What Books Got You Interested In The Civil War?

Hannover

Private
Joined
Jan 30, 2020
Following the question on which five books would you choose I thought about how a reading interest in the civil war started for me.
I was in my mid-teens and was in the Central Library which is one of the major libraries in the North West of England. At the time it had a very large American Civil War collection. I do not know exactly why but I chose to borrow ‘20th Maine’ by John Pullen. It may have been the photographs in it that caught my attention. Little realising that by chance I had chosen what many historians believe to be one of the best regimental histories ever written. When I got it home and started reading it, I could not put it down and I think I read it in slightly over 24 hours! I returned to the library and in the next year or so read through the whole collection including those that were reference only and so had to be read in the library itself. Sometimes I was thrown out of the library at closing time and ended up walking home, a distance of 3 miles. But I was hooked.
In particular the books I remember include:
G.F.R. Henderson
Fredericksburg Campaign
The Campaign in the Wilderness of Virginia
Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War
F.W. Palfrey
The Antietam and Fredericksburg, Campaigns of the Civil War
Abner Doubleday
Chancellorsville and Gettysburg Campaigns of the Civil War

My interest has continued until this day and now includes virtually my own library of over 200 books on the civil war!
So, my question is what got you started? Or put another way what was the first book that sparked your interest?
 
Joined
Jan 24, 2017
It's a fascinating topic about what gets us studying the ACW.

My interest was sparked through my writing. I was writing a fictional story that involved a civil war and wanted to understand better how brother could turn against brother in the circumstances of the same. How people could become divided, what would divide them, and what that would mean. The ACW came immediately to mind and via the internet it became a bit of a labyrinth in terms of ultimately finding my way here. In the meantime I connected in a variety of ways including via reading books, obtaining DVDs, and researching one particular soldier's life.

I'm always so interested to hear how other's made their way here and you were obviously hooked by your first book.
I know the feeling of not being able to put the book down or the thirst for more knowledge as you begin to drink.
There really is nothing else like it and, needless to say, it can lead to so many unexpected places.
 
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Coonewah Creek

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 1, 2018
Location
Northern Alabama
For me, I think it was a combination of things. My Dad taking us to Shiloh every summer since for as long as I can remember was certainly one. I think the other was the Civil War Centennial (OK, I know I'm dating myself), and when the Topps Civil War trading cards started coming out. I really think those helped pull me in for sure. It truly has been a long and winding road up until today.
 

Pete Longstreet

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
For me, it was the movie Gettysburg. My 10th grade teacher played the movie for the class and I was immediately hooked. I went out and bought books on the Civil war and then bought the Ken Burns box set on VHS... I study the Vietnam War a little, but basically the ACW is the only war that completely draws me in. I'm fascinated by it.
 

Mrs. V

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 5, 2017
Well, I am a “late to the party” Civil War enthusiast. My first books were ones I reviewed for our library, from the “Dear America” series of Historical Fiction. They are mostly written in Diary format and actually have quite a bit of history woven into them. Then there is the book, “I’ll pass for your Comrade” I was so fascinated by the book I bought my own copy...

Now my son? Geez, he teethed on History..but that’s his tale to tell..
 

Lee

Colonel
Joined
Mar 25, 2012
I remember hearing of Ancestors from Momma and Daddy's families who fought under General Robert E. Lee in the Army of Northern Virginia and another two brothers who defended Charleston until it was abandoned then they marched to Wilmington NC and defended Fort Fisher. When I was a tyke I remember Aunt Bessie who was the family historian and the keeper of letters from the front and Confederate artifacts. She took such great care of those items especially the letters. She gave many of us children some Confederate money with instructions not to fold it. I had a good friend who spent a significant amount of time researching everyone in my family and where they were during the war and he wouldn't take a dime for his work. I remember my Grandmother from SC telling me about when she was a young girl visiting the "old soldiers home" after church with her mother taking a pie or cake for the old soldiers. I remember asking her who the old soldiers were and she said why Confederate Soldiers of course. Many former Confederate states maintained "Old Soldiers Homes" for indigent former Confederate soldiers. She was born in 1890 something and lived to see us put men on the moon and bring them home.
 

pamc153PA

Major
Forum Host
Joined
Dec 28, 2008
Location
Pennsylvania
For me, it was the book The Killer Angels, not because I read it but because our 9th grade honors history students had to read it, and all the 9th graders spent a day of class watching the movie made from it, Gettysburg. After standing in the back of the auditorium watching it a few times as a teacher over the years, my husband and I got a gift certificate to the Gettysburg Hotel and stayed there over New Year’s in 1999. Seeing my maiden name on the PA Monument, and doing research to find that I had several relatives who fought there, sparked my interest. Although I’ve toured a dozen CW sites in the East and West, my fascination with the battle at Gettysburg never waned.
 

LCYingling3rd

Private
Joined
Apr 25, 2021
I guess my interest has been a convoluted, long and winding road. I was about four years old and my parent's took me to the one hundredth anniversary reenactment and centennial celebrations of the battle of Antietam. And family played a huge part. As a child, with the echo's of that reenactment still ringing in my ears, I loved going in my father's study (he was a Methodist minister), seeing the aging, sepia toned, ornate discharge document of George E Yingling's, my great grandfather, service in the 87th PA hanging on the wall, and thumbing through his Civil War books. I am pretty sure his copy of Fletcher Pratt's 1955 book, "Civil War in Pictures" grabbed my youthful interest first. As I grew older I started with his Bruce Catton, "Centennial History of the Civil War" books.

Add to that my mother's aunts who were active members and President's of their local United Daughters of the Confederacy chapters. Visiting their house in Martinsburg as a young boy was like visiting a museum of the Confederacy. It was a wonderland of "Lost Cause" Confederate memorabilia. Gilt framed pictures of R. E. Lee and crossed Confederate flags hung on the walls. Lee on Traveler stood proudly on the mantle. Talk of our ancestors exploits mingled with the tastes and smells of wonderful Southern cooking. It was the kind of glorified family military heritage every young boy could want.

Then puberty hit. Echo's of Civil War ancestors faded into the fog of adolescence in the late 1960's and early 70's where the female form and other youthful proclivities took precedence over long gone ancestors fighting a long forgotten war. College, work, marriage and family pushed my interest in the Civil War onto the back burner of my consciousness. That is, until a mid-1980's visit back to my aging great aunt's home in Martinsburg. Helping her clean out her attic she presented me with boxes of family history. In them was my great, great grandfathers Confederate Cavalry pants, his old campaign blanket, boxes of old UDC books and memorabilia and various other items, including her signed copy of Dennis Frye's history of the 2nd Virginia Infantry. That is the book that turned my backwater interest into an obsessive passion again. Reading how one of the battle flags the Second Virginia captured at the Second battle of Winchester was the 87th PA caused my mind to race backward toward the memory of that aging, sepia toned discharge document hanging in my father's study which stated clearly that he had been taken prisoner on June 15, 1863....zoom, I have been hooked ever since and now have a dedicated room, my family lovingly calls "the shrine," filled with books and artifacts memorializing my interest and ancestors that fought in the war.

Then again, there was that woman who gave her lecture at the 135th anniversary Antietam event saying how, who we were in past lives effects our interest in history! LOL
 
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RLowe

Private
Joined
Dec 19, 2019
Following the question on which five books would you choose I thought about how a reading interest in the civil war started for me.
I was in my mid-teens and was in the Central Library which is one of the major libraries in the North West of England. At the time it had a very large American Civil War collection. I do not know exactly why but I chose to borrow ‘20th Maine’ by John Pullen. It may have been the photographs in it that caught my attention. Little realising that by chance I had chosen what many historians believe to be one of the best regimental histories ever written. When I got it home and started reading it, I could not put it down and I think I read it in slightly over 24 hours! I returned to the library and in the next year or so read through the whole collection including those that were reference only and so had to be read in the library itself. Sometimes I was thrown out of the library at closing time and ended up walking home, a distance of 3 miles. But I was hooked.
In particular the books I remember include:
G.F.R. Henderson
Fredericksburg Campaign
The Campaign in the Wilderness of Virginia
Stonewall Jackson and the American Civil War
F.W. Palfrey
The Antietam and Fredericksburg, Campaigns of the Civil War
Abner Doubleday
Chancellorsville and Gettysburg Campaigns of the Civil War

My interest has continued until this day and now includes virtually my own library of over 200 books on the civil war!
So, my question is what got you started? Or put another way what was the first book that sparked your interest?
1619459085465.jpeg
Picture worth a thousand words!!
 

Lampasas Bill

Sergeant
Joined
Sep 24, 2018
I was also influenced by the Centennial years, but my interest started long before that. In the early 1950s my parents enrolled us in a childrens' history book club where every month we received a Landmark Book from Random House Publishers. They were wonderful books, written by established authors and historians. I caught the Civil War bug from "Gettysburg" by MacKinley Kantor. I still have my 1952 copy and re-read it from time to time. The illustrations were really inspiring; here are a couple for your enjoyment:
 

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Texas Johnny

Corporal
Joined
Jan 29, 2019
Location
Texas
Fletcher Pratt, The Civil War. Intended for grade school kids, my parents gave me a copy in 1959. I see that used copies go for a whopping $9.00.
Me too! I had that book as a young kid and then about the same time I found my first minie ball in our front yard (area of the battle of Utoy Creek). The book and the minie ball turned my interest in the war into a life long passion.
 
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