Question of the Week: 5/30-6/5/22

What’s your favorite overview history book of the Civil War (can be single or multi-volume)? Why?

27 Responses to Question of the Week: 5/30-6/5/22

  1. The American Heritage History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton. This is the first Civil War book I ever read when I was in Elementary School. It is extremely well written as well as being thorough.

      1. Third. This is the one that I received in elementary school and got me started on the “addiction”, along with my ancestor’s diaries for the 3 years he was in the Army of the Potomac. Those maps in particular …

  2. The Golden Book of the Civil War. Although this book was created for young readers during the 1960s it is still a fantastic overview of the war and it has great drawings of drawings of the battles with Colorful depictions of depictions of troop movements and terrain.

    1. I’m with you wbozic, totally. The battlefield maps with numbered timelines of events and the color plates, they did a great job on that book. It was a big book, too, lots of reading for a youngster. A great introduction to this real event. The chapter on Chancellorsville begins with a full page color plate of the famous picture, “Last Meeting of RE Lee and Stonewall Jackson,” never forget it. I agree with you, “fantastic.” I no longer look down upon the Time-Life Civil War issues that come out from time to time but as a favorite, it will always be the Golden Book of the Civil War, issued around the 100th anniversary, too.

  3. I found A Savage War: A Military History of the Civil War by Williamson Murry and Wayne Wei-Siang Hsieh to be an enlightening overview. Also looking forward to reading Allen Guelzo’s Fateful Lightening.

  4. Being a fan of history in general I had always intended to become more familiar with the events of the Civil War some day, just wanting to get a general idea of the flow of things. Needing something to read in between other books back in January, I picked up Shelby Foote’s “The Civil War A Narrative Vol. 1” on Kindle (not being able to see how thick the book was! and I don’t think I noticed the “Vol. 1 of 3” in small print) – I’m hooked! I’m almost done with Vol. 2 but I’m interrupting that to read “Vicksburg” by Donald Miller.

  5. After a long search, I was able to pick up Lee’s Lieutenant’s by Douglas Southall Freeman a few weeks ago and I have not been disappointed. Freeman”s research, scholarship and writing style are first rate and the best I have ever read pertaining to the Southern military leadership during the War between the States.

  6. I fell in love with Fletcher Pratt’s A Short History of the Civil War when I was a young teenager. The beauty of the language and his sharp, sardonic and often hilarious observations take your breath away. Overrides any of his incidental factual errors.

  7. The American Heritage History of the Civil War helped to hook me as a kid. As an adult no question that the gold standard is Battle Cry of Freedom.

  8. I’ve recently been reading (and using as a computer platform while sitting in my favorite chair) William C. Davis’s “The Commanders of the Civil War.” Great illustrations. A sticker tells me that I bought it for $3 somewhere.

  9. The Time-Life Books Civil War Battle Atlas. I could quibble with some of its presentation now, but it covers a lot of ground while still being extremely accessible.

    And then I was fortunate enough to live next to a public library growing up, so whatever caught my interest in the atlas, there was probably a book about it next door.

  10. My favorite is Shelby Foote’s 3 volume: “The Civil War: a narrative” because of his research and wonderful writing. On the other hand, there are a lot of great ones listed here.

  11. Gotta go with Shelby Foote’s three volume masterwork. He had such a beautiful style of writing that draws you into the story. This was, of course, decades ago, and his southern bias/Lost Cause tendencies become more and more apparent as the reading
    list expands. But as Garry Adelman says, you can always try to get closer to the truth by learning more from varied sources, but you need that spark. Despite their inherent flaws, Ken Burns and Shelby Foote were that spark for me.

  12. The World Book Encyclopedia. When I was dwelling in third grade in elementary school, it was those books that ignited my passion and interest in history. I remain quite fond of those memories.

  13. Any one of Catton’s three volume sets on either U.S. Grant, the Army of the Potomac or his master narrative of war — the Centenial History of the Civil War are great reads … Catton’s work, now almost 60 years old, have aged remarkably well and the author organizes his work around the idea of portraying military events not in isolation, but in their larger societal, economic, cultural and political context.

  14. I live in the UK so when I started my interest in the ACW, in the 1960’s books were not that easy to come by. However, the publisher Penguin issued their book on it by Bruce Catton. This I found out later was actually the American Heritage book in paperback so sadly it didn’t have any colour pictures or the well known maps. I was only ten years old at the time and saved up my pocket money and bought his Hallowed Ground book. I also collected the bubble gum cards Civil War News which I thought were brilliant. As my interest grew I managed to acquire lots more to have a collection of over 1,000 books. My favourite is probably the centennial three volumes by Catton. He was, in my opinion, a masterful story teller who made it all so interesting and accessible to a foreigner.

  15. Not a book but Ken Burns’ Civil War video has done as much for the interest in the Civil War as any book

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