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Must Read Civil War Book?

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message 1: by Porter (new)

Porter Broyles | 197 comments When starting threads, I like to just leave a question and let people respond. I'll add my contributions this evening when I get home:

But if you had to pick 2 or 3 books that every Civil War buff had to read, which books would you recommend and why?


message 2: by Fred (new)

Fred T (fredtred) | 1 comments The American Civil War by John Keegan. Well written and covers the entire war.

Gettysburg by Allen C Guelzo . Although sorry about the defining battle of the war, certainly a must-read.

Finally, Grant by Ron Chernow. Superb biography of one of the greatest generals of all time.


message 3: by Porter (new)

Porter Broyles | 197 comments So my top 3 must reads:

Amanda Foreman A World Afire---This book is written by a British scholar who became interested in the Civil War during her research on an 19th century person. She became interested in the Civil War when she realized that her subject was a supporter of the Confederacy and thought the South had he moral high ground. Foreman covers the Civil War from an entirely different perspective than what we typically hear. Many of the events that we think/feel in America about how England/France viewed the war are blatantly wrong. Sewart, according to Foreman, wasn't a brilliant politician who convinced England/France from joining the war, instead he is portrayed as the bumbling politician who nearly forced England to side with the South. The Emancipation Proclamation barely had an impact on the international front. Battles which are footnotes in America are more important than we expected and battles we see as important didn't affect England like we’s think. This book will challenge your perceptions. (NOTE: Foreman isn’t a Civil War scholar which adds to the narrative!)

Elizabeth Varon Disunion!: The Coming of the American Civil War, 1789-1859 --- If you want to understand how the country got to the precipice of the Civil War, then this book is a must. Varon argues that the word Disunion was used by different people in the North and South for 5 different reasons:
1) As a prediction of things to come.
2) As a threat to achieve one's goal
3) As a means to forceably remove a state from the body.
4) As a procedure to peacefully remove another from the Union.
5) As an insult or attack on other people.
Using those templates she shows how we reached the point where secession was a natural outcome of how our country progressed.


Doris Kearns Goodwin Team of Rivals --- Excellent book about Lincoln and his Cabinet. It is very easy to understand why she won a Pulitzer for this book. The book talks about how Lincoln pulled a group of wannabe presidents (whom he beat at the Convention) and 3 democrats to form his Cabinet. She is a clear writer who knows how to bring her subjects to life. My big criticism of the book is that she sometimes seemed more like a Lincoln apologist than a Lincoln scholar. But still, it is worth the effort to read it.


message 4: by Porter (new)

Porter Broyles | 197 comments Fred wrote: "The American Civil War by John Keegan. Well written and covers the entire war.


That's one that I haven't read, I'll add it to my wish list.

I agree about Grant (I made the mistake of reading that book in 2 weeks---I checked it out from the library and had to return it! It took me two months to recover.)

Gettysburg is also great.


message 5: by Pete (new)

Pete Hale (petehale) | 2 comments Bill O'Reilly's Legends and Lies: The Civil War. Great formatting, easy-to-read writing, and great mythbusting.


message 6: by Michael (new)

Michael Brasher | 4 comments "The Civil War: A Narrative" 3 volume trilogy by Shelby Foote. A classic and still an absolutely must read.


MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) Michael, his books are so readable !
I love this set so much !


message 8: by Michael (last edited Apr 17, 2021 11:03AM) (new)

Michael Brasher | 4 comments MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) wrote: "Michael, his books are so readable !
I love this set so much !"


Me too. He admits his writing may have a slight pro-Southern bias, so if you're going to read Foote, as a sort of "counterbalance," I recommend Dr. James McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom." In my opinion, has a definite "Northern" bias. It's drier and more scholarly than Foote, but still a good read from another perspective.


message 9: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments I loved Shelby Foote's trilogy and I have just recently read Bruce Catton's Civil War trilogy; "The Centennial History of the Civil War" which offers a nice counterbalance to Shelby Foote.

https://www.goodreads.com/series/7231...


MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) Thanks for the recommendations, Michael and Rick !

I do have McPhersons book and ordered the first 2 of Catton's.


message 11: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) wrote: "Thanks for the recommendations, Michael and Rick !

I do have McPhersons book and ordered the first 2 of Catton's."


I hope you enjoy the books as much as I did, let us know how you go.


message 12: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments Another trilogy of must-read Civil War books would have to be Douglas Southall Freeman series; "Lee's Lieutenants".

https://www.goodreads.com/series/1302...


MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) Thanks Rick, with just your series recommends, I will be reading for months ;-)


message 14: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments MaryAnn (EmilyD1037) wrote: "Thanks Rick, with just your series recommends, I will be reading for months ;-)"

I am still to start my Douglas Freeman books but I hope I can squeeze them in sometime this year :)


message 15: by Tim (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments Porter wrote: "When starting threads, I like to just leave a question and let people respond. I'll add my contributions this evening when I get home:

But if you had to pick 2 or 3 books that every Civil War buff..."


I would have to say 'The Army of the Potomac' trilogy by Bruce Catton. 'Mr Lincoln's Army', 'Glory Road', and 'A Stillness at Appomatox'. They deal with the amateurism and incompetence of the US Government and the High Command, against the backdrop of the stunning bravery of the soldiers of the Army of the Potomac.


message 16: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments Tim I've just read the first book in that trilogy and quite enjoyed it.


message 17: by Porter (new)

Porter Broyles | 197 comments I don't know how many people listen to audio books, but Shelby Foote's trilogy as read by Grover Gardiner is why I became a Gardiner fan.

The way he read the series... the way he makes you feel as if you are sitting around a campfire with an old Civil War vet recounting his story. it was magical.

I believe that Pulitzer Prizes should be given for best non-fiction audio book. My two pieces of evidence are Gardiner and the only plane in the sky. that book is told in a way that the message is diminished when written.


message 18: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments I love the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War and I really enjoyed when Shelby Foote spoke about the war. When I read Shelby Foote's trilogy some years later I had his voice in my head from when I watched the Ken Burns series.


message 19: by Magooz (new)

Magooz | 117 comments Porter wrote: "I don't know how many people listen to audio books, but Shelby Foote's trilogy as read by Grover Gardiner is why I became a Gardiner fan.

The way he read the series... the way he makes you feel as..."


Very interesting Porter - right down to the audio Pulitzer thought . hmmm. I've often thought audio books could offer an excellent opportunity for author commentary on their work (like a director's commentary on a dvd) .. who knows, perhaps this is done - I've never listened to one ...

That being said, reading glasses ain't all that comfortable & the eyes ain't gettin any better so I'm interested :) Presume you're at the pace of the reader so curious as to how long it might take to read a 20 page chapter? Also would bring that Kindle thing to my attention again - presume that does audio books, but would be slick if you could hilite things you were reading [or having read to you] . and add your own notes . and organize them . and move them elsewhere .. guess I'm dreaming tho :)

A last thought as a more avid movie viewer than reader .. It's a constant debate [even among the makers] whether the book or movie was a 'better version' of the story - this used to run about 70/30 in favor of books - primarily because of increased character depth .. with today's twitter crowd & cgi crazed movies those percentages may have shifted radically.


message 20: by Magooz (new)

Magooz | 117 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "I love the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War and I really enjoyed when Shelby Foote spoke about the war. When I read Shelby Foote's trilogy some years later I had his voice in my head f..."

Watched many a [Civil War] movie & documentary (incl Burns series) before ever reading my first page. As a result had a solid visual of Shelby [before even knowing of his authorship]. Shelby 'stinks' of TCW, if you will, like Edward Bearrs :) He has such an easy manner & command of his material that I could listen to him for hours! One of these daze I'll get around to reading something by him - hope he reads as smoothly as he listens to :)

I'm Catton cornfuzed - I have a This Hallowed Ground, Never Say Retreat & A stillness at Appomattox .. are we dealing with multiple trilogies here, or one trilogy & other separate works?


message 21: by 'Aussie Rick' (new)

'Aussie Rick' (aussierick) | 959 comments Catton has three trilogies on the Civil War, one series covering Grant (although he didn't write the first book), one series covering the Army of the Potomac and one covering the war itself.

Grant trilogy:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/1304...

Army of the Potomac trilogy:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/5999...

The Centennial History of the Civil War:
https://www.goodreads.com/series/7231...

Plus he has a stand alone volume on the war:

This Hallowed Ground The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War by Bruce Catton This Hallowed Ground: The Story of the Union Side of the Civil War by Bruce Catton


message 22: by Tim (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments Have read all of these and they are all great. Catton and Foote are, in my opinion, the premier historians of the Civil War. I agree with some people that Shelby Foote sometimes displays a Southern bias. Why shouldn't he? He was from Mississippi for god's sake! ALL historians have a bias. But SF never let that get in the way of his masterful portrayal of this immense, and very sad conflict. If you watch Ken Burns' doco 'The Civil War' there is a very touching moment when Shelby describes the Union attack on Maryes Heights as the 'most singular act of valor'.


message 23: by Tim (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments Magooz wrote: "'Aussie Rick' wrote: "I love the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War and I really enjoyed when Shelby Foote spoke about the war. When I read Shelby Foote's trilogy some years later I had ..."

What is TCW?


message 24: by Tim (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments 'Aussie Rick' wrote: "I love the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War and I really enjoyed when Shelby Foote spoke about the war. When I read Shelby Foote's trilogy some years later I had his voice in my head f..."

I was the same. As I read the trilogy I could hear his lovely soft, Mississippi drawl in my head and that drew me from page to page.


message 25: by Magooz (new)

Magooz | 117 comments Tim wrote: "Magooz wrote: "'Aussie Rick' wrote: "I love the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War and I really enjoyed when Shelby Foote spoke about the war. When I read Shelby Foote's trilogy some yea..."

LOL - The Civil War ... when you type it in a 1000 times you'll appreciate the short version :)


message 26: by Tim (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments Magooz wrote: "Tim wrote: "Magooz wrote: "'Aussie Rick' wrote: "I love the Ken Burns documentary series on the Civil War and I really enjoyed when Shelby Foote spoke about the war. When I read Shelby Foote's tril..."

Ooops, my bad. LOL


message 27: by Tim (last edited Apr 20, 2021 11:52PM) (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments Grant Wins the War: Decision at Vicksburg Grant Wins the War Decision at Vicksburg by James R. Arnold

I can highly recommend this book. It is an excellent narrative of the Vicksburg campaign and, in my opinion, properly places the Battle of Champion Hill as the pivotal battle of the Civil War. In forcing the Confederate forces away from Vicksburg, Grant sealed Vicksburg's fate. In capturing Vicksburg, he sealed the Confederacy's fate. Everything after that was inevitable. Vicksburg was the Confederacy's Stalingrad.


message 28: by Porter (new)

Porter Broyles | 197 comments I'm not as familiar with the battles as some here---battle books aren't my thing--- but I agree with you Tim. That is a very good book and he makes a string argument that it was the defining point of the war.


message 29: by Magooz (new)

Magooz | 117 comments Tim wrote: "Have read all of these and they are all great. Catton and Foote are, in my opinion, the premier historians of the Civil War. I agree with some people that Shelby Foote sometimes displays a Southern..."

Liked your acknowledgement that all historians bring a bias to their work; while at the same time supporting Shelby Foote's freedom to do so while still maintaining his overall objective perspective ...

Also liked how you described the war as a 'very sad conflict'. Sad is the word that comes foremost to mind when I think about the war . or circumstances before & after the war for that matter. We expended an obscene amount of lives and wasted years in frivolous political quagmires for precious little results imo :(


message 30: by Tim (new)

Tim (timh1952) | 8 comments As an Englishman I have no family connection with the Civil War, but, despite my interest in all types of Military History, sadness is always the emotion that develops when I read any account of the war. All those men, women and children wasted to no good purpose, and, before anybody gets over-wrought about it, slavery would have died out on its own. The South just accelerated it.


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