Even though I did not win the contest held by Brett over at TOCWOC, I thought I would post my submission here and let you all see what some of my favorite Civil War books are. This will also be posted on TOCWOC, at which time I will post a link. I have also volunteered myself as a guest contributor to TOCWOC, as I always like to take on opportunities. I would encourage my readers to consider writing for here and inquiring to TOCWOC. So, without further fanfare, here are my favorite books:
5. Rifles for Watie by Harold Kieth-This was one of the first Civil War related books that I remember reading as a child, as well as one of the longest at that time. I had been interested in the War Between the States for a few years before, having visited several reenactment events, but had never really read a book on it. I first encountered Rifles for Watie when I was in seventh grade and began reading it. I was immediately engrossed in the story of a young Kansas farm boy named Jefferson Davis Bussey who was drawn into the Civil War by youthful excitement and naïveté as well as a desire to see a world beyond the farm. The book takes the reader on a thrilling journey through the war in the Trans-Mississippi west. The reader experiences the early days in camp learning to be a soldier, to major battles like Wilson’s Creek and Pea Ridge, and great back stories, which included a romance between Bussey and a young Cherokee girl from a pro-Confederate family, a long-standing feud between Bussey and Asa Clardy (Bussey’s first commanding officer, who later turns out to be a traitor and is similar in many ways to the Corporal Bent character of North and South), and a spy story. In short, this book is a great first read for kids in late elementary and middle school to get started with, but is also a great book for older readers looking for a great plot and a topic not usually written about.
4. Writing the Civil War: the Quest to Understand Edited by James McPherson and William J. Cooper-Though not really intended for a general audience, this book is on my list because of its value to me personally. It aided me greatly in writing my thesis and is a must for Civil War scholars. The book contains a collection of essays dealing with the historiography of various subjects relating to the war. Specifically, the essay dealing with Civil War soldiers was quite helpful in identifying sources for my own research. This book is a must have for historians of the war.
3. Mr. Lincoln’s Brown Water Navy by Gary Joiner-This book is one of the more recent works on my list, but just because it is a newer work does not mean it is not a great book. Author Gary Joiner presents wonderful research into an overlooked area of the Civil War. The book focuses on the fleet of gunboats that patrolled the Mississippi and its tributaries for the Union. I found it quite interesting, as it was my first foray into Civil War naval history. I recommend this book to anyone interested in the naval history of the war as well as the Western Theater.
2. Gettysburg, Grant Comes East, Never Call Retreat by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen-In trying to decide my favorite books, I could not devote three spaces to each of these works, as it would take away from other influential works, and, they are a trilogy. Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen combined their talents to produce one of the best alternative history series on the war. The trilogy begins with a Confederate victory at Gettysburg, which is followed by the ascension of Grant to command of all Union armies, which follows the actual war, as well as the destruction of the Army of the Potomac. In the final book, the armies of Grant and Lee engage in a great battle. I will let you read the books to find out who wins. I highly recommend these books for anyone interested in alternative history. They combine wonderful character development, great plot, and exceptional detail that makes you feel as if you are there.
1. The Story of a Common Soldier by Leander Stillwell-Leander Stillwell’s memoir is one of the more well-known primary sources from an ordinary soldier in the war. It is also my favorite Civil War book. The biggest reason for it being at the top of my list is because of the connection I share with Stillwell. He was born and raised in Jersey County, Illinois, which is where I originally hale from. Stillwell’s memoir gives me a greater appreciation for the war and my home, as I can take pride in the sacrifices of the men from my area during the war. The memoir is also one of the more detailed ones, especially from a soldier of the Western Theater. This book was integral to my thesis and will always be a treasured part of my library. I recommend anyone looking for a great memoir from a common soldier read The Story of a Common Soldier.