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beginner books on the Civil War?

Discussion in 'Book & Movie Review Tent' started by AUTiger, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. AUTiger

    AUTiger Cadet

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    Hi,I have read very little on some Civil War Generals but haven't read much on the Civil War.I am hoping that some of you can give me some good ideas for starting out on what to read on the war.
     

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  3. infomanpa

    infomanpa First Sergeant

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    A Pulitzer Prize winning book, called Battle Cry of Freedom, by James McPherson.
     
  4. AUTiger

    AUTiger Cadet

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    Thank you.Also a few others I have heard of This Great Struggle By Steven Woodworth,The Civil War and Reconstruction By J.G. Randall. Also how are The Impending Crisis By David Potter and also is Ordeal By Fire By Mcpherson an easier read than his Battle Cry of Freedom.From what I have heard it sounds similar
     
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  5. John Winn

    John Winn Captain

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    Welcome. I, too, would recommend Battle Cry of Freedom if you are only going to read one book.

    However, if you really want to get a good overview of the era I'd suggest adding two other books:

    Potter, David M. , Don E. Fehrenbacher, editor (1976). The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 (Harper, The New American Nation Series).

    This is the classic on the pre-cursors to the war.

    Then read Eric Foner's work on Reconstruction. There's the long version which, frankly, is more than most will want to read and, in my opinion, too wordy. Fortunately, there's a short version; get that one.

    All these are available in paperback and you can usually find them on Amazon used for very reasonable prices. If you read these three you'll have a very good grounding in the history of the Civil War era.

    Good luck to you.
     
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  6. Coonewah Creek

    Coonewah Creek Corporal

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    McPherson is good, as are the other suggestions above. If they were still available, I would also recommend the 1962 set of 88 Topps Civil War News (bubble gum) trading cards. I truly believe they're what hooked me! :smile:
     
  7. J. D. Stevens

    J. D. Stevens Private

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    An excellent resource for some one just getting into and wanting to learn more about the Civil War is "The New Civil War Handbook" by Mark Hughes in 2013. It's 158 pages of well organized topics and packed with facts, reference tables, and pictures. In the back is a section called Civil War Bookshelf providing casual readers and beginners with several pages of books by topics such as general histories, commanders, battles and campaigns, unit histories, fiction, etc, etc. Although mine was acquired by raffle at one of the symposiums I enjoy attending, the price on the cover is $14.95. I keep mine handy because the tables provide a considerable amount of information for quick reference.
     
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  8. nitrofd

    nitrofd Colonel

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    Expensive to buy but your library may just have the whole Time-Life series on the Civil War.this whole series was based as an intro to the war but is loaded with information.
     
  9. IrishBrigade

    IrishBrigade Private

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    Dare I mention Jeff Shaara's books? Historical fiction but interesting reading. Also Stephen Sears has more detailed books on individual elements of the war.
     
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  10. JPK Huson 1863

    JPK Huson 1863 Colonel Forum Host

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    You know, trying to bite off the whole war can be daunting? I'll be disagreed with ( which never happens in this forum, so will be shocking! :angel: ) , a book about one battle can be awfully helpful. It's amazing how many members show up here having read ' Killer Angels ', Michael Shaara's ( fictional, kinda, with characters invented to flesh out the narrative ) book on Gettysburg. Hooks them, a crazy good read ( then they get to hear about all the mistakes in it ). It does introduce the war extremely well despite being set smack in the middle.

    Series of books, supposed to be photos only and isn't because they're beautifully explained helped hook me- " Miller's Photographic History of the Civil War , Francis Miller, 1910. You can see/read them free- Hathitrust and ( I think ) Google Books? 10 books, it'll take awhile.
     
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  11. retexan599

    retexan599 Cadet

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    Not a direct answer to your question, but -- if I were starting over, I would want to view the entire Ken Burns Civil War film series. I have it on DVD and get it out every couple of years to refresh myself. I realize not everyone agrees with all the view points expressed in the series, but it covers not only the bare facts, but a lot of background and supplementary information. Just a thought....
     
  12. Jimklag

    Jimklag Lt. Colonel Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Nope.
     
  13. Jimklag

    Jimklag Lt. Colonel Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    A very good option for a beginner would be the Time-Life Civil War multi-volume series. It can be purchased used on Amazon and e-Bay.
     
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  14. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    Lots of modern bias in a lot of intro/one volume books regarding the ACW. McPherson is one of the worst offenders, btw...

    Harry Hansen's The Civil War: A History, is about as good as it gets in an intro book single volume. That's the one I always recommend. He stays with the facts and does not demonize.
     
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  15. Jimklag

    Jimklag Lt. Colonel Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    I don't want to start anything, but don't all decent modern authors have a "modern bias"? All author's bring their personal baggage to their writing. I wouldn't give a nickel for a totally dry, factual, strictly academic account of the war without the seasoning of personal insight by a well-trained author. That's part of the reason we pay the big buckd for their books - their educated, trained insight into events. I will take McPherson over Hansen any day, warts and all.
     
  16. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    Well... if one want to write History he/she better make the past alive with all its "imperfections", stick to events (what), and only try to determine the reasons behind them (why) sparingly, because the facts are just missing...

    Interpreting past events with a modern morality lens is not History. Having an agenda and trying to prove you are "right" is not History either. McPherson fails in both.

    There is no "right" or "wrong" in History. No "good guys" or "bad guys". Stuff happened. An unbiased Historian's job is to figure out: a. what happened and b. postulate on why it might have happened and the consequences of it happening. And thread light on that last part.
     
  17. Jimklag

    Jimklag Lt. Colonel Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Except, apparently, for James M. McPherson. Hmm?
     
  18. E_just_E

    E_just_E Moderator Moderator

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    If he were a historical person...
     
  19. Jimklag

    Jimklag Lt. Colonel Forum Host Silver Patron Trivia Game Winner

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    Ah - I wonder what he won the Pulitzer Prize for. Wonder how he got a PhD. in History from Johns-Hopkins under no less an authority than C. Vann Woodward. Wonder how he got a professorship in American History at Princeton. Wonder how he got to be president of The American Historical Society. Just lucky I guess. I wonder what you consider a historical person. Your man, Harry Hansen, had a PhD in English - not history, and was a newspaper reporter who wrote exactly one book on the Civil War. He wrote several guide pamphlets for various states and wrote 12 non-fiction books on 11 different subjects, only one of which was on the Civil War. Who would an objective person find the greater authority on Civil War history, McPherson or Hansen? You obviously have an animus against McPherson based on what, I don't know. But your own bias disqualifies you as any kind of authority on Civil War historians. Do you like the books of Bruce Catton and Douglas Southall Freeman? They were both , like Hansen, reporters who, after journalism, immersed themselves in Civil War history and wrote some great history - replete, like McPherson, with their modern biases.
     
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  20. christian soldier

    christian soldier First Sergeant

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    Besides McPherson's book I would also suggest David Eicher's book on the Military History of the Civil War. David.
     
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  21. tbuckley

    tbuckley Corporal

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    For a beginner, I would suggest This Hallowed Ground by Bruce Catton.
     
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