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Books on the American Civil War

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American Civil War
General Works
Contemporary Accounts

Second Bull Run

Grant, Ulysses S.
Sherman, William T.

Books - American Civil War

General Works

Contemporary Accounts


Second Bull Run


Fight Like the Devil - The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, Daniel T. Davis.A detailed examination of the first day of the battle of Gettysburg, looking at how the battle developed on both sides, the many myths and debates of the first day, the role of the key officers on both sides, and the eventual result of the fighting. This was an encounter battle, with both sides pouring troops into the fight as the day went on, with limited interventions by Lee or Meade, so the emphasis is on the role of key commanders at a lower level, and the results of their efforts(Read Full Review)




Ulysses S. Grant,union general

Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters , Ulysses S. Grant. Written while he was dying of throat cancer, Grant's memoirs concentrated on his life up to and including the civil war. An invaluable insight into the mind of one of the main players in the Civil War, summed up well by one of its most famous quotes.

"I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse"

William Tecumseh Sherman

5 Best Civil War Authors and Books in History

There are literally THOUSANDS of books on the Civil War, here’s 5 recommended Civil War authors and books that are historically accurate, well written, and balanced in their approach to both the North and South.

The trick is to understand the difference between Civil War authors and books. Some authors like Shelby Foote only wrote 1 CW book, but it’s a masterpiece. Others, like James McPherson, has pegged his entire career on being a Civil War writer and not all his books are masterpieces. You get the idea.

5 Best Civil War Authors and Books

The top 12 Civil War books ever written

By Glenn W. LaFantasie
Published December 27, 2010 12:01AM (EST)


If, like me, you received a necktie with reindeer on it from Santa instead of a good Civil War book under the Christmas tree, then you might try selecting one for yourself from my own list of the top 12 Civil War books, which I offer here in the spirit of the season and, even more appropriately, as the 150th anniversary of the war is about to begin. Perhaps your own observance of the sesquicentennial could include reading one of these books a month over the next year. If so, I can promise you'll be edified by every one of them, even if they do not end up on your own personal list of favorite Civil War books. And something more: there'll be no exam next December.

Putting together such a list is, of course, a nearly impossible task, given the stacks and stacks of excellent books on the Civil War that have been published since 1865. Historians like to say that 60,000 books, give or take a few thousand, have been written about the war, but I'd wager that estimate is way too low. One needs only ponder the steady stream of books on nearly every aspect of the war that regularly roll off the presses to realize that Americans never seem to get enough of their favorite war.

Trying to name the top dozen Civil War books of all time is, admittedly, a brazen act on my part. Nevertheless, the books on this list are, indeed, my all-time favorites -- cherished works that have informed and inspired me, sometimes leaving me awestruck. In some cases, I've read these books more than once. Each time, I extract something new from them never has my opinion of them lessened from reading them again. They are like old friends: They never wear you out and they don't ask much from you, other than that you think of them from time to time and recall what they mean to you.

All of these books occupy a special place in my own collection of Civil War works -- not only because I'm a Civil War historian, but also because these happen to be extraordinary books, every one of which has been written by exceptionally gifted authors. These are the sort of books you wish you hadn't read before, if only because you'd like to recapture the pure delight of reading them fresh for the first time. I hope you'll find my descriptions of them enticing enough to seek them out for yourself. No doubt you might disagree with my assessment of them. One of my wisest professors once said that books don't belong to their authors -- they belong to their readers. Every reader will have a different response to these books, but my hope is that you might enjoy them -- or any one of them -- as much as I do.

First, some arbitrary rules that have guided my selection of titles. I've only included books published after World War II, which means I'm leaving out a long shelf of good books issued before the second half of the 20th century, some of which still stand the test of time. Out of necessity, I've narrowly defined the universe from which I have picked my top dozen. For example, I've not included any biographies on this list -- an exclusion that some may find indefensible. No series or multivolume works are included here either, which means that Allan Nevins' majestic "The Ordeal of the Union" (eight volumes), Bruce Catton's "Centennial History of the Civil War" (three volumes), and Shelby Foote's very popular "The Civil War" (three volumes) are not to be found below, despite the fact that they all qualify as masterpieces. What's more, I've stuck to only nonfiction titles, so fans of Margaret Mitchell's "Gone With the Wind" or Michael Shaara's "The Killer Angels" (both winners of the Pulitzer Prize) will be disappointed to see these novels missing from my list.

In any event, here are a dozen books that, for me, tell the story of the Civil War with literary elegance, intellectual gusto and enormous flair. Most of these books are in print (and in paper editions) and may be purchased at your local bookstore, from out-of-print book dealers, or from any of numerous book retailers on the Internet (links provided in the list below are to

12. "The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War": This coffee-table book, first published by the old American Heritage magazine company in 1960, offers lavish illustrations, including scores of photographs by Mathew Brady and other masterful war photographers, and a lively narrative by Bruce Catton, who was widely considered at the time to be the dean of Civil War historians. Although American Heritage tried to update the book for a new generation of readers by publishing a more dazzling edition in 2001 (mostly by adding illustrations, captions and sidebars while retaining Catton's basic text), the original edition remains a classic in many respects, the old outshines the new, which lacks editorial cohesion and seems almost slapdash in its presentation. If you are a Civil War enthusiast and you don't own the 1960 edition, your library is woefully incomplete. If you are only casually interested in the Civil War, this is the one book you should read and own.

11. "Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America": This slim book packs a powerful punch. As the title says, this is as much a book about America during the Civil War era as it is about Lincoln, who led the Northern states to victory. The late William E. Gienapp, who taught at Harvard, skillfully weaves Lincoln's life and the great events of his lifetime into a single, riveting narrative. What's remarkable about this book is how much ground it covers, including perspicacious tidbits about Lincoln, in just over 200 pages. Felicitously written, this book is captivating and informative. By no means is this simply a rehash -- old wine in a new bottle. Gienapp offers a fresh perspective on the Civil War and the 16th president who became one of its most tragic victims.

10. "Lincoln's Men: How President Lincoln Became Father to an Army and a Nation": As the Civil War erupted, Abraham Lincoln called on the states to supply men and arms for an army. In doing so, he defined the modern role of the president as commander in chief. In this robustly written book, William C. Davis, a prolific and remarkably talented author, explains how Lincoln not only organized the government to fight the Civil War, but how he successfully won the affection of the thousands of Northern soldiers who filled the ranks, marched down dusty roads, and, in so many cases, gave their lives for the Union cause. For these soldiers, the president became "Father Abraham," and their devotion to him and to their country manifested itself in their faith that his leadership would eventually pilot them down the road to victory. Relying on unpublished soldier letters and diaries to great effect, Davis reveals in stunning detail what was in the hearts and minds of Northern soldiers who adored their president and who made the crucial difference in electing him to a second term in 1864.

9. "Grant and Sherman: The Friendship That Won the Civil War": As Charles Bracelen Flood makes perfectly clear in this engaging book, the Union would have lost the war had it not been for the professional and personal relationship between Ulysses S. Grant, the Union army's general in chief, and William Tecumseh Sherman, his subordinate. From the very start of this book, the reader follows these men as they lead their armies to victory in both theaters of the war, east and west. Flood's writing is fluid and compelling: He does not get caught in the trap of telling one man's story and then the other, chapter by chapter, like a pendulum in a grandfather clock -- first tick (Grant), then tock (Sherman). Instead, the author blends his account of the two generals into a perfect whole and makes us feel, page after page, that we are in the presence of these great soldiers, marching off to war or sitting by a campfire with them. There is probably no better book that explains precisely how the Union, guided by these two brilliant officers, won the Civil War.

8. "Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave": Countless "battle books" about the Civil War have been published, particularly over the past 50 years or so, but this account of Chancellorsville, written by Ernest B. ("Pat") Furgurson, stands out as one of the very best. Furgurson, another former journalist, not only recounts the story behind what most historians regard as Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee's greatest victory, he does so in a manner that keeps the reader totally enthralled, page after page. Focusing as much on ordinary soldiers as he does on generals (including Confederate Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson, who was fatally wounded by "friendly fire"), he depicts the battle as a grim human ordeal, which it surely was, with men grappling desperately to kill their enemies in rows and droves, struggling all the while to achieve victory at practically any cost. As one would expect from a newspaperman, Furgurson has a fine eye for detail and displays a nimble aptitude for injecting pathos into this tale of two armies bent on destroying one another. His prose flows with a simple felicity that is enviable. One sentence offers a prime example: "The rain fell and the river rose." Sounds like Hemingway. Reads like F. Scott Fitzgerald.

7. "Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam": This is probably the best book ever written on any single battle of the Civil War. On Sept. 17, 1862, the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia, under the command of Robert E. Lee, clashed in Maryland with the Union Army of the Potomac, led by George B. McClellan, in what would turn out to be the single bloodiest day of the Civil War and in all of American history. The casualties were staggering: More than 23,000 soldiers were killed, lay wounded on the field, or went missing after the battle. Stephen W. Sears, the author of several splendid Civil War books, conveys all the human drama of the battle, skillfully shifting from generals to soldiers in the ranks to reconstruct the battle through the eyes of the men who fought it. With deftness, Sears shows how this great fight -- which ended technically in a draw -- unfolded by fits and starts, with no one on either side having control over what was taking place or what would happen next, a whirlwind of men and noise that ripped from one end of the battlefield to the other, the whole outcome fully dependent on contingency, fate and luck. Although Sears is not a lyricist (his writing tends to be lean and taut), he writes with terrific polish and great authority.

6. "Confederates in the Attic: Dispatches From the Unfinished Civil War": Actually this is not a book about the Civil War rather, it's a book about how Americans -- and particularly Southerners -- think about the war today and how the war's legacies continue to shape our lives. In the 1990s, Tony Horwitz, another journalist, took to the highways to discover for himself what the Civil War means to modern Americans. He hoped to find out why the Civil War looms so large in the nation's memory, so much so that "living historians" spend thousands of dollars outfitting themselves as Yankees and Rebels who fire blank cartridges at one another in Civil War battle reenactments, and other Americans, black and white, still struggle over the Confederate battle flag, one of the war's caustic symbols of the "Lost Cause." In describing his travels through the South, Horowitz delineates how the Civil War lives on in our culture. His book is a funny, sober, poignant, and intelligent report on why the Civil War seems never to have ended. But Horwitz, for all his whimsy, reaches a serious and unsettling conclusion: We, as a nation, are nowhere near laying to rest the problems that the Civil War failed to solve. 

5. "Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory": David W. Blight's book, published in 2001, explores how the past is connected to the present by looking at the ways in which Americans have remembered the Civil War. His deeply researched and carefully crafted study argues that after the war white veterans, Union and Confederate, facilitated the reconciliation of the two sections by consciously avoiding the fact that slavery had brought on the sectional conflict, choosing instead to celebrate the courage that they and their comrades had brandished in battle. Less consciously, they and their fellow Americans found this new narrative -- this rewriting of history based on a kind of historical amnesia -- comforting and restorative. Reunification became a joyful event, but it came at a steep price. After Reconstruction, Northerners and Southerners alike took hold of a "Lost Cause" ideology that showed pity toward the South in its defeat, accepted Jim Crow policies that deprived blacks of their civil rights, and pushed for policies and practices that would ensure white supremacy across the land. Blight carefully avoids grinding axes as he makes his argument, which taken as a whole helps to explain why America today continues to wrestle with the seemingly endless and divisive issue of race, even while a black man resides in the White House. Here is a powerful book, artfully written by a scholar of learned poise who believes that by knowing the past we might better know ourselves.

4. "This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War": This book takes stamina, not because it is poorly written or because it fails to command the reader's attention, but because it deals with an enormously difficult, but vitally important, subject -- how death, which came to nearly every household during the four years of the Civil War, was perceived and handled by the soldiers on the front lines and civilians on the home front as North and South tried to cope with a war that produced, as one Union officer called it, "a carnival of death." Drew Gilpin Faust, a historian who's now the president of Harvard, addresses a topic that other historians have failed to discuss in any depth or substance, often because our own romantic images of the Civil War block out its most distressing -- and grisly -- reality. More than 620,000 Union and Confederate soldiers died in the war, which meant that Northerners and Southerners had to deal with the deaths of loved ones and friends in unprecedented numbers -- shocking casualty figures that exceeded anything that Americans ever experienced before. Faust's prose is appropriately somber in tone. Her stately style, however, fits perfectly with her subject she discusses the ultimate horror of war, the grim loss of lives on battlefields far away, and how those left behind -- soldiers and civilians alike -- struggled to cope with their emptiness and their grief. This is a sobering book but it is also brilliant and profound.

3. "Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era": For many people, this is their favorite Civil War book. Awarded the Pulitzer Prize for history in 1989 for this book, James M. McPherson, now a professor emeritus at Princeton University, set out to tell the story of the Civil War in a single (though huge) volume by writing a gripping narrative that relied on eyewitness accounts of the war and on the most recent scholarship in the field of Civil War studies. He achieved his goal admirably and with great flourish. By any measure, this is the best one-volume history of the war. McPherson's prose shines, even bedazzles, throughout the book, although he's less than agile in making transitions within chapters from one subject to the next, and his writing sometimes grows suddenly dull and weak, only to gain strength by the next chapter. Nonetheless, this is a great book, an epic book -- herculean in size and scope. McPherson's mastery of the war's details alone defies comprehension. It's doubtful that any other historian will come along soon with the necessary talent and energy to write a single-volume history of the war that can match this one in style, content and substance.

2. "The Destructive War: William Tecumseh Sherman, Stonewall Jackson, and the Americans": Charles Royster's book is unlike any other I've ever read about the Civil War. For one thing, it's badly subtitled the main title should have been left to stand on its own. For another, it defies ready description because it offers a nuanced -- and, to a certain degree, a disturbing -- interpretation of the Civil War. Drawing on an impressive array of primary and secondary sources, Royster, a distinguished professor at Louisiana State University, paints a multilayered and strikingly vibrant portrait of American society in the war years by displaying its true colors -- the war, he argues, in all its destructive and terrible brutality, was precisely the kind of war that the nation's citizens, North and South, wanted (in other words, be careful what you wish for), despite all the lamentations that could be heard as the war grew in intensity and became increasingly more cataclysmal from one battle to the next. But Royster does not stop there. He explains how Americans, who expressed a deep ambivalence in their feelings about the war, could be passively shocked by their own destructiveness and, at the same time, aggressively hopeful that their armies would totally annihilate the enemy, leaving no foe standing by war's end. Still, he points out, Americans on both sides, Northerners and Southerners, exaggerated the actual levels of violence and destruction that occurred during the war, leading subsequent generations to conclude that the Civil War resembled the total warfare of the 20th century. Even so, there was no denying the warrior instincts of generals like Stonewall Jackson and William Tecumseh Sherman, both of whom seem to have thrived on battle and the chaos of war. With lucid prose, and by combining narrative and thematic chapters into an innovative mosaic, Royster unveils a Civil War that is totally at odds with what you've read before or what you think you know about the conflict. Nevertheless, his rendition of the war -- filled with all its complexities, ambiguities, vicarious pleasures, overwhelming miseries, inherent contradictions, violent hyperbole and actual violence -- makes utter sense. The Civil War, in other words, was no simple episode in our nation's history, despite all our efforts to see it only as blue versus gray, brother against brother. The book, published in 1991, won the Bancroft Prize in American History. It should have won a Pulitzer.

1. "A Stillness at Appomattox": My top choice did win a Pulitzer for its author, Bruce Catton. For those who aren't familiar with his works, which are plentiful, he was probably the 20th century's foremost American writer of narrative histories, most of which were about the Civil War. Published in 1953, "A Stillness at Appomattox" details the experiences of the Army of the Potomac during the final year of the war, but it is much more than a retelling of an often told tale. In fact, one could say this book is a prose poem to the Army of the Potomac and the men who fought in it. As a child growing up in Michigan, Catton knew and spoke to Civil War veterans in his small hometown. Although a good part of his career was spent as a newspaper journalist and columnist, he took up writing Civil War books in the 1950s, became the senior editor of American Heritage magazine, and gained great fame as an author until his death in 1978. Catton wrote not only with a journalist's eye, but also with a novelist's sensibilities (although he only ever published one novel on the Civil War for juvenile readers). Today his name -- and the quality of his work -- is largely forgotten, although Civil War historians and enthusiasts still heap high praise on him for his long list of highly satisfying Civil War books and biographies. "A Stillness at Appomattox" stands out from all the rest of his writings. As this fine book reveals so expressively, Catton forged a trail for later Civil War historians by writing his account of the Army of the Potomac from the point of view of soldiers in the ranks. By means of lilting sentences, adroit portraits of men and their peccadilloes, and iron-hard descriptions of men in battle, Catton turns the Army of the Potomac into more than a mass of men in wartime his picture of the army and its soldiers convinces you that he was there with them, which of course he wasn't, but you feel that anyway because his narrative carries you back into the world in which those soldiers lived and died. Beneath the surface of Catton's chronicle runs the awful specter of the tolls of war -- how war dehumanizes, stultifies, and yet breeds comradery, trust and even love among those who wage it. Long before academic historians turned to highlighting the "face of battle" in their military studies of the Civil War, Catton sketched accurately and effectively the dour features of that face. More to his credit, Catton discussed -- in this book and in others -- how slavery was the cause of the war, the plight of slaves and freedmen as the war wore on, and the importance of the Union cause as a driving force behind the determination of Northern soldiers to win the war and reunite the country. This book leaves sharp images lingering in the reader's mind, largely because Catton expertly sets scenes, describes people in human terms, and refuses to disguise the ugly, malevolent and heartless aspects of war. Yet, in the end, the book is surprisingly uplifting, a splendid tale of victory, no doubt because Catton so adeptly uses irony and compassion to tell the Army of the Potomac's story. Walt Whitman once famously said, "the real war will never get in the books." He was wrong. The real war, in all its dimensions, can be luminously found in this, the best book ever written about the Civil War.

Glenn W. LaFantasie

Glenn W. LaFantasie is the Richard Frockt Family Professor of Civil War History at Western Kentucky University. He is working on a book about Abraham Lincoln and Ulysses S. Grant.

Picture Books About Harriet Tubman

This Caldecott Honor book has wonderful illustrations and tells the story of Harriet Tubman through poetic text.

Brad Metzler’s bestselling Ordinary People Change the World series is fun for kindergarteners to third graders. The stories are short and filled with impactful lessons on great historical figures.

In this Coretta Scott King Illustrator Honor Book, we learn about Harriet Tubman looking back at her life. This book is not text-heavy and has beautiful illustrations. It is highly recommended. Grab the book guide here.

David Adler’s A Picture Book series is a classic. From being born into slavery to courageously going back to help her people, this is a great tribute to Harriet Tubman.

Books on the American Civil War: A Critical Bibliography

Tens of thousands of books have been published on the Civil War. Keeping track of what books are available, and whether they are worthwhile, is an impossible task. Books on the American Civil War: A Critical Bibliography by Walter Westcote, Daniel Welch, and Theodore P. Savas, was designed to make that task easier.

In an effort to sort through the deluge of title, historians Allan Nevins, James Robertson, and Bell Wiley produced Civil War Books: A Critical Bibliography, 2 vols. (Louisiana State Univ. Press, 1967). The study, which arose from their work with the Centennial Commission, helped synthesize some of the most important works available in many categories, but its usefulness was limited by its very brief descriptions that consisted of no more than a handful of words. Still, it remains a classic and hard to find in good condition for a fair price.

Thirty years later, David J. Eicher updated the earlier effort with The Civil War in Books: An Analytical Bibliography ( Univ. of Ill Press, 1997). This well-received reference work includes books published through mid-1995. As anyone who has studied this era knows, a vast number of significant books have been published since that time.

As Theodore P. Savas has often argued, "The Golden Age of Civil War publishing is now!" Hence the need for this updated bibliography.

Walter Westcote brought his manuscript to us several years ago, but fell ill and had difficulty editing and finalizing it. (Sadly, Walter did not live to see the fruits of his initial labor published, and passed away in 2020.) Daniel Welch and Theodore P. Savas joined in and the project is now nearly finished. Most of the books included herein have been published since the appearance of Eicher&rsquos 1997 study, though a few seminal books that must be included in any listing can be found herein.

Topics are wide-ranging and organized into easy-to-use categories so readers can find exactly what they are seeking. Categories include battles and campaigns (all theaters), Civil War Navies, Confederate and Union memoirs and biographies, general works, civilians, slavery, and of course, unit histories. Main entries are alphabetized (in sub-categories, if appropriate) and include the author or editor, title, publisher, date of the original publication, a short critical (i.e., opinionated) summary of its contents, and its specifications (i.e., whether it has maps, photos and illustrations, notes, biblio., and index, and whether it was first published in hardcover or paperback, issued with a dust jacket, and its page count).

Civil War titles are not inexpensive, so knowing what is inside a book, and whether it has been well-received or ridiculed, is important before you put down your hard-earned money. Does it have notes and a bibliography? Is it well-written and deeply researched? Are there better books on the subject? Is it woefully out of date and no longer of use? These and many other issues are explored in virtually every entry.

The books you will not purchase because of what is inside this study will save you many times the cost of this book.

Finally, Books on the American Civil War is fun to peruse and read. And, we guarantee that every reader and student of the war will stumble across gems throughout this study they did not know existed.

We hope you find it useful and, together with the first two bibliographic books that preceded it, make your love of the Civil War that much more enjoyable.

100 Must-Read Civil War Books About The Historic Era

The Civil War era, one of the ugliest periods in American history, has produced some of the most fascinating and heartbreaking books, both novels and historical accounts. From meticulously reconstructed battle scenes and the politics of war, to journals from slaves and all the horrors of slavery, thousands of Civil War books about America&rsquos war at home and life during that time are written every year. (There are hundreds every year on Abraham Lincoln alone.)

Here are 100 of the best Civil War books every written&ndashboth fiction and nonfiction. They cover several aspects of the time period, including a few that cover events leading up to the war, and a few, like Beloved, about people&rsquos lives after it.

    by Karen Abbott by Louisa May Alcott by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook by David W. Blight

11 Historical Fiction Chapter Books About The American Civil War

John Lincoln Clem Civil War Drummer Boy: Based on a True Story
by E.F. Abbott (ages 6 – 9)
Johnny leads home at age 9 to fight in the Civil War. He begins as a drummer boy and later becomes a soldier. This is an exciting, well-written story made even more interesting because it’s based on a real story.

The Civil War on Sunday
by Mary Pope Osborne, illustrated by Sal Murdocca (ages 6 – 9)
I love this series! It shows kids snapshots of important parts of world history, this time The American Civil War. Jack and Annie travel back in time to the Civil War where they’ll help a nurse named Clara Barton care for wounded soldiers.

I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863
by Lauren Tarshis (ages 7 – 10)
Thomas and his sister Birdie are following the North Star to escape their lives of slavery when they meet a Union soldier. The siblings stay with the army, even when they are ordered to Gettysburg. Fortunately, the battle isn’t depicted as bloody as it truly –was is age appropriate in my opinion. It does give readers some of the major events and issues of the Civil War including slavery.

My America: My Brother’s Keeper: Virginia’s Civil War Diary, Book One
by Mary Pope Osborne (ages 8 – 12)
Did you see the author? Yes, the Magic Tree House author wrote this story. It’s out of print so yo’ll have to find it at the library or used. Virginia “Ginny” writes in her journal about her life her experience living near the location of The Battle of Gettysburg where her brother, Jed, is injured.

Like a River: A Civil War Novel
by Kathy Cannon Wiechman (ages 10 – 13)
This book follows the intersecting stories of two underage kids, Leander and Polly, who both enlist in the Civil War for different reasons. Their journeys are hard: battles, prison, hospitals, and suffering. The teens learn more than they ever imagined about loyalty, friendship, family, and most of call, courage.
Nathan Hale’s Hazardous Tales: Big Bad Ironclad!
by Nathan Hale
Boy readers especially like this graphic novel series much more than me but it’s just personal preference –the more sarcastic tone and the violence of the books do not appeal to me personally. And yet, so many kids like these books that I finally decided to add them to this book list. No doubt, these introduce kids to history and can motivate kids to read so those are good things. This particular story takes place during the American Civil War focusing on the ironclad steam warships with the battles, other military aspects of the war, and real people like William Cushing.

Bull Run
by Paul Fleischman
This is one of my favorite Civil War novels. It shows events leading up to it and the actual battle of The Battle of Bull Run from 16 fictional character’s voices. Each chapter is short, written from one person’s perspective, making it a fast-paced read. The different voices give readers a unique, three-dimensional view of what happened. It’s also an easier read than some of the other middle grade books on this list.

Soldier’s Heart
by Gary Paulsen (ages 12+)
War is always, in all ways appalling,” Paulsen writes in the forward. He explains that most men who fought came home profoundly changed (what we now call PTSD), said to have “soldier’s heart.” This is the fictional story of 15-year old Charley who joins the Minnesota Volunteers, not even knowing for what he was fighting but hoping for excitement. He doesn’t get it only drills, horrors, and survival. Later, at age 19, he’ll return home a very different person. Vivid descriptions set the different scenes — which in a war is nothing pleasant — so just be aware that there is a LOT of gruesomeness.
Rifles for Watie
by Harold Keith (ages 12+)
Have you read this Newbery Medal-winning chapter book? It’s a classic, well-researched historical fiction story about a 16-year old boy named Jeff who joins the Union army in Kansas. Month after month, Jeff’s former eagerness about fighting turns into weariness and permanent hunger. He sees battles and death. Then, he finds himself on the other side with the Stand Watie rebel who led the Cherokee Indian Nation. Jeff’s experiences show the complexities of the two warring sides and the motivations for each group. Warning: There is, not surprisingly, a lot of violence as well as the use of the “n” word.

+ a Nonfiction Book for Kids About the Civil War

Blood and Germs The Civil War Battle Against Wounds and Disease
by Gail Jarrow
Well-researched, detailed, informative, and interesting, discover the history of (terrible) medicine during the Civil War. The format with sidebars, news stories, photographs, and original documents make it appealing to read.

Bibliography of the American Civil War

The American Civil War bibliography comprises books that deal in large part with the American Civil War. There are over 60,000 books on the war, with more appearing each month. [1] Authors James Lincoln Collier and Christopher Collier stated in 2012, "No event in American history has been so thoroughly studied, not merely by historians, but by tens of thousands of other Americans who have made the war their hobby. Perhaps a hundred thousand books have been published about the Civil War." [2]

There is no complete bibliography to the war the largest guide to books is over 40 years old and lists over 6,000 of the most valuable titles as evaluated by three leading scholars. [3] Many specialized topics such as Abraham Lincoln, [4] women, [5] and medicine [6] have their own lengthy bibliographies. The books on major campaigns typically contain their own specialized guides to the sources and literature. The most comprehensive guide to the historiography annotates over a thousand major titles, with an emphasis on military topics. [7] The most recent guide to literary and non-military topics is A History of American Civil War Literature (2016) edited by Coleman Hutchison. It emphasizes cultural studies, memory, diaries, southern literary writings, and famous novelists. [8]

10 Nonfiction Books About The Civil War

I’ve always held a measure of fascination over the Civil War, and now that we’re facing some 150 year anniversaries of the war (as well as the fact that certain Civil War heroes are going to be gracing our currency), the fires of interest have been stoked once more. One great way to satiate cravings for this era of American history to read books about the Civil War.

Between the fabulousness of Gone with the Wind and the beautifully written love letters of the Civil War era, it’s easy to romanticize it all. But it was far from romantic. There were the horrors of slavery, the impact of a horrific death toll, and the terror and uncertainty of a people whose country was torn apart by its seams. Amidst the darkness, however, there were stories of bravery and love and inspiration, including stories of female soldiers masquerading as men in order to fight and tales of men and women fighting on behalf of those they love. If you're at all interested in learning more about this period of American history, I’ve compiled a list of 10 nonfiction books about the Civil War. These historical texts are anything but dry, and if you love a good piece of history, you’ll love these stories.

1. This Hallowed Ground the Story of the Union Side of the Civil War by Bruce Catton

Written with a moving sort of lyricism, This Hallowed Ground focuses entirely on the Union side of the Civil War, from the months of unrest that led to the attack at Fort Sumter all the way to the day the Confederacy surrendered. The tone of the book is that of a journalistic narrative, notable for the fact that it feels as though you are reading historical analysis from someone who experienced the war firsthand.

2. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War by Drew Gilpin Faust

The Civil War took the lives of approximately 620,000 soldiers, which, if adjusted for population inflation, would translate to 6 million today. This Republic of Suffering studies the financial, social, intellectual, and spiritual impact that such an enormous death toll would have on the country. While the topic is a bit macabre, it's definitely a unique angle that isn't often explored. Faust guides us through the logistical challenges of such death tolls, detailing the first widespread use of embalming, the rise of undertaking as a profession, and the development of a federal system of national cemeteries for the Union dead, as well as development of private cemeteries for the Confederacy. The loss of civilian lives isn't glossed over either, and the book details the conflicts that arose due to the abolishment of slavery. If you believe that you've read almost everything about the Civil War already, pick up this book. you haven't even come close.

3. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin

Abraham Lincoln is widely praised as one of the greatest presidents in American history. Although the story of his life and death has graced the pages of many a book, historian Doris Kearns Goodwin believes there's still more to be said. In Team of Rivals, Goodwin studies Lincoln's political genius through the relationships of three men that he selected for his cabinet: William H. Seward, Salmon P. Chase, and Edward Bates, all of whom opposed him in his running for president in 1860. While all three of these gentleman originally disliked Lincoln, they were all convinced to join his administration. They all grew to deeply respect the man. Set against the backdrop of the Civil War, this book is a little more political in nature, but it is definitely well worth the read for any history buff.

4. A Diary from Dixie by Mary Boykin Chesnut

While most books about the Civil War are historical retrospectives written by historians many years after the fact, A Diary from Dixie was actually written during the course of the war. Mary Boykin Chesnut was a society matron and wife of Confederate General James Chesnut Jr., a senator and aide to Confederate President Jefferson Davies. Since she was such an active participant in her husband's career — even accompanying him on postings in Charleston, Richmond, and Columbia — Chesnut had a front row seat to many of the goings on in the war, and she swiftly produced what is considered to be one of the most important books about the Civil War.

5. Sickles at Gettysburg: The Controversial Civil War General Who Committed Murder, Abandoned Little Round Top, and Declared Himself the Hero of Gettysburg by James A. Hessler

General Dan Sickles was definitely a controversial figure. This disgraced former congressman publicly murdered his wife's lover on the streets of Washington D.C., and he was the first person to use the newly-minted temporary insanity defense to escape justice. With his career in shambles, he used his connections with Abraham Lincoln to obtain command in the Union army despite his lack of military experience. At the infamous Battle of Gettysburg, Sickle disobeyed direct orders and marched on the peach orchard, an action that dictated the rest of the battle's strategy for both sides. A fascinating figure, this biography is almost too crazy to believe.

6. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War by DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook

For three years, "Albert Cashier" fought bravely in the Union army, and was believed to be a man until 1911, when this aged veteran revealed that she was actually a woman named Jennie Hodgers. Another woman, Frances Clayton, kept fighting long after her husband was felled in battle, and this isn't counting all of the soldiers who surprised their fellow comrades by giving birth in camp. They Fought Like Demons compiles loads of stories about the hundreds of women who disguised themselves as men to fight. Talk about fighting the patriarchy!

7. Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: the True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy by Elizabeth R. Varon

Elizabeth Van Lew is one of the most fascinating female figures in American history. This book centers around a woman who, according to historians, created "the most productive espionage operation of the Civil War." A Union sympathizer living in Richmond, Virginia, she ran a spy ring during the Civil War that not only shared intelligence to hamper the efforts of the Confederacy, but helped hundreds of Union soldiers sneak back into the North. This biography studies her struggles as a Southern woman who took positions that were controversial for her time, including her early efforts to free her family's slaves.

8. Civil War Love Stories by Gill Paul

The Civil War pitted families against each other, tore friendships apart, and left 200,000 women widowed by the end of it. Civil War Love Stories centers on 14 couples who faced those odds. Such examples of these couples include David Demus, who joined fighting after the forming of the first African American regiment and would write tales of battles to his beloved wife, Mary. Another is the story of the famous military tactician Stonewall Jack, who simply wanted to win the war so that he could return to his beloved wife and baby daughter. These heartbreaking love stories are going to stay with you for a long time.

9. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era by James M. McPherson

Another single volume history of the Civil War, this volume captures the drama that occurred on both sides of the war, including such milestones as the Dred-Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, and John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry. McPherson also brings his own ideas about several points in the war, including the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, and the anti-war opposition in the North.

10. Gettysburg by Stephen W. Sears

Ask a person to name a battle from the Civil War, and more often than not they're going to name Gettysburg. Using source material like soldier's letters and official military war records, this single volume book closely studies the most important battle in the Civil War, if not the most important battle in American history.

Best books to begin reading about the American civil war?

I would like to start reading about the civil war but I have found that the selection is overwhelming in terms of different aspects of the war. I guess I would like to begin with a general overview and let that carry me into the different aspects of the war and the era. Any suggestions on where to begin?

James Macpherson's Battle Cry Of Freedom was my college Civil War class textbook.

We also read Freehling's The Road To Disunion, which is an excellent narrative of antebellum America, and the events and politics leading up to the war.

Battle Cry of Freedom is an excellent book. Great run up to the war as well.

It is absolutely the best single-volume general history, IMO. Can't recommend highly enough.

I agree with Battle Cry For Freedom. A totally unbiased look at the civil war. It's long and detailed, but VERY informative. He also does not favor the union nor the confederacy-he is, as I said, unbiased in his history.

It's a LOT to chew, but Shelby Foote's The Civil War: a Narrative is an extraordinary piece of work.

Extremely well-written and an awesome experience to read.

However, understand going in that Foote is a bit of a 'lost cause'r. He's pretty soft on a few major figures, particularly on the Confederacy and presents the war differently than a lot of other historians.

His introduction of Gettysburg is masterful.

Lee, overlooking a map, telling a general "I think we shall fight a large battle around here". "There, under his hand on the dead Jackson's map, was the college town Gettysburg. With ten roads leading to ten different destinations, as if it were groping its way for trouble in all directions". Very roughly paraphrased, but that always stuck with me.

Edit: Here is the actual quote, as it's not really fair for me to butcher Foote's beautiful writing. "One of the place names under his hand as he spoke was the college town of Gettysburg, just over twenty miles away, from which no less than ten roads ran to as many disparate points of the compass, as if it were probing for trouble in all directions".

Watch the video: A Book Chat - The American Civil War: A Military History (May 2022).