Booming cannons, a brass ensemble, and hushed crowds ushered in the 150th anniversary of America’s bloodiest war yesterday at Fort Sumter. April 12 marked 150 years since the Confederate bombardment of Union-held Fort Sumter in Charleston Harbor, a battle that plunged the nation into four years of war at a cost of more than 600,000 lives.
To help remember the deadliest war in United States history, we’ve put together a list of some of our favorite Civil War books. If you’re looking to learn more about the American Civil War, these titles are for you!
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The updated versions of both these Touring books help travelers find the states’ battlefields, forts, and memorials, as well as the lesser skirmish sites, homes, and towns that played significant roles in the war. Touring the Carolina’s Civil War Sites covers the entire Carolinas, combining riveting history with clear, concise directions and maps. As fascinating to read as it is fun to take on the road, this second edition includes additional historic houses in Charleston, a new battlefield in New Bern, updated driving directions, new photos for each site, and more. Touring Virginia’s and West Virginia’s Civil War Sites covers all the significant sites in both states. The 17 tours visit large and small battlefields, historic houses and buildings, cemeteries, monuments and statues, rivers, and mountains, while sharing the histories behind each location, some surprising and obscure.
So You Think You Know Gettsyburg? by James and Suzanne Gindlesperger
So You Think You Know Gettysburg? shows why the famous battlefield a place not only of horrible carnage and remarkable bravery but endless fascination.
Who, or what, was Penelope? Whose dog is depicted on the Eleventh Pennsylvania Monument, and why? What are the Curious Rocks? Why does Gettysburg have two markers for the battle’s first shot, and why are they in different locations?
The plentiful maps, the nearly 200 site descriptions, and the 270-plus color photos in So You Think You Know Gettysburg? will answer questions you didn’t even know you had about America’s greatest battlefield.
Undaunted Heart by Suzy Barile
When a brigade of General Sherman’s victorious army marched into Chapel Hill the day after Easter 1865, the Civil War had just ended and President Abraham Lincoln had been assassinated. Citizens of the picturesque North Carolina college town had endured years of hardship and sacrifice, and now the Union army was patrolling its streets. One of Sherman’s young generals paid a visit to the stately home of David Swain, president of the University of North Carolina and a former governor of the state, to inform him that the town was now under Union occupation.
Against this unlikely backdrop began a passionate and controversial love story still vivid in town lore. When President Swain’s daughter Ella met the Union general, life for these two young people who had spent the war on opposite sides was forever altered.
General Smith Atkins of Illinois abhorred slavery and greatly admired Abraham Lincoln. Spirited young Ella Swain had been raised in a slave-owning family and had spent the war years gathering supplies to send to Confederate soldiers.
But, as a close friend of the Swains wrote, when Atkins met Ella, the two “‘changed eyes’ at first sight and a wooing followed.”
The reaction of the Swains and fellow North Carolinians to this North-South love affair was swift and often unforgiving.
In Undaunted Heart: The True Story of a Southern Belle & a Yankee General, author Suzy Barile, a great-great-granddaughter of Ella Swain and Smith Atkins, tells their story, separating facts from the elaborate embellishments the famous courtship and marriage have taken on over the generations. Interwoven throughout Undaunted Heart are excerpts from Ella’s never-before-published letters to her parents that reveal a loving marriage that transcended differences and scandal.
Civil War Blunders by Clint Johnson
There was little funny about a war in which 620,000 Americans died. But it was finding humor amid devastation that kept Civil War soldiers marching toward the enemy.
Union or Confederate, those in command proved adept at making mistakes. Many leaders were drunkards, couldn’t speak English, didn’t know a cannon’s breech from its muzzle. Among the galleries of heroes were:
- Colonel Edward Baker, who told his Federals to follow the plume of his hat if they wanted to find war—and sent them over a cliff in a panicked retreat
- General Felix Zollicoffer, who wore a white raincoat so opposing Federals could see him—but not his eyeglasses so he could see them
- Lieutenant Commander Thomas Selfridge of the Union navy, who “found two torpedoes and removed them by placing his vessel over them”
- Colonel Alfred Rhett, a captured Southern blue blood whose fancy boots proved too small for every Union officer who coveted them
- Rum-drinking James Ledlie and dance-instructing Edward Ferrero, generals who kept each other company in a Union bombproof while their men faced slaughter
From Fort Sumter to Appomattox, Civil War Blunders traces the war according to its amusing, often deadly miscues. Lurking behind every significant action, as readers will discover, was someone with a red face.
Stoneman’s Raid, 1865, by Chris J. Hartley
In the spring of 1865, Federal major general George Stoneman launched a cavalry raid deep into the heart of the Confederacy. Over the next two months, Stoneman’s cavalry rode across six Southern states, fighting fierce skirmishes and destroying supplies and facilities. When the raid finally ended, Stoneman’s troopers had brought the Civil War home to dozens of communities that had not seen it up close before. In the process, the cavalrymen pulled off one of the longest cavalry raids in U.S. military history.
Despite its geographic scope, Stoneman’s 1865 raid failed in its primary goal of helping to end the war. Instead, the destruction the raiders left behind slowed postwar recovery in the areas it touched. In their wake, the raiders left a legacy that resonates to this day, even in modern popular music such as The Band’s “The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down.”
Based on exhaustive research in 34 repositories in 12 states and from more than 200 books and newspapers, Hartley’s book tells the complete story of Stoneman’s 1865 raid for the first time.
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