Title: The Civil War Years
Author: Robert E. Denney
I have not read Civil War Day by Day by the Longs so I won't attempt to
compare books. Let me just say that I found a few inaccuracies but overall
the book was good.
Besides giving what happened each day chronologically the author mixes
in diary notes from a few divergent personalities. One is a solder in the
Union Army of the Tennessee (Luke Barber), one is a private in the Orphan
Brigade (John Jackman) and another was on coastal duty in north Carolina in
the 25th MA (Sgt. Day). This I found very interesting, albeit at times
tedious, reading. The author also uses a few other individuals at various
points. I find this helps tell the war in a different light which is good.
This book is fine for a reference but it is not a good sit-down and read
kind of book. It took me a while to complete it - in small doses. I'd give
this book a lower grade if it weren't for the fact that it was an $8
Wal-Mart bargain bin book. Beginning with these reviews I am going to go on
Antietam's eight point scale instead of my 4 point scale. Because of that
I give it 4 1/2 stars.
Title: Don Troiani's American Battles
An ABSOLUTE MUST HAVE for any Civil War Buff. The narrative of the book
is done in a unique manner. Noted historians (Robert Krick - elder and
younger, the late, great Brian Pohanka, just to name-drop) write a segment
on the historical event/period upon which each painting is based. Troiani
himself then describes how he went about painting it. He describes how he
clothes and set-up models and even how he acquires/builds props.
The featured attraction of the book is, of course, Troiani's paintings.
Spell bounding. I must have found myself wishing every other segment for
the money to just wallpaper a room with prints of his art work.
No Civil War buff's coffee table should be without a copy of this book.
Definitely, a perfect 8, or 10, or 20 , or 100 (You get the picture)
Title: Grant - Sherman: The Friendship that Won the Civil War:
Author: Charles Bracelen Flood
Farrar, Strauz, and Giroux
Another excellent contemporary book on the personalities of the Civil
War. Mr. Flood tells of the humble beginning of first US Grant, then WT
Sherman up to their linking up in the field prior to the Shiloh campaign.
Even before Shiloh you could see thanks to Mr. Flood's research that they
would work well together. It was Sherman, in his post of a Dept commander
in Kentucky that forwarded supplies and reinforcements to Grant in a timely
manner in the campaign against Forts Henry and Donelson.
From Shiloh on these two men worked so well in tandem that their forces
were always moving forward. When Grant was ordered to Washington Sherman
encouraged him to stay in the West (in no small part doubting his own
ability in an independent command). Grant knew his subordinate's ability
better than he himself did and insisted on going - what confidence!
After the surrender of the Army of Northern Virginia Sherman offered way
too lenient terms of surrender to J. E. Johnston. Grant was ordered south
to take over talks, rather than supersede his friend he stayed out of the
talks and coached Sherman.
After reading this book the famous quote by Sherman, "I stood by Grant
when he was drunk, he stood by me when I was crazy" was never more
graphically illustrated. This book was so remarkably easy to read (It seemed
like I read 50 pages or more in an hour on more than one occasion) that I am
compelled to give this a high 7 1/2 stars
Title : Nothing But Victory: The Army of the Tennessee
Author: Steven Woodworth
An excellent book on this ultimate instrument of the South's
destruction. From Forts. Henry and Donelson we get a close-up look at
an army that seldom, if ever, was stopped - let alone defeated. First,
under U.S. Grant, then later under William T. Sherman this army arguably
did more for the union cause than any army.
Woodworth uses simple soldiers diaries and letters to do much of the
behind-the-scenes telling of the army's story besides the usual
historical texts. He does this wonderfully. He gives drama, and in
certain soldiers' cases tragic closures. For example Lute Barber of the
15th IL is quoted many times in the script. Only days before the end of
the war he was brutally murdered while on a foraging expedition in the
Carolinas and left to be found by his mates.
The one flaw in the book was the editing. I found numerous spelling
errors including two different spellings (one wrong) for the same
location only 3 or 4 lines apart in the same paragraph. Mysterious was
spelled "misterious", that one I remember.
Woodworth tells funny and somber anecdotes. For Example soldiers
swam nude across a river to capture a confederate flag in GA, the
Wallaces at Shiloh, a soldier singing as he died. He called a group of
soldiers called on to rush a position at Vicksburg, "the forlorn hope"
and would constantly refer to it even later in the book.
I liked this book, editing errors aside and highly recommend it. 3
Title: The Civil War Experience
Author: Jeffrey Wert
I read some of Mr. Wert's prior efforts and like them, found this to
be a worthwhile addition to one's library. As the title says, this
"book" is an experience. You see, besides being a brief text on the war
it contains many extras.
By extras, I am referring to an audio CD in front jacket with
readings of diaries, letters, and speeches (Yes, foremost
being Lincoln's Gettysburg Address). Many sections of the book
contained such things as copies of letters, diaries, speeches, and
replica fold-out maps.
The only glaring error I found - and this could be just my book -
was a replica map that was supposed to be done by Jedediah Hotchkiss of
the Shenandoah. Instead, it was a map of the Dallas, GA area. I think
this is a worthwhile addition to a young student of the war especially,
but most adults should enjoy it too. 3 stars
Title: The Iron Brigade
Author: Alan T. Nolan
A wonderful book! Alan Nolan does a very good job of describing the
actions and campaigns of this vital cog in the Army of The Potomac from the
recruitment of the soldiers just after the attack on Fort Sumter right up to
the time that losses had become so heavy that the unit had to have
reinforcements which altered its face and character to the point of
From one of its original regiments actions at first Manassas till the
horrific losses at Gettysburg this unit was a pillar of strength for the
Union. From its original 3 Wisc / 1 IN formation Nolan tells of the
identity given the brigade by their commander John Gibbon and their
reluctance to accept later reinforcement by a Michigan brigade until that
units stellar performance on the battlefield at Fredericksburg. Nolan tells
of how the unit came to acquire its nickname as well.
One particularly outstanding feature of the book was its maps. Little
battlefield maps with arrows showing individual regimental placing at
beginning of battles with arrows showing adjustments. And some very good
seldom-seen photographs add a nice finishing touch.. I give it 4 stars and
recommend it as a must read for anyone studying individual units/brigades.
Title: Company Aytch: A Sideshow to the Big show
Author: Sam Watkins
Hilariously Funny! Sam wrote it 20 years after the word and makes no
bones about apologizing if his memory fails him. Unlike officer's memoirs
Sam's tells of life in the rifle pits and tents and picket lines. Being a
non college-educated man Sam gives a unique expression and vision of the
I had been introduced to Watkins thru the voice of Garrison Keilor on
Ken Burn's Civil War and was always looking for his quotes in the book. I
must say I found every one I heard at least once.
He uses expressions like bang, boom bang ,,,, twit twit twit to simulate
sounds of battle. He's always saying of dead comrades "never a better
soldier or friend was he" He took great pains to bless God. It was
actually a blessing to read it. Watkins giave a truly unique perspective to
one battle in particular, the Dead Angle on Kenesaw. He made it sound even
more impregnable than any place in history.
Sam must have fallen in love four or five times in the book. Even
though he had a girlfriend Jenny (later Mrs Sam Watkins) at home he still
was quite the ladies man or so it seemed - although he never acted on the
impulses or so he says.
Anyone who enjoys light-hearted reading about war should absolutely read
this book. I give it 4 stars. It will indeed be read again and again by
Title: The Civil War: a Narrative
Author: Shelby Foote
Publisher: Random House
This is not so much a book review as a notice. For those of you that
may be unaware Shelby Foote passed away last year. In honor of that Random
House re-released his classic narrative in an easier-to-read format.
Instead of 3 4-inch thick books it is now in 9 one-inch books. I have both
versions and can testify that it is identical in text.
What I like about the new version is that it is so much easier to handle
and thus, can be read in more places and can be carried easier. You can
read it in a plane, a bus, a car (if you are the passenger) waiting in line
, in bed you name it. It can fit in your briefcase, your handbag and each
volume doesn't weigh a lot. And the cost is reasonable - borders had it for
$7.99 each (total 72 -same as the original 3 vol. set) and if you're a
coupon user like me you can pay even less - I did not pay more than $6 for
any one volume.
For those of you who have not read the book -- it is top-shelf.
Shelby was a writer without peer. He gave you every bit of necessary
information as well as some lesser-known material. Having read his
Narrative before Ken Burns' Civil War it was nice to re-read it and discover
many of the quips he mentioned in the movie was stuff in the book (My
favorite? -- Run ole hare- if I was a ole hare I'd run too). I give it 4
As an aside, as if that wasn't enough when I was just about finished
Vol. 6. I got a mailing from Time-Life Books for an Illustrated version.
Since the first volume of the 9 -vol. set was Ft. Sumter to Kernstown and
the first one of the illustrated is Secession to Ft. Sumter I have to
believe it must be 18 -24 vols. total.
Title: Struggle For A Vast Future
Editor: Aaron Sheehan- Davis
An EXCELLENT book. I most
definitely recommend it for serious students of the Civil War. If you
are only interested in narrative don't read it. But if you are the type
who likes thought provoking text this is it. Anyone who teaches Civil
War should read it.
The book is divided into several
parts, each dealing with a different aspect of the war and written by a
different expert on the war. The Forward is by James McPherson and
writers include Robert Krick (who I met back in April) and Craig Symonds
(who wrote the recently reviewed biography on Patrick Cleburne). The
different parts deal with causes of the war, results of the war, the war
at sea, a comparison of the political leadership and military
leadership, effects at home, spies, African- Americans, you get the
This a great book for discussion
(agreement vs. disagreement) with the writers and amongst yourselves. I
give it 4 stars
Title: Dixie Victorious
Editor : Peter Tsouras
Dixie Victorious is an
Alternate History of the Civil War. It is divided into several
distinct parts -each dealing a particular incident in the war and
how things could turn out in the advent of what actually happened
did not happen; ie, Jackson wasn't killed at Chancellorsville, or
Secret Orders 191 was actually bait to draw McLellan into a trap.
Each section was written by a different person.
I enjoyed the book but I found
it kind of repetitive. In more than half the scenarios the South
did not actually win the war -- the war was ended arbitrarily by
foreign intervention. Another problem was that scenarios such as
the alternate Red River campaign result could not possibly end the
On the positive side, I could
actually see where the CSS Virginia (Merrimac) destroying the
Monitor and steaming up to Washington coast. Or the Confederates
capturing the high ground at Gettysburg, or even the Early raid to
Ft Stevens, for in the book a sharpshooter actually kills Lincoln.
For those who don't care for
What-ifs avoid this book. For those who do, give it a read (although
I suggest getting it from a library) . I give it 2 1/2 stars
Title: A History of the Confederate Navy
Author: Raimondo Luraghi
As an ex-Navy man I have always had an interest in war at
sea. The Civil War at sea and particularly the Confederate Navy
has not been written about in depth that I have been able to
find - until now- and it took a native of a foreign country to
write it! Yes, there have been books about the ironclads, the
raiders, the officers but not all inclusive. Unlike other
aspects of the war - official records either were destroyed in
Richmond or, if they survived, they languished in private
collections or got lost. Thanks to some discoveries and
diaries, letters and the like the pieces have fallen in place.
This book was an excellent presentation of the
trials/tribulations and successes/failures of the Confederate
Navy. After I finished the book I am convinced that even with
a delay of just one year to build up that the South would
have gained independence because she would have been strong
enough at sea to make it a war of attrition that would have
brought down Lincoln's government as well gaining the South
British and French recognition.
Many times, throughout the book, I read how timing was so
close that only a delay of a day or two would have resulted in
dramatic differences to the results. For example, just another
week and the CSS Mississippi would have been finished - she
would have been the largest ironclad afloat at that point.
The book gives a look into the tireless efforts of Stephen
Mallory and James Bulloch as well as the in competency of James
North. It reveals the thoughts of officers such as James Read,
Franklin Buchanan, John Woods and the incomparable, Raphael
Almost everyone is familiar with the Merrimac and the Hunley.
Even though they were not the first of their kind (Robert Fulton
of steamboat fame, actually tried to sell a submarine to the
British years before the war). they were the first of their
kind in combat. The South was the first to use rifled ordnance
on ships, mines, armor-piercing shells, and commandos. Many of
the CSN's innovations were incorporated into the US Navy
immediately after the war.
I highly recommend this book and thanks to the bibliography
at back I have learned of other books to find I give this 4
Title: Military Memoirs of a Confederate: A
Author: Edward Porter Alexander
Paper ISBN: 0-306-80509-X
Written in 1907
E.P. Alexander (as he mostly referred to) wrote
two memoirs. The more well-known one, Fighting for
The Confederacy, published in the 1960's, was meant
for his family and heirs. This one was meant for
publication and was released shortly before his
I have not as read the other but from what I
suppose,, it may have more to do with just his
involvement as opposed to a general look at the
entire war from multiple person's perspectives.
As is the case with all memoirs that I have read
that were written by the subject themselves the
reading is difficult and slow because they don't
possess the fluency of people whose profession IS
writing. That said, I still found this book to be a
good read. Alexander had many times been an
integral part of the operations of whatever army he
was attached to.
One unusual thing about this book is that he
does not talk in the first person as much as you'd
think. He uses post-war records to reinforce cloudy
recollections and in most cases only mentions his
part in a battle with a 3rd-party like impartiality,
never giving credit or placing blame.
Speaking of blame, most everyone is
well-acquainted with James Longstreet's criticism of
R E Lee after Gettysburg. He was blasted by many
Virginians (Jubal Early, the foremost) for tainting
Lee. Having read Longstreet's memoirs I have to say
he was mild in that regard compared to Alexander.
Being Longstreet's artillery chief makes me take
some of this with a grain of salt but still it
amazes me where the Virginians were at this time.
Apparently, Early spoke for them all and since he
was dead by 1907 that explains some of it. However,
even today there are folks who dis Longstreet and
surely, they must have seen Alexander's writings.
In closing this long-winded review I would like to
mention one story that sums up both Lee and Alexander's
contrasting outlook in the closing days of the war. On the
retreat from Petersburg as the army was being surrounded the
much-younger Alexander suggested the army disperse and take
to the woods as guerillas. The wise, old Lee countered with
the argument with the fact that the war so far had spread
such destruction to families and the land itself that a
guerilla type war would only multiply that and prolong it by
who knows how many years. Did Alexander really think that
should be the way the Confederacy was to be thought of for
now and forever? Alexander had to grudgingly agree.
I encourage everyone to give this book or Fighting For
the Confederacy a read. Alexander was a key figure and
provides a distance from Lee that is somewhat refreshing.. 4
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