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Topic: Looking for Recommendations for Civil War Books

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Date Posted: 4/22/2014 1:51 PM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2008
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That story about Catton taking over from Lewis sounds familiar. I may have heard or read that before but forgot it.

Date Posted: 3/9/2015 7:28 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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I just finished reading One Continuous Fight: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863.  All I can say about this book is that it is truly outstanding. It covers the 10 major engagements and numerous skirmishes which occurred in the 11 days after the Battle of Gettysburg. How many know, during these 11 days, the Confederates lost at least 5,000 men taken prisoner, with many others dead? This did not count the seriously wounded left in makeshift hospitals by the Confederate army.  Most of this what accomplished by the Union cavalry, and resulted in that combat arm finally winning the admiration of the infantry.

The book has three authors and they did a great job in keeping the information flowing in a very entertaining manner. The book also contains two complete, self-directed automobile tours of the Confederate army's retreat and the ensuing battles.

The difficulties encountered by both sides in pouring rain, knee deep mud, thousands losing their shoes, going without food, fighting day and night, and more, only confirms the belief held by many historians that the Civil War-era soldiers were the worst soldiers, but the best fighters, in the history of our country.

Date Posted: 3/10/2015 7:12 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2008
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I had always thought the consensus was that the Union army made a major blunder in allowing Lee to get away after the battles at Gettysburg. 

Date Posted: 3/10/2015 11:25 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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I had always thought the consensus was that the Union army made a major blunder in allowing Lee to get away after the battles at Gettysburg. 

Toward the very end of the book, the authors devote a lot of space examining this belief from both sides, giving both the pros and cons of attacking the Confederate army at Williamsport. They give credit for actions taken to both sides and examine the opportunities lost and the advantages gained. They also present the viewpoints of a number of participants from both sides, privates to generals. I won't go into all the details here, but basically the opinion of the authors was that Meade did an outstanding job considering the difficulties he encountered. And that an attack at Williamsport against the Confederate army behind solid fortifications, even if it resulted in a Union victory, would have incurred tremendous casualties. Remember that the opposing forces were about equal. The authors make the point that, a year later, a much larger and more aggressive Union army still required a year to finally overcome the Army of Northern Virginia.
 
People often forget that Meade was appointed commander of the Army of the Potomac, a job he didn't want, only three days before the largest battle ever fought in North America. And he won that battle. The pursuit was fought all over southwestern Pennsylvania and western Maryland. No cells phones for instant communications. The 'fog of war" was very thick at that time."


Last Edited on: 3/10/15 7:58 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
Date Posted: 3/19/2015 10:00 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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Here is another good one, packed with revisionist history, and backed up with solid data. The book is The First Day at Gettysburg and consists of four essays on Confederate and Union leadership. It is edited by renown Civil War historian Gary Gallagher, who also wrote one of the essays. The link is to my review of the book.

Date Posted: 5/12/2015 12:43 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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It has been over a year since I added anything to this forum, and in that time I've read many books on the Civil War, a number of which were very good. However, I recently finished one I wish to recommend to everyone. The Cause Lost: Myths and Realities of the Confederacy by William Davis is well worth the time to find and read.

Someone added a complete description of the book on its page, so I won't discuss it here. The link above also goes to my short review of the book.

Date Posted: 9/26/2015 10:05 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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After 150 years, you might think that everything that could written about the Civil War was hashed out years ago. Not so. Recent years have seen a rush of 'revisionist' histories from new and eminent authors who have reexamined the literature and the untold wealth of information now provided by the World Wide Web. This last includes a mass of letters from attics and trunks posted to the Web by descendants of the soldiers and other participants who wrote them.

Several books now reexamine Robert E. Lee by closely analyzing his letters and other writings, instead of just copying what his admirers wrote about him. One of these books is The Making of Robert E. Lee by Michael Fellman, who deals with specific areas in each chapter. Fellman is a professor of history at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia, Canada, and is the author of five previous books on the war.

Well worth reading in that we get to read what Lee himself thought in his own writings, instead of what his admirers wanted him to think.



Last Edited on: 7/27/16 10:13 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 1/26/2016 7:53 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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Well, it was September when I last recommended a Civil War book here. So I guess it is time to do so again. I just finished reading Rebel Watchdog: The Confederate States Army Provost Guard, which I really enjoyed.  The link is to my review.



Last Edited on: 1/26/16 7:53 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 2/6/2016 9:20 PM ET
Member Since: 5/31/2009
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Thomas:  I must let you know that someone is reading your posts.  Have been looking for historicals to read and your notes are so helpful.  Thank you ever so much.  I wonder how many others are just lurking.

Date Posted: 2/9/2016 7:28 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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R.E.K. - Thanks for letting me know I'm not posting to the air! smiley

I just finished another book - A Yankee Spy in Richmond: The Civil War Diary of "Crazy Bet" Van Lew. The link is to my review.  Miss Van Lew was definitely the most valuable woman spy on either side. There is no possible estimation of how much she aided the Union cause. Yet, most people have never heard of her.  I'm wouldn't be surprised if her forgotten place in Civil War history was staged by those who wished she had never lived. After all, weren't all Southern women great Confederate patriots and haters of the Union?

Having said that, this book, her diary, doesn't even begin to relate her invaluable service to the Union. This is why I suggest other books in my review, written by historians, be your primary source if you want to learn more about this amazing woman.  My personal favorite is Southern Lady, Yankee Spy.

Later.... For whatever reason, I had both the hardback and paperback versions of Southern Lady, Yankee Spy WLed, even though I have read it and it is on my shelves. I was listed #1 in both cases.  So I just deleted both. If you were one of the other 6 and 4 who also have them WLed, you just moved up one place.

 



Last Edited on: 2/9/16 8:26 PM ET - Total times edited: 5
Date Posted: 6/14/2016 5:55 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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If you are interested in reading a book which covers the war from the Mississippi to the West Coast and does a good job of it, I recommend The Civil War in the American West by Alvin M. Josephy, Jr. The link goes to the book's page and my review.

Date Posted: 7/27/2016 10:02 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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Here is another good one... An Honorable Defeat: the Last Days of the Confederate Government. The link is to the book's page and my short review. The author, William C. Davis, in addition to his other numerous awards, is the only person to receive the Jefferson Davis Award for Civil War history three times. However, he is not kind to Jefferson Davis in this book, or to several other government officials of the Confederacy, especially Judah Benjamin. But he obviously thinks highly of General John Breckingridge, the last secretary of war for the Confederacy

Date Posted: 11/26/2016 9:15 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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Confederate Goliath The Battle of Fort Fisher provides an excellent coverage of the Union struggle to close the last major port of importance available to the Confederacy. I had never really read much concerning this battle and I'm glad I've finally made up that deficiency.

However, I have to disagree with the author's statements about the port being a major source of food to supply the Army of Northern Virginia. To do this, it seems to me, several blockade runners a day would have had to unload at Wilmington, with only foodstuffs delivered. I make other comments in my review, which the title above links to.

Date Posted: 12/18/2016 8:56 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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Here is one for the ladies and for those gentlemen who really need to round out their knowledge of the "fairer sex" of the 19th century. The link goes to the book's page here on PBS, as well as to my lengthly review.

Civil War Wives: The Lives and Times of Angelina Grimke Weld, Varina Howell Davis & Julia Dent Grant

Date Posted: 1/3/2017 10:22 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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While not a 'great' book, Secret Yankees: The Union Circle in Confederate Atlanta is still fascinating. I thought it so interesting I provided a somewhat long review of it on the book's page here.

Date Posted: 4/12/2017 6:05 PM ET
Member Since: 9/21/2006
Posts: 2,802
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quick, easy reads by owen parry.  There are 6 books in the series.

https://www.goodreads.com/series/41748-abel-jones

Date Posted: 5/5/2017 10:10 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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No bloody battles in this one. This excellent examination of the psychological problems Mary Todd Lincoln underwent throughout her life should be read by every Civil War enthusiast, as Mrs. Lincoln figured prominantly in that struggle as the wife of our president. While some mythologists made Mary Lincoln a figure to be despised, as well as her son Robert, the author does a very good job of now making us see her as a person deserving of our pity, if not our sympathy. And her son Robert emerges as a figure to be as much respected in his care and love for his mother as he was in his distinguished career.

The Madness of Mary Lincoln by Jason Emerson

As an additional note, Abraham Lincoln gains in my respect, if that is possible considering his almost god-like character. Having to abide Mary's problems, without understanding what they were, while also leading our nation in its greatest conflict only enhances his reputation. A recent survey of numerous historians listed Lincoln as our greatest president. A position he well deserves.



Last Edited on: 5/17/17 10:14 PM ET - Total times edited: 1
Date Posted: 10/15/2017 9:09 PM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 3,266
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This is mostly likely not going to be one of my more popular recommendations.

The Peculiar Democracy: Southern Democrats in Peace and Civil War

But it you think you have an open mind on Civil War history, read this one and discover some truths about the War and secessionists you didn't know before.



Last Edited on: 10/15/17 9:09 PM ET - Total times edited: 2
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