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Old 04-26-2016, 11:30 AM   #1
Waylander
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American Civil War non-fiction

I looked up American Civil War non-fiction books on Amazon, and the list wasn't very impressive. John Keegan did a book on it and the reviews weren't great. Anyone got any ideas? Either general histories or histories of specific battles will do, but one general history at least would be nice.
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Old 04-26-2016, 11:42 AM   #2
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A very diverse subject depending on if you want mainly battles/combat, politics, individual personalities, etc.


A few books that come to mind...

Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson is a pretty good one volume history as I recall.

U.S. Grant's personal memoirs are worth a read (should be public domain everywhere). There are many other memoirs of the Civil War that are interesting too.

Stephen Sears books Gettysburg, Chancellorsville, To The Gates of Richmond: The Peninsula Campaign and Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam

Many of Shelby Foote's books including his three volume Civil War: A Narrative
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Old 04-26-2016, 12:16 PM   #3
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I got hooked on American Civil War history summer before last. Here's a few from my library. Almost all are on Amazon and/or Gutenberg.

Edward Porter Alexander - Artillery Chief for Army of Northern Virginia - Fighting for the Confederacy and Military Memoirs of a Confederate

Anything by Bruce Catton - Favorites Coming Fury, Terrible Swift Sword and A Stillness at Appomattox

Anything by James M. McPherson. Many titles and all excellent.

Shelby Foote's three volume history of the Civil War. Shelby was a southerner by birth and kind of goes easy on the South, but still excellent books.

Almost anything by Gary Gallagher. An eminent Civil War historian.

Brian mention the Steven Sears histories. All very good.

Mary Chesnut's Diary - Mary Boykin Chestnut was born into prominent Southern family and married James Chestnut Jr., a senior aide to Jefferson Davis. Her diary follows the up and downs of the Confederacy viewed from the topmost layers.

Team of Rivals by Doris Kearns Goodwin. An in-depth look at Lincoln's presidency.

Gutenberg has public domain copies of memoirs of all the major players. Ulysses S. Grant, Jefferson Davis, Philip Henry Sheridan, William Tecumseh Sherman, and others.

And if that's not enough, I’ve got close to 100 books in my library.
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Old 04-26-2016, 01:24 PM   #4
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Thanks chaps, these are all great. I think I'll treat myself to the hardback boxed set of Shelby Foote's trilogy over the summer when I've finished this year of college.

Last edited by Waylander; 04-27-2016 at 05:00 AM.
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Old 04-26-2016, 08:06 PM   #5
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I'm a long time Civil War buff. The classic and easiest to read is Shelby Foote's trilogy. Stephen Sears books (To the Gates of Richmond, The Landscape Turned Red, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg) are exceptional battle references. All the books that I've mentioned are available as ebooks. Past that, there is a ton of material depending on what exactly you are interested in.
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Old 04-27-2016, 04:19 AM   #6
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Of all the books mentioned, I urge all Americans to read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, especially in light of today's political divide and obstructionism. The Lincoln lessons in management need to be relearned by today's politicians, but even more importantly, they need to learn to put the country first, the people second, and their parties a distant third or lower. I was amazed when I first read Team of Rivals at how political enemies were able to set aside their differences to work for the betterment of the country. It is a skill -- no, a love for country -- that is desperately needed today by politicians.
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Old 04-27-2016, 05:00 AM   #7
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Totally agree. Thanks for all the recs.
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Old 04-27-2016, 06:20 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by rhadin View Post
Of all the books mentioned, I urge all Americans to read Doris Kearns Goodwin's Team of Rivals, especially in light of today's political divide and obstructionism. The Lincoln lessons in management need to be relearned by today's politicians, but even more importantly, they need to learn to put the country first, the people second, and their parties a distant third or lower. I was amazed when I first read Team of Rivals at how political enemies were able to set aside their differences to work for the betterment of the country. It is a skill -- no, a love for country -- that is desperately needed today by politicians.
While a good book, Team of Rivals does need to be taken with a grain of salt. Goodwin is quite capable of ignoring the parts of history that don't quite match her narrative. She's an excellent writer and an ok historian. Lincoln's team of rivals didn't pull together nearly as well as Goodwin paints it.
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Old 04-27-2016, 10:30 AM   #9
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Shelby Foote's trilogy is great for a narrative of the war.

Battle Cry of Freedom also gets into the cultural, social and economic roots of the war, the "why" as well as the "what and when".
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Old 04-27-2016, 10:46 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by pwalker8 View Post
While a good book, Team of Rivals does need to be taken with a grain of salt. Goodwin is quite capable of ignoring the parts of history that don't quite match her narrative. She's an excellent writer and an ok historian. Lincoln's team of rivals didn't pull together nearly as well as Goodwin paints it.
This has come up before, but I'm in favor of boycotting Goodwin because of her history of plagiarism. A plagiarist, absent acknowledgment of malfeasance, responsibility and repentance, loses me for all time. There are too many other books out there; her product isn't uniquely good so as to justify overlooking her transgressions.
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