Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Booklist: Civil War

2011 marks the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. On April 12, 1861, long-simmering tensions between North and South ignited and began the four-year War Between the States.


America Aflame: how the Civil War created a nation by David Goldfield

America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation 
In this spellbinding new history, David Goldfield offers the first major new interpretation of the Civil War era since James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom. Where past scholars have portrayed the war as a triumph of freedom, Goldfield sees it as America's greatest failure: the result of a breakdown caused by the infusion of evangelical religion into the public sphere. As the Second Great Awakening surged through America, political questions became matters of good and evil to be fought to the death. The price of that failure was horrific, but the carnage accomplished what statesmen could not: It made the United States one nation and eliminated slavery as a divisive force in the Union. The victorious North became synonymous with America as a land of innovation and industrialization, whose teeming cities offered squalor and opportunity in equal measure. Religion was supplanted by science and a gospel of progress, and the South was left behind. Goldfield's panoramic narrative, sweeping from the 1840s to the end of Reconstruction, is studded with memorable details and luminaries such as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Frederick Douglass, and Walt Whitman. There are lesser known yet equally compelling characters, too, including Carl Schurz-a German immigrant, war hero, and postwar reformer-and Alexander Stephens, the urbane and intellectual vice president of the Confederacy. America Aflame is a vivid portrait of the "fiery trial" that transformed the country we live in. David Goldfield is the Robert Lee Bailey Professor of History at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte. He is the author of many works on Southern history, including Still Fighting the Civil War; Black, White, and Southern; and Promised Land.

1861: The Civil War Awakening 
1861 presents a gripping and original account of how the Civil War began. It is an epic of courage and heroism beyond the battlefields. Early in that fateful year, a second American revolution unfolded, inspiring a new generation to reject their parents’ faith in compromise and appeasement, to do the unthinkable in the name of an ideal. It set Abraham Lincoln on the path to greatness and millions of slaves on the road to freedom. The book introduces us to a heretofore little-known cast of Civil War heroes—among them an acrobatic militia colonel, an explorer’s wife, an idealistic band of German immigrants, a regiment of New York City firemen, a community of Virginia slaves, and a young college professor who would one day become president. Adam Goodheart takes us from the corridors of the White House to the slums of Manhattan, from the mouth of the Chesapeake to the deserts of Nevada, from Boston Common to Alcatraz Island, vividly evoking the Union at this moment of ultimate crisis and decision. 

Lincoln on War by Harold Holzer 

Lincoln on War 
President Lincoln used his own weapons—his words— to fight the Civil War as brilliantly as any general who ever took the field. In Lincoln on War, historian Harold Holzer gathers and interprets Lincoln’s speeches, letters, memoranda, orders, telegrams, and casual remarks, organizing them chronologically and allowing readers to experience Lincoln’s growth from an eager young Indian War officer to a middle-aged dove congressman to a surprisingly hardened and determined hawk as the Union’s commander-in-chief. We observe a man willing to sacrifice life and treasure in unprecedented quantities, to risk wounding the pride of vain generals, and even to mislead the public if it meant the preservation of an unbreakable union of states, the destruction of slavery, and the restoration of America as an example to inspire the world. This volume covers strategy; tactics; the endless hiring, sustaining, motivating, and dismissal of commanders; military discipline; and military technology. Modern commanders-in-chief have repeatedly quoted Lincoln to justify their own wars, so it behooves us as citizens to know Lincoln’s record well. From masterpieces such as the Gettysburg Address to lesser-known meditations on God’s purposes, Lincoln on War is the first book to highlight exclusively Lincoln’s sublime and enduring words on war. 

The Civil War: A Visual History 
Drawing on Smithsonian Institution collections, this fact-filled and richly illustrated history brings the war fully to life, along with time lines, sidebars on particular issues, chapter introductions, lengthy captions, and detailed maps. The emphasis throughout is on the military. Multiple examples of weapons, supplies, uniforms, camp life necessities, transport, and battle scenes dominate and show the variety, complexity, and prolixity of making war. Espionage, the home front, and politics get a nod, but this book is for those wanting to smell the sulfur and hear the thunder of guns. The effect is somewhat overwhelming in detail, but that helps drive home the confusion of war. For school libraries, Civil War buffs, and reenactors.

The Civil War 150: An Essential To-Do List for the 150th Anniversary 
Suggestions include handling artifacts, researching ancestors, and visiting battlefields. Each entry provides context and fascinating detail. There are photos and maps on nearly every page, and 14 thoughtful essays offer insight into the war's history and impact. The book's structure ensures it can be used as a travel guide as well as an educational tool, as each page offers a brief, well-written history lesson.


 Broken Promises: A Novel of the Civil War
1861: The war that’s been brewing for a decade has exploded, pitting North against South. Fearing that England will support the Confederate cause, President Lincoln sends Charles Francis Adams, son of John Quincy Adams, to London. But when Charles arrives, accompanied by his son Henry, he discovers that the English are already building warships for the South. As Charles embarks on a high-stakes game of espionage and diplomacy, Henry reconnects with his college friend Baxter Sams, a Southerner who has fallen in love with Englishwoman Julia Birch. Julia’s family reviles Americans, leaving Baxter torn between his love for Julia, his friendship with Henry, and his obligations to his own family, who entreat him to run medical supplies across the blockade to help the Confederacy. As tensions mount, irrevocable choices are made—igniting a moment when history could have changed forever.

Where the Mockingbird Sang: A novel of the Civil War 
All choices have consequences; some very little, while others reach through the years and affect the lives of subsequent generations. Where the Mockingbird Sang, set in the Arkansas Ozarks before, during, and after the Civil War is an intriguing tale of lust, war, capture and imprisonment, escape, betrayal, family, and the ability of good and love to triumph over the horrors of war. Evans Atwood is a warrior in the Confederate Army who serves with honor. Through him the story of so many who gave their hearts and sacrificed so much dear to them to be able to provide and protect freedom and their right to self determination comes to life. These men and women are forever changed as are those who are left behind to suffer other horrors and evil that war brings. Evans teaches school at the Primitive Baptist Church in Shiloh, Arkansas where he meets Lucy Jane Roberts, a beautiful transplant from eastern Tennessee. With her beauty and her designs on a better life, she sweeps him along a course that will change his life and the lives of all around him. Due to Lucy's seduction of Evans, and the resulting pregnancy, he chooses her over his lifelong friend, neighbor, and love, Susan Wilson. All is well with the young couple until the challenges of war come into their lives. Evans and his wandering, older, back woods friend, Nathanial James Buchanan or Buck, are certain, as are soldiers on both sides of the conflict that the war will only last a few months. Evans leaves Lucy Jane with eighteen month old Martha Jane and six week old James Calvin when he and Buck enlist in the 15th Arkansas Infantry to secure the freedoms they long for.

The Judas Field: a novel of the Civil War by  Howard Bahr

The Judas Field: A Novel of the Civil War 
In this epic novel of violence and redemption by the author of The Black Flower, a Civil War veteran travels back over old battlefields toward a reckoning with the past. It's been twenty years since Cass Wakefield returned from the Civil War to his hometown in Mississippi, but he is still haunted by battlefield memories. Now, one afternoon in 1885, he is presented with a chance to literally retrace his steps from the past and face the truth behind the events that led to the loss of so many friends and comrades. The opportunity arrives in the form of Cass's childhood friend Alison, a dying woman who urges Cass to accompany her on a trip to Franklin, Tennessee, to recover the bodies of her father and brother. As they make their way north over the battlefields, they are joined by two of Cass's former brothers-in-arms, and his memories reemerge with overwhelming vividness. Before long the group has assembled on the haunted ground of Franklin, where past and present—the legacy of the war and the narrow hope of redemption—will draw each of them toward a painful confrontation.
Moving between harrowing scenes of battle and the novel's present-day quest, Howard Bahr re-creates this era with devastating authority, proving himself once again to be the preeminent contemporary novelist of the Civil War.

I'd love to hear your recommendations of books about the Civil War, and suggestions for future Booklists.

Happy reading,

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