Skip to comments.Best U.S. Civil War books - FReeper opinions sought
Posted on 10/07/2001 9:23:37 AM PDT by fnord
Hi there. I am going to buy a few Civil War books to get me through the winter. Given the wealth of knowledge here on FR, I am sure some FReepers can give me their recommendations.
I already have Killer Angels and Stillness at Appomatox. Looking for general overall history books and also ones of more specific scope (campaigns, individuals, etc).
Any suggestion would be most appreciated :-)
I'm sure there is a circle of Civil War buffs here who know each other. Pings to those people would be appreciated greatly.
we now return you to your regularly scheduled FR
I have had a set since I was a teenager. I find I reread them every 5 or 10 years. Only other books I have like that are Tollkien, the Earthsea Trilogy, Thucydides, and Churchill's WWII set.
picked a bad time to post this, lol, lot's more interesting stuff going on ... thanks again
An outstanding book that I am re-reading for the 5th time right now, as a matter of fact.
Antebellum, "roots of the conflict" books:
Cavalier and Yankee by William Taylor
The Southern Dream of a Caribbean Empire 1854-1861by Robert May
Antebellum ed. Harvey Wish. Contains "Cannibals All!" and "Sociology for the South" by George Fitzhugh, and "Impending Crisis" by Hinton Helper
Southern Honor by Bertram Wyatt-Brown
The Cotton Kingdom by Frederick Olmsted .
Life and Labor in the Old South by Ulrich B Phillips
The House divides byPaul Wellman.
The Freedom-of_Thought struggle in the Old South by Clement Eaton
The war itself (sets) :
Anything by Allan Nevins (8 volume Ordeal of the Union set, which covers 1847-1865)
Anything by Bruce Catton (Centennial history of the civil war trilogy, 2 volume bio of US Grant, Army of the Potomac trilogy)
One volume histories I like include:
Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
The Land They Fought for and Experiment in rebellion, both by Clifford Dowdey
The Confederate Nation 1861-1865 </U. Emory Thomas (pro south)
"A People's Contest" : Union and the Civil war 1861-1865Phillip Paudan (pro north)
Civil War on the Western Border 1854-1865 by Jay Monaghan
The Rise and Fall of the Confederate Government by Jefferson Davis
Anything by Bell Wiley (he did works on soldiers of both sides, women , poor whites, and southern "Negroes" (his term, and that's part of the title), and how they lived 1861-1865)
The diaries of Sarah Morgan and Mary Chestnut (especially the first book)
I don't know what stance you take on the civil war, but if you're pro north , you'll love :
When the Guns Roared : World Aspects of the Civil War by Philip Van Doren Stern.
If you're pro south, watch your blood pressure. This book was so blatantly biased , I don't believe it's been reprinted once. That, even though there's always a market for civil war books.
A similar but much better book is :
The North, The South, and the Powers 1861-1865 by DP Crook.
Post civil war books :
The Mind of the South by W J Cash
I'll Take My Stand by Twelve Southerners
Baptized in Blood : The Religion of the Lost Cause Charles Wilson
The Lost Cause : The Confederate Exodus to Mexico by Andrew Rolle
Reconstruction Eric Foner
Masters Without Slaves by James Roark
And the Entire 10 volume History of the South Series, especially:
The Growth of Southern Nationalism By Avery Craven (vol 6)
The Origins of the New South 1877-1913 by C Vann Woodward (vol 9)
I think there's now a volume 11 bringing the history up to the 1970s.
There's some other good ones out there, but for a variety of reasons, these are the ones I most reread.
Southern History of the War By Edward Pollard.
Written as it happened, constantly reprinted .
Company Aytch by Sam Watkins
Hardtack and Coffee by Josh Billings
Fighting for the Confederacy by E.P. Alexander
Campaigning with Grant by Horace Porter
If you have the chance to visit some battlefields, try and read the Army War College Guides first (published for Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg and maybe others....)
Most recently read:
Not War But Murder (subtitled "Cold Harbor 1864"), Ernest B. Furgurson.
They Called Him Stonewall (subtitled "A Life of Lieutenant General T.J. Jackson, C.S.A."), by Burke Davis.
When in the Course of Human Events, by Charles Adams.
The South Was Right! by James Ronald Kennedy and Walter Donald Kennedy.
Was Jefferson Davis Right?, also by the Kennedy brothers.
Right now I have just begun reading a new book:
An Honorable Defeat (subtitled "The Last Days of the Confederate Government), by William C. Davis.
I haven't gotten far enough into it to recommend it, though it's well written so far.
An outstanding book that I am reading for the 1st time right now, as a matter of fact.
Excellent choices, although Catton can drag if you're not into the details. (I am, so not a problem.) And when you tire of reading, rent Gettysburg, which is based upon Killer Angels. The funny part is that the book takes less time to read than the time to watch the movie.
Avoid MacPherson's books; they're propaganda.
I second both opinions. Catton's trilogy on the Army of the Potomoc is excellent; Freeman's Lee's Lieutenants is an excellent foil to Catton. Unfortunately, there's no comparable work on the Western campaigns, but there are many excellent books on individual campaings and battles, including Wiley Sword's books on Shiloh, Chattanooga, and Nashville; Cozzens' books on Stones River, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, and Iuka/Corinth; and Bearss' work on Vicksburg.
What do you think of him?
What do you think of him?
"I Rode With Stonewall" by Henry Douglass
When that first came out, I was camping in the Michigan woods. Missed the first episode, but sitting around the fire late that night, heard it mentioned on Johnny Carson. Every night after that me and my group would finish fishing and eating every night in time to sit and watch it non-stop on a little 8-inch B&W in the Michigan woods. Still the best TV has ever produced, imho
I have never read Mary Boykin Chesnut's diary; just never got around to it.
I do think that *some* slaves were "happy and loyal" but that they were a definite minority.
I understand Chesnut's plantation "Mulberry" is still standing and is an interesting tourist destination, as is the Museum of the Confederacy.
Since they are both within close driving distance for me (Camden SC and Richmond, respectively), I plan to visit them next summer.
There are so many other books on the War Between the States I need to check out, but haven't had as much time since my daughter was born.
I am just getting back into it in the last couple of months.
If you are interested in other books on American history, an excellent non-War related book I just finished was
Roanoke: Solving The Mystery of the Lost Colony, by Lee Miller.
I live in NC and vacation near Roanoke Island every year.
I've read many books on the "Lost Colony" story, and Miller has come closer than anyone in determining what happened to them.
Probably closer than anyone ever will, unless their remains are ever found, which is doubtful.
Thanks again for sharing that with me!
1.) "Mathew Brady's Illustrated History of the Civil War", Benson J. Lossing, LLD, Fairfax Press, NY, with 737 Brady Photographs.
Originally published in 1889, reissued ~1987. Extremely useful introduction and epilogue. Enormous amount of detail, fascinating photographs - including a Cherokee Confederate Veteran's Reunion. On the down side, the narrative drifts, lose ends are seldom wrapped up. The weakest part is the hagiography of Lincoln and demonization of the rebels. The tone implies that Lincoln's saintliness and the South's wickedness are presupposed. Reflects the political climate and self-rightness of the triumphant North at that time.
2.) Ambrose Bierce's Civil War (anthology). Dover Books. Priceless. A personal and idiosyncratic view of the war by a Union Officer who later became a famous American wit and newspaper writer. Bierce's disaffection and cynicism were shared by more thoughtful Union veterans than one reading Benson J. Lossing, LLD might be inclined to believe. Mostly biographical, some fiction, the two are never confused. There is more truth in fiction, often, than in history. "The Incident at Owl's Creek" is especially haunting. "What I Saw at Shiloh" tells you what it was like to fight at Shiloh better than Bruce Catton can ever know.
it'll take ya awhile, but worth it ...
That is a good book, and there's also Grant and Lee By Major General JC Fuller. Differs from the Smith book as being more of a study of the generalship of the two commanders. Fuller tells us how he started the book convinced that Lee was the greatest general of the civil war, and Jackson was a close second. He ended it believing that Grant was not only the greatest general of the civil war...he was one of the greatest US military leaders of all time.
And don't laugh: "Gone with the Wind." Still the most accurate portrayal of the home front at the time of the Civil War.
There's a novel that was written at the time which bears comparision to GWTW : Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty by J W DeForest, a Union veteran. The book deals with a southern belle's conversion, obviously, and the concommitant threeway romance between her and two rival Union officers. DeForest is considered an early "realist" writer, but while a talented writer, his works were not popular with contemporaries. They prefered more sentimental books, and his output was small. Both factors have prevented him from receiving the recognition to which his talent entitles him.
He wants to see Gettysburg ; I want to see Shiloh and Vicksburg.
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