Saturday, May 14, 2011

Book Review--Civil War Speeches North and South

Harrison, Maureen and Steve Gilbert, editors. Civil War Speeches: The North. Excellent Books, Carlsbad, CA. 155 pages, 2011. ISBN 9781880780329, $24.95.

Harrison, Maureen and Steve Gilbert, editors. Civil War Speeches: The South. Excellent Books, Carlsbad, CA. 168 pages, 2011. ISBN 9781880780336, $24.95.

Civil War Speeches: The North The period of the American Civil War produced many great orators and speeches that are still remembered today for their importance. In an era before 30 second sound bites starring famous actors or 140 character twitter posts dulled American senses and shortened attention spans the political speech helped shape American opinions whether heard live or read in newspapers days or weeks later.
Civil War Speeches: The South In this interesting new set of books editors Harrison and Gilbert have brought together some of the great oratory from the Civil War era (1850-1865). Overall the North is represented by 20 speeches while the South has 17. The leaders of both the Union and the Confederacy are well represented with Abraham Lincoln having four included (First and Second Inaugural, Gettysburg Address, and A House Divided Against Itself) while Jefferson Davis is included three times (First and Second Inaugural and Lost Cause). Other speakers include William Seward, Frederick Douglass, Henry David Thoreau, John Brown, Roger Taney, William Yancey, John Breckinridge, Robert E. Lee and others. Many of the works are recognized classics yet many may prove unfamiliar.

The editors have worked to present only the original words spoken referring either to original texts or reconciling differing texts. In places they have modernized spelling and some speeches are abridged to their essential content. Each speaker and speech receives a brief introduction and afterward. A small list of suggested reading accompanies each speech.

Overall, interesting content that should appeal to those with either a passing interest in Civil War oratory but who do not wish to get bogged down and also to those with a deeper interest. Each reading really stands on it's own allowing readers to pick up and put down the books as they see fit and have time. The reasonable purchase price could make this an appealing choice for survey level college courses dealing with this time frame.

Thank you to Excellent Books for providing review copies of both books.

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