Civil War Reading Recommendations

With so many U.S. Civil War books on the market, it would be impossible to list all of them, let alone the great ones. There are just too many.

With that in mind, I offer the following list of Civil War reading recommendations. I deliberately mixed a few “classic” books with a sprinkling of interesting or otherwise helpful options. My annotations are obviously subjective, but I hope that you find them helpful.


Civil War Reading

Catton, Bruce. The Civil War. New York: Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. Catton’s book is a clear, compelling, and classic one-volume introduction to the U. S. Civil War for the general reader.

Coates, Earl J., and Dean S. Thomas. An Introduction to Civil War Small Arms. Gettysburg, PA: Thomas Publications, 1990. This book is an illustrated introduction to Civil War muskets, rifles, carbines, revolvers, and ammunition. It is especially helpful for Civil War students who want to understand the battlefield story, but do not want to dive too deeply into weaponry.

Davis, William C.. The Civil War: National Park Civil War Series. Hatboro, PA: Eastern National, 2007. Published by the National Park Service, this small book has many maps and photographs. It is very clearly written.

MacLean, Maggie. Civil War Women Blog, http://www.civilwarwomenblog.com/.

McPherson, James M., Ed.. The Atlas of the Civil War. Philadelphia: Pepperbox Press, 2010. Of all the many Civil War atlases that I have reviewed, this one is my favorite. The maps are beautiful and yet usable for learning.

McPherson, James M.. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. New York: Oxford University Press, 1988, 2003. McPherson’s Pulitzer Prize winning history of the Civil War Era is a must-read for all serious students. The book is large and dense.

McPherson, James M.. For Cause & Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War. New York: Oxford University Press, 1997. In this book, McPherson references the letters and diaries of both Union and Confederate soldiers to propose a rationale for the war. The author explores the themes of patriotism, liberty, and justice.

U. S. War Department. The War of Rebellion: A Compilation of the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies. Washington, D. C.: Government Printing Office, 1889. The Official Records are available online through Cornell University Library, http://ebooks.library.cornell.edu/m/moawar/waro.html.