Favorite Civil War Book

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The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth — not a different truth: the same truth — only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.

Shelby Foote

I know quite a few of our readers have a keen interest in the Civil War, and I am curious as to what their favorite Civil War books  are.  There are so many magnificent studies of the Civil War that I have read over the years, that I find the question difficult to answer.  However, I think pride of place for me is Shelby Foote’s magisterial three volume The Civil War:  A Narrative.  Written by a master novelist, Foote’s volumes are an epic recreation of the terrible conflict that made us, certainly more than any event since, what we are today.  That is my choice, what is yours?

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  1. Best Civil War work: “Lee’s Lieutenants” in 4 volumes by Lee’s greatest biographer and editor of the Richmond Times, Douglas Southall Freeman, an incredibly intricate yet simultaneously engrossing account of the Army of Northern Virginia from the Seven Days to Appomattox. Really brings out the personalities and events not just of the Confederate generals but of many of their opponents.

    Growing up though, what hooked me was Bruce Catton’s trilogy “The Coming Fury,” “Terrible Swift Sword,” and “Never Call Retreat.”

  2. Ah Bruce Catton, Tom, the author who first got me interested in the Civil War as a child with his introduction to the American Heritage Golden Book of the Civil War. I went on to devour everything he wrote on the Civil War with my favorite being the Army of the Potomac trilogy.

    Well thumbed copies of Lee’s Lieutenants and the magisterial R.E. Lee are among the most prized volumes in my Civil War collection. Lee’s Lieutenants I think is still the best command study of an army ever written.

  3. As a digestable one volume history, “Battle Cry of Freedom” is pretty hard to beat. The “American Heritage History of the Civil War” has remarkable depictions of the battles that combine miniature painting and map making. The Golden Book version of that book is still one of my treasured possessions from my youth.

    As far as campaign books go, Wiley Sword’s “Embrace an Angry Wind” is magnificent. It chronicles the last offensive of the Army of Tennessee into its titular State before being demolished at Nashville. I regard John Bell Hood as one of the most tragic figures in American history on the strength of Sword’s account.

  4. Battle Cry of Freedom is probably the best one volume history since Fletcher Pratt’s in the Fifties. The maps in the American Heritage History of the Civil War helped make me a wargamer.

    I have never read Embrace An Angry Wind, although I have long been intending to purchase it. Hood’s last gasp offensive into Tennessee has long fascinated me, and, besides, I have never heard a more evocative title on a Civil War book. Recently on Almost Chosen People I had comments from a very nice group of Hood defenders:


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