My List of Civil War Books

Some followers may be aware that some controversy came up recently regarding James McPherson’s list of scholars and scholarship regarding American history. My blogging friends, Kevin Levin, Megan Kate Nelson (part 1 and part 2), and Nick Sacco have all weighed in and some have challenged others to contribute their lists. By happen chance I was asked through a professional e-mail about some books to broaden one’s knowledge of the Civil War era. Yikes! A big task! Some people’s breadth of “Civil War” only means 1861-1865. I think increasingly, serious historians are pushing not only the period leading toward armed conflict, but looking beyond the land surrenders between April and June 1865.

I happened to already have a list of go-to books on the subject of US Colored Troops during the war and I added to that to send to the person inquiring about what to read. None of the books below include primary sources of edited letters, diaries, or memoirs (though I read many of them). My list lay categorized below:

The Black Experience Antebellum-Wartime:

  1. Jim Downs. Sick from Freedom.
  2. John Hope Franklin. From Slavery to Freedom. [Classic!]
  3. Walter Johnson, River of Dark Dreams. [Side note: I am recommending this and yet haven’t read it. I do want to and it’s on my to-do list; but glowing reports from many folks I know and trust and reviews show that Johnson has pulled out another well research and well written book.]
  4. Walter Johnson, Soul by Soul: Life Inside the Antebellum Slave Market. [This is probably my favorite book on this list. Whenever someone asks me about a book to read regarding black experience in America, I jump to say this one. The first page in the introduction should make anyone think twice about declaring slavery a wonderful and benign institution.]
  5. Ervin L. Jordan, Black Confederates and Afro-Yankees in Civil War Virginia.
  6. Maurie McInnis, Slaves Waiting for Sale.

Politicians and Politics:

  1. Charles Dew. Apostles of Disunion: Southern Secession Commissioners and the Causes of the Civil War. 
  2. Eric Foner. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery.
  3. Eric Foner. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War
  4. Gerard Magliocca.  American Founding Son: John Bingham and the Invention of the Fourteenth Amendment.

Wartime Battlefield Leaders and/or Their Followers:

  1. William J. Cooper, Jr. Jefferson Davis, American.
  2. Joseph Glatthaar. General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse.
  3. Elizabeth Brown Pryor. Reading the Man: A Portrait of Robert E. Lee Through His Private Letters.
  4. Brooks D. Simpson. Ulysses S. Grant: Triumph Over Adversity, 1822-1865.

Women During the War:

  1. Drew Gilpin Faust, Mothers of Invention.
  2. Judith Giesburg, Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front.

United States Colored Troops during the War:

  1. Bryant, James K., II. The 36th Infantry United States Colored Troops in the Civil War: A History and Roster.
  2. Cimprich, John. Fort Pillow, A Civil War Massacre, and Public Memory.
  3. Cornish, Dudley T. The Sable Arm: Negro Troops in the Union Army, 1861–1865.
  4. Dobak, William A. Freedom by the Sword: The United States Colored Troops, 1862-1867.
  5. Gannon, Barbara A. The Won Cause: Black and White Comradeship in the Grand Army of the Republic.
  6. Glatthaar, Joseph T. Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers.
  7. Humphreys, Margaret. Intensely Human: The Health of the Black Soldier in the American Civil War.
  8. Miller, Edward A., Jr. The Black Civil War Soldiers of Illinois: The Story of the Twenty-ninth U.S. Colored Infantry.
  9. Price, James S. The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will Be Theirs by the Sword.
  10. Shaffer, Donald R. After the Glory: The Struggles of Black Civil War Veterans.
  11. Smith, John David, ed. Black Soldiers in Blue: African American Troops in the Civil War Era.
  12. Trudeau, Noah A. Like Men of War: Black Troops in the Civil War, 1862–1865.

Memory Studies:

  1. Blight,  David. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory
  2. Levin, Kevin M. Remembering the Battle of the Crater: War as Murder.

Miscellaneous:

  1. Edward Ayers, In the Presence of Mine Enemies.
  2. Drew  G. Faust, This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War.
  3. Mark Grimsley, The Hard Hand of War.
  4. Chandra Manning, What this Cruel War was Over.
  5. James McPherson. Battle Cry of Freedom. [Still the best one volume book on the war.]
  6. Daniel Sutherland, A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerillas in the American Civil War.

The Post-War Years:

  1. Eric Foner. A Short History of Reconstruction.
  2. Thavolia Glymph, Out of the House of Bondage: The Transformation of the Plantation Household.
  3. Caroline E. Janney, Burying the Dead But Not the Past: Ladies’ Memorial Associations & the Lost Cause.
  4. Leon Litwack. Been in the Storm So Long.

So there goes my list. It’s not exhaustive but as far as an overview of the antebellum, wartime, and post-war periods I think it touches on a multitude of issues, certainly the ones I’m interested in. #HistorianChallenge taken and done with.

What do you think?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “My List of Civil War Books

  1. Just bookmarked this page. Will be referencing on a rainy day and cannot decide on what to read.

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