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Pulitzer Prize-Winning Historian Talks About Global Impact of Civil War


September 25, 2002

[ James McPherson Photo ] DELAWARE, OHIO -- As part of the Richard W. Smith Civil War History Lecture series, Civil War scholar and Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson will present a lecture entitled "The Global Impact of the American Civil War." The talk will take place on Thursday, Oct. 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Ohio Wesleyan's Gray Chapel.

The Richard W. Smith Endowed Fund in Civil War History is named after Dr. Richard Smith, who has taught on the Ohio Wesleyan campus since 1950, and continues to be involved today as an emeritus professor. Series lectures will emphasize the beginning of modern military tactics to the methods created during the Civil War; this aspect has always been one of Dr. Smith's passions. The fund allows the Ohio Wesleyan History Department to host an annual lecture by one of the nation's preeminent Civil War scholars. Dr. McPherson is the first to speak in the annual series.

McPherson is the George Henry Davis ('86) Professor of American History at Princeton University, and is regarded as one of the nation's leading Civil War historians. McPherson's interest in the Civil War era began as a graduate student at Johns Hopkins University, under the mentorship of C. Vann Woodward. McPherson originally found interest in the abolistionists, who helped put Abraham Lincoln in office. His dissertation on the abolitionist movement was published in 1964 as The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction, and won the Anisfield-Wolf Award in Race Relations for 1965.

In 1991, the U.S. Senate appointed McPherson to the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission, which determined the major battle sites, evaluated their conditions and recommended strategies for their preservation. He served as president of the Society of American Historians from 2000-2001, serves on several advisory boards or boards of trustees for historical preservation and history museums, and has been elected to president of the American Historical Association for a term that will begin in January 2003.

Throughout his distinguished career, McPherson has written more than a dozen books, including Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era in 1988, which won the Pulitzer Prize and has sold more than 600,000 copies. Another of McPherson's more recent books, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, won the Lincoln Prize in 1998. Three million soldiers fought in the Civil War; McPherson reviewed more than 25,000 letters and diaries of the soldiers in order to understand their reasons for fighting in the war. During his research, McPherson found men on both sides who were very religious, fatalistic and loyal to the ideas of freedom that had been passed down to them as Americans since 1776.

In addition to Battle Cry and For Cause and Comrades, McPherson has also edited or co-authored a dozen other works relating to the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln, Abolition, and Reconstruction. McPherson has recently published his newest book, which is entitled Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam 1862.

McPherson's talk is free and open to the public. For more information, call 740-368-3321.