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The Union Divided

The Union Divided

Party Conflict in the Civil War North

Mark E. Neely, Jr.

ISBN 9780674041356

Publication date: 07/01/2009

In 1863, Union soldiers from Illinois threatened to march from the battlefield to their state capital. Springfield had not been seized by the Rebels--but the state government was in danger of being captured by the Democrats.

In The Union Divided, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian Mark E. Neely, Jr., vividly recounts the surprising story of political conflict in the North during the Civil War. Examining party conflict as viewed through the lens of the developing war, the excesses of party patronage, the impact of wartime elections, the highly partisan press, and the role of the loyal opposition, Neely deftly dismantles the argument long established in Civil War scholarship that the survival of the party system in the North contributed to its victory.

The many positive effects attributed to the party system were in fact the result of the fundamental operation of the Constitution, in particular a four-year president who was commander in chief. In several ways, the party system actually undermined the Northern war effort; Americans uneasy about normal party operations in the abnormal circumstances of civil war saw near-treason in the loyal opposition.

Engagingly written and brilliantly argued, The Union Divided is an insightful and original contribution to Civil War studies and American political history.

Praise

  • Mark Neely's The Union Divided is an important book on a badly neglected topic. In a series of vigorously argued chapters, Neely challenges the long-accepted view that the North's two party system played a vital role in sustaining the Union war effort by moderating public opinion and checking political extremism. Instead, he demonstrates how the partisan press, by seriously distorting events and badly misinterpreting the military situation, overtly stimulated the extremism of the period. This is a bold and provocative book that reveals how fragile the American democratic system really was when confronted with the strains of civil war.

    —William Gienapp, Harvard University

Author

  • Mark E. Neely, Jr., is McCabe-Greer Professor of the History of the Civil War Era at Pennsylvania State University and the author of the Pulitzer Prize–winning The Fate of Liberty: Abraham Lincoln and Civil Liberties.

Book Details

  • Harvard University Press

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