In 2011, America began to celebrate the sesquicentennial anniversary of the Civil War. Over the next four years, we will see celebrations of various battles and other events linked with this tragic part of our history. For those who may not know much about the war, this may be a good time to sit back and reflect on the lessons learned, and remember those who died on both sides of the Mason-Dixon Line. Picking up a good book on the war will help you to appreciate how monumental it was and how it helped shape the country we live in today. Here is a list of Civil War historians who have written some great books on the subject.
Shelby Foote’s three-volume work on the war is considered by many as the quintessential study of the Civil War. Written in a chronological fashion, it is easy to follow, and the style is warm and rich and is not the dry history you remember from high school textbooks. With around 3,000 pages between the three books, it is an undertaking but well worth the effort.
Another critical favorite, McPherson’s “Battle Cry of Freedom” is an excellent history of the war, won the Pulitzer Prize and is considered by many critics to be the best one-volume work on the war. Macpherson is a prolific writer and has written much on the war concerning the politics and personalities behind it all.
Stephen W. Sears
Sears’ work concentrates on individual events in the war. He’s written books on Gettysburg, Antietam, The Peninsula Campaign and Chancellorsville. His books are well researched, well written and easy to read.
William C. Davis
Davis is seen on the History Channel’s Civil War specials and has written many books on the war. He’s twice been nominated for the Pulitzer Prize, one of those nominations coming for his book on the Battle of Bull Run. He’s written a history of the Battle of New Market and a biography of the Confederate president Jefferson Davis.
Known for his Civil War biographies, Davis is a well respected historian with works on such Civil War personalities as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and Jeb Stuart. His work on Sherman’s March is definitive.
Most informed readers would believe the best was saved for last. Bruce Catton is considered by his peers to be the ultimate authority on all things Civil War. Catton wrote a trilogy on the history of the war to coincide with the centennial celebration in 1965, and to this day is second to none. He also wrote a trilogy telling the history of the Army of The Potomac. He wrote the final two books in a Ulysses S. Grant Trilogy and a history of the war from the Union perspective (This Hallowed Ground).
You really can’t go wrong with any of these historians. They will help you appreciate the war and how it shaped who we are today. So during this 150th anniversary, pick up one of these great books and read about one of the greatest and most tragic events in American history.