Civil War Reading List
Favorite Civil War books “that bring to life such an interesting and pivotal chapter in American history.”
Ordeal by Fire, James M. McPherson, “details the events of the Civil War.”
For Cause and Comrades, James M. McPherson, “explores why individuals fought in such a vicious contest.”
Stonewall Jackson, James Robertson, “examines a dominant military commander.”
Chancellorsville, Stephen W. Sears, “an excellent battle study.”
Team of Rivals, Doris Kearns Goodwin; Abraham Lincoln and Civil War America, William E. Gienapp; and Lincoln and His Admirals, Craig L. Symonds, “analyze Abraham Lincoln and the pivotal role he played in the Civil War.”
How the North Won, Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones, and Why the South Lost the Civil War, Richard E. Beringer et al., “the strategy and military calculus of the Civil War.”
Nativism and Slavery, Tyler Anbinder, “investigates the complex politics of the era.”
Battle Cry of Freedom, James McPherson, “still the best narrative history of the Civil War,” 1989 Pulitzer Prize for History.
American Civil War Trilogy (The Coming Fury, Terrible Swift Sword and Never Call Retreat) and Army of the Potomac Trilog y (Mr. Lincoln’s Army, Glory Road and A Stillness at Appomattox, 1954 Pulitzer Prize for History), Bruce Catton, “Catton’s work and ideas have been challenged and revised by more recent scholars but his writing is so beautiful that I would recommend these volumes for those wanting just a masterful retelling of events.”
Soul by Soul, Walter Johnson, “about antebellum slave markets to understand the economic and cultural significance of slavery to antebellum southern society.”
Uncle Tom’s Cabin, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and a southern response – “anti-Tom” novel – “as a thought exercise. Not only will you be reading the most popular book in 19th century America, you will also get an idea of how both northerners and southerners perceived each other.”
Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men, Eric Foner, “to understand the ideology that fueled the birth of the Republican Party, highlighted the debate over expansion, and led to the war.”
Lincoln, David Donald, “still the best one” (Lincoln biography).
Jefferson Davis, American, William Cooper, “a good companion volume” to the Lincoln biography.
The Confederate War, Gary W. Gallagher, “to understand the determination with which the Confederacy fought.”
For Cause & Comrades, James McPherson, “an excellent study of soldiers’ motivations during the conflict.”
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara, a classic on Gettysburg “for those interested in a fictional account of the war’s bloodiest battle,” 1975 Pulitzer Prize for Fiction.
This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust, “a moving and excellent book about how Americans coped with death during the war.”
Reconstruction, Eric Foner, “still the best history of that period.”
Race & Reunion, David Blight, and The Romance of Reunion, Nina Silber, “for those who are interested memory and reconciliation.”
Causes Won, Lost, and Forgotten: How Hollywood and Popular Art Shape What We Know About the Civil War, Gary W. Gallagher, “an academic take on the Civil War in popular culture—films, paintings and such.”
Confederates in the Attic, Tony Horwitz, “both informative and funny about modern day re-enactors.”
Sherman, A Soldier’s Life, Lee Kennett, “very good military biography, warts and all.”
Sherman’s March, Burke Davis, “popular history; you know there will be hell to pay in the Reconstruction South as white southerners respond to Sherman as Satan incarnate and slaves hail him as Moses delivering them to freed from bondage – pharaoh let my people go. I also love a modern commander who knows to bring the 1860 U.S. Census with him so he can identify the most prosperous Georgia and Carolina plantations to destroy.”