Civil War fiction books like or dislike or mehh?

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
With very, very few exceptions, I choose not to read "historical fiction." Most of it is 98% fiction, and that doesn't interest me. There's enough that actually occurred to keep me occupied for the rest of my life. I also think that well-written non-fiction is a whole lot more interesting and infinitely more compelling.
 

rbortega

Private
Joined
May 4, 2013
Is anybody familiar with the Civil War novel "Sherman's March" by Cynthia Bass? I remember reading back in the mid-1990's. It has been so long since I read that I can not say whether it was any good or not.
 

bwthompson

Private
Joined
Mar 8, 2020
I am wonding what everyone thinks about historical fiction books. Whether its say the killer angles or North and South.
Or Historical fiction like Turtledove books.
I read one of the book by Nwet Gingrish (yes its spelled terribly) and it was mehhh. Tryed reading a Turtledove book about the British attacking the north during the war then South steping in to take out the British.
For the most part I find them mehhh or just boring. One exception was a fiction book about Shiloh and I think it was by Shelby Foot called Shiloh.
I stay with non-fiction but does anyone have book recommendations, or has anyone writen a book?

Widow of the South is a recent personal favorite!
 

luinrina

2nd Lieutenant
Silver Patron
Joined
Jul 30, 2018
Location
Germany
I love fiction and if it's historical all the better. It often spurs me to actually start researching the historical period in earnest. If it weren't for fiction, I wouldn't be here and study the Civil War. :smile: I don't have difficulties understanding that it's just fiction, not history, even if it's well researched.

I enjoyed Gods and Generals, Killer Angels and Last Full Measure. Haven't read the western theater quartett yet but plan to (if I ever get out of the eastern theater again lol). I loved Cain at Gettysburg and Hell or Richmond by Ralph Peters and am looking forward to reading the rest of his books. I fondly remember a chat I had at Oak Alley Plantation in Louisiana with a gentleman who recommended the Shaaras to me - and I recommended Ralph Peters to him. :D

I also enjoy a good what-if now and then. I enjoyed a few of Harry Turtledove's stories, and the Gettysburg trilogy by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen was an interesting read. When planning my autumn trip to the states for battlefield visits and put in Monocacy, I was surprised to recognize the land. That's when I realized where Gingrich and Forstchen had a battle going. I haven't studied the Battle of Monocacy yet, but am looking forward to it now more than ever, and when visiting the battlefield, I can explore the grounds from the real battle and a fictional battle. Two for one - I call that a win-win situation. :D

If a non-fiction book is well written, it can be quite entertaining and gripping too. I'm currently reading the Overland campaign books by Gordon C. Rhea and I often feel like I'm reading fiction, they are written that splendidly.

Thanks to this thread I now have plenty of recommendations for novels to read. :thumbsup:
 

unicornforge

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 14, 2007
Location
Near Gettysburg, PA
I never read historical fiction, there are plenty of first hand autobiographies to read that are plenty interesting. In my humble opinion, reading fiction would simply blur my understanding of actual history.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Location
Hannover, Germany
I wasn't impressed enough by Jeff Sharra's to even attempt the last of the trilogy,
I tried to read a Jeff Shaara book, and I couldn't make it past the first page. Just bad, amateurish prose and technique. I really did like his dad's work, though, as literature, though one can certainly quibble with some of the history.

While I do agree on "Gods and Generals" which I didn't like that much either, I see that book as a mere warming up for Jeff.
Actually I like "Last Full Measure" best in the trilogy and I also liked "Gone for Soldiers" by Jeff Shaara a lot. And Wikipedia says he has written 15(!) New York Times bestselling novels, so his writing cannot be that bad... besides that, I had the honor to exchange a couple mails with him lately because he encourages readers to get in touch and he is a really nice man and not a bit contemptuous, which could have been expected of such a successful author.

To my greatest surprise (because I hated the mini-series) I liked the "North and South" trilogy by John Jakes, which I have read only this spring when I still thought I would travel to Charleston in April. I don't know how much historic accuracy is in it, but it provides a very good impression of the overall atmosphere during and immediately after the war. As always with me, the book beats the movie(s) by far.
 
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jackt62

Captain
Joined
Jul 28, 2015
Location
New York City
I never read historical fiction (or most fiction for that matter). I find real historical accounts to be more fascinating than fictional ones.
 

MackCW

Private
Joined
Aug 30, 2020
I'm surprised nobody has mentioned Corporal Si Klegg and his pard Shorty. It was written by a Civil War combat veteran (Wilbur F. Hinman) and was originally published as a series of vignettes in newspapers with them finally being compiled into a book. It doesn't read as a novel per se... but rather a progression of vignettes or short stories. Even though this is historic fiction you can glean from this text as much as you can from Billings. One of his aims was to inform the next generation about what life was like for Western Federal soldiers at the time. It also contains wonderful pencil/ink drawings written by another veteran with some hilarious captions like I posted below.

1599142813892.png


Hinman wrote this as a tribute to his pard who was killed in the Battle of Chattanooga. While a lot of the stories have a ton of humor, day to day duties/soldier life, pranks (including one on the regimental adjudant), there are some somber moments as well.


Highly HIGHLY recommend this work of fiction for the historian who hates the twisting of facts when it comes to Civil War history.
 

Zella

1st Lieutenant
Joined
May 23, 2018
While I do agree on "Gods and Generals" which I didn't like that much either, I see that book as a mere warming up for Jeff.
Actually I like "Last Full Measure" best in the trilogy and I also liked "Gone for Soldiers" by Jeff Shaara a lot. And Wikipedia says he has written 15(!) New York Times bestselling novels, so his writing cannot be that bad... besides that, I had the honor to exchange a couple mails with him lately because he encourages readers to get in touch and he is a really nice man and not a bit contemptuous, which could be expected of such a successful author.

To my greatest surprise (because I hated the mini-series) I liked the "North and South" trilogy by John Jakes, which I have read only this spring when I still thought I would travel to Charleston in April. I don't know how much historic accuracy is in it, but it provides a very good impression of the overall atmosphere during and immediately after the war. As always with me, the book beats the movie(s) by far.
Thanks, Andrea! It was Gods and Generals that I tried to read and left me so unimpressed. I've had other people tell me his other work is better, so it sounds like his writing has improved, which is good. But I have such a long to-read list, anyway, and that sample I tried to read was so amateurish that it doesn't motivate me to seek out his other work.

I've never read or watched North and South.

This is an unpopular opinion in the book world, but there are a few movies that I think are actually better than the book (or at least equally good). The Godfather being Exhibit A. God, I hated that book. Love the movie. :D
 
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mofederal

Major
Joined
Jun 27, 2017
Location
Southeast Missouri
I read historical fiction for entertainment. I read nonfiction when I want to learn something. I enjoy both equally. I also read old newspaper, Older books, articles, diaries, and most of those are not real insightful, although they can be. It depends on how much the diarist actually writes. I believe sometimes a writer, a novelist, writes that way because it gives them something to hide behind. Vietnam vets who have written novels of the war for many reasons want to show their experience of war through the use of fictional characters. Larry Heinemann comes to mind in Close Quarters. I like John Jakes' North and South trilogy, the Ralph Peters books, The Battle Hymn Cycle, his other novels written as Owen Parry. Ann McMillan, the series of books by Thomas Fleming, The Lincoln Letter by William Martin, Unto This Hour by Tom Wicker, Woe to Live On by Daniel Woodrell, William Safire's Freedom, The Last Plantation by Don Wright, and many many others. Some of these books are very good, some just entertaining. I also like much older historical fiction from the 1900's to the 1950's.
 
Joined
Aug 29, 2020
I have to go back and forth from fiction to non-fiction. While I love non-fiction and the wealth of knowledge available from biographies, diaries, or even textbooks, I have to be on high alert and very focused while reading in order to take in and understand as much as possible. Sometimes it’s nice to just read some page-turning fiction to give my brain a break!

In adulthood I have really really enjoyed the work of Charles Frazier when I want an easy reading story that is still relevant to my most favorite subject. I also, though very cliche, loved Gone with the Wind mostly because of the descriptions of actual happenings in the war (the movie is all about Scarlett and her love life). And, obviously, The Killer Angels is the greatest there ever was (in my opinion).

What other good fiction books are out there?
 

7thWisconsin

Sergeant Major
Joined
Nov 21, 2014
While I do agree on "Gods and Generals" which I didn't like that much either, I see that book as a mere warming up for Jeff.
Actually I like "Last Full Measure" best in the trilogy and I also liked "Gone for Soldiers" by Jeff Shaara a lot. And Wikipedia says he has written 15(!) New York Times bestselling novels, so his writing cannot be that bad... besides that, I had the honor to exchange a couple mails with him lately because he encourages readers to get in touch and he is a really nice man and not a bit contemptuous, which could be expected of such a successful author.

To my greatest surprise (because I hated the mini-series) I liked the "North and South" trilogy by John Jakes, which I have read only this spring when I still thought I would travel to Charleston in April. I don't know how much historic accuracy is in it, but it provides a very good impression of the overall atmosphere during and immediately after the war. As always with me, the book beats the movie(s) by far.
I liked ¨The Last Full Measure,¨ too. It feels like his ability to create characters matured a good bit from GaG. ¨Gone for Soldiers¨ is the best he´s written in my opinion.
 

Booklady

Sergeant
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Location
New England
Red Badge of Courage, of course.


To Play for a Kingdom A platoon from the 14th Brooklyn and a Confederate outfit meet to play a series of baseball games during the Wilderness campaign. Quite good.

As a collector of baseball books, both fiction and nonfiction, I'm going to have to get that one.

As an upper elementary teacher, I've always liked Across Five Aprils. One reason is the family dynamics and moral choices it provides for kids to ponder. I'll never forget the look on the face of a sixth-grade boy when he realized the depth of the moral dilemma Jethro faced between providing food and aid to his deserter cousin versus endangering his family by helping a deserter. That look was why we teach.
 

Booklady

Sergeant
Joined
Mar 19, 2017
Location
New England
I've actually never read a historical fiction book. It's always been nonfiction. My mind is programmed on facts. And I think I'd have a hard time wavering from those facts. I would probably keep comparing the fiction to fact. But I suppose I should give it a try.
😲 How did you get through school without being assigned to read some historical fiction? No Johnny Tremaine? No Number the Stars? No Red Badge of Courage? Your English teachers need a talking to!
 
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