03. Eyewitness Gettysburg:
The Civil War’s Greatest Battle
04. The Saddest Words:
William Faulkner’s Civil War
William Faulkner, one of America’s most iconic writers, is an author who defies easy interpretation. Born in 1897 in Mississippi, Faulkner wrote such classic novels as Absolom, Absolom! and The Sound and The Fury, creating in Yoknapatawpha county one of the most memorable galleries of characters ever assembled in American literature. Yet, as acclaimed literary critic Michael Gorra explains, Faulkner has sustained justified criticism for his failures of racial nuance―his ventriloquism of black characters and his rendering of race relations in a largely unreconstructed South―demanding that we reevaluate the Nobel laureate’s life and legacy in the twenty-first century, as we reexamine the junctures of race and literature in works that once rested firmly in the American canon.
Interweaving biography, literary criticism, and rich travelogue, The Saddest Words argues that even despite these contradictions―and perhaps because of them―William Faulkner still needs to be read, and even more, remains central to understanding the contradictions inherent in the American experience itself. Evoking Faulkner’s biography and his literary characters, Gorra illuminates what Faulkner maintained was “the South’s curse and its separate destiny,” a class and racial system built on slavery that was devastated during the Civil War and was reimagined thereafter through the South’s revanchism. Driven by currents of violence, a “Lost Cause” romanticism not only defined Faulkner’s twentieth century but now even our own age.
A booklist of 30 that you should not miss before you turn 30
Through Gorra’s critical lens, Faulkner’s mythic Yoknapatawpha County comes alive as his imagined land finds itself entwined in America’s history, the characters wrestling with the ghosts of a past that refuses to stay buried, stuck in an unending cycle between those two saddest words, “was” and “again.” Upending previous critical traditions, The Saddest Words returns Faulkner to his sociopolitical context, revealing the civil war within him and proving that “the real war lies not only in the physical combat but also in the war after the war, the war over its memory and meaning.”
Filled with vignettes of Civil War battles and generals, vivid scenes from Gorra’s travels through the South―including Faulkner’s Oxford, Mississippi―and commentaries on Faulkner’s fiction, The Saddest Words is a mesmerizing work of literary thought that recontextualizes Faulkner in light of the most plangent cultural issues facing America today.
05. Civil War Travels with Ms. Rebelle
06. Civil War Stories from York County, Pa
07. The Enduring Civil War
In the seventy-three succinct essays gathered in The Enduring Civil War, celebrated historian Gary W. Gallagher highlights the complexity and richness of the war, from its origins to its memory, as topics for study, contemplation, and dispute. He places contemporary understanding of the Civil War, both academic and general, in conversation with testimony from those in the Union and the Confederacy who experienced and described it, investigating how mid-nineteenth-century perceptions align with, or deviate from, current ideas regarding the origins, conduct, and aftermath of the war. The tension between history and memory forms a theme throughout the essays, underscoring how later perceptions about the war often took precedence over historical reality in the minds of many Americans.
The array of topics Gallagher addresses is striking. He examines notable books and authors, both Union and Confederate, military and civilian, famous and lesser-known. He discusses historians who, though their names have receded with time, produced works that remain pertinent in terms of analysis or information. He comments on conventional interpretations of events and personalities, challenging, among other things, commonly held notions about Gettysburg and Vicksburg as decisive turning points, Ulysses S. Grant as a general who profligately wasted Union manpower, the Gettysburg Address as a watershed that turned the war from a fight for Union into one for Union and emancipation, and Robert E. Lee as an old-fashioned general ill-suited to waging modern mid-nineteenth-century war.
Gallagher interrogates recent scholarly trends on the evolving nature of Civil War studies, addressing crucial questions about chronology, history, memory, and the new revisionist literature. The format of this provocative and timely collection lends itself to sampling, and readers might start in any of the subject groupings and go where their interests take them.
08. The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point
– David A Welker
Table of Contents:
Chapter 1. Planting the Seed of a Campaign
Chapter 2. The Road to Antietam: September 4–15, 1862
Chapter 3. Emerging from the Fog: September 16
Chapter 4. America’s Bloodiest Day Dawns: Midnight to Sunrise
Chapter 5. The Cornfield: Ricketts’ Division Opens the Ball
Chapter 6. The Cornfield: Doubleday’s Attack
Chapter 7. The Cornfield: Hood’s Division Counterstrikes
Chapter 8. The Cornfield: Mansfield Wrests Order from Chaos
Chapter 9. The Cornfield: Williams Turns the Tide
Chapter 10. The Cornfield: Union Success Weighs in the Balance
Chapter 11. The Cornfield’s Influence: Sumner Takes Command
Chapter 12.The Cornfield’s Influence: The West Woods Fight
Chapter 13. The Cornfield’s Influence: Greene’s Division Takes the West Woods
Chapter 14. The Cornfield’s Influence: Franklin’s Moment and the VI Corps Arrive
Chapter 15. The Cornfield’s Influence: The South Seeks the Offensive
Chapter 16. “How Did They Remain and Live so Long?”
09. The Civil War:
Fort Sumter to Perryville
– Shelby Foote
This first volume of Shelby Foote’s classic narrative of the Civil War opens with Jefferson Davis’s farewell to the United Senate and ends on the bloody battlefields of Antietam and Perryville, as the full, horrible scope of America’s great war becomes clear. Exhaustively researched and masterfully written, Foote’s epic account of the Civil War unfolds like a classic novel.
Includes maps throughout.
“Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives…a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters.”—Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News
“A stunning book full of color, life, character, and a new atmosphere of the Civil War, and at the same time a narrative of unflagging power. Eloquent proof that a historian should be a writer above all else.” —Burke Davis
“To read this great narrative is to love the nation—to love it through the living knowledge of its mortal division. Whitman, who ultimately knew and loved the bravery and frailty of the soldiers, observed that the real Civil War would never be written and perhaps should not be. For me, Shelby Foote has written it… This work was done to last forever.” —James M. Cox, Southern Review
10. Causes of the Civil War
– Philip Leigh
The presently dominant narrative about Civil War causes is the work of historians obsessed with social activism instead of history.
They point to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth postbellum amendments as proof that the North was ultimately fighting to provide slaves with honorable freedom but deny that the increase in tariffs on dutiable items from 19% before the war to an average of 45% for fifty years thereafter reflected a Northern war aim.
They hold Southern secession responsible for the war but fail to teach that the Northeastern states threatened to secede five times between 1789 and 1850. They also decline to note that Southern secession need not have led to war. Southerners had no purpose to overthrow the Washington government; they merely wanted a government of their own. Northerners could have evacuated Fort Sumter and let the first seven cotton states depart in peace thereby avoiding the war.
Modern historians normally focus on the reasons the cotton states seceded instead of examining the economic reasons Northerners chose to militarily coerce them back into the Union thereby inaugurating civil war.
The Republican Party could have stopped the spread of slavery peacefully by endorsing Popular Sovereignty during the 1860 presidential election. After Kansas used it to reject slavery in an 1858 local-option vote, nearly every politico realized that the doctrine would quarantine slavery in the South. If Popular Sovereignty could not make a slave state out of Kansas, it could not do it in any of the remaining 1860 Federal territories. Republicans rejected the doctrine simply to survive as an independent Party because Lincoln’s two chief opposing presidential candidates supported it. Beyond what Poplar Sovereignty would have gained, the Republican blanket ban on slaves in the territories added nothing except to inflame the sectional passions that led to civil war.
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11. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis
12. Battle Maps of the Civil War
From the American Battlefield Trust comes the collection of their popular maps of the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.
“I just love those maps that you guys send to me.” It is a phrase that the staff of the American Battlefield Trust hears on a weekly basis. The expression refers to one of the cornerstone initiatives of the organization—mapping the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the American Civil War.
The American Battlefield Trust is the premier battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Over the last thirty years, the American Battlefield Trust and its members have preserved more than 52,000 acres of battlefield land across 143 battlefields in twenty-four states—at sites such as Antietam, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. Outside of physically walking across the hallowed battlegrounds that the American Battlefield Trust preserves, the best way to illustrate the importance of the parcels of land that they preserve is through their battle maps.
Through the decades, the American Battlefield Trust has created dozens of maps detailing the action of hundreds of battles. Now, for the first time in book form, they have collected the maps of some of the most iconic battles of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War into one volume. From First Bull Run to the Surrender at Appomattox Court House, you can follow the major actions of the Eastern Theater from start to finish utilizing this unparalleled collection.
13. The War That Forged a Nation
– James M. McPherson
More than 140 years ago, Mark Twain observed that the Civil War had “uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations.” In fact, five generations have passed, and Americans are still trying to measure the influence of the immense fratricidal conflict that nearly tore the nation apart.
In The War that Forged a Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson considers why the Civil War remains so deeply embedded in our national psyche and identity. The drama and tragedy of the war, from its scope and size–an estimated death toll of 750,000, far more than the rest of the country’s wars combined–to the nearly mythical individuals involved–Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson–help explain why the Civil War remains a topic of interest. But the legacy of the war extends far beyond historical interest or scholarly attention. Here, McPherson draws upon his work over the past fifty years to illuminate the war’s continuing resonance across many dimensions of American life.
Touching upon themes that include the war’s causes and consequences; the naval war; slavery and its abolition; and Lincoln as commander in chief, McPherson ultimately proves the impossibility of understanding the issues of our own time unless we first understand their roots in the era of the Civil War. From racial inequality and conflict between the North and South to questions of state sovereignty or the role of government in social change–these issues, McPherson shows, are as salient and controversial today as they were in the 1860s.
Thoughtful, provocative, and authoritative, The War that Forged a Nation looks anew at the reasons America’s civil war has remained a subject of intense interest for the past century and a half, affirms the enduring relevance of the conflict for America today.
14. The American War
– Gary W. Gallagher
In The American War, renowned historians Gary W. Gallagher and Joan Waugh provide a fresh examination of the Civil War, its aftermath, and enduring memory in a masterful work that prize-winning historian William C. Davis calls, “easily the best one-volume assessment of the Civil War to date.”
Nothing had prepared Americans for the fury that ensued when eleven slaveholding states seceded and formed the Confederacy in 1860-1861. Four years of fighting claimed more than 1.4 million casualties, directly affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and freed four million enslaved black people. The durability of the Union was confirmed, and the social and economic system based on slavery lay in ruins.
By investigating this crucial period through the eyes of civilians, celebrated leaders, and citizen soldiers, readers interested in the Civil War era will gain a profound understanding of the dramatic events, personalities, and social and economic processes that caused the war, enabled the Union to prevail, and forever transformed the United States. It also will help readers understand why, more than 150 years after Appomattox, it remains impossible to grasp the larger sweep of U.S. history without coming to terms with the American War.
15. The Civil War (American Heritage Books)
Infinitely readable and absorbing, Bruce Catton’s The Civil War is one of the most widely read general histories of the war available in a single volume.
Introduced by the critically acclaimed Civil War historian James M. McPherson, The Civil War vividly traces one of the most moving chapters in American history, from the early division between the North and the South to the final surrender of Confederate troops. Catton’s account of battles is a must-read for anyone interested in the war that divided America, carefully weaving details about the political activities of the Union and Confederate armies and diplomatic efforts overseas.
In Conclusion, this top list of ‘Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time’ contains all the best books to read when you are thirsty for the knowledge of the civil war. Different perspective and different opinions make these a must read American civil war books. Authors include historians, scholars and bestsellers. Tell us which ones you have read and how did you find it. What do you think about the list? If you have anything to add or remove, let us know. Please share, like and comment on the section below.