McPherson gives us an excellent and engaging sociological and psychological account of what drove men to endure the horrors of the war and continue to fight. With nearly 700,000 dead and another 400,000 or so wounded, the carnage they saw and the risk they endured is unimaginable today, when war is clean and distant. Early work on what motivated the soldiers has looked rather cynically and simplistically at economic need and loyalty. McPherson, through thousands of diaries and letters, comes to a deeper, more nuanced appreciation of the political and moral beliefs that drove them. He is a well-respected Civil War historian who again brings new insight to the war.
In For Cause and Comrades the voices of the young men of the North and South sing out to us clearly, colorfully, compellingly, telling us what it was like for them the battles, the camps, the cold and hunger, the fear, the boredom, the despair, the triumph. This is an extraordinary book, full of fascinating details and moving self-portraits.