The social history associated with the war is dealt with alongside the familiar military and political events. This inclusive approach allows the reader to consider equally the history of men and women, blacks and whites in the conflict. It deals with both the Union and the Confederacy, integrating the latest literature on the war and society into a clear account. The book concludes with an assessment of emancipation, the rebuilding of the economy, and the war's consequences.
An array of primary documents supports the text, together with a chronology, glossary and Who's Who guide to key figures.