln and the 37th US Congress.
Edited by James M. McPherson, PhD a preeminent civil war scholar and historian, George Henry Davis 1886 Professor Emeritus of United States History, Princeton University and Pulitzer Prize winner in History for Battle Cry Freedom.
A special feature of the volumes is the inclusion of letters and diaries by soldiers and civilians writing about their experiences. The two volumes are organized into several chapters that cover the progress of the war beginning with early debates on secession, through wartime events on the political and battle fronts and concludes with a look toward the issues of race and reconstruction.
Articles begin by introducing readers to the historical context, followed by a description of the author’s life and circumstances in which the document is written. A document analysis, written by professional writers and historians, guides readers in understanding key elements of language, rhetoric, and social and political meaning that define the significance of the author and document in American history. Each title is organized by chapter themes, highlighting major ideas in the period.
Articles fall into six broad categories:
- Disunion: The Sectional Crisis
- The Politics of War
- War Stories
- The Home Front
- The Destruction of Slavery
- Post War: The Politics of Race
This collection will introduce students and educators to a diverse range of genres, including journals, letters, speeches, government legislation, and court opinions. Documents represent the diversity of ideas and contexts that define social, political and cultural subjects throughout American history.
An important supplement to each historical document is a carefully designed lesson plan, which follows national history standards for learning, to guide students and educators in document analysis and historical comprehension. Study questions, activities, and suggested author pairings will establish the legacy of documents and authorship for readers today. In addition, comparative analysis highlights how every document emerges from a myriad of social and political influences.
A historical timeline and bibliography of important supplemental readings will support readers in understanding the broader historical events and subjects in the period.