Who is the most readable CW historian?

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
I recently picked up and quickly put down a new history book - the writer seemed to have lots of facts but the writing was so bad I couldn't follow the thread of the narrative. My husband confessed he'd found that same historian, who is very well regarded, a chore to read as well. So I got to thinking - which Civil War historian writes the most readable books? Books that are so well put together that you can't put them down. Histories that flow like a novel. Obviously I don't mean something that isn't factual. But what writers, in your opinion, really tell the story well?
 

Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
For readability, I don't think anyone can top Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote. Some writers have done it better in specific areas, but if you are looking for good writing, you can't miss with them.

Other writers I have found very readable are Timothy Smith, Chester G. Hearn, and William C. Davis.
 

lupaglupa

1st Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Apr 18, 2019
Location
Upstate New York
For readability, I don't think anyone can top Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote. Some writers have done it better in specific areas, but if you are looking for good writing, you can't miss with them.

Other writers I have found very readable are Timothy Smith, Chester G. Hearn, and William C. Davis.
I've read several thing by Timothy Smith - most recently the book about Grierson's Raid. I agree he is a very good writer.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
Shelby Foote...maybe because I can hear his voice in my head...LOL
And as is always mentioned ... Mr. Foote was the first to say that he was never a historian.

But for many people, Shelby Foote is a much more easier to read than many of the distinguished and acclaimed historians that venture away from their academic peer reviews ... and then try to write history for the general public.

I have no doubt these learned individuals try very hard and mean well, but it seems some of them do not understand how to
communicate with their potential customers.
 
Last edited:

RedRover

Corporal
Joined
Dec 16, 2019
“General Alger once said that he would give $50,000 for a book that would depict war as he saw it. The offer was a safe one, yet doubtless sincere. A truthful or, more properly, an accurate picture of war cannot be given. Fragments of realism are possible, and we are now getting in the regimental histories the nearest approach to descriptions of war as the soldier experienced it that it is possible to have in this age of commercial literature. Writings made to sell are colored to suit the market.” [Evening Mail, Stockton, CA, 12-23-1896.]
 

Pete Longstreet

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Silver Patron
Joined
Mar 3, 2020
Location
Hartford, CT
Another vote for Foote. When I was reading his trilogy, I literally could not put it down. I remember one evening I was reading, and had to get ready for work. I contemplated using a vacation day so I could continue to read. No other book has had that grip on me before. I plan on reading it again.
 
Top