U. S. CIVIL WAR BOOKS
CAMPAIGNS & BATTLES
- Great! Run out and buy it!
- Good! Recommended!
- Flawed! Some redeeming features. Get it from the library.
- Gawd-awful! Avoid this one!
- Don't Ask!
- Not Rated!
These are, of course, only our opinions. Your comments or
rebuttals to the
are always welcome.
Battle Tactics of the Civil War
--- By Paddy Griffith
An interesting appraisal of the Civil War comparing its tactics with
those of Napoleon and the First World War. Invaluable information for
those of us interested in the Civil War.
Burnside's Bridge at Antietam.
Landscape Turned Red, The Battle of Antietam
--- By Stephen W. Sears
Sears does great work!
The Antietam and Fredericksburg (Paperback)
--- By General Francis W. Palfrey (USA) With an Introduction by
Steven W. Sears
An interesting book from the Union perspective. Palfrey makes
one statement in comparing McClellan with other Union Generals
that I have believed regarding the Northern hero Grant:
Page 135 - "...As for Grant, with his grim tenacity, his
hard sense, and his absolute insensibility to wounds and
death, it may well be admitted that he was a good general
for a rich and populous country in a contest with a poor
and thinly peopled land, but let any educated soldier ask
himself what the result would have been if Grant had had
only Southern resources and Southern numbers to rely on and
use, and what will the answer be?..."
A good question!
Lee's Terrible Swift Sword, From Antietam to Chancellorsville
An Eyewitness History
--- By Richard Wheeler
A good book which, by using mostly the words of those involved at all
levels, gives a different perspective of the war. Even Casler is
quoted (see Casler in my Biographies section).
Chancellorsville --- By Steven W. Sears
Sears's book is by far the best on Chancellorsville.
Chancellorsville --- By John Bigelow, Jr.
Chancellorsville 1863, The Souls of the Brave
--- By Ernest B. Furgurson
Stonewall Jackson At Cedar Mountain
--- By Robert K. Krick
A well written, easy to follow book about a significant battle
not given too much attention.
Cold Harbor Battlefield 1864
Bloody Roads South, The Wilderness to Cold Harbor May-June 1864
--- By Noah Andre Trudeau
Marching to Cold Harbor, Victory and Failure, 1864
--- By R.Wayne Maney
A well written book! It is an easy and interesting read. Maney
doesn't spend an overwhelming amount of time on troop dispositions
which makes it not only easy to read but also keeps your attention.
This book has some of the worst battlefield maps that I have ever
seen and I've seen some pretty bad ones. However, they really aren't
needed to enjoy a well written and laid out book. If you want to
follow the Wilderness to Cold Harbor campaign without getting bogged
down in detail, this is the book to read.
Not War But Murder - Cold Harbor, 1864 --- By Ernest B. Furgurson
"Black against the pale hot sky, they drifted into sight by ones and twos,
floating high above the overgrown creek bottoms and zigzag trenches. Gradually
there were dozens of them, wheeling, banking, slowly spiraling lower, slipping
down toward the fields so thickly dotted with Union blue. Some of the Northern
boys in the rifle pits facing west toward Richmond, survivors of battle keeping
watch across the trenches, had never realized before that there were two kinds
of buzzards. Turkey vultures they knew... [the others] were black vultures up
from the deeper South, drawn to the carnage of eastern Virginia...Among the
helpless wounded, the most unlucky lay facing the sky, watching the wicked
shapes descending, hoping that death came first..."
Thus begins Ernest B. Furgurson's book on the battle of Cold Harbor, Virginia,
"Not War but Murder". Furgurson details the events leading up to, and including,
the Cold Harbor battle, and the period afterward, with clarity, candor, and
compelling prose. Supported by thorough notes and references he shows the how
and why of Grant's most famous loss and Lee's last great victory.
The focus of Furgurson's book is the poorly-conceived and bloody Union assault
on the Confederate lines June 3, 1864. The assault was waged on a front roughly
seven miles long, which, as you read the description of the front, causes you
to realize the impossibility of such an attack by the Union succeeding. Yet it
was along the whole seven-mile front, a considerable part of it unscouted, that
the Union forces, under orders from Grant, attacked the Confederate works.
In the ensuing battle, which lasted only the morning, the Union
lost around 7,000 men, compared to less than 1,500 Confederate losses. It
was of this attack that Grant said (from the book),
"I regret this assault more than any one I have ever ordered...I regarded it
as a stern necessity, and believed that it would bring compensating results;
but, as it has proved, no advantages have been gained sufficient to justify
the heavy losses suffered."
On the other hand, although the Union losses on June 3, 1864 were enormous,
Furguson disputes the claims that the losses occurred in only a few minutes.
Instead, he contends that the losses occurred over most of the morning. But,
even at that, one morning is a very short period for such huge losses.
Furgurson also disputes the current thinking that both Grant and Lee were
responsible for the Union soldiers lying in agony between the lines for over four
days. Grant knew that it was the responsibility of the loser of a battle to
request a truce to remove the dead and wounded. Furgurson explains the various
attempts that Grant made to get around it. Eventually, however, Grant gave in,
but, by then, it was too late for a large number of his soldiers.
In his book, Furgurson also describes the unsuccessful efforts, after the loss,
by the Northern politicians and military leaders, to keep the information about
the defeat from the Northern public.
Finally, Furgurson shows that although Lee won the battle, he lost his greater
objective. Lee had stated that he had to beat the Union army before it could
get into a position to mount a siege against Richmond or Petersburg. Lee felt a
siege would eventually lead to the Confederate loss of the war. Therefore,
although the Union army, during the Overland Campaign, had incurred more
causalties than the total number of soldiers in the Confederate army and had
been beaten badly at Cold Harbor, it did not prevent the siege that Lee wanted
I enjoyed reading this book. It is well-written, with good maps, and should be
interesting reading for anyone from a Civil War novice to the most arrogant
Civil War expert.
Union Artillery Crossing the Rapidan River at Germanna Ford at the start
of the Wilderness Campaign - 1864.
Nowhere To Run, The Wilderness, May 4th & 5th, 1864 --- By John Michael Priest
The Wilderness Campaign, The Meeting of Grant and Lee --- By Edward Steere.
I think this is the best Wilderness book, but Priest's book is good also.
Spotsylvania May, 1864
If It Takes All Summer (The Battle of Spotsylvania)
--- By William D. Matter.
This is the definitive work on Spotsylvania, but, for someone other
than a researcher, it's a hard read. A massive portion of this
book is devoted to troop dispositions and movements. It is
amazing how the author can locate brigade locations in 1988 when
their commanders, in some cases, did not know exactly where they
were in 1864. Use of the maps, although frustrating, is essential.
Stonewall Jackson's Valley Campaign --- By William Allan
No-one can follow Jackson's Valley Campaign without maps.
A note to Konecky & Konecky: PLEASE, PLEASE don't
reprint works of this nature without including the maps
referenced in the document!
Sword Over Richmond, An Eyewitness History of McClellan's
Peninsula Campaign --- By Richard Wheeler
This contradicts the positions taken by some of McClellan's modern apologists.
The Peninsula Campaign 1862, McClellan & Lee Struggle For Richmond
--- By Joseph P. Cullen
No new ground covered but a well-written book.
From Cedar Mountain to Antietam --- By Edward J. Stackpole
Stars In Their Courses, The Gettysburg Campaign --- By Shelby Foote
Pickett's Charge - In History & Memory --- By Carol Reardon
Using a different approach to studying the Civil War, Ms. Reardon has
decided that the history of Gettysburg, and particularly Pickett's
Charge, cannot be believed and yet she uses that same history and
memory to prove her point. It begs the question, "Why is her use of
memory and history any more valid than the history she is attacking?"
On the plus side, she does provide insight on the post war activities
and disputes concerning the Civil War. She mainly describes the dispute
among Southerners regarding which State's people went the fartherest
during the charge. She sides with those arguing against Virginia but
she does not make a compelling argument.
Having seen Ms. Reardon on C-SPAN's Book Notes, I thought that the
book would be more balanced than it is.
But, then, I'm Virginian and biased. What do I know?
From Manassas To Appomattox --- By Gen. James Longstreet CSA
Although Longstreet's work reflects some of his biases, it is suprisingly
Up Came Hill, The Story of the Light Division and Its Leaders
--- By Martin Schenck
Mr. Schenck doesn't like Stonewall Jackson at all.
Having read James I. Robertson's books on Jackson and
Hill (See "
General A.P. Hill, The Story of a Confederate Warrior" and "
Stonewall Jackson" in my Biographies Section) the anti-Jackson
bias of this book stands out clearly. I suppose this comes from the
amount of time Schenck spent studying A.P. Hill (Sort of like the
way hostages tend to side with their captors after a long time in
I will agree that Jackson's accomplishments were in a large part the
result of the officers and men under him and I will also agree that
Hill was one of the best Generals on the field, but I won't agree
that another Commanding General could have accomplished the same
feats with Jackson's men, and that includes Hill.
No doubt Hill and Jackson had their differences --- so did Hill and
Longstreet --- but some of the references about Jackson indicate
either a bias or poor research.
Finally, this must have been one of the books that Robertson was
referring to when he stated that Jackson and lemons was a myth that
modern writers accepted without research.
An interesting book, if you can allow for the bias against Jackson.
Robert E. Lee's Civil War --- By Bevin Alexander
Why does the phrase "damning with faint praise" come to mind? At the
beginning of this book and at the ending, the author praises Lee. In
between he subjects Lee to terminal second-guessing. Working with
20-20 hindsight, the author finds flaws in every decision that Lee made
---even those which most people consider were some of his best! I
don't know if Bevin Alexander is related to Porter Alexander, but he
must consider Porter Alexander the end-all of Civil War knowledge by
the number of times he uses him as a source. Still, it is an
interesting book and I would not discourage anyone from reading it.
Can anything be read into the fact that only the Library Journel and
the London Review of Books are quoted on the cover?
Civil War Books
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