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Sat Feb 2, 2013, 01:02 PM

The Best Civil War Books, a list.

Happened to stumble over this list on The Daily beast.... thought it was interesting.

"Compiling a list of essential books about the war is an absurd task, simply because—no kidding—so many are essential. Try to imagine another subject where you omit writers of the caliber of William McFeely, Bruce Catton, T. Harry Williams, or Burke Davis. So consider this list a mere starting point. The more you read about the war, the more you will want to read (don’t say you weren’t warned). And when you tire of history, there’s Civil War fiction. But that’s a subject for another list. So this list is missing some great ingredients. Still, you have to start somewhere."

click here for the list:
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2011/04/15/10-best-books-on-the-american-civil-war.html?cid=topic:mainpromo1

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Reply The Best Civil War Books, a list. (Original post)
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 OP
davidpdx Feb 2013 #1
Democracyinkind Feb 2013 #2
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #6
Democracyinkind Feb 2013 #11
JonLP24 Feb 2013 #3
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #4
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #5
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #7
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #8
dixiegrrrrl Feb 2013 #9
Adsos Letter Feb 2013 #10
KennedyBrothers Apr 2013 #12

Response to dixiegrrrrl (Original post)

Mon Feb 11, 2013, 09:07 AM

1. Team of Rivals was a good read

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Original post)

Sun Feb 17, 2013, 02:44 PM

2. I've read most of those... I still have to read Foote (not interested that much in it) and

Sears (very interested).

Folks should add their own essential CW readings to this thread. In fact, that's what I'll do one of these days. I'll first have to think about which books really are "essential", though.

From the top of my head -

James L. Huston - Calculating the Wort of the Union

Aaron Astor - Rebels on the Border

Bruce Leviner - Confederate Emancipation

Grady MacWhiney - Attack and Die (heavily disputed, but it's so darn convincing that it's a shame that the main thesis doesn't hold true)

Webb B. Garrison - Women of the Civil War (Gives a good overview; there are fantastic yet not-often read books about women in the Civil War - an under-studied albeit highly interesting topic).

I will edit this post, or post some new suggestions, as soon as I get a quiet minute to take a look at my shelves. It's really hard to remember author and exact title over the years, so these are just the ones that I correctly remember and that I deem "essential".

I'm highly curious about tips that other people might have. Although it's hard to say what's essential. Often enough, the un-essential proves quite essential after some time.

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Response to Democracyinkind (Reply #2)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 10:20 AM

6. Grady MacWhiney

Have not heard that name in years, but recognize it.
Had to refresh my memory, so went to Wiki...

MacWhiney wrote Celtic Thesis," which holds that most Southerners were of Celtic ancestry (as opposed to Anglo-Saxon), and that all groups he declared to be "Celtic" (Scots-Irish, Irish, Scottish, Welsh and Cornish) were descended from warlike herdsmen, in contrast to the peaceful farmers who predominated in England.
They attempted to trace numerous ways in which the Celtic culture shaped social, economic and military behavior.
For example, they demonstrated that livestock raising (especially of cattle and hogs) developed a more individualistic, militant society than tilling the soil.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #6)

Sun Feb 24, 2013, 04:35 PM

11. The celtic part is quite crazy....

By the way... Grady McWhiney is a pretty awesome name...

I recommend "attack and die" not for its "celtic thesis" (it is in the last chapter and very insignificant to the argumentation in the previous chapters) but because it is a thorough examination of the tactics used and what they meant for the poor souls on the front line. Current historiography laughs at the celtic thesis and criticize McWhiney for overemphasizing the actual effects of the rifled musket on tactics.

I'm currently trying to get a firm grasp on Missouri and the Civil War for a project, I may add some of those titles later.

(Iphone hurts spelling...)

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Original post)

Mon Feb 18, 2013, 05:06 PM

3. I recommend a new book

38 Nooses:Lincoln, Little Crow, and the Beginning of the Frontier's End by Scott W. Berg

Not exactly a civil war book but took place during the same time period. It details the broken promises and treaties for the Dakota, the Dakota War itself which took place during the roughest period of the civil war, the pressing concerns at the time, and the aftermath including--the largest mass execution in American history.

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Response to JonLP24 (Reply #3)

Tue Feb 19, 2013, 11:57 PM

4. That looks very interesting.

I have somewhat of a very, very minor connection to the Dakota War. My GG Grandfather and GGG Grandfather (father and son) were both enlisted in the 4th Minnesota Volunteer Infantry Regiment. They left mother/wife, a brother/son, and two sisters to run their small farm close to the frontier.
When the uprising came they were away down south. We have two letters mom/wife wrote to them during the uprising, describing the panic among many of the settlers, and also describing their having to temporarily move in close to one of the forts.

I can only imagine how worried the father and son were when they got that news, but we have no record of their response.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Original post)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 12:33 AM

5. I can certainly second some of those!

McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom was on my reading list in grad school, and was one of the more enjoyable reads. Great coverage for a one volume work.

Faust's This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War I found fascinating because it explained the war's significance to the rise of spiritualism in post-Civil War America.

A few I would add to the list:

Gordon Rhea's trilogy on Grant's 1864 Overland Campaign:
The Battle of the Wilderness May 5–6, 1864.
The Battles for Spotsylvania Court House and the Road to Yellow Tavern, May 7-12, 1864 and
Cold Harbor: Grant and Lee, May 26-June 3, 1864. I didn't find the book on Cold Harbor as compelling as the others, but it may simply have been the nature of what he had to try and make sense of in that volume; or, I could simply be dense. My wife casts one vote for "dense."

Gregory A. Coco's A Strange and Blighted Land -- Gettysburg: The Aftermath of a Battle. addreses something not often covered in other studies...what it was like for the civilians, etc., who had to deal with the battlefield both armies left behind.

Noah Andre Trudeau's Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage because of the manner in which he broke the battle down on a timeline.

and

William Freehling's The South Vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War which was interesting because it educated me on the fact that "the South" was never a monolith when it came to slavery, or the Civil War.

Man...you start thinking about it, and the lists could go on for days.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #5)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 11:13 AM

7. Hey Adso.....

Good to see you!

Gregory A. Coco's A Strange and Blighted Land -- Gettysburg: The Aftermath of a Battle.
sounds interesting to me.
I read a lot of social historys.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #7)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:20 PM

8. Hey dixiegrrrrl...



Give Coco's book a read if you find the time. Most books don't really touch on what the aftermath of these enormously destructive slug-fests were like for the civilian populations that were left to pick up the pieces.

We took a two week road trip through part of the southeast last year, and thoroughly enjoyed it. Virginia, North and South Carolina, the Savannah corner of Georgia...what beautiful country. It sounds from your profile like you are a Seattle girl who fell in love with Alabama. I've driven through the state twice, but never really spent time there.

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Response to Adsos Letter (Reply #8)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 01:49 PM

9. Yep....went 180 degree life change, happy as can be here.

Still get as much rain, but usually in one day as opposed to all week!

Some great writers from this area, Rick Bragg tops among them.

Hope you get another chance to visit the SE...truly gorgeous esp. in late spring.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Reply #9)

Wed Feb 20, 2013, 11:23 PM

10. We were there the last two weeks of May. The weather was perfect.

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Response to dixiegrrrrl (Original post)

Mon Apr 1, 2013, 11:08 PM

12. These Were Our Brothers...

...by Edward Gray Seville

OK, so it's not a real book. It's a fictional work about the Civil War in a Stephen King novella ("The Breathing Method"), but I always thought it was a great title. It *should* be a book about the Civil War.

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