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10 Books About the Civil War That Will Make You Rethink Everything

by Morgan E. Westling 3 years ago in book reviews
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Each of these books about the Civil War will make you rethink the war as you gain more perspective of the bloodiest conflict on American soil in history.

Books about the Civil War can help us discuss issues of race and reunion, and try to rethink the war in modern times. It’s always interesting to hear the difference in perspective between the soldiers of the Confederacy and the soldiers of the Union. This war was one of the most controversial times in our country’s history, and because of this, many people are still divided on what exactly happened, who was right, and ultimately, who won the war. Of course, no one is still living today from that time period, but we have many books on the Civil War to help us understand American history a little more clearly.

If you want to get a full scope of what happened during the Civil War, James McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom is one of the best books about the Civil War you can possibly read. McPherson covers the military events of the war as well as the social and political aspects that occurred as a result. He begins with the events that came before the war, such as the Dred Scott decision and other notable events dealing with the prejudice against African Americans, and then unravels the intricacies of the conflict, helping the reader make sense of the war by keeping things in clear, chronological order.

Another book written about the Civil War by James McPherson is For Cause and Comrades. McPherson analyzes the war in this text as opposed to just laying out the events. He answers the question, “Why did they fight?” This question is asked by many because the Civil War was such a brutal battle full of death, and the American people lost so much on both sides. McPherson tries to explain, in this text, how these men were compelled to fight by duty, honor, and their strong beliefs.

The Civil War Memoirs by Ulysses S. Grant is one of the books about the Civil War written from a firsthand account by one of the most famous Union generals to fight in the war. This book compiles Grant’s writings and experiences during the war as he was living them in real time. He was on the front lines making major decisions for the Union, and he was working with and against other notable figures such as Frederick Douglass and Robert E. Lee. If you want to get in the mind of a general, this is a must read book written by a veteran who has a truly unique perspective.

In The Civil War: A Narrative, Shelby Foote has researched and written a detailed account of the Civil War from start to finish. This book had to be split into multiple volumes because it is so in depth. It includes maps to explain the battle scenes and ways military history impacts civilian life today, and it is written as a narrative so that readers do not get bored as they learn about the historical events of the war.

This biography on Robert E. Lee is one of the best books about the Civil War because Elizabeth Pryor presents the picture of Lee that others have shied away from. While a lot of history books portray Lee as a stoic, brave, leader who was against slavery, this is not wholly true. Pryor uses previously unpublished letters and personal accounts from the time period to paint a more in depth picture of one of the more famous Confederate military leaders.

David M. Potter’s The Impending Crisis, 1848-1861 is a Pulitzer Prize winning book and one of the best books about the Civil War because truly understanding the Civil War means you need to understand what happened before the war. Potter explains these years in full detail so that readers can rethink why exactly our country felt the need to cross swords.

Race and Reunion by David Blight is one of the best books about the Civil War because not only does Blight discuss the war and the events that occurred, but he discusses the lasting impact of the war on African Americans and race relations between blacks and whites ever since. Slavery had a huge impact on our country, and even after the Civil War, we saw prejudice remain before and after the Civil Rights Movement took place. President Lincoln made strides for the black community, but this book proves that there is always more work to be done.

In This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War, Drew Gilpin Faust speaks specifically on the effects of the death that occurred during the Civil War. Because the death toll was so large and affected so many people during the war, it took strong religious faith and community to survive the aftermath of battle. This book is moving since it speaks on the loss of the war as opposed to the victory.

Tony Horwitz brings the Civil War back to life in his book, Confederates in the Attic. For any Southerner who is interested in reenactments, finding lost places from past war zones, or digging up new facts, let Horwitz be your guide. This is one of the best books on the Civil War for anyone interested in learning more about the Confederacy and the families who still remain from that time period.

President Lincoln was, of course, one of the most important figures to follow during the Civil War, and his work to abolish slavery and end the war should be recorded in every Civil War book. This book by Eric Foner, however, highlights President Lincoln alone, and all his accomplishments. While many events were happening throughout the war (such as the Civil War blockade runners), we may have missed out on Lincoln’s perspective from other narratives, but Foner keeps us focused on the President and his moral and political feats.

Books about the Civil War will make you rethink everything you know because you’ll become much more knowledgeable on the specific events that took place. While you may have known about the Union and the Confederacy, and the basics of slavery before, you will now be well versed on the different perspectives from both sides.

book reviews

About the author

Morgan E. Westling

Avid Reader, Freelance Writer/Editor, and Lifestyle Blogger

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