What 3 books do people need to read to understand the Civil War?

E_just_E

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I think one could get a good understanding of the war without do using before, during, after the civil war formula. I went for the different perspectives: Social, Political, and Military.

Well... even that is tough. I do not know of any single book that equally presents both combatants' points of view in the Social and/or Political arenas without getting into "right" or "wrong" witch hunts...
 

Drew

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Why a solution rather than an invitation?

Well, that's the way your OP was framed. I agree that Chernow's three are ridiculous towards 'understanding.'

I'd have to think more about three as an appropriate invitation.
 

Drew

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Well... even that is tough. I do not know of any single book that equally presents both combatants' points of view in the Social and/or Political arenas without getting into "right" or "wrong" witch hunts...

Most of this stuff is about modern agendas and not really about understanding the war. The latter really requires an attempt to unpeel a huge onion.
 

John Winn

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I am sorry if my inartful posting led you to think you had to confine your recommendations to books on the four years of war. As the Chernow examples indicate, you can be more expansive than that. For example, Chernow's choices include The Underground Railroad, a novel set before the war, and Race and Reunion which describes the post-war construction of the memory of the Civil War.

Go to town.

No problem. I interpreted your question to be more of the Civil War era than the war per se. I was responding to a comment that implied maybe I should have left Foner off the list as Reconstruction was "after" the war. My feeling is that Reconstruction was the continuation of the war in mostly non-military forms. Thus, to end one's reading at 1865 would not show how the war continued on other levels for decades after the major shooting ended. True understanding of the era requires knowing how they got to the shootout, how the shootout unfolded, and the aftermath of the shootout.

I'm sticking with the list I posted. Read those and you'll have a darn good foundation.
 

W. Richardson

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Lincoln didn't start the war. Capt. George S. James did when he fired the first shot at Sumter. Actually that is not true either, the cadets that fired on the Star of the West started the war. :smile:

Regardless of that, good list.


That is true it was the Confederacy that fired the first shot, the first use of force. It was the Union's (Lincoln) attempt to resupply a besieged fort, it was that action that rendered the use of force necessary. Sometimes it isn't the first blow that causes a war, it is the action that caused the reason for the first blow.............

But that isn't what the thread is about..............So we are off topic.

Respectfully,
William
Abraham Lincoln 4.jpg
 
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shermans_march

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That is true it was the Confederacy that fired the first shot, the first use of force. It was the Union's (Lincoln) attempt to resupply a besieged fort, it was that action that rendered the use of force. Sometimes it isn't the first blow that causes a war, it is the action that caused the reason for the first blow.............

But that isn't what the thread is about..............So we are off topic.

Respectfully,
William
View attachment 163151
True, and I think you and I already discussed this before. :wink:
 

Mark F. Jenkins

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I think my list would of course include Battle Cry of Freedom and How the North Won. I'd love to include a Navy title, naturally, but the three-book limit is a harsh mistress. I would want to set it in an international dimension, though, because too much ACW history tends toward navel-gazing (no, not naval-gazing). Perhaps Dean B. Mahin's One War at a Time, though I'll have to think more about it.
 

John Hartwell

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For an intelligent reader who may never read anything else specifically about the Civil War period, to obtain a reasonable understanding of the conflict, I don't think I could do better than @Jimklag did back at the beginning of this thread:

1. Battle Cry Of Freedom, by James M. McPherson.

2. How The North Won, by Herman Hattaway and Archer Jones. s of the war.

3. Team Of Rivals, by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
 
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My interest in the civil war is the battles and campaigns, troop movements, especually in regards to the Army of Tennessee. As such it would be very, very hard to pick just three but I'll give it2. agao.

1. Decision in the West, by Albert Castel
2. ANY of Dave Powell's Chickamauga Campaign Trilogy
3. Here is the tough one...so many that could go as number 3...Failure in the Saddle by Powell, Last stand in the Carolinas by Bradley, Cozzen's Trilogy, but I think I'll go with For Cause and For Country by Eric Jacobsen as my third choice.

There are so many aspects of the Civil war, social, political, and of course the military. It would be very difficult to cover everything in just three books.
 
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