|Books - American Civil War
Appomattox 1865 - Lee's Last Campaign, Ron Field. Looks at the final campaign of the American Civil War in Virginia, Lee's failed attempt to escape south to join up with other Confederate troops after the Union army finally broke through at Petersburg. Nice to have a book that focuses on this campaign in some detail, looking at the significant fighting that kept pushing Lee west instead of south, instead of skipping over it on the way between the siege of Petersburg and the surrender at Appomattox Courthouse [read full review]
In Hospital and in Camp - The Civil War through the eyes of its Doctors and Nurses, Harold Elk Straubing. A selection of ten accounts of the medical services during the American Civil War, produced by a mix of doctors and nurses, mainly from the Union side. Includes diaries, letters and narrative accounts, and ends with some of Walt Whitmann's poems. Varies in tone from gruesome medical detail to Victorian sentimentality. [read full review]
The C.S.S. Albemarle and William Cushing: The Remarkable Confederate Ironclad and the Union Officer Who Sank It, Jim Stempel. Follows the twin stories of the construction and service of the Confederate Ironclad ram Albemarle and the life of impressive young Naval officer who sank her. Follows both stories from start to finish, covering them in parallel, so events on shore as the ship is being built are lined up with Cushing's developing career, before the two come together in the daring raid that sank the Albemarle and the escape that followed [read full review]
Wilderness and Spotsylvania 1864, Andy Nunez. Looks at two very different battles - the Wilderness, fought in dense woodland and notable for the confusion on both sides, and Spotsylvania, where Union forces made a series of attempts to storm strong Confederate field works. These were the battles where Grant began to come to grips with the abilities and limits of the Army of the Potomac, and in particular a command structure that included political appointees and officers appointed by a series of previous commanders of the army. [read full review]
The Civil War: The Story of the War with Maps, M. David Detweiler. A useful historical atlas of the American Civil War, focusing on the overview across the entire campaign area, so we see Grant advancing while the fighting is bogged down in the east, or Sherman making progress while Grant is bogged down in the east. Also includes good clear battle maps, all accompanied by an engaging text. [read full review]
The Battle of Petersburg, June 15-18, 1864, Sean Michael Chick. Looks at the final major battle of Grant's Overland Campaign, one of the classic 'missed opportunities' of military history which saw Grant slip past Lee's right wing without Lee noticing, but then fail to take advantage of his success, leading to the end of mobile warfare and the start of the long siege of Petersburg. [read full review]
Winchester Lever-Action Rifles, Martin Pegler. A look at one of the first important rapid fire rifles, a firearm that became iconic as one of the weapons that 'Won the West', and a familiar fixture in western movies. Looks at its predecessors, the technology that made it work, the many variants produced, and its widespread use across America. Includes some excellent contemporary plans of the workings. [read full review]
Shenandoah Valley 1862, Clayton and James Donnell. Looks at the campaign that established 'Stonewall' Jackson's reputation as a battlefield commander, and saw him defeat a series of larger Union armies in a series of battles where he was rarely outnumbered on the battlefield. A good account of the campaign, supported by a series of useful campaign and battle maps that help demonstrate Jackson's dizzying pace of movement. [read full review]
Union Infantryman vs Confederate Infantryman: Eastern Theatre 1861-65, Ron Field. Describes three infantry clashes, taken from Bull Run in 1861, Gettysburg in 1863 and the siege lines outside Richmond and Petersburg in 1864. Provides three snapshots of infantry combat during the American Civil War rather than a more general analysis of the infantry war. [read full review]
Don't Hurry me down to Hades: The Civil War in the words of those who lived it, Susannah J. Ural. A history of the American Civil War supported by a heavy use of contemporary sources and in particular letters, speeches and diaries - materials that were either intended for immediate reading or were private - rather than post-war memoirs, often distorted by the aims of their authors. The result is an immediacy and a freshness that takes us back to those dark years and helps us see the wider impact of the war. [read full review]
Searching for George Meade - The Forgotten Victor of Gettysburg, Tom Huntington. An interesting two-pronged book, combining a biography of General Meade with an attempt to discover how he is remembered on the battlefields of the Civil War. Meade emerges as a capable, ambitious man with something of a temper, who deserves to be better known than he is, but who does make a reasonable appearance on many Civil War memorials. [read full review]
Avenging Angel: John Brown's Raid on Harper's Ferry, 1895, Ron Field. Looks at John Brown's failed raid on the US Armoury at Harper's Ferry, in which an attempt to steal weapons and start a widespread slave uprising collapsed into a short-lived and rather one sided siege. Despite the small scale of this raid, it had massive political implications and played a part in the slide into Civil War. [read full review]
The Last Ride of the James-Younger Gang - Jesse James and the Northfield Raid 1876, Sean McLachlan. Looks at the botched bank robbery that ended the violent career of the James-Younger Gang and saw most of the gang captured or killed, either during the crime or during the pursuit that followed. [read full review]
The Great Event, B. Randolph Beynon. A lengthy history of the American Civil War supported by a vast number of quotations - over 1,000 during the full length of the book, with a good mix of familiar and unfamiliar quotes from a wide range of figures on both sides, all connected by a good history of the war. [read full review]
Robert E. Lee in War and Peace - The Photographic History of a Confederate and American Icon, Donald A. Hopkins. Combines an examination of every known 'from life' photograph of Robert E. Lee with an history of photography during this period and biographies of the photographers who took the photos. A fascinating book for the general reader and a useful reference work for the collector. [read full review]
Coastal Operations in the American Civil War, Kevin Dougherty. Looks at the Federal efforts to close the Confederate coast by capturing or blocking every port on the Southern coast, a campaign that was designed at the start of the war by the Navy Board and that lasted until almost the end of the conflict. An interesting study of combined arms operations and the problems that could be caused when two services cooperated on operations without any firm rules in place. [read full review]
Forts of the American Frontier 1776-1891: California, Oregon, Washington and Alaska, Ron Field. Covering a wide range of topics, including Native American forts, Russian and Spanish forts in the far reaches of their empires and US fortifications, and buildings that range from log forts all the way up to multi-storey casements armed with the latest 19th century artillery. [read full review]
Battle of the Crater, Newt Gingrich and William R. Forstchen. Historical novel set in the Petersburg campaign, focusing on the Battle of the Crater, a potentially war winning Union attack that failed after the plan of attack was changed at the very last minute. Seen through the eyes of a war artist and a black NCO in one of the well trained units that should have taken part in the initial attack. [read full review]
Roughshod through Dixie, Grierson's Raid 1863, Mark Lardas. One of the most effective cavalry raids of the American Civil War, Greirson led his small force from north to south across the Confederacy, attracting attention away from Grant's early moves around Vicksburg. This excellent entry in the Raid series traces Greirson's progress day by day, as well as examining the reasons behind his success and other's failures. [read full review]
American Civil War Guerrilla Tactics, Sean McLachlan. A look at the various forms of irregular warfare that were a feature of the American Civil War, covering the campaigns themselves, the guerrilla and irregular leaders and their impact on the war as well as the actual tactics used by and against the guerillas. [read full review]
Battle Cry of Freedom, James M. McPherson, OUP, 1988, 944 pages. One of the best single volume accounts of the Civil War era, taking in the decade before the war before moving on to the conflict itself. McPherson covers the military events of the war well, while also including good sections on politics North and South. [see more]
A Great Civil War, Russel F. Wiegley, Indiana University Press, 2004, 648 pages. This is a superb account of the civil war years. Weigley has produced a book that combines a good understanding of the military aspects of the war with a clear grasp of the wider issues at stake. [see more]
Roll Call to Destiny, Brent Nosworthy. This book takes a very different approach to the Civil War battlefield, looking at a number of well known incidents from the point of view of one or more of the individual units involved. This book will be of value to anyone with an interest in the Civil War battlefield. [see more]
A Short History of the Civil War: Ordeal by Fire, Fletcher Pratt. Originally written in 1935, some of the detail in this book may be out of date, but it is still widely considered to be one of the best single volume histories of the civil war.
Confederate Cavalryman: 1861-1865 (Warrior S.), Philip Katcher. A good general work that covers the training, equipment and experience of the Confederate Cavalry, as well as examining some of their most significant battles.
Battles and Leaders of the Civil War (1 volume selection), ed. Ned Bradford. Less than twenty years after the end of the war, most of the surviving commanders contributed to the original four volume Battles and Leaders of the Civil War. This single volume edition picks out articles on the most important battles of the war, as well as an interesting selection of articles from civilians and private soldiers. [see more]
With Pen and Saber: Letters and Diaries of J. E. B. Stuart's Staff Officers, Robert J. Trout. If you want to find out what Stuart's own men thought of him and the war they were fighting, then this collection of letters and diaries is the ideal resource.
Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, William J. Hardee. This was the standard infantry textbook on both sides during the American Civil War [see more].
Antietam, 1862: The Civil War's Bloodiest Day, Norman Stevens, Osprey, 1994. Antietam was one of the great missed chances of history. This book gives a concise and readable account of the Union army's failure to take a chance to destroy Robert E. Lee and his army.
The Second Bull Run Campaign: July-August 1862, David G. Martin. A well illustrated look at the entire Second Bull Run campaign, a key turning point in the American Civil War which saw the south go from the verge of defeat around Richmond to triumph at Manassas, and the campaign that saw Robert E. Lee first justify his great reputation.
Picket's Charge at Gettysburg, James A. Hessler and Wayne E. Motts. An excellent guide to the most famous Confederate attack on the third day at Gettysburg, combining four battlefield trails with a detailed examination of the attack itself, covering the impact of the terrain on both sides, the performance of individual units and commanders, and many of the controversies that have dogged the subject ever since the fighting stopped. The trails appear to make sense, but for me the main value of the book is its account of the Confederate attack, supported by a detailed knowledge of the landscape over which it took place [read full review]
Gettysburg: The Last Invasion, Allen C. Guelzo . An excellent account of the Gettysburg campaign, illustrated by a splendid selection of eyewitness accounts. Focuses on the actions of individual commanders, from Meade and Lee down to regimental commanders, with a focus on the corps commanders and their activities and attitudes. Supported by plenty of accounts from further down the command chain and from civilians caught up in the fighting. [read full review]
Stars in Their Courses: Gettysburg Campaign, Shelby Foote, 304 pages. Well researched and written by one of the best known historians of the Civil War, this work is taken from his longer three volume work on the war, but does not suffer from that.
The Siege of Petersburg - The Battles for the Weldon Railroad, August 1864, John Horn. Focuses on Grant's fourth Petersburg offensive, the attempt to cut the Weldon Railroad south of the city, and at the same time prevent Lee moving troops to other theatres. Combines very detailed material on the three battles with an interesting examination of why the Union army performed so poorly in them, with an examination of the long term strategic results of the constant application of pressure at Petersburg. [read full review]
Petersburg, 1864-65: The Longest Siege, Ron Field. A look at the penultimate campaign in Virginia during the American Civil War, the long siege that kept Lee pinned down from the summer of 1864 into the spring of 1865 while the Confederacy was being destroyed behind him. This volume concentrates on the main battles of the siege, providing a good overview of the course of this lengthy campaign from the first tentative attacks in the summer of 1864 to the Confederate defeat at Five Forks and the evacuation of Petersburg and Richmond in the following spring. [see more]
The Campaigns for Vicksburg, 1862-1863, Kevin J. Dougherty. An unusual approach to military history, this book looks at the leadership lessons that can be learnt from the successful Union attempts to capture Vicksburg, one of the key battles of the American Civil War. Organised into case studies that combine a particular element of the battle with an aspect of leadership. [read full review]
Buffalo Bill: Forts, Fights and Other Sites, Jeff Barnes. Combines a biography of Buffalo Bill with a travel guide to the important locations in his life that fall within the Great Plains and 'Wild West' area. Includes coverage of his Civil War service, and involvement in some of the most famous incidents of the Indian Wars. Gives a good feel for the world that Cody inhabited. [read full review]
Year of Desperate Struggle: Jeb Stuart and His Cavalry, from Gettysburg to Yellow Tavern, 1863-1864, Monte Akers. Follows on from Year of Glory, and looks at the year in which Stuart's personal reputation was marred by his performance in the Gettysburg campaign, and Union cavalry gained in competence and confidence, eventually equalling and even surpassing their Confederate opponents. Stuart's own career ended in a clash with Union cavalry at Yellow Tavern on 11 May 1864, where he was mortally wounded. Together these books provide a satisfying military biography of Stuart [read full review]
Year of Glory - The Life and Battles of Jeb Stuart and his Cavalry, June 1862-June 1863, Monte Akers. Looks at the year in which Stuart twice rode around McClellan, commanded in major battles, and took command of 'Stonewall' Jackson's corps after he was mortally wounded. Gives a good feel for the glittering façade of the Confederacy and the slow darkening of the mood as battle casualties began to pull apart Stuart's band of brothers. [read full review]
Robert E. Lee, Ron Field. Biography of Lee focusing on his civil war career and in particular his role in the most famous set-piece battles in the Eastern Theatre, including his triumphs at Second Bull Run, Chancellorsville and Fredericksburg and his failures at Antietam and Gettysburg. Also includes a useful section on the way in which Lee's reputation has changed over the years. [read full review]
Battlefield Sniper - Over 100 Civil War Kills, Lt. Col. Tom C. McKenney. A flawed but fascinating account of one man's war against Union forces, triggered by the execution and mutilation of two of his sons, falsely identified as Confederate guerrillas. Acting as a lone sniper Hinson claimed at least thirty six victims before the end of the war [read full review]
Ulysses S. Grant, Mark Lardas. A good short biography of Grant, with a clear understanding of his role as General in charge of the US Army and the wide ranging responsibilities that came with it, as well as a good run through his earlier career, victories in the west and around Chattanooga, and his pre- and post- war failings. [read full review]
Men of Fire: Grant, Forrest and the Campaign That Decided the Civil War, Jack Hurst. This is a very well researched and readable account of one of the most significant campaigns of the American Civil War - the Federal attacks on Fort Henry and Fort Donelson, two victories that broke the Confederate defensive line in the west, and set the tone for the rest of the war. [see more]
Grant: Memoirs and Selected Letters , Ulysses S. Grant. Written while he was dying of throat cancer, Grant's memoirs concentrated on his life up to and including the civil war. An invaluable insight into the mind of one of the main players in the Civil War, summed up well by one of its most famous quotes.
"I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse"
Memoirs, William T. Sherman. One of the classic military auto-biographies, this is a very readable account of Sherman's involvement in the American Civil War, supported by a large number of documents. A valuable, generally impartial work that is of great value to anyone interested in Sherman's role in the war.