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Ten Books for Readers Who Like the Civil War
With a background in early American history, the Civil War was one of my favorite subjects to study and read about. I have compiled a list of a couple of fiction books along with non-fiction reads for the reader who loves the Civil War and history:
- This Republic of Suffering by Drew Gilpin Faust – One of my favorite books on the Civil War. Sounds morbid (and the book is) but I highly recommend it and have passed this book along to multiple friends. It is brutal, shows the disease and deaths behind the war, and is a must-read to truly understand the effects the war had on the men who fought, their families, and the country.
- Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg! by George C. Rable – Love this book. I may be bias since I grew up just across the river from Fredericksburg in Stafford. The writing style, again, is vivid and sickening at times. Rable focused on the conditions of the soldiers prior to war, the monotony in camps and waiting for battle; he moved onto the battle itself; finally he looked at the aftermath of the war… the psychological effects on the soldiers and the physical. Worth the read.
- Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson – You cannot avoid reading James McPherson when you study the Civil War. I will argue this book is another one of the best to read on the war. McPherson started with the Mexican-American war’s end and continued through the events of the Civil War. It is a long book, but a great event-by-event read on the outbreak and events during the Civil War.
- For Cause & Comrades by James McPherson – Great short read (and another by McPherson). In this one, McPherson looked at why men fought in the war as revealed through letters and diary entries. It is a unique and deep approach to what was going on in soldiers’ minds and why they risked their lives to fight for their country, their brothers, and the cause.
- Deliver Us From Evil by Lacy K. Ford – I apologize that at least three of these books I recommend are what we call “door-stoppers”… they’re thick, heavy books (and ones I recommend reading the book itself and not on an e-book reader or you’ll get fatigued). Ford focused on the slavery question in the South prior to war and how it led to the outbreak of the Civil War. The lower south and the upper south’s slavery debates differed from each other. The slavery question went back to the Continental Congress and forming of the nation. It is a rich and diverse history, different depending where you were in the south… keep sticky notes by you for this book.
- The Impending Crisis by David M. Potter – Copyright 1976 and still a relevant read. Potter was ahead of his time as he looked at the causes of the Civil War from the year 1848 to 1861. This book is highly referenced and one every Civil War historian must read.
- Lincoln’s Sanctuary by Matthew Pinsker – This book is a little different than typical Civil War reads. It looks at the personal life of Lincoln and his escape to the Soldier’s Home in Washington, DC . I reviewed this book here, so you can read more about it. I recommend it for the reader looking for a more intimate approach to the life of the Civil War president. (A trip to the Soldier’s Home following the read is also highly recommended!)
- The Approaching Fury by Stephen B. Oates – This is a fun read because it puts voices to those names one reads about all the time during the Civil War. It is almost like a first-person perspective of the events leading up to the war and causes to the outbreak. Readers can follow speakers like: Thomas Jefferson, Henry Clay, Nat Turner, Harriet Beecher Stowe, and Jefferson Davis. It is a different read and a fun take on the causes of war.
- Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara – Another fictional “first-person” story on the war. Have you seen the movie “Gods and Generals”? Well, here is the story it was based on. Shaara followed the leaders of the war (Lincoln, Jackson, etc). It’s a great historical fiction read for those who love the Civil War’s history.
- The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara – Michael was Jeff’s father. They shared a passion and wonderful style for writing, as evident in their two books. Killer Angels was a great read on the battle of Gettysburg and events that took place as told through the perspective of key players. Another great historical fiction read I highly recommend!