Recommended Reading

In the following selections, there are examples from among the thousands of titles on the Civil War that convey more than just facts. Some are histories, while others are memoirs and recollections. This list includes general reading that would be important to a person who had minimal knowledge of the American Civil War and wanted to open a window into the events and the people who lived during the period of 1861-65. Also listed are two books specific to the Regular Army, which the 12th portrays. This list is by no means comprehensive and new volumes are published frequently.

The Regular Army:

  1. Sykes' Regular Infantry Division, 1861-1864 A history of the Regular United States Infantry Operations in the Civil War's Eastern Theater - Timothy J. Reese 1990 McFarland & Co. Inc. (Out of Print, but may be found in some libraries or from book collectors)
    This work documents the role of the regular army in the eastern campaigns of the Civil War. While the vast majority of the battles fought relied on the volunteer soldiers from the Union states, the 19 regiments of the "Regulars" played a role disproportionate to their numbers. Reese's book pays tribute to the role of these men as no other work has.
  2. "Dear Friends at Home": The Civil War Letters and Diaries of Sergeant Charles T. Bowen, Twelfth United States Infantry 1861-1864 - Edited by Edward K. Cassedy 2001 Butternut and Blue
    Bowen, an Oneida County resident, joined the 12th US Infantry in 1861. During his 3 years of enlistment, he rose to the rank of sergeant. He participated in 15 battles from Yorktown to Petersburg. His descriptions of army life and of combat are often graphic. He comments on leaders, officers, and political affairs. Memoirs by US Regulars are few and far between and this one is highly readable and full of information.

General Reading:

  1. The Battle Cry of Freedom - James M. McPherson 1988 Oxford University Press, Ballantine Books
    McPherson's Pulitzer Prize winning book stands out for it comprehensive look at the time leading up, and the factors causing the war. It continues on to chronicle the major campaigns of battle, ending at the point in time that Booth vows to end Lincoln's career. In my opinion, this is a tremendous work and worthy of your time.
  2. For Cause and Comrades - Why Men Fought in the Civil War- James M. McPherson 1997 Oxford University Press.
    In C&C, the diaries of some 250 Civil War soldiers, and 25,000 letters are drawn on to examine the motivations that caused Americans to answer the call to arms, and allow them to sustain their efforts through the hardships of four bloody years of war. This should be required reading for all citizens of the US and especially the reenacting community. (IMHO)
  3. One Day of the Civil War - America in Conflict- Robert L. Willet Jr. 1998 Penguin Putnum Inc.
    On April 10th, 1863, not much earth shattering happened. This was a typical day in the middle of the Civil War. Men were in camp, on the march, skirmishes took place in some areas, but no major battles, speeches or noteworthy events took place in the "big picture". What did occur was day to day operations of the armies, the people and the culture of Civil War. This book looks at the events from a perspective seldom, if ever taken into account.
  4. The Life of Johnny Reb - The Common Soldier of the Confederacy- Bell Irvin Wiley 1943 Louisiana State University Press.
    In Wiley's acclaimed book, and in its companion, The Life of Billy Yank (1952), the mundane aspects of soldiering and an anatomy of the two armies are ably discussed.
  5. Reliving the Civil War - A Reenactors Handbook- R. Lee Hadden 1996 Stackpole Books.
    This is a basic introduction to Civil War Reenacting and is a useful guide for beginners or people looking into reenacting. Please note that if you are starting out, check with your command for authenticity standards and do research for what is correct.
  6. Fallen Soldier - Memoir of a Civil War Casualty- By Private Andrew Roy, edited by William J. Miller, with a medical commentary by Clyde Kernak M.D.
    Private Roy of the 10th Pa. Reserves was wounded at Gaines Mills. His story is perhaps the best account of the horror endured by a wounded soldier in the ACW. Told he would succumb to his wounds, he survives and recounts the happenings from his wounding through his fifty two year struggle with the wound effects.
  7. A Soldier's Recollections - Randolph H. McKim 1910, reprinted 1984 Longmans, Green and Co. and Time Life Books.
    1st Lt. And Aide du Camp in the 3rd Brigade, Johnston's Division, Army of Northern Virginia, McKim describes in glib detail his experiences in his service from 1861 through 1865. Of particular interest is his articulate oration on motives of Confederate rank and file, and the TRUE meaning of the Confederate Battle Flag.
  8. Hard Tack and Coffee - The Unwritten Story of Army Life- John D. Billings 1887, reprinted by Time Life Books 1982.
    This landmark book is considered a staple of understanding the everyday life of the common soldier.
  9. Civil War Battles - Curt Johnson and Mark McLaughlin 1977 Fairfax Press.
    In diagram and narrative form, the authors describe the major battles of the Civil War, together with listing the forces involved in the action.
  10. General James Longstreet - The Confederacy's Most Controversial Soldier- Jeffry D. Wert 1994 Touchstone Books.
    During and after the Civil War, Longstreet was at the center of many swirling controversies. Mr. Wert discusses the events and circumstances that touched off these storms, and let's you decide if he is to be reviled or lauded for his accomplishments.
  11. Enduring the Ordeal of Combat - The Union Soldier in Battle- Earl J. Hess 1997 University Press of Kansas.
    This book kept me up at night. In Hess' book the horrors of the Civil War battlefield through the eyes of the Civil War soldier are described in such detail that the images are very real and compelling. To understand the bravery of the ACW soldier, we must also understand the horrors he faced.
  12. Don't Know Much About The Civil War - Kenneth C. Davis 1997 Avon Books
    The format of this book is designed to address the FAQ (frequently asked questions) on the Civil War and many of the cultural, economic and political aspects associated with the war. It does an admirable, yet concise job with in depth enough analysis of these topics to give a basic understanding or stimulate further investigation.
  13. Annals of the War - Written by Leading Participants north and South 1996 Blue and Grey Press.
    In this compilation of essays, men like Imboden, Pleasonton, Beauregard, and Longstreet contribute their perspectives on the ACW. Although many of the "facts" discussed are known now to be flawed, this serves to deepen the intrigue in reviewing the opinions of these American heroes.
  14. A Diary From Dixie - Mary Boykin Chestnut 1980 Harvard University Press.
    This incredible journal reveals the emotions and behind the scenes activities of a Belle of Southern society. The stories and revelations show a keen insight from the point of view of a civilian with nearly as much to lose as any other citizen not on the front lines.

Last Updated on 11/7/05

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