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  • Looking for a book recomendation

    As a Canadian, my knowledge of the American Civil War is somewhat limited (it wasn't really covered in depth in school... that and school was some 20 odd years ago).

    Recently, I've developed an interest in finding out a little more about this conflict. My interest has always been predominantly about the Great War and I have read fairly extensively about it. John Keegans "The First World War" (as well as his book "the Second World War") is still one of my favorites.

    What I'm looking for is a general overview of the war; something that covers the background, major battles and major players in the conflict, much like Keegans or Strachan's books do for other conflicts. Length doesn't scare me off (I generally won't buy a book under 400 pages, usually double that). I don't really want anything that centers on one battle or one commander; that's something I'll look into once I have a little more background on the conflict.

    I figured this was the forum to start my search. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
    Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

  • #2
    I should say that the Civil War is very controversial and has a plethora of views on it. A good overview is Shelby Foote's set on the war: Link at Amazon.

    Here's a good, much more comprehensive list: Link
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    • #3
      Kevin,

      For a beginner, I would suggest either the Shelby Foote books mentioned by Consul, or anything by Bruce Catton. Catton was a newspaperman, and he was a fabulous writer.

      The other one I would recommend is Charles Roland's excellent book American Iliad. I know several college professors who use this as their textbook in their survey courses on the war.

      http://www.amazon.com/American-Iliad...1099770&sr=8-8

      Eric
      "If you want to have some fun, jine the cavalry"

      Maj. Gen. James Ewell Brown Stuart

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      • #4
        Another entry in the sweepstakes would be "Battle Cry of Freedom" by McPherson.
        Texas, where we have the death penalty and aren't afraid to use it!

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        • #5
          I would go with Shelby Footes' series. I have not actually read them but I have seen him on tv many times and he seems like a very educated person.
          "We Will Stay Here, If We Must All Go to Hell Together"
          -Col. John R. Cooke, 27th NC

          Avatar: My Grandfather on the right. His twin on the left. Their older brother in the middle. In their Navy Blues

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          • #6
            Personally, I would also recommend the Time-Life series as well. If buying them seems daunting, then try the local library & check em out. There are some good stories, pictures, maps, etc., in this series. Otherwise, I would say the previous recommendations are spot on.
            The muffled drums sad roll has beat the soldier's last tatoo. No more on life's parade shall meet that brave and fallen few.

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            • #7
              I'm kinda leaning towards the Shelby Foote series right now (mostly because I've managed to track down a store up here in Toronto that has it in stock). The Time/Life series looks interesting, I just don't have an extra $450 lying around at the moment... that and the wife'll kill me if I bring another big set in to read (my reserve book pile is ever growing, I have about 22 books in the "I'm gonna read 'em soon, I swear!" pile.... )
              Catapultam habeo. Nisi pecuniam omnem mihi dabis, ad caput tuum saxum immane mittam.

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              • #8
                I recommend the Bruce Catton trilogy on the war and anything by Shelby Foote -- you don't need to get the whole series.

                The Time-Life series is good, too, but doesn't have the depth I think you're looking for.

                I do not like McPherson's book (mentioned above) at all.

                If you only have 22 books in your "to read" pile, then you're half-stepping . I've got a whole bookshelf (3 shelves) in my bedroom, plus the three books I'm reading now on the nightstand.
                Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
                Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


                "Never pet a burning dog."

                RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
                http://www.mormon.org
                http://www.sca.org
                http://www.scv.org/
                http://www.scouting.org/

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Janos View Post
                  anything by Shelby Foote -- you don't need to get the whole series.
                  Wrote a lot of books but the series on the war its self is only three volumes.

                  I am trying to think of another series that was on the local B&N discount rack. It was a series with numerous parts (around a dozen or so). Not the timelife series. It had a red cover/binding.

                  Anyone recommend James Longstreet's or Chamberlain's books? or Porter Alexander's?

                  Any good books on the Irish Brigade?

                  Matt
                  Last edited by Airchallenged; 01 Oct 07, 14:39.
                  "We Will Stay Here, If We Must All Go to Hell Together"
                  -Col. John R. Cooke, 27th NC

                  Avatar: My Grandfather on the right. His twin on the left. Their older brother in the middle. In their Navy Blues

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                  • #10
                    I've only seen the Shelby Foote series in three volumes. IMHO, that's where you should start. I gave you a good rundown on them in your other thread. I saw that one before I saw this one.
                    Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy.

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by AIrchallenged View Post
                      Wrote a lot of books but the series on the war its self is only three volumes.

                      I am trying to think of another series that was on the local B&N discount rack. It was a series with numerous parts (around a dozen or so). Not the timelife series. It had a red cover/binding.

                      Anyone recommend James Longstreet's or Chamberlain's books? or Porter Alexander's?

                      Any good books on the Irish Brigade?

                      Matt
                      Longstreet's and Chamberlain's memoirs are very self-serving. Longstreet admits that he worked under some fellow named Lee but modestly admits that all of the triumphs of the Army of Northern Virginia should be ascribed to him (Longstreet). Oh yeah, some other general served with the Army of Northern Virginia but he really didn't accomplish very much and seems to have gone AWOL from May 3, 1863 through the remainder of the conflict (I exaggerate but little with this characterization of Longstreet).

                      Chamberlain is, to some extent, a fabulist. His memoirs stretch the truth and are possibly written to instruct young Victorian men as to the proper behavior of a gentleman and an officer. For instance, in one of his books, he writes of how he spent a cold night on the field of Fredericksburg huddling behind a bulwark, which, at daybreak, he discovered to be made of corpses. This incident never happened. The 20th Maine was on a different portion of the field.

                      His account of the actions of the 20th Maine at Gettysburg is dated July 5 or thereabouts and speaks of gallant officers being mortally wounded. Unfortunately, at least one of those gallant officers died back in Maine in late July or early August. He must be clairvoyant to have known of the death several weeks before it occurred (and note that the officer in question was strong enough to return to Maine, so it is not as if he lingered on Death's door for the period from his wounding until his demise).
                      Don't leave good whiskey for the damn Yankees!" John Hunt Morgan, Eagleport, Ohio, July 23, 1863

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                      • #12
                        I'd agree with Shelby Foote's trilogy being the preferred buy but if you want one volume then go with McPherson's book. Not near as in depth as Foote but will give you a good background.
                        Texas, where we have the death penalty and aren't afraid to use it!

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Frankenstein View Post
                          I'm kinda leaning towards the Shelby Foote series right now (mostly because I've managed to track down a store up here in Toronto that has it in stock). The Time/Life series looks interesting, I just don't have an extra $450 lying around at the moment... that and the wife'll kill me if I bring another big set in to read (my reserve book pile is ever growing, I have about 22 books in the "I'm gonna read 'em soon, I swear!" pile.... )
                          I have the entire series that was given to me as a gift by my mother. The beauty is she found them on eBay. So you might have a look there and see if someone has the series for sale or possibly individual books until you get the whole series...
                          Civil War in Missouri and Kansas
                          If I cared for my life I would have lost it long ago; wanting to lose it I cannot throw it away.-- William T. "Bloody Bill" Anderson

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by AIrchallenged View Post
                            Wrote a lot of books but the series on the war its self is only three volumes.
                            Thanks -- I'd seen more, and they are:
                            Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863
                            The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863
                            They are excerpts from the 3-volume set.
                            Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
                            Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


                            "Never pet a burning dog."

                            RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
                            http://www.mormon.org
                            http://www.sca.org
                            http://www.scv.org/
                            http://www.scouting.org/

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by RangerBooBoo View Post
                              I'd agree with Shelby Foote's trilogy being the preferred buy but if you want one volume then go with McPherson's book. Not near as in depth as Foote but will give you a good background.
                              I tried McPherson's book years ago. All I remember is that I would not read it again on a bet.
                              Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
                              Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


                              "Never pet a burning dog."

                              RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
                              http://www.mormon.org
                              http://www.sca.org
                              http://www.scv.org/
                              http://www.scouting.org/

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