The Civil War Events’ Description Differences

History is the past experiences that can be reflected by humanity to analyze the present and create a thriving future. However, the interpretation of the same occasion varies, depending on the author’s world perception or the work’s purpose. A historical book might observe the past from a political point of view, or certain writers might include subjective opinions. This paper aims to discuss how differently the same historical event can be construed based on the example of the Civil War and its explanation by Howard Zinn and “The American Yawn.”

The Civil War is a significant historical event that moved the American nation to its unity and revealed the United States’ social, political, and economic challenges in the nineteenth century. The fights between the northern and southern states occurred from 1861 to 1865, took away 750,000 lives, and made the War the bloodiest part of the nation’s history (Balcerski et al., 2018). The scenes and the outcomes of the Civil War are still being discussed in historical literature, books such as Zinn’s “A people’s history of the United States” and Stanford’s textbook “The American Yawp.”

Each book includes informative chapters that describe the Civil War, cover significant dates of fights, and describe unions’ movement in states. However, Zinn interpreted history through lenses different from the American Yawp’s editors’. The historian begins the chapter by sharing the moods and occasions of the northern and southern states’ representative 15 years before the War’s beginning (Zinn, 1980). Moreover, Zinn (1980) states that “class-consciousness was overwhelmed during the Civil War, both North and South, by military and political unity in the crisis of war” (p.220). In contrast, “The American Yawp” describes the events via the outcomes of president Lincoln’s governmental decisions. The chapter about the War primarily discusses the 1860’s election, the actions of the Northern Democrats, and argues with Republicans and the southern states’ representatives (Balcerski et al., 2018). Such construe of the War’s beginning is the difference between Zinn’s and “The American Yawp” editors’ perception of history.

Another significant distinction is the interpretation of black people’s role in the Civil War. Although both chapters point out that African Americans mostly remained servers for white soldiers, Zinn includes a detailed description of their conditions and attempts to organize resistance movements (Zinn, 1980). Balcerski et al. (2018) claim that “Lincoln believed that the presence of African American troops would threaten the loyalty of slaveholding border states, and white volunteers might refuse to serve alongside Black men” (p. 382). It reveals that “The American Yawp” interpreted the War as the political chain of events, while Zinn’s book is more about particular people’s experiences through history.

The construe of the Civil War varies in the books analyzed above for two reasons. Firstly, Zinn went through World War II, witnessed the bloodiness of fights that influenced his perception of an individual’s role in history (Cox et al., 2016). The book “A people’s history of the United States” describes the events filtered by the subjective opinion of their importance, therefore it can not be the same as “The American Yawp” with no particular author. Secondly, the textbook describes history as a chain of events and includes questions to reflect on after its chapters to help the reader gain their own opinion about past events. “The American Yawp” contributors encourage readers to look at history as the combination of political decisions and the outcomes.

The Civil War changed most Americans’ lives, and the reader’s choice should be based on their intention to explore the impact of the events or to discover the opinion of knowledgeable knowledge. It is vital to determine the background of an author or the purposes of a book’s contributors. Such ways to study history are equally helpful for the nation to avoid past mistakes and build a greater future.


Balcerski, T., Black, W., Cirillo, F., Hulbert, M. C., Lang, A. F., Riley, J. P., Riotto, A., Stern, G. N., Thomson, D., Tucker, A., & Zimmer, R. (2018). The Civil War. In A. E. Elder & D. Thomson (Eds.), (pp. 371-402). Stanford University Press.

Cox, L., Waterman, P., & Wood, L. (2016). , 8(2), 1-9.

Zinn, H. (1980). The other Civil War. In H. Zinn, (pp. 211-253). HarperCollins.

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