Question of the Week: 3/27-4/2/17

If you could only keep one Civil War book in your library/collection, which book would you save?

(We know that’s a painful thought, but it might reveal favorite battles, commanders, or topics!)

17 Responses to Question of the Week: 3/27-4/2/17

  1. Fletcher Pratt’s “Ordeal by Fire.” Been reading it for nearly fifty-five years; not the best of histories, but he wrote a series of well-crafted scenes from a play, mixed with profound musings on the nature of the nation and the war. Pratt was my introduction to Lincoln, Davis, Grant, Thomas, Lee and Bragg. I’ll go to the library or on-line for the history…this is the book I want to keep on the shelf and pass to the children.

  2. The Golden Book of The Civil War. The first book I ever got as a child on the Civil War. Great battle illustrations. – Michael Aubrecht

  3. You’re right. Choosing just one is too tough. So I’m going to offer two: Bruce Catton’s “This Hallowed Ground” and James McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom.” Without question, these are the best one-volume histories of the Civil War.

    1. I agree wholeheartedly with the Bruce Catton recommendation. I also have the James McPherson book but I have not read it yet. I am really looking forward to doing so.

  4. This an almost impossible task. Only being able to keep one book probably means choosing a general/narrative history over a specific battle or campaign (or does it?). That being said, I’d save “Battle Cry of Freedom”, by Jim McPherson. In my mind it’s the best one volume history of the Civil War ever written.

  5. Shelby Foote’s trilogy; History written by a writer whose prose is enjoyable to read…like Macaulay.

  6. One of the following:

    1. The American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War—With the main text by Bruce Catton and a wonderful collection of illustrations, this was my childhood introduction to the Civil War.

    2. John Brown’s Body, by Stephen Vincent Benet—A wonderful epic poem.

  7. Pratt’s “Ordeal by Fire” got me hooked as a kid; Catton’s “This Hallowed Ground” & “American Heritage Picture History of the Civil War” were my teenage Centennial mainstays; Shaara’s “Killer Angels” is my first recommendation when I talk to students at grade schools & high schools; McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom” is near the choice…but if restricted to only one book it would be an insightful, provocative, & stimulating history of the war that I used as my primary reference when teaching military history at West Point…Peter Parish’s “The American Civil War”

  8. This question got me by the “feels”! I could never part with my slightly tattered original history of the 125th Ohio Infantry Regiment. My great-grandfather was a member and the page where his (1895) picture is placed there is a number of dirty fingerprints and smudges where my farmer grandfather (his son) had frequently visited the page. I think of it as a story within the story as my grandfather had apparently rebelled as a youth…those smudges are signs of regret, I think.

  9. Battles and Leaders. If I can’t keep all its volumes, my “Selected” edition would be it.
    If novels are allowed, Killer Angles, for sure! (Also–ahem–my own Huck Finn sequel Huckleberry Finn in Love and War, wherein he winds up in the War.)

  10. It would have to be Catton’s American Heritage History of the Civil War. My longest owned Civil War book.

  11. Frank O’Reilly’s “The Fredericksburg Campaign” for the nostalgia. I read that book senior year of high school before moving to Fredericksburg to go to college. It was the book that pushed me to become a public historian, and led me to the NPS. My career as a historian, with every talk and tour I’ve ever given, starts with that book.

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