James M. McPherson Biography

James M. McPherson is George Henry Davis ’86 Professor of American History emeritus at Princeton University, where he has taught since 1962. He received his PhD in 1963 from Johns Hopkins University, where he studied with C. Vann Woodward. McPherson's works mostly focus on the American Civil War and Reconstruction, including Battle Cry of Freedom, which won a Pulitzer Prize in 1989, and For Cause and Comrades, which won the Lincoln Prize in 1998. In addition to serving as president of the American Historical Association, he has been president of Protect Historic America and the Society of American Historians.


The War That Forged a Nation: Why the Civil War Still Matters. New York: Oxford University Press, 2015.

War on the Waters: The Union & Confederate Navies, 1861–1865. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2012.

Abraham Lincoln. New York: Oxford University Press, 2009.

Tried by War: Abraham Lincoln as Commander in Chief. New York: Penguin, 2008.

This Mighty Scourge: Perspectives on the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 2007.

Hallowed Ground: A Walk at Gettysburg. 1st ed. New York: Crown Journeys, 2003.

The Illustrated Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 2003.

The Boys in Blue and Gray. New York: Atheneum Books for Young Readers, 2002.

Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2002.

Encyclopedia of Civil War Biographies. Editor. 3 vols. Armonk, NY: Sharpe Reference, 2000.

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant, by Ulysses S. Grant. Introduction and Notes. New York: Penguin Books, 1999.

Is Blood Thicker than Water? Crises of Nationalism in the Modern World. Toronto: Vintage Canada, 1998.

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997.

Drawn with the Sword: Reflections on the American Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1996.

The American Heritage New History of the Civil War. Edited and with a new introduction. New York: Viking, 1996.

“We Cannot Escape History”: Lincoln and the Last Best Hope of Earth. Editor. Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1995.

The Atlas of the Civil War. Editor. New York: Macmillan, 1994.

What They Fought For, 1861–65. Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1994.

“American Victory, American Defeat.” In Why the Confederacy Lost, edited by Gabor S. Boritt. New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

American Political Leaders: From Colonial Times to the Present. Consulting Editor. By Steven G. O’Brien. Editor Paula McGuire. Consulting Editor Gary Gerstle. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 1991.

Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. New York: Oxford University Press, 1990.

Battle Chronicles of the Civil War. Editor. 6 vols. New York: Macmillan, 1989.

Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988.

How Lincoln Won the War with metaphors. Fort Wayne, IN.: Louis A. Warren Lincoln Library and Museum, 1985.

Lincoln and the Strategy of Unconditional Surrender. Gettysburg, PA: Gettysburg College, 1984.

Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction. 1st ed. New York: Knopf, 1982.

Region, Race, and Reconstruction: Essays in Honor of C. Vann Woodward, edited with by J. Morgan Kousser. New York: Oxford University Press, 1982.

The Abolitionist Legacy: From Reconstruction to the NAACP. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1975.

Blacks in America: Bibliographical Essays. 1st ed. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1971.

Marching toward Freedom: The Negro in the Civil War, 1861–1865. New York: Knopf, 1968.

The Negro’s Civil War: How American Negroes Felt and Acted during the War for the Union. New York: Pantheon Books, 1965.

The Struggle for Equality: Abolitionists and the Negro in the Civil War and Reconstruction. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1964.

Presidential Columns

The Past in the Present: Why I Became a Civil War Historian (Perspectives December 1998)
Budget Cuts and History Jobs: Many Problems, No Easy Solutions (Perspectives, January 2003)
Putting Public History in Its Proper Place (Perspectives, March 2003)
Deconstructing Affirmative Action (Perspectives, April 2003)
The Fruits of Preventive War (Perspectives, May 2003)
Revisionist Historians (Perspectives, September 2003)
A Crisis in Scholarly Publishing (Perspectives, October 2003)
Shaping the Profession by the Book: The CGE Report and the Future (Perspectives, November 2003)
Fact or Fiction? (Perspectives, January 2004)