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Beginners American Civil War recomendations?

Non-Fiction Readers

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Mar 14, 2010, 7:59am Top

Where should I start?
I prefer stories about real people over long drawn out pages on battle plans and troop movements.


Mar 14, 2010, 11:53am Top

Im a big James McPherson fan. So I recommend checking out Tried by War it is a discussion of Lincoln as the first war-time president and does a fantastic job discussing the failures of Mcclelland and the greatness of Grant. Let me know what you think. But I am interested in what others have to say

Edited: Mar 14, 2010, 12:30pm Top

Try Reveille in Washington by Margaret Leech, or All For the Union by Robert Hunt Rhodes (editor) / Elisha Hunt Rhodes author.

Mar 15, 2010, 6:42pm Top

Absolutely the most readable civil war work I know is a novel: The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara (not to be confused with his son: Jeff Shaara, who's written some good books himself but, IMHO, not nearly the quality of his father).

Edited: Mar 16, 2010, 8:44pm Top

A good place to start would be Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac trilogy. There are 3 books in this series
Mr. Lincoln's Army
Glory Road
A Stillness at Appomattox
These are written from the Union point of view. Catton also has books written from the confederate POV,but these 3 Union books are well-written, basic, & explain what is going on in a way even students can understand. He writes like he is telling a story & writes about real people & what happened to them.

Mar 17, 2010, 2:02pm Top

I second The Killer Angels, that was my first Civil War book and opened up a whole new world for me.

Mar 19, 2010, 7:34pm Top

While not exactly a good first book, I think that Upon the Altar of a Nation: A Moral History of the Civil War by Harry S. Stout is very readable, and covers material that is not in the usual military histories.

Mar 22, 2010, 3:41pm Top

For a beginner, I would recommend 'Storm Over the Land' by Carl Sandburg. The writing is the best of all Civil War books.

Mar 22, 2010, 3:45pm Top

The best Civil War story about people instead of battles is Gone with the Wind. I've read Killer Angels also and its OK too, but not nearly as interesting as Gone with the Wind. I don't recommend Bruce Catton's trilogy if you're hoping to avoid battle plans and troop movements. His trilogy is more military history rather than historical fiction.

Apr 10, 2012, 7:27pm Top

kind of a weird suggestion but Confederates in the attic is super fun, it approaches the history at kind of angle and its a fun read. if that fails I mean Shelby Foote is my Favorite place to start The Civil War: A Narrative

Apr 11, 2012, 12:23pm Top

I think that Shelby Foote does a good job balancing the basics of each battle ("the 42nd regiment occupied such and such a hill") and the actual experience of soldiering. And as someone who frequently finds military books confusing, he has the ability to make everything clear. You also might consider Civil War memoirs such as Hard Tack and Coffee. There isn't much about fighting in there but lots of info on how common soldiers lived.

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