Discussion Forums - History

Topic: Is there one behemoth of a book that covers the entire Civil War?

Club rule - Please, if you cannot be courteous and respectful, do not post in this forum.
  Unlock Forum posting with Annual Membership.
Subject: Is there one behemoth of a book that covers the entire Civil War?
Date Posted: 9/4/2017 11:53 PM ET
Member Since: 10/11/2010
Posts: 22
Back To Top

I'm not looking for a quick read- I'm looking for something in the 1000+ page neighborhood that covers the entire war and all its battles. If there's an ebook, it's a plus, but not required.

Thank you.

Date Posted: 9/5/2017 1:00 AM ET
Member Since: 6/30/2008
Posts: 4,173
Back To Top

not 1000pp but I found Shelby Foote's trilogy to be a quick read. It has one advantage from my point of view in that it is complete. Foote covered everything from a skirmish in a cow pasture to full blown battles. Also covered river and ocean battles and campaigns. As you may know Foote was a novelist before he wrote history and his history flows in an easy to read manner. No footnotes. I was lucky I found the 3 volumes at the library where I lived at the time.

Date Posted: 9/5/2017 5:17 AM ET
Member Since: 9/22/2010
Posts: 5,431
Back To Top

I have an eight-foot-tall bookshelf just for books on the Civil War. The books on this topic now spill over to another bookshelf. Most are of just one campaign, one battle or one person. I once heard an historian state, "If you want to be an expert on the Civil War, read one book. If you read a second book, you will find the second author doesn't always agree with the first. So you will have to read a third book to find out who's right. After 3,000 books you are just getting started." And to understand the war you need to read numerous books, not just on the military side, but on the political, social and economic issues too.

But, if you want to read just one book about the Civil War, read Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson. He is considered the "Dean of Civil War History," and has written numerous books on this subject, most of which I've read. He wrote the book as part of the Oxford History of the United States and it received the Pulitzer Prize for History.

Unfortunately, there are no copies available on PBS at present, and it is wish listed.  If I remember correctly, the book actually begins in the 1840s and carries through until after the war. It is well written and a good read. And it has over 900 pages. You can often find it in used book stores. One of my prized possessions is a signed first edition of this book.

Shelby Foote's 3-volume work, which I have also read, is not a history, even he called it "a narrative," and it has numerous errors. Where I live, in Florida, the Battle of Olustee was the biggest Civil War battle. Foote only devotes three paragraphs on it, which is actually a lot when you consider how many more important events occurred in the war. Foote gets everything about it wrong, except that it was a Confederate victory.

Last Edited on: 3/9/19 2:19 PM ET - Total times edited: 6
Date Posted: 9/5/2017 10:56 PM ET
Member Since: 10/11/2010
Posts: 22
Back To Top

I actually own Foote's books. I need to repair the dust jackets, so I'm not handling them currently.

And I had McPherson confused with Ambrose. I'll give him a look, now that you've straightened me out.