Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time (Top Collection)

Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time (Top Collection): When it comes to the American Civil War, some says that both sides lost. After many years of battles, both sides lost thousands of soldiers and civilians. Both sides lost their family members, friends and neighbours. America has never seen such a tragic war in its history. Even after 150 years on, we get shivers up and down our spines when we read about it. None of us living at present has witnessed the war first hand, but we still hear stories passed on through generations. Many universities have curriculums based of the civil war. And every American History major includes studies of the civil war.

Not just for a university degree, but every American should know about its history, particularly the civil war. There are hundreds of books on the civil war. Every book describes the war from a different angle. Sometimes one must read few of these books to get an overall idea of the civil war. Any book on the civil war is a great piece of gift for Christmas, New year and certainly for Memorial day and even for the Independence Day.

I have made a list of best 15 civil war books of all time. These are based on a combination of bestselling, reader’s reviews and availability. You can read all of these books and still you will want few more to read. These books are great to have in your own collection or as a gift. Scroll through the list and let me know in the comment section your opinion. Happy reading!

Table Of Contents


-List Created on 24/Nov/2020

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Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time
Books to read before 30

Check Out This Step-By-Step List of Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time (Top Collection)

01. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era

James M. McPherson

Battle Cry of Freedom

Filled with fresh interpretations and information, puncturing old myths and challenging new ones, Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War.

James McPherson’s fast-paced narrative fully integrates the political, social, and military events that crowded the two decades from the outbreak of one war in Mexico to the ending of another at Appomattox. Packed with drama and analytical insight, the book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War–the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry–and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself–the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson’s new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union’s victory.

The book’s title refers to the sentiments that informed both the Northern and Southern views of the conflict: the South seceded in the name of that freedom of self-determination and self-government for which their fathers had fought in 1776, while the North stood fast in defense of the Union founded by those fathers as the bulwark of American liberty. Eventually, the North had to grapple with the underlying cause of the war–slavery–and adopt a policy of emancipation as a second war aim. This “new birth of freedom,” as Lincoln called it, constitutes the proudest legacy of America’s bloodiest conflict.

This authoritative volume makes sense of that vast and confusing “second American Revolution” we call the Civil War, a war that transformed a nation and expanded our heritage of liberty.

Battle Cry of Freedom

02. The Civil War: A Visual History

 –  DK Publishing

The Civil War

This comprehensive, visually arresting guide covers the history, causes, and consequences of the Civil War. It provides eyewitness accounts by soldiers and civilians, key profiles of military leaders, and clear timelines that give an overview of how the events developed.

This lavish volume is illustrated throughout with photography and paintings and includes detailed galleries showcasing weapons, equipment, and other artifacts. This expanded edition also comes with informative and photographic features on memorial sites associated with the Civil War.

Produced in association with the Smithsonian Institute, The Civil War: A Visual History is an invaluable resource for schools and libraries, as well as a perfect companion for anyone interested in military and social history.

Packed with information on key locations, the treatment of wounded soldiers, and slavery, this is a rich, detailed account of one of the most controversial conflicts of our time.

The Civil War

03. Eyewitness Gettysburg:

The Civil War’s Greatest Battle

Rod Grag

Eyewitness Gettysburg

One hundred and fifty years after the Battle of Gettysburg, the words of the soldiers and onlookers present for those three fateful days still reverberate with the power of their courage and sacrifice. Eyewitness Gettysburg gathers letters, journals, articles, and speeches from the people who lived through those legendary three days. Tied together with a narrative by historian Rod Gragg and illustrated with a wealth of photographs and images, Eyewitness Gettysburg will transport you to the battlefield, immersing you in the emotional intensity of the struggle of brother against brother for the future of the United States of America.

Eyewitness Gettysburg

04. The Saddest Words:

William Faulkner’s Civil War

– Michael Gorra

The Saddest Words

William Faulkner, one of America’s most iconic writers, is an author who defies easy interpretation. Born in 1897 in Mississippi, Faulkner wrote such classic novels as Absolom, Absolom! and The Sound and The Fury, creating in Yoknapatawpha county one of the most memorable galleries of characters ever assembled in American literature. Yet, as acclaimed literary critic Michael Gorra explains, Faulkner has sustained justified criticism for his failures of racial nuance―his ventriloquism of black characters and his rendering of race relations in a largely unreconstructed South―demanding that we reevaluate the Nobel laureate’s life and legacy in the twenty-first century, as we reexamine the junctures of race and literature in works that once rested firmly in the American canon.

Interweaving biography, literary criticism, and rich travelogue, The Saddest Words argues that even despite these contradictions―and perhaps because of them―William Faulkner still needs to be read, and even more, remains central to understanding the contradictions inherent in the American experience itself. Evoking Faulkner’s biography and his literary characters, Gorra illuminates what Faulkner maintained was “the South’s curse and its separate destiny,” a class and racial system built on slavery that was devastated during the Civil War and was reimagined thereafter through the South’s revanchism. Driven by currents of violence, a “Lost Cause” romanticism not only defined Faulkner’s twentieth century but now even our own age.

Through Gorra’s critical lens, Faulkner’s mythic Yoknapatawpha County comes alive as his imagined land finds itself entwined in America’s history, the characters wrestling with the ghosts of a past that refuses to stay buried, stuck in an unending cycle between those two saddest words, “was” and “again.” Upending previous critical traditions, The Saddest Words returns Faulkner to his sociopolitical context, revealing the civil war within him and proving that “the real war lies not only in the physical combat but also in the war after the war, the war over its memory and meaning.”

Filled with vignettes of Civil War battles and generals, vivid scenes from Gorra’s travels through the South―including Faulkner’s Oxford, Mississippi―and commentaries on Faulkner’s fiction, The Saddest Words is a mesmerizing work of literary thought that recontextualizes Faulkner in light of the most plangent cultural issues facing America today.

The Saddest Words

05. Civil War Travels with Ms. Rebelle

– Janet L. Greentree

Civil War Travels with Ms. Rebelle

This version is printed in Color. Ms. Rebelle, a.k.a Janet Greentree, has combined her love of Civil War history, traveling, and photography into an interesting collection of articles profiling the lives of Civil War generals on both sides of the conflict. Her articles include little known facts, newspaper accounts of the time, travel hints, funny stories, and photography relating to her subjects. Her biggest fan is Edward C. Bearss, Chief Historian Emeritus of the National Park Service who reads her articles first in the Bull Run Civil War Round Table’s newsletter The Stone Wall. You cannot ask for a better recommendation than that.

Civil War Travels with Ms. Rebelle

06. Civil War Stories from York County, Pa

– Scott L Mingus Sr

Civil War Stories from York County

The Pennsylvania border county of York and its people stood smack in the middle of things – where South met North – in the American Civil War. That war roiled York County from its tip near the capital of Harrisburg to its 40-mile base at the Mason-Dixon Line. Union soldiers moved to the South after seasoning and staging on county soil. Train cars dripping with blood carried many wounded and diseased soldiers back to a mammoth U.S. military hospital on York parkland. Thousands of York County residents donned blue uniforms, and untold scores died. The war marched onto county soil in those terrible days before the Battle of Gettysburg. The four-day Confederate visit drained money, food, supplies, and horseflesh. Soldiers in blue and gray died in fighting at Hanover and Wrightsville. Gettysburg came next, and county residents gathered food and supplies to treat the wounds of battle, a short 30 miles away. Authors Scott Mingus and Jim McClure present more than 300 different stories of York during the war, including soldiers’ memoirs, newspaper accounts, civilian letters and diaries, and other primary sources.

Civil War Stories from York County

07. The Enduring Civil War

Gary W. Gallagher

The Enduring Civil War

In the seventy-three succinct essays gathered in The Enduring Civil War, celebrated historian Gary W. Gallagher highlights the complexity and richness of the war, from its origins to its memory, as topics for study, contemplation, and dispute. He places contemporary understanding of the Civil War, both academic and general, in conversation with testimony from those in the Union and the Confederacy who experienced and described it, investigating how mid-nineteenth-century perceptions align with, or deviate from, current ideas regarding the origins, conduct, and aftermath of the war. The tension between history and memory forms a theme throughout the essays, underscoring how later perceptions about the war often took precedence over historical reality in the minds of many Americans.

The array of topics Gallagher addresses is striking. He examines notable books and authors, both Union and Confederate, military and civilian, famous and lesser-known. He discusses historians who, though their names have receded with time, produced works that remain pertinent in terms of analysis or information. He comments on conventional interpretations of events and personalities, challenging, among other things, commonly held notions about Gettysburg and Vicksburg as decisive turning points, Ulysses S. Grant as a general who profligately wasted Union manpower, the Gettysburg Address as a watershed that turned the war from a fight for Union into one for Union and emancipation, and Robert E. Lee as an old-fashioned general ill-suited to waging modern mid-nineteenth-century war.

Gallagher interrogates recent scholarly trends on the evolving nature of Civil War studies, addressing crucial questions about chronology, history, memory, and the new revisionist literature. The format of this provocative and timely collection lends itself to sampling, and readers might start in any of the subject groupings and go where their interests take them.

The Enduring Civil War

08. The Cornfield: Antietam’s Bloody Turning Point

– David A Welker

The Cornfield

Table of Contents:

Chapter 1. Planting the Seed of a Campaign
Chapter 2. The Road to Antietam: September 4–15, 1862
Chapter 3. Emerging from the Fog: September 16
Chapter 4. America’s Bloodiest Day Dawns: Midnight to Sunrise
Chapter 5. The Cornfield: Ricketts’ Division Opens the Ball
Chapter 6. The Cornfield: Doubleday’s Attack
Chapter 7. The Cornfield: Hood’s Division Counterstrikes
Chapter 8. The Cornfield: Mansfield Wrests Order from Chaos
Chapter 9. The Cornfield: Williams Turns the Tide
Chapter 10. The Cornfield: Union Success Weighs in the Balance
Chapter 11. The Cornfield’s Influence: Sumner Takes Command
Chapter 12.The Cornfield’s Influence: The West Woods Fight
Chapter 13. The Cornfield’s Influence: Greene’s Division Takes the West Woods
Chapter 14. The Cornfield’s Influence: Franklin’s Moment and the VI Corps Arrive
Chapter 15. The Cornfield’s Influence: The South Seeks the Offensive
Chapter 16. “How Did They Remain and Live so Long?”

The Cornfield

09. The Civil War:

Fort Sumter to Perryville

– Shelby Foote

The Civil War

This first volume of Shelby Foote’s classic narrative of the Civil War opens with Jefferson Davis’s farewell to the United Senate and ends on the bloody battlefields of Antietam and Perryville, as the full, horrible scope of America’s great war becomes clear. Exhaustively researched and masterfully written, Foote’s epic account of the Civil War unfolds like a classic novel.

Includes maps throughout.

“Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives…a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters.”—Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

“A stunning book full of color, life, character, and a new atmosphere of the Civil War, and at the same time a narrative of unflagging power. Eloquent proof that a historian should be a writer above all else.” —Burke Davis

“To read this great narrative is to love the nation—to love it through the living knowledge of its mortal division. Whitman, who ultimately knew and loved the bravery and frailty of the soldiers, observed that the real Civil War would never be written and perhaps should not be. For me, Shelby Foote has written it… This work was done to last forever.” —James M. Cox, Southern Review

The Civil War

10. Causes of the Civil War

 – Philip Leigh

Causes of the Civil War

The presently dominant narrative about Civil War causes is the work of historians obsessed with social activism instead of history.

They point to the Thirteenth, Fourteenth, and Fifteenth postbellum amendments as proof that the North was ultimately fighting to provide slaves with honorable freedom but deny that the increase in tariffs on dutiable items from 19% before the war to an average of 45% for fifty years thereafter reflected a Northern war aim.

They hold Southern secession responsible for the war but fail to teach that the Northeastern states threatened to secede five times between 1789 and 1850. They also decline to note that Southern secession need not have led to war. Southerners had no purpose to overthrow the Washington government; they merely wanted a government of their own. Northerners could have evacuated Fort Sumter and let the first seven cotton states depart in peace thereby avoiding the war.

Modern historians normally focus on the reasons the cotton states seceded instead of examining the economic reasons Northerners chose to militarily coerce them back into the Union thereby inaugurating civil war.

The Republican Party could have stopped the spread of slavery peacefully by endorsing Popular Sovereignty during the 1860 presidential election. After Kansas used it to reject slavery in an 1858 local-option vote, nearly every politico realized that the doctrine would quarantine slavery in the South. If Popular Sovereignty could not make a slave state out of Kansas, it could not do it in any of the remaining 1860 Federal territories. Republicans rejected the doctrine simply to survive as an independent Party because Lincoln’s two chief opposing presidential candidates supported it. Beyond what Poplar Sovereignty would have gained, the Republican blanket ban on slaves in the territories added nothing except to inflame the sectional passions that led to civil war.

Causes of the Civil War

Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time: One war, several battles, millions of lives; The American Civil war was one of the deadliest wars of the history. We have included few factual charts based on the civil war. While scrolling through the list, you learn a little too. So, even if you don’t get a book from our list, your visit to our site is not wasted.

Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time
Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time

11. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

–   Noll

The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

Viewing the Civil War as a major turning point in American religious thought, Mark A. Noll examines writings about slavery and race from Americans both white and black, northern and southern, and includes commentary from Protestants and Catholics in Europe and Canada. Though the Christians on all sides agreed that the Bible was authoritative, their interpretations of slavery in Scripture led to a full-blown theological crisis.

The Civil War as a Theological Crisis

12. Battle Maps of the Civil War

– American Battlefield Trust

Battle Maps of the Civil War

From the American Battlefield Trust comes the collection of their popular maps of the Eastern Theater of the American Civil War.

“I just love those maps that you guys send to me.” It is a phrase that the staff of the American Battlefield Trust hears on a weekly basis. The expression refers to one of the cornerstone initiatives of the organization—mapping the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, War of 1812, and the American Civil War.

The American Battlefield Trust is the premier battlefield preservation organization in the United States. Over the last thirty years, the American Battlefield Trust and its members have preserved more than 52,000 acres of battlefield land across 143 battlefields in twenty-four states—at sites such as Antietam, Vicksburg, Chancellorsville, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. Outside of physically walking across the hallowed battlegrounds that the American Battlefield Trust preserves, the best way to illustrate the importance of the parcels of land that they preserve is through their battle maps.

Through the decades, the American Battlefield Trust has created dozens of maps detailing the action of hundreds of battles. Now, for the first time in book form, they have collected the maps of some of the most iconic battles of the Eastern Theater of the Civil War into one volume. From First Bull Run to the Surrender at Appomattox Court House, you can follow the major actions of the Eastern Theater from start to finish utilizing this unparalleled collection.

Battle Maps of the Civil War

13. The War That Forged a Nation

James M. McPherson

The War That Forged a NationMore than 140 years ago, Mark Twain observed that the Civil War had “uprooted institutions that were centuries old, changed the politics of a people, transformed the social life of half the country, and wrought so profoundly upon the entire national character that the influence cannot be measured short of two or three generations.” In fact, five generations have passed, and Americans are still trying to measure the influence of the immense fratricidal conflict that nearly tore the nation apart.

In The War that Forged a Nation, Pulitzer Prize-winning historian James M. McPherson considers why the Civil War remains so deeply embedded in our national psyche and identity. The drama and tragedy of the war, from its scope and size–an estimated death toll of 750,000, far more than the rest of the country’s wars combined–to the nearly mythical individuals involved–Abraham Lincoln, Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson–help explain why the Civil War remains a topic of interest. But the legacy of the war extends far beyond historical interest or scholarly attention. Here, McPherson draws upon his work over the past fifty years to illuminate the war’s continuing resonance across many dimensions of American life.

Touching upon themes that include the war’s causes and consequences; the naval war; slavery and its abolition; and Lincoln as commander in chief, McPherson ultimately proves the impossibility of understanding the issues of our own time unless we first understand their roots in the era of the Civil War. From racial inequality and conflict between the North and South to questions of state sovereignty or the role of government in social change–these issues, McPherson shows, are as salient and controversial today as they were in the 1860s.

Thoughtful, provocative, and authoritative, The War that Forged a Nation looks anew at the reasons America’s civil war has remained a subject of intense interest for the past century and a half, affirms the enduring relevance of the conflict for America today.

The War That Forged a Nation

14. The American War

– Gary W. Gallagher

The American War

In The American War, renowned historians Gary W. Gallagher and Joan Waugh provide a fresh examination of the Civil War, its aftermath, and enduring memory in a masterful work that prize-winning historian William C. Davis calls, “easily the best one-volume assessment of the Civil War to date.”

Nothing had prepared Americans for the fury that ensued when eleven slaveholding states seceded and formed the Confederacy in 1860-1861. Four years of fighting claimed more than 1.4 million casualties, directly affected the lives of hundreds of thousands of civilians, and freed four million enslaved black people. The durability of the Union was confirmed, and the social and economic system based on slavery lay in ruins.

By investigating this crucial period through the eyes of civilians, celebrated leaders, and citizen soldiers, readers interested in the Civil War era will gain a profound understanding of the dramatic events, personalities, and social and economic processes that caused the war, enabled the Union to prevail, and forever transformed the United States. It also will help readers understand why, more than 150 years after Appomattox, it remains impossible to grasp the larger sweep of U.S. history without coming to terms with the American War.

The American War

15. The Civil War (American Heritage Books)

Bruce Catton

The Civil War

Infinitely readable and absorbing, Bruce Catton’s The Civil War is one of the most widely read general histories of the war available in a single volume.

Introduced by the critically acclaimed Civil War historian James M. McPherson, The Civil War vividly traces one of the most moving chapters in American history, from the early division between the North and the South to the final surrender of Confederate troops. Catton’s account of battles is a must-read for anyone interested in the war that divided America, carefully weaving details about the political activities of the Union and Confederate armies and diplomatic efforts overseas.

The Civil War

In Conclusion, this top list of ‘Best 15 Civil War Books of All Time’ contains all the best books to read when you are thirsty for the knowledge of the civil war. Different perspective and different opinions make these a must read American civil war books. Authors include historians, scholars and bestsellers. Tell us which ones you have read and how did you find it. What do you think about the list? If you have anything to add or remove, let us know. Please share, like and comment on the section below.

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