What are the best American Civil War Autobiographies that detail day to day life?

bravo30

Private
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
I’m looking for recommendations on American civil war autobiographies. I’m most interested in books detailing the day to day life leading up to battle and of course, the battles themselves with an emphasis on small unit actions. I have a rough idea on how things unfolded, I want to now experience the war on a more personal level through the eyes of individual soldiers.
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
Well, most of the Generals wrote autobiographies that will tell you every decision each made was the correct one. But that doesn't seem to answer the mail.

John Billings (from Massachusetts, I think) was a veteran, who wrote a book called, "Hard Tack and Coffee; The Unwritten Story of Army Life."

It's not an autobiography, per se, but a view of a common Union soldier's war experience. He'll walk you through what it was like for them. You can Google and find a copy.

Another I'm partial to is called, Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray, which I've linked here for you. Confederate veterans living in Texas were asked after the turn of the 20th century to record their experiences. My own GG Grandad's is there and if you pick through the work, you may get some of the insight you're looking for.

Good luck!
 

bravo30

Private
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
I have many. I am currently reading the Personal Memoirs of General Grant during the War. Their is also a story called Fighting For the Confederacy by a veteran, as well as a story called Andersonville Diary, quite heartfelt but written by a survivor. Just some of my recommendations.

I just finished reading Eye Of The Storm. Sneden spent time in Andersonville as well as Libby and he does a decent job of describing his experiences in both prisons. Quit a shock to read how the soldiers treated each other under those extreme conditions.

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bravo30

Private
Joined
Mar 4, 2016
John Billings (from Massachusetts, I think) was a veteran, who wrote a book called, "Hard Tack and Coffee; The Unwritten Story of Army Life."

It's not an autobiography, per se, but a view of a common Union soldier's war experience. He'll walk you through what it was like for them. You can Google and find a copy.

Good luck!

Just found it on Ebay for $8.49 delivered. Should be here in a few days! I’ve gotten a handful of books off of eBay recently for under $10 each.
 
Joined
Jun 7, 2021
I have many. I am currently reading the Personal Memoirs of General Grant during the War. Their is also a story called Fighting For the Confederacy by a veteran, as well as a story called Andersonville Diary, quite heartfelt but written by a survivor. Just some of my recommendations.
Grant's Memoirs get my vote too. It's really well written, easy to read, and you find out what the man was thinking, right or wrong, when he ordered things done.
 

mobile_96

First Sergeant
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ill.
A lot of these books are free on https://archive.org/index.php There are a wealth of books now in the public domain.
I've downloaded a ton(how much does a digital ton weight?) from archive.org over the last 10 years of so. Much of it was while researching people, mostly civilian, for articles in my RT newsletter. And, I just downloaded Reminiscences of the Boys in Gray from archive.org
 

GwilymT

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 20, 2018
Location
Pittsburgh
A lot of these books are free on https://archive.org/index.php
There are a wealth of books now in the public domain. LibriVox audio books, also free, are a great way to listen to a book while I actually get some work done.
Thanks for pointing this out! No need to troll eBay, some of the best first hand accounts are free!
 

Fairfield

Sergeant Major
Member of the Month
Joined
Dec 5, 2019
My own absolute favorites are two by Abner R. Small: The Road to Richmond and The Sixteenth Maine. He was astute, compassionate--and had a great sense of humor. As a minor officer, his view of the war was rather different from that of generals and major figures.

I must also mention Fighting for the Confederacy by Edward Porter Alexander. Although I must admit to taking a dislike to Alexander, I must say that his account was intricate and insightful.
 
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