The Unnecessary Civil War: An American Tragedy


The American Civil War was a never event, as unnecessary as it was deadly, its causes and conduct unfolding in a series of often-narrow contingencies. This book is about the underlying political strategy in context. Taking the long view of a tragic conflict that failed to end slavery, it begins with negotiations for Louisiana in 1802 and ends with the Colfax Massacre of 1873. Rather than blundering into crises, conflicts, and wars, political leaders strategized with the next election in focus. Election-winning strategies transformed an unruly republic into an unwieldy empire, adding a vast geographic territory encompassing sovereign Indian polities while sustaining tremendous demographic growth in the first half of the nineteenth century. Usually understood as national expansion, that imperial project fundamentally changed the American republic. The tragedy was that the building blocks of successful political and military strategies were also paving stones of future conflicts.

About the Author:
Calvin Schermerhorn is Professor of History in the School of Historical, Philosophical, and Religious Studies at Arizona State University in Tempe and is author of three books on American history, most recently The Business of Slavery and the Rise of American Capitalism, 1815-1860 (2015). He grew up in Southern Maryland and has ancestors who fought for the Union and the Confederacy. Follow him on Linkedin
, Academia and Twitter @CalScherm

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  1. Calvin Schermerhorn