Alcott, Louisa May. Little Women. 1868.
Topics: Gender and the War; War, Children and the Family.
Published in 1868, Little Women is one of the most popular books ever written about childhood. It charmingly recounts the homelife of four sisters: literary-minded Jo March; Meg, the older sister who marries a young tutor; fashionable and artistic Amy; and gentle, musically inclined Beth. Providing an unforgettable depiction of mid-19th century New England life, this classic explores the rich nuances of family and family relationships.
Bierce, Ambrose. Civil War Stories. 1994. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
Only eighteen when he first enlisted, Ambrose Bierce experienced some of the violent fighting of the war, including the battles of Shiloh, Stones River, the maelstrom of Chickamauga, and the siege of Chattanooga. At Kennesaw Mountain, he was wounded in the head. After the hostilities, he often said a part of himself had died in the war. Bierce wrote about 25 short pieces, both fiction and nonfiction, about the war. There are few splendid feats or valorous gallantries in the stories. Bierce’s style is pristine, his details grotesque, his caustic tone burning.
Bierce, Ambrose. Ambrose Bierce’s Civil War. 1956. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
This collection is composed of vibrant, horrifying, and sardonic stories and reminiscences about the American Civil War by soldier, journalist, and cynic Ambrose Bierce. (Additional information about the author above.)
Brooks, Geraldine. March. 2006.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War.
From Louisa May Alcott’s beloved classic Little Women, Geraldine Brooks has animated the character of the absent father, March, and crafted a story “filled with the ache of love and marriage and with the power of war upon the mind and heart of one unforgettable man.” This story follows March as he leaves behind his family to aid the Union cause in the Civil War. His experiences will utterly change his marriage and challenge his most ardently held beliefs. This is a lushly written, wholly original tale steeped in the details of another time.
Brown, Rosellen. Civil Wars. 1984.
Topics: After the War: Memory, Legacy, and Reconstruction; Race Relations.
In Civil Wars, a family disaster forces a married couple, who were activists in the Civil Rights movement, to become guardians of two children raised by segregationist parents. As the new family struggles to find a new footing and reconcile radically different values, Rosellen holds a mirror up to America’s recent past. She shows us the private and public passions that can shape, or tear apart, our hearts.
Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. 1895. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
As important a book today as it was when it was first written, The Red Badge of Courage tells the story of Henry Fielding, a farm boy who sets out in search of glory by running away from home to join the Civil War, only to find himself running away from the battlefield in terror during the first skirmish. Mortified by his cowardice, Henry yearns for a wound, his own red badge of courage, which would legitimize his desertion of his company. When Henry is finally wounded, he finds himself feeling real anger for the very first time, and finally is able to redeem himself. Stephen Crane’s story is considered one of the most important novels of the nineteenth century. It explores the dual natures of battle – the simultaneous sensations of beauty and violence, of terror and triumph – and masterfully mirrors them to Henry’s own inner turmoil.
Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom! 1936.
Topics: After the War: Memory, Legacy, and Reconstruction.
First published in 1936, Absalom, Absalom! is William Faulkner’s most admired novel. It tells the story of Thomas Sutpen and his ruthless, single-minded attempt to forge a dynasty in Jefferson, Mississippi, in 1830. Although his grand design is ultimately destroyed by his own sons, a century later the figure of Sutpen continues to haunt young Quentin Compson, who is obsessed with his family legacy and that of the Old South. “Faulkner’s novels have the quality of being lived, absorbed, remembered rather than merely observed,” noted Malcolm Cowley. “Absalom, Absalom! is structurally the soundest of all the novels in the Yoknapatawpha series -and it gains power in retrospect.”
Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain. 1997. Topics: The Confederate War.
Sorely wounded and fatally disillusioned in the fighting at Petersburg, a Confederate soldier named Inman decides to walk back to his home in the Blue Ridge Mountains to Ada, the woman he loves. His trek across the disintegrating South brings him into intimate and sometimes lethal conversation with slaves and marauders, bounty hunters and witches, both helpful and malign. At the same time, Ada is trying to revive her father’s derelict farm and learning to survive in a world where old certainties have been swept away. As it interweaves their stories, Cold Mountain asserts itself as an authentic odyssey, hugely powerful, majestically lovely, and keenly moving.
Morrison, Toni. Beloved.
Topics: Race Relations; After the War: Memory, Legacy, and Reconstruction.
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize, Toni Morrison’s Beloved is a spellbinding and dazzlingly innovative portrait of a woman haunted by the past. Sethe was born a slave and escaped to Ohio, but eighteen years later she is still not free. Her house has long been troubled by the angry, destructive ghost of her baby, who died nameless and whose tombstone is engraved with a single word: Beloved. Sethe works at beating back the past, but it makes itself heard and felt incessantly in her memory and in the lives of those around her. When a mysterious teenage girl arrives, calling herself Beloved, Sethe’s terrible secret explodes into the present.
Stowe, Harriet Beecher. Uncle Tom’s Cabin; Or, Life Among the Lowly. 1852. Topics: Gender and the War; Race Relations.
Published in 1852, Uncle Tom’s Cabin brought the abolitionists’ message to the public conscience; no woman before or since has so moved America to take action against an injustice. The novel features Uncle Tom, a long-suffering black slave around whom the stories of other characters revolve. It depicts the reality of slavery while also asserting that Christian love can overcome something as destructive as the enslavement of fellow human beings. More than 160 years after its publication, this moving abolitionist novel continues to be reexamined by critics, scholars, and students.
Adrian, Chris. Gob’s Grief: A Novel. 2002.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War.
In the summer of 1863, Gob and Tomo Woodhull, eleven-year-old twin sons, agree to together forsake their home and family in Licking County, Ohio, for the glories of the Union Army. But on the night of their departure for the war, Gob suffers a change of heart, and Tomo is forced to leave his brother behind. When Tomo is shot clean through the eye in his very first battle, Gob is left to endure the guilt and grief that will later come to fuel his obsession with building a vast machine that will bring Tomo–indeed, all the Civil War dead–back to life. Epic in scope yet emotionally intimate, Gob’s Grief creates a world both fantastic and familiar and populates it with characters who breath on the page, capturing the spirit of a fevered nation populated with lost brothers and lost souls.
Avi. Iron Thunder. 2009.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War.
When his father is killed fighting for the Union in the Civil War, thirteen-year-old Tom Carroll must take a job to help support his family. He manages to find work at a bustling ironworks in his hometown of Brooklyn, New York, where dozens of men are frantically pounding together the strangest ship Tom has ever seen. A ship made of iron. Tom soon learns that the Union Army has very important plans for this iron ship called the Monitor. It is supposed to fight the Confederate “sea monster” – another ironclad the Merrimac. But nearly everyone believes the Monitor will sink, calling it “the iron coffin.” Meanwhile, Tom’s position has made him a target of Confederate spies, who offer him money for information about the ship. Tom finds himself caught between two certain dangers: an encounter with murderous spies and a battle at sea in an iron coffin.
Butzer, C.M. Gettysburg: The Graphic Novel. 2008. Topics: General Civil War History.
Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address is familiar to all Americans. But never has his most famous speech – his 271 indelible words – been presented in such a visual and accessible format. Graphic artist and Civil War aficionado C. M. Butzer deftly uses a detailed, comic-book style to depict the Battle of Gettysburg; the national movement to create a memorial there; and the quiet day in 1863 when Lincoln delivered his galvanizing speech. Butzer uses only primary sources for the text, drawing from first-person letters and diaries, speeches, and Lincoln’s own writing to unpack this series of historical events. He provides a visual interpretation sure to resonate with young readers.
Collier, James and Christopher Collier. With Every Drop of Blood. 1996.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Confederate War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death; Race Relations.
The Collier brothers paint a strong, affecting picture of the Civil War era, of the grueling work and privations of the home front as well the chaos and carnage of the battlefield. When Pa is wounded in action in 1864 and comes home to die, he extracts a promise from 14-year-old Johnny to stay on their farm in Virginia and look after the family. Johnny wants revenge, but agrees. Soon the family’s grim straits force a compromise. He agrees to sneak provisions to the Confederates near Richmond, but is captured by a new Union recruit and ex-slave, Cush. What begins acrimoniously develops into an uneasy alliance as the boys trek through Northern Virginia. Their friendship, achieved through circumstances, underlines the complexities of race relations then and now.
Elliott, L.M. Annie, Between the States. 2006. Topics: Gender and the War; The Confederate War.
Annie Sinclair’s Virginia home is in the battle path of the Civil War. Her brothers, Laurence and Jamie, fight to defend the South, while Annie and her mother tend to wounded soldiers. When she develops a romantic connection with a Union Army lieutenant, Annie’s view of the war broadens. Then an accusation calls her loyalty into question. Finding her nation and her heart divided by the war, Annie is forced to choose her own course.
Fleischman, Paul. Bull Run. 1995. Topics: General Civil War History.
This Civil War drama follows sixteen different people as they head for the battle at Bull Run. Fleischman lets their many voices speak individually as they tell variously of their excitement, loathing, fear and hope about this first battle, which several of them are convinced will be the only one in the Civil War. For some of them, it is. Together, the chapters illustrate the humanity and horror of war.
Hesse, Karen. A Light in the Storm: The Civil War Diary of Amelia Martin. 1999. Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Gender and the War.
Amelia “Wickie” Martin lives in a Delaware lighthouse, where her Unionist father and secessionist mother assist the head Keeper. Her diary of the run-up to the Civil War stresses the fractious public opinion of the border-states, and the uncertainty and danger of the course of national events, for which the precarious lighthouse and the shoals it marks are a kind of emblem.
Hunt, Irene. Across Five Aprils. 1965.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Gender and the War.
Across Five Aprils is the story of a hard-working Illinois farm family and their experiences with the Civil War that tore a relatively new nation apart beginning with the firing on of Fort Sumter in April of 1861. The family consists of parents Matt and Ellen Creighton, their five surviving children, school teacher Shadrach Yale, and cousin Eb. The main character, Jethro, is the youngest of the Creighton children and is just nine years old when the story begins. As the young men in the family head off to war, Jethro is left behind, along with his sister Jenny, to help the family farm continue. He takes on ever-increasing responsibilities as the war progresses and Jethro is responsible for reading the papers to his parents. As each new April takes its place on the calendar, Jethro looks back on the previous year and reflects on the changes that have taken place.
Jiles, Paulette. Enemy Women. 2003 Topics: Gender and the War.
For eighteen-year-old Adair Colley of southeastern Missouri, the Civil War is a nightmare that tears apart her family and forces her and her sisters to flee. The treachery of a fellow traveler, however, brings about her arrest, and she is caged with the criminal and deranged in a filthy women’s prison. But her interrogator, a Union major, falls in love with her and vows to return for her when the fighting is over. Before he leaves for battle, he bestows upon her a precious gift: freedom. Now an escaped “enemy woman,” Adair must make her harrowing way south buoyed by a promise, seeking a home and a family that may be nothing more than a memory.
Myers, Walter Dean. Riot. 2011.
Topics: Labor, Class, and Economics; War, Children and the Family; Race Relations.
The Civil War is raging and in a desperate effort to find more recruits, the Union begins a draft. The wealthy can pay $300 to be released from their obligation, but the poor must go and fight and die. In New York City, the recently arrived Irish are the hardest hit by the draft, and during the long hot days of July the city explodes in a rash of arson, marches, attacks, and lynchings, with the immigrant Irish taking out their anger on the black inhabitants of the city. Fourteen-year-old Claire, the daughter of an Irish mother and a black father, has never had to choose between the two sides of the family. When she learns that a friend of hers is in danger, she decides to go to her aid, but by venturing out on the streets, she puts her own life at risk. Myers’s use of the screenplay format allows his readers a birds-eye view of the four hot days in July when New York City burned, using multiple points of view from both sides of the conflict.
Olmstead, Robert. Coal Black Horse.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Gender and the War.
When Robey Childs’s mother has a premonition about her husband, a soldier fighting in the Civil War, she does the unthinkable: she sends her only child to find his father on the battlefield and bring him home. At fourteen, wearing the coat his mother sewed to ensure his safety – blue on one side, gray on the other – Robey thinks he’s off on a great adventure. But not far from home, his horse falters and he realizes the enormity of his task. His powerful and noble coal black horse shows him how to undertake the most important journey of his life with boldness, bravery, and self-possession.
Paulsen, Gary. Sarny: A Life Remembered. 1997. Topics: Race Relations.
Sarny and Lucy, slaves freed by the advance of the Union Army, set out from Georgia to New Orleans in search of Sarny’s stolen children. Along the way they encounter Miss Laura, a powerful and beneficent Creole woman who employs them and pulls political strings in New Orleans to recover Sarny’s children and to support Sarny in her dream of opening a school for freed slaves. Most of the action of the novel takes place during the War and the immediate postwar period (Reconstruction), as Sarny fights racial injustice in New Orleans.
Paulsen, Gary. Soldier’s Heart: Being the Story of the Enlistment and Due Service of the Boy Charley Goddard in the First Minnesota Volunteers. 2000.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
In June 1861, when the Civil War began, Charley Goddard enlisted in the First Minnesota Volunteers. He was 15. He didn’t know what a “shooting war” meant or what he was fighting for. But he didn’t want to miss out on a great adventure. The “shooting war” turned out to be the horror of combat. Charley returns from the war a changed man, crippled by what he has seen. In this captivating tale, Paulsen vividly shows readers the turmoil of war through one boy’s eyes and one boy’s heart, and gives a voice to all the anonymous young men who fought in the Civil War.
Peck, Richard. The River Between Us. 2005.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Gender and the War; The Union War; Race Relations.
The year is 1861. Civil war is imminent and Tilly Pruitt’s brother, Noah, is eager to go and fight on the side of the North. With her father long gone, Tilly, her sister, and their mother struggle to make ends meet and hold the dwindling Pruitt family together. Then one night a mysterious girl arrives on a steamboat bound for St. Louis. Delphine is unlike anyone the small river town has even seen. Mrs. Pruitt agrees to take Delphine and her dark, silent traveling companion in as boarders. No one in town knows what to make of the two strangers, and so the rumors fly. Is Delphine’s companion a slave? Could they be spies for the South? Are the Pruitts traitors? The River Between Us is a masterful tale of mystery and war; a portrait of the lifelong impact one person can have on another.
Rinaldi, Ann. Numbering All the Bones. 2002. Topics: Race Relations; War, Children, and the Family.
The Civil War is at an end, but for thirteen-year-old Eulinda, it is no time to rejoice. Her younger brother Zeke was sold away, her older brother Neddy joined the Northern war effort, and her master will not acknowledge that Eulinda is his daughter. Her mettle is additionally tested when she realizes her brother Neddy might be buried in the now-closed Andersonville Prison where soldiers were kept in torturous conditions. With the help of Clara Barton, the eventual founder of the Red Cross, Eulinda must find a way to let go of the skeletons from her past.
Wells, Rosemary. Red Moon at Sharpsburg. 2007.
Topics: Gender and the War; War, Children and the Family; The Confederate War.
Award-winning author Rosemary Wells lays bare the senseless devastation of war in this stunning novel. As the Civil War breaks out, India, a young Southern girl, summons her sharp intelligence and the courage she didn’t know she had to survive the war that threatens to destroy her family, her Virginia home, and the only life she has ever known. She holds on to her dream of forging a career in science, unheard-of for a woman, in the face of battle, starvation, and tragic loss. Rarely has the Southern perspective on the war been told so even-handedly for young adults as in this meticulously researched, poignant, and riveting novel.
Wisler, G. Clifton. Mr. Lincoln’s Drummer. 1995.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
Willie Johnston is the son of a St. Johnsbury, Vermont tailor. Willie is just ten years old at the time of the fall of Ft. Sumter. When his father joins an infantry regiment, Willie signs on as drummer boy. Many of his experiences in camp life near Washington, D.C. are of the mildly humorous kind, but when Willie’s unit heads with McClellan to the Peninsula in 1862, the action turns grisly, and Willie distinguishes himself during a harrowing retreat. He draws particular notice from President Lincoln, and wins the Congressional Medal of Honor.
Woodruff, Joan Leslie. The Shiloh Renewal. 1998.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
Teenage narrator Sandy has been seriously injured in a car crash that has killed her older sister Penny. As Sandy struggles to regain language and lucidity, she flashes back in hallucinations to the Battle of Shiloh. Sandy lives near the Shiloh battlefield park, and in a crucial scene, she takes the body of her dead cat to Shiloh Church, reliving the battle all the while. When two rangers befriend her, she takes a turn for the better in both health and happiness. This keenly-written story conveys the disorienting affects of neurological trauma, associating them with war and terrorism.
Bauer, Patricia. B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet. 2009. Topics: General Civil War History.
B is for Battle Cry: A Civil War Alphabet takes readers on a journey into one of the most important chapters of our nation’s past. It brings to life historic battles (Antietam and Gettysburg), renowned leaders (Abraham Lincoln and Robert E. Lee), inventions (ironclad ship and Gatling gun), and inspiring events and documents (the Gettysburg Address and the Emancipation Proclamation). From the first shot fired at Fort Sumter to Lee’s surrender at Appomattox Court House, B is for Battle Cry brings this nation-defining time period to vivid life.
Garland, Sherry. Voices of Gettysburg. 2010. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
This illustrated history for young readers offers a sweeping view of the events that led up to and followed the famous battle. The story begins in 1863 and continues to 1923, told through the voices of the participants. The gripping images draw readers into the turning point of the Civil War.
Lewin, Ted. Red Legs: A Drummer Boy of the Civil War. 2001.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
The Civil War divided the United States and pitted North against South, brother against brother, and often children against children. On the eve of a fateful battle, Stephen, a drummer boy in the “Red Legs” regiment, thinks of home and the fight ahead. The next morning, he beats his drum as he and the other Union soldiers meet the Confederate Army on the battlefield. The book pays tribute both to the brave Civil War soldiers and to the dedicated re-enactors who preserve their memory.
Noble, Trinka Hakes. The Last Brother: A Civil War Tale. 2006.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
The Last Brother tells the story of one small boy amidst the dramatic events of the Battle of Gettysburg. Though he is only 11 years old, Gabe is a bugler in the Union Army. He meets another young bugler – one who fights for the other side. Suddenly, what was so definite and clear has become complicated by friendship and compassion. Does one have to choose between service to country, to kin or to a friend? As the cannons fire and the battle rages on, Gabe must do his duty while searching for a way to honor all that he holds dear.
Polacco, Patricia. Pink and Say. 1994.
Topics: War, Children and the Family; Race Relations.
This heart-wrenching historical picture book, based on a true story, presents us with two men from the Union Army who meet after a battle of the Civil War. Pinkus Aylee, a black Union soldier, finds Sheldon Curtis left for dead and carries him home to be tended by his mother. When the two boys attempt to rejoin the Union troops, however, they are captured and sent to Andersonville Prison.
Turner, Ann. Drummer Boy: Marching to the Civil War. 1998.
Topics: War, Children, and the Family; The Union War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
A thirteen-year old boy lies about his age to join the Union forces during America’s bloodiest war. No matter what happens, a drummer boy in the Civil War must keep playing his drum to relay orders and rally spirits. He doesn’t fight, but he sees it all: from the glow of the camp fire to the glare of battle, the drummer boy watches the friendships that war creates and then breaks apart. Ann Turner’s powerful text and Mark Hess’s stunning artwork reveal the drama and heartache of the Civil War as seen through the eyes of a boy not too young to be a hero.
Biographies, Autobiographies, and Diaries
Barker-Benfield, G.J. and Catherine Clinton, eds. Portraits of American Women. Topics: Gender and the War.
Portraits of American Women presents twenty-four short essays on American women beginning with Pocahontas and ending with Betty Friedan. The editors selected women who made “significant contributions in the public realm,” be they in the areas of art, literature, political engagement, educational activities, or reform movements. Included here are portraits of such luminaries as Georgia O’Keeffe, Margaret Mead, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Anne Hutchinson, Phillis Wheatley, Margaret Fuller, and Rose Schneiderman, to name a few. Each portrait is fashioned to appeal to a wide range of readers, and all include sound scholarship and accessible prose, and raise provocative issues to illuminate women’s lives within a broad range of historical transformations.
Douglas, Frederick. My Bondage and My Freedom. 1855. Topics: Race Relations.
Ex-slave Frederick Douglass’s second autobiography—written after years of reflection following his legal emancipation in 1846 and his break with mentor William Lloyd Garrison—catapulted Douglass into the international spotlight as the foremost spokesman for American blacks, freed and slave. Written during his celebrated career as a speaker and newspaper editor, My Bondage and My Freedom reveals the author of the Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass (1845) grown more mature, forceful, analytical, and complex with a deepened commitment to the fight for equal rights.
Evans, Eli. Judah P. Benjamin: The Jewish Confederate Topics: Race Relations.
Acknowledged as the “brains of the Confederacy” and Jefferson Davis’ right-hand man, Judah P. Benjamin achieved greater political power than perhaps any other Jewish American. In this extraordinary biography, Eli Evans pieces together Benjamin’s turbulent life and times from his childhood in Charleston to his career under Davis. Unlike previous biographers, Evans sees Jewishness as the key to understanding Benjamin’s life. He also traces in fascinating detail Benjamin’s relationship with Jefferson Davis.
Foner, Eric. The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery. 2010. Topics: Race Relations.
A Notable Book of the Year by the New York Times Book Review, this landmark work gives us a definitive account of Lincoln’s lifelong engagement with the nation’s critical issue: slavery. Eric Foner draws Lincoln and the broader history of the period into balance. We see Lincoln, a pragmatic politician grounded in principle, deftly navigating the dynamic politics of antislavery, secession, and civil war. Lincoln’s greatness emerges from his capacity for moral and political growth.
McPherson, James. Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution. 1990. Topics: The Union War.
In Abraham Lincoln and the Second American Revolution, James McPherson offers a series of engaging essays on aspects of Lincoln and the war that have rarely been discussed in depth. He looks closely at the President’s role as Commander-in-Chief of the Union forces, showing how Lincoln forged a national military strategy for victory. He also explores the importance of Lincoln’s rhetorical skills, uncovering how—through parables and figurative language—he was uniquely able to communicate both the purpose of the war and a new meaning of liberty to the people of the North.
Oates, Stephen. With Malice Toward None: The Life of Abraham Lincoln. 1994. Topics: The Union War.
With Malice Toward None is historian Stephen B. Oates’s acclaimed and enthralling portrait of America’s greatest leader. Oates masterfully charts, with the pacing of a novel, Lincoln’s rise from bitter poverty in America’s midwestern frontier to become a self-made success in business, law, and regional politics. The second half of the book examines his legendary leadership on the national stage as president during one of the country’s most tumultuous and bloody periods, the Civil War years, which concluded tragically with Lincoln’s assassination. In this award-winning biography, Lincoln steps forward out of the shadow of myth as a recognizable, fully drawn American.
Warner, Ezra J., Generals in Blue: Lives of the Union Commanders. 1964. Topics: The Union War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
Warner’s classic reference work includes intriguing biographical sketches and a rare collection of photographs of all 583 men who attained the rank of general in the Union Army. Here are the West Point graduates and the political appointees; the gifted, the mediocre, and the inexcusably bad; those of impeccable virtue and those who abused their position; the northern-born, the foreign-born, and the southerners who remained loyal to the Union. Warner’s valuable introduction discusses the criteria for appointment and compares the civilian careers of both Union and Confederate generals, revealing striking differences in the two groups.
Woodward, C. Vann, ed. The Private Mary Chesnut: The Unpublished Civil War Diaries. 1984. Topics: Gender and the War; The Confederate War.
This volume presents the previously unpublished Civil War diaries of Mary Boykin Chesnut. Daughter of one senator from South Carolina and wife of another, she had kin and friends all over the Confederacy and knew intimately its political and military leaders. At Montgomery when the new nation was founded, at Charleston when the war started, and at Richmond during many crises, she traveled extensively during the war. The diaries, filled with personal revelations and indiscretions, are indispensable to an appreciation of our most famous Southern literary insight into the Civil War.
Works with a Maine Focus
Beattie, Donald W., Rodney M. Cole, and Charles G. Waugh, eds. A Distant War Comes Home: Maine in the Civil War Era. 1996.
Maine might seem to be extremely remote from the Civil War, yet that cataclysmic event in America’s past touched Maine people in a multitude of ways, some of which are quite surprising. Drawing upon original sources and published material, A Distant War Comes Home is a fascinating survey of the many individual stories that linked Maine with the war hundreds of miles away. Many engrossing accounts, including firsthand experiences in famous battles, make this book a must for anyone interested in Maine or Civil War history.
Desjardin, Thomas A. Stand Firm Ye Boys from Maine: The 20th Maine and the Gettysburg Campaign. 1995. Fought amid rocks and trees, in thick blinding smoke, and under exceedingly stressful conditions, the
battle for the southern slope of Little Round Top on July 2, 1863 stands among the most famous and crucial military actions in American history, one of the key engagements that led to the North’s
victory at Gettysburg. In this powerfully narrated history, Maine historian Tom Desjardin tells the story of the 20th Maine Regiment, the soldiers who fought and won the battle of Little Round Top. Desjardin uses more than seventy first-hand accounts to tell the story of this campaign in critical detail. Ranging from the lowest ranking private to the highest officers, this book explores the terrible experiences of war and their tragic effect.
Godfrey, John Edwards. The Journals of John Edwards Godfrey: Bangor Maine 1863-1869. 1979.
Hutchinson, Vernal. A Maine Town in the Civil War: A Chronicle of the Vanished Town of Old Deer Isle, Maine, During the Crucial Years 1861-65. 1957.
This book chronicles the significant contributions of the island of Deer Isle to Maine’s Regiments. The book is based on extensive research by Deer Isle native, Vernal Hutchinson. Ken Burns used this documentation in preparing his acclaimed Civil War TV Series.
Kelsey, Kerck. Israel Washburn Jr.: Maine’s Little-Known Giant of the Civil War. 2004.
This biography of Israel Washington Jr., of Livermore Falls, is based on family journals as well as his personal journal. Israel Washburn Jr., was elected governor of Maine in 1860 and personally did much of the organizing to build and maintain a new army in Maine. The village of Salmon Brook in Aroostook County was incorporated as the town of Washburn in his honor.
Stanley, Ruel H., and George O. Hall. Eastern Maine and the Rebellion: Being an Account of the Principal Local Events in Eastern Maine During the War. 1887.
Whitman, William Edward Seaver. Maine in the War for the Union: a History of the Part Borne by Maine Troops in the Suppression of the American Rebellion. 1865.
The authors endeavor to depict the scenes and incidents occurring at home during the Rebellion. Published when memories were fresh this book uses letters, newspapers and first person accounts to detail efforts to preserve the Union. Also included are brief histories of Eastern Maine Regiments.
Whitman, William E.S. and Charles H. True. Maine in the War for the Union. 1865.
Bowdoin College Library Civil War Blog, http://library.bowdoin.edu/arch/civil-war-blog/
Maine and the Civil War: The Homefront and the Battlefield (on Maine Historical Society’s online museum, Maine Memory Network): http://civilwar.mainememory.net
Civil War Films
Made for the TNT cable channel, this lengthy docudrama records the harrowing conditions at the Confederacy’s most notorious prisoner-of-war camp. The Andersonville camp operated from February 1864 until April 1865, when the Confederacy collapsed. More than 40,000 Union soldiers passed through a camp designed for 8,500, with a peak population of more than 30,000 on a miserable 16 acres. The two-part movie aired on TNT and won the director an Emmy.
Birth of a Nation. 1915.
The most successful and artistically advanced film of its time, The Birth of a Nation has also sparked protests, riots, and divisiveness since its first release. This silent film ran nearly three hours, portraying the saga of the Civil War and Reconstruction with remarkable scenes of the war. It tells the story of the Civil War and its aftermath, as seen through the eyes of two families. The Stonemans hail from the North, the Camerons from the South. The film negatively portrayed blacks in the South and made heroes of the Ku Klux Klansmen.
The Beguiled. 1971.
In one of his five collaborations with veteran director Don Siegel, Clint Eastwood portrays a wounded Union soldier who is discovered and nursed back to health by members of an all-girl boarding school in Louisiana during the closing days of the Civil War. While the headmistress disapproves of him and wants to turn him over to the Confederate authorities, the staff and the students are reluctant to do so, as they don’t mind having a man around, even if he is a Yankee. As the soldier convalesces, he charms and eventually has secretive romantic encounters with several of the women. When they eventually discover what he is up to, they slowly and diabolically take their revenge on him.
Cold Mountain. 2003.
In this Civil War epic, Jude Law plays a Confederate soldier who goes absent without leave from a military hospital in Richmond in the closing months of 1864. He’s heading for home on the mountains of far western North Carolina, where he hopes to find a transplanted Charleston, South Carolina belle, Ada Monroe, played by Nicole Kidman. A strange and haunting film.
Django Unchained. 2012.
With the help of a German bounty hunter, a freed slave sets out to rescue his wife from a brutal Mississippi plantation owner. Directed by Quentin Tarantino, and containing a number of violent scenes, this film won Oscars for Best Original Screenplay and Best Supporting Actor.
Friendly Persuasion. 1956.
Jess and Eliza Birdwell (Gary Cooper and Dorothy McGuire) are devoted Quaker parents in Indiana during the height of the Civil War. The Birdwells oppose violence, but as Confederate forces march closer—looting and burning as they go—the community prepares a defense. The family’s non-violent stance is tested when their son, Josh (Anthony Perkins), decides he wants to fight for the north.
The General. 1926.
An epic re-enactment of the Civil War is the backdrop to Buster Keaton’s immortal silent comedy and one of the greatest comedy chase films ever. Keaton plays heroic engineer Johnnie Gray, employed on the Western & Atlantic Flyer in Georgia as the Civil War begins. Johnnie is pursuing his beloved locomotive, “The General,” after it is stolen by Union agents who exploit it as a platform for sabotage.
An exceptionally long, but stirring and memorable version of The Killer Angels, the 1974 Pulitzer Prize novel by Michael Shaara. The famous Civil War battle is depicted with admirable immediacy and eloquence. Jeff Daniels stars as Union Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Martin Sheen plays Gen. Robert E. Lee.
This sensational and haunting achievement chronicles the formation and sacrifice of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first volunteer black infantry unit organized by the Union Army during the Civil War. The film stars Matthew Broderick, Cary Elwes, Morgan Freeman and Denzel Washington, and the depiction of the impregnable artillery battery of Fort Wagner is spectacular.
Gone With the Wind. 1939.
This classic film is based on Margaret Mitchell’s best-selling historical romance about human survival in wartime. Clark Gable is the indispensable Rhett Butler in pursuit of the headstrong and selfish Scarlett O’Hara, a Georgia belle played by Vivien Leigh. It’s a great film, but there are no Civil War battle scenes.
The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. 1966.
In this movie, set against the backdrop of the Civil War in the American Southwest, three men – Clint Eastwood, “the good”; Lee Van Cleef, “the bad”; and Eli Wallach, “the ugly” – search for $200,000 in buried Confederate gold. The true carnage of the Civil War can be seen throughout this epic film, from the depiction of life in a Union prisoner-of-war camp to the battle for control of a bridge, to the last puff on a cigar by a dying soldier.
The Horse Soldiers. 1959.
Directed by John Ford and starring John Wayne and William Holden, this film is based on the true story of Col. Benjamin H. Grierson and the Battle of Newton Station. A Union Cavalry outfit is sent behind Confederate lines to destroy a railroad supply depot. The plan for the mission is overheard by a Southern belle who must be taken along to assure her silence.
With the Civil War raging, and the death toll rising, the president focuses his energies on passage of the 13th Amendment. Even those sympathetic to the cause question his timing, but Lincoln doesn’t see the two issues as separate, and the situation turns personal when his son, Robert (Joseph Gordon-Levitt), chooses to enlist rather than to study law. While still mourning the loss of one son, Mary (Sally Field) can’t bear to lose another. Playwright Tony Kushner, who adapted the screenplay, takes a page from the procedural handbook in tracing Lincoln’s steps to win over enough representatives to abolish slavery, while simultaneously bringing a larger-than-life leader down to a more manageable size.
An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge. 1962.
This French film is an adaptation of Ambrose Bierce’s short Civil War story “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge.” Peyton Farquhar is a Confederate sympathizer who is about to be hung on a North Alabama railroad bridge. The rope breaks, and he lands in the river. Dodging bullets, he swims to shore and begins to make his way home. While the journey is arduous, thoughts of his wife enable him to keep going. This film, with relatively little dialogue, jolts its audience in the climactic scene where Farquhar arrives at his plantation and is about to embrace his wife.
The Outlaw Josey Wales. 1976.
In this movie, directed by Clint Eastwood, Mr. Eastwood plays Josey Wales, a pacifist Missouri farmer who joins a band of Confederate guerrillas after his house is burned and his family is killed by a group of “redlegs,” a group of Kansas militants loosely affiliated with the Union. Rather than surrender to Union authorities at the end of the war, Wales flees to Texas to make a new life for himself. On his journey to Texas, he encounters war refugees, Indians, bounty hunters and carpetbaggers while being pursued by a cadre of Union soldiers with orders to bring him in.
The Red Badge of Courage. 1951.
Audie Murphy, a hero from World War II, plays Pvt. Henry Fleming in this film, directed by John Huston and based on Stephen Crane’s classic book of the same name. Fleming is a Union soldier sent into battle for the first time. He is unprepared for the fight, but by the time battle breaks out, he finds his endurance and courage tested.
Jimmy Stewart plays a Lincolnesque widower from Virginia who is adamant about keeping his sons out of the Civil War. He believes in America, not the North and South, and although the battles are practically at his front door, he wants none of it. A gem of a film.
Attie, Jeanie. Patriotic Toil: Northern Women and the American Civil War. 1998. Topics: Gender and the War; Class, Labor, and Economics; The Union War
During the Civil War, the United States Sanitary Commission attempted to replace female charity networks and traditions of voluntarism with a centralized organization that would ensure women’s support for the war effort. Exploring the economic and ideological conflicts that surrounded women’s unpaid labors on behalf of the Union Army, Jeanie Attie reveals the impact of the Civil War on the gender structure of nineteenth-century America. Her book integrates the Civil War into the history of American gender relations and the development of feminism, providing a nuanced analysis of the relationship among gender construction, class development, and state formation in nineteenth- century America.
Ayers, Edward L, ed. America’s War: Talking About the Civil War and Emancipation on Their 150th Anniversaries. 2011.
Anthology of primary sources. Topics: Antebellum Culture; Biography; Race Relations.
America’s War is an anthology of Civil War writing originally published between 1852 and 2008. The selections in America’s War include works of historical fiction and interpretation, speeches, diaries, memoirs, biographies, and short stories. Together, these readings provide a glimpse of the vast sweep and profound breadth of Americans, war among and against themselves, adding crucial voices to our understanding of the war and its meaning.
Barthelemy, Anthony G., ed. Collected Black Women’s Narratives. 1988.
Anthology of primary sources. Topics: Gender and the War; Race Relations; Antebellum Culture.
Oxford University Press, in collaboration with the Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, a research unit of The New York Public Library, rescued the voice of an entire segment of the black tradition by offering volumes of compelling and rare works of fiction, poetry, autobiography, biography, essays, and journalism, written by nineteenth-century black women. Each book in this series of twelve books contains an introduction written by an expert in the field, as well as an overview by Henry Louis Gates, Jr., the General Editor.
Bernstein, Iver. The New York City Draft Riots: Their Significance for American Society and Politics in the Age of the Civil War. 1990.
Topics: Labor, Class, and Economics; Race Relations.
For five days in July 1863, at the height of the Civil War, New York City was under siege. Angry rioters burned draft offices, closed factories, destroyed railroad tracks and telegraph lines, and hunted policemen and soldiers. Before long, the rioters turned their murderous wrath against the black community. In the end, at least 105 people were killed, making the draft riots the most violent insurrection in American history. An in-depth study of one of the most troubling and least understood crises in American history, The New York City Draft Riots is the first book to reveal the broader political and historical context – the complex of social, cultural and political relations – that made the bloody events of July 1863 possible.
Blight, David W. Race and Reunion: The Civil War in American Memory. 2001. Topics: After the War: Memory, Nationalism, and Reconstruction; Race Relations.
After the Civil War, Americans had to embrace and cast off a traumatic past. Confronted with a ravaged landscape and a torn America, the North and South began a slow and painful process of reconciliation. The ensuing decades witnessed the triumph of a culture of reunion, which downplayed sectional division and emphasized the heroics of a battle between noble men of the Blue and the Gray. Nearly lost in national culture were the moral crusades over slavery that ignited the war, the presence and participation of African Americans throughout the war, and the promise of emancipation that emerged from the war. Race and Reunion is a history of how the unity of white America was purchased through the increasing segregation of black and white memory of the War.
Blum, Edward J. Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865- 1898. 2005.
Topics: Religion and War; After the War: Memory, Nationalism, and Reconstruction; Race Relations.
During Reconstruction, former abolitionists in the North had a golden opportunity to pursue true racial justice and permanent reform in America. But why, after the sacrifice made by thousands of Civil War patriots to arrive at this juncture, did the moment slip away, leaving many whites throughout the North and South more racist than before? Edward J. Blum takes a fresh look at this question in Reforging the White Republic: Race, Religion, and American Nationalism, 1865-1898, where he focuses on the vital role that religion played in reunifying northern and southern whites into a racially segregated society. He tells the fascinating story of how northern Protestantism, once the catalyst for racial egalitarianism, promoted the image of a “white republic” that conflated whiteness, godliness, and nationalism.
Catton, Bruce and William Catton. Two Roads to Sumter: Abraham Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and the March to the Civil War. 2001.
Topics: Biographes, Autobiographies, Diaries
Using the early lives and careers of Abraham Lincoln and Jefferson Davis as theme and framework, two of America’s finest historians outline each step in the tragic march to the Civil War. By showing how these two major figures – both Kentucky-born – developed divergent attitudes, the Cattons simultaneously reveal why the North and South became increasingly isolated from each other during the 1850s, and why war became inevitable. Also captured: the epic sweep of the era, with its great new railroads, land-hungry westward expansion, and developing industrial and agricultural empires.
Cimbala, Paul A., and Randall M. Miller, eds. Union Soldiers and the Northern Homefront: Wartime Experiences, Postwar Adjustments. 2002.
Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death; After the War: Memory, Nationalism, and Reconstruction; The Union War; Race Relations.
This collection brings fresh perspectives about the way soldiers and civilians interacted in the Civil War North, showing how the home front and the front lines remained intimately connected. The authors explore the experience of recruitment, soldiers’ motivation, civilian access to the combat experience, wartime correspondence, benevolence and organized relief, race relations, definitions of freedom and citizenship, and ways civilians interacted with soldiers who sojourned in their communities. They also explore postwar problems such as the reintegration of soldiers into northern life and the claims to public memory, including those made by African Americans. The essays provide a better understanding of the larger scope and depth of wartime events experienced by both civilians and soldiers and of the ways those events nurtured the enduring connections between those who fought and those who remained at home
Clinton, Catherine, and Nina Silber, eds. Battle Scars: Gender and Sexuality in the American Civil War. 2006.
Topics: Gender and the War; Race Relations; Antebellum Culture; Religion and War.
Battle Scars depicts the ways in which gender, race, nationalism, religion, literary culture, sexual mores, and even epidemiology underwent radical transformations from when Americans went to war in 1861 through Reconstruction. Examining the interplay among such phenomena as racial stereotypes, sexual violence, trauma, and notions of masculinity, Battle Scars represents the best new scholarship on men and women in the North and South and highlights how lives were transformed by this era of tumultuous change.
Clinton, Catherine, and Nina Silber, eds. Divided Houses: Gender and the Civil War. 1992. Topics: Gender and the War; Class, Labor, and Economics; Race Relations; Antebellum Culture.
Divided Houses is the first book to address how the Civil War transformed gender roles and attitudes toward sexuality among American citizens, showing how the themes of gender, class, race, and sexuality interacted to forge the beginnings of a new society. Through the course of the book, many subjects are explored, such as the new “manly” responsibilities both black and white men had thrust upon them as soldiers; the effect of the war on Southern women’s daily actions on the homefront; the essential part Northern women played as nurses and spies; the war’s impact on marriage and divorce; women’s roles in the guerilla fighting; even the wartime dialogue on interracial sex.
Egnal, Marc. Clash of Extremes: The Economic Origins of the Civil War. 2010. Topics: Class, Labor, and Economics.
Clash of Extremes takes on the reigning orthodoxy that the American Civil War was waged over high moral principles. Marc Egnal contends that economics, more than any other factor, moved the country to war in 1861. Drawing on a wealth of primary and secondary sources, it also gives careful consideration to social conflicts, ideology, and the rise of the antislavery movement.
Fahs, Alice. The Imagined Civil War: Popular Literature of the North and South, 1861-1865. 2001. Topics: Antebellum Culture.
In this groundbreaking work of cultural history, Alice Fahs explores a little-known and fascinating side of the Civil War – the outpouring of popular literature inspired by the conflict. From 1861 to 1865, authors and publishers in both the North and the South produced a remarkable variety of war-related compositions, including poems, songs, children’s stories, romances, novels, histories, and even humorous pieces. Fahs mines these rich but long-neglected resources to recover the diversity of the war’s political and social meanings.
Fahs, Alice, and Joan Waugh, eds. The Memory of the Civil War in American Culture. 2004. Topics: Antebellum Culture; After the War: Memory, Legacy, and Reconstruction.
This volume collects twelve essays by leading Civil War scholars who demonstrate how the meanings of the Civil War have changed over time. The essays move among a variety of cultural and political arenas – from public monuments to parades to political campaigns; from soldiers’ memoirs to textbook publishing to children’s literature – in order to reveal important changes in how the memory of the Civil War has been employed in American life. Setting the politics of Civil War memory within a wide social and cultural landscape, this volume recovers not only the meanings of the war in various eras, but also the specific processes by which those meanings have been created.
Faust, Drew Gilpin. This Republic of Suffering: Death and the American Civil War. 2008. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death; Class, Labor, and Economics.
More than 600,000 soldiers lost their lives in the American Civil War. An equivalent proportion of today’s population would be six million. In This Republic of Suffering, Drew Gilpin Faust reveals the ways that death on such a scale changed not only individual lives but the life of the nation, describing how the survivors managed on a practical level and how a deeply religious culture struggled to reconcile the unprecedented carnage with its belief in a benevolent God. Throughout, the voices of soldiers and their families, of statesmen, generals, preachers, poets, surgeons, nurses, northerners and southerners come together to give us a vivid understanding of the Civil War’s most fundamental and widely shared reality.
Foner, Eric. Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men: The Ideology of the Republican Party before the Civil War. 1970.
Topics: The Union War; Class, Labor, and Economics.
Free Soil, Free Labor, Free Men remains the only full-scale evaluation of the ideas of the early Republican Party. Eric Foner reassesses the concept of free labor and reevaluates the causes of the Civil War, looking beyond the North’s goals of abolishing slavery and preserving the Union to determine the broader grounds of its willingness to enter the war. Its search is for those social concepts the North accepted as vital to its way of life, and it finds these concepts most clearly expressed in the ideology of the growing Republican Party in the decade before the war’s start.
Franklin, John Hope. Reconstruction: After the Civil War. 1961.
Topics: Race Relations; After the War: Memory, Legacy, and Reconstruction.
Reconstruction: After the Civil War has been praised for cutting through the controversial scholarship and popular myths of the time to provide an accurate account of the role of former slaves during this period in American history. Franklin makes compelling arguments concerning the brevity of the North’s military occupation of the South, the limited amount of power wielded by former slaves, the influence of moderate southerners, the flaws of the constitutions drawn up by the Radical state governments, and the reasons for the downfall of Reconstruction.
Gallman, Matthew J. Gallman. The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front. 1994. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
The North Fights the Civil War: The Home Front examines how Northern society mobilized to fight this first great modern war. Gallman’s focus is on continuity and change – what traditions the North relied on in preparing for war, and what adjustments it made in its behavior and institutions. From his analysis it seems clear that the Civil War was not the great watershed in political, economic, and social development that is often supposed. And while “total war” came to the battlefield in a frightening manner, its impact on the Northern home front was far less certain.
Giesberg, Judith. Army at Home: Women and the Civil War on the Northern Home Front. 2009. Topics: Gender and the War; The Union War; War, Children and the Family.
Introducing readers to women whose Civil War experiences have long been ignored, Judith Giesberg examines the lives of working-class women in the North, for whom the home front was a battlefield of its own. Black and white working-class women managed farms that had been left without a male head of household, worked in munitions factories, made uniforms, and located and cared for injured or dead soldiers. As they became more active in their new roles, they became visible as political actors, writing letters, signing petitions, moving (or refusing to move) from their homes, and confronting civilian and military officials. Giesberg challenges readers to think about women and children who were caught up in the military conflict but nonetheless refused to become its collateral damage.
Giesberg, Judith Ann. Civil War Sisterhood: The U.S. Sanitary Commission and Women’s Politics in Transition. 2000.
Topics: Gender and the War; The Union War; Religion and the War.
The Civil War era U.S. Sanitary Commission (USSC) was the largest wartime benevolent institution. Judith Ann Giesberg demonstrates convincingly that that generation of women provided a crucial link between the local evangelical crusades of the early nineteenth century and the sweeping national reform and suffrage movements of the postwar period. Drawing on Sanitary Commission documents and memoirs, the author details how northern elite and middle-class women’s experiences in and influence over the USSC formed the impetus for later reform efforts. This fresh perspective on the evolution of women’s political culture fills an important gap in the literature, and it will appeal to historians, women’s studies scholars, and Civil War buffs alike.
Grant, Susan-Mary. Legacy of Disunion: The Enduring Significance of the American Civil War. 2003. Topics: After the War: Memory, Legacy, and Reconstruction.
The conviction that the American Civil War left a massive legacy to the country has generally been much clearer than the definition of what that legacy is. Did the war, as Ulysses S. Grant believed, bequeath power, intelligence, and sectional harmony to America, or did it, as many have argued since, sow racial and regional bitterness that has blighted the nation since 1865? What, exactly, was the legacy of disunion? This collection explores that question from a variety of angles, showcasing the work of twelve scholars from the United States and the United Kingdom. By juxtaposing American and non-American interpretations, this stimulating volume reveals aspects of the war’s legacy that from a purely American viewpoint are sometimes too close for comfort.
Greenberg, Amy S. Manifest Manhood and the Antebellum American Empire. 2005. Topics: Gender and the War
The U.S.-Mexico War (1846-1848) brought two centuries of dramatic territorial expansionism to a close, and apparently fulfilled America’s Manifest Destiny. Or did it? Even as politicians schemed to annex new lands in Latin America and the Pacific, other Americans aggressively pursued expansionism independently. In fact, an epidemic of unsanctioned attacks by private American mercenaries (known as filibusters) occurred between 1848 and 1860 throughout the Western Hemisphere. This book documents the potency of Manifest Destiny in the antebellum era, and analyzes imperial lust in the context of the social and economic transformations that were changing the definition of gender in the U.S.
Manning, Chandra. What this Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War. 2008.
Topics: Slavery; Race Relations; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death
In this unprecedented account, Chandra Manning uses letters, diaries, and regimental newspapers to take the reader inside the minds of Civil War soldiers—black and white, Northern and Southern— as they fought and marched across a divided country. Manning explores how the Union and Confederate soldiers came to identify slavery as the central issue of the war and what that meant for a tumultuous nation.
Marten, James. Children for the Union: The War Spirit on the Northern Home Front. 2004. Topics: War, Children, and the Family; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death; The Union War.
The Civil War influenced virtually every aspect of children’s lives, and in turn they eagerly incorporated the experience of war into their daily assumptions and activities. On the home front, children left school to replace absent men on farms and in factories, helped raise funds for hospitals and other soldiers’ causes, and volunteered to knit socks, pick lint, and perform other necessary duties. As adults looking back, Northern children saw the war as a great adventure or a turning point in their lives. Some mourned lost fathers or relatives; others mourned lost childhoods. Children for the Union opens a new window on the impact of the war.
McPherson, James. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. 1989. Topics: General Civil War History.
Battle Cry of Freedom will unquestionably become the standard one-volume history of the Civil War. The book vividly recounts the momentous episodes that preceded the Civil War – the Dred Scott decision, the Lincoln-Douglas debates, John Brown’s raid on Harper’s Ferry – and then moves into a masterful chronicle of the war itself – the battles, the strategic maneuvering on both sides, the politics, and the personalities. Particularly notable are McPherson’s new views on such matters as the slavery expansion issue in the 1850s, the origins of the Republican Party, the causes of secession, internal dissent and anti-war opposition in the North and the South, and the reasons for the Union’s victory.
McPherson, James. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. 2002 Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
The Battle of Antietam, fought on September 17, 1862, was the bloodiest single day in American history, with more than 6,000 soldiers killed. In Crossroads of Freedom, America’s most eminent Civil War historian, James M. McPherson, paints a masterful account of this pivotal battle, the events that led up to it, and its aftermath. Brilliantly weaving strands of diplomatic, political, and military history into a compact, swift-moving narrative, McPherson that shows why America’s bloodiest day is, indeed, a turning point in our history.
McPherson, James M. Ordeal by Fire, Volume II: The Civil War. Topics: General Civil War History.
Written by a leading Civil War historian and Pulitzer Prize winner, this text describes the social, economic, political, and ideological conflicts that led to a unique, tragic, and transitional event in American history. The third edition incorporates recent scholarship and addresses renewed areas of interest in the Civil War/Reconstruction era including the motivations and experiences of common soldiers and the role of women in the war effort.
McPherson, James. What They Fought For, 1861-1865. 1994. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
What They Fought For, focuses on what motivated the individual soldier to fight. McPherson draws on the letters and diaries of nearly one thousand Union and Confederate soldiers, giving voice to the very men who risked their lives in the conflict. His conclusion that most of them felt a keen sense of patriotic and ideological commitment counters the prevailing belief that Civil War soldiers had little or no idea of what they were fighting for. In their letters home and their diaries – neither of which were subject to censorship – these men were able to comment, in writing, on a wide variety of issues connected with their war experience. Their insights show how deeply felt and strongly held their convictions were.
Miller, Randall M., Harry S. Stout, and Charles Reagan Wilson, eds. Religion and the American Civil War. 1998.
Topics: Class, Labor, and Economics.
The 16 essays in this volume, all previously unpublished, address the little considered question of the role of religion in the Civil War. The authors show that religion, understood in its broadest context as a culture and community of faith, was found wherever the war was found. Comprising essays by such scholars as Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Drew Gilpin Faust, Mark Noll, Reid Mitchell, Harry Stout, and Bertram Wyatt-Brown, and featuring an afterword by James McPherson, this collection marks the first step towards uncovering this crucial yet neglected aspect of American history.
Mitchell, Reid. The Vacant Chair: The Northern Soldier Leaves Home. New York. 1995. Topics: Gender and the War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
In many ways, the Northern soldier in the Civil War fought as if he had never left home. On campsites and battlefields, the Union volunteer adapted to military life with attitudes shaped by networks of family relationships, in units of men from the same hometown. Understanding these links between the homes the troops left behind and the war they had to fight, writes Reid Mitchell, offers critical insight into how they thought, fought, and persevered through four bloody years of combat. He draws on the letters, diaries, and memoirs of common soldiers to show how mid-nineteenth- century ideas and images of the home and family shaped the Union soldier’s approach to everything from military discipline to battlefield bravery. Uncovering this critical chapter in the Civil War experience, The Vacant Chair shows how the Union soldier saw – and won – our most costly conflict.
Noll, Mark A. The Civil War as a Theological Crisis. 2006. Topics: Class, Labor, and Economics.
The Civil War was a major turning point in American religious thought. Although Christian believers agreed with one another that the Bible was authoritative and that it should be interpreted through commonsense principles, there was rampant disagreement about what Scripture taught about slavery. In addition to examining what white and black Americans wrote about slavery and race, Noll surveys commentary from foreign observers. By highlighting this theological conflict, Noll adds to our understanding of not only the origins but also the intensity of the Civil War.
Paludan, Phillip Shaw. A People’s Contest. 1988.
Topics: Gender and the War; Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
Behind the weapons, generals, and soldiers involved in the immense battles of the Civil War, the homefronts of the North and South operated to supply their troops with the material necessary to wage war. In addition to the decisions on the battlefield, the ways that the homefronts met the challenges of the Civil War also contributed to the conflict’s eventual outcome. In A People’s Contest, Phillip Shaw Paludan examines the Northern homefront and how they coped with the turmoil of fighting a devastating civil war. According to Paludan, the North harnessed their immense economic, social, and political resources effectively to win a grand victory over the Southern secessionists.
Quigley, Paul. Shifting Grounds: Nationalism and the American South, 1848–1865. 2011. Topics: The Confederate War.
The conflict over slavery that led to the Civil War forced white southeners to confront difficult questions about nationalism. As they contemplated these questions, they drew on their long experience as Americans and their knowledge of nationalism in the wider world. In Shifting Grounds Paul Quigley brilliantly reinterprets southern conceptions of allegiance, identity, and citizenship within the contexts of antebellum American national identity and the transatlantic “Age of Nationalism,” shedding new light on the ideas and motivations behind America’s greatest conflict.
Resch, John P. Americans at War: Society, Culture and the Homefront, Volume 2: 1816-1900. Encyclopedia. 2005.
Topics: Antebellum Culture.
This unique encyclopedia explains to students and general researchers how mobilization for the Civil War and how the war itself has altered the lives of everyday people. Written by scholars in the fields of history, literature and the arts, sociology, law, political science, and psychology, it places the Civil War in the context of cultural and social events and conditions on the homefront.
Richardson, Heather Cox. The Greatest Nation of the Earth: Republican Economic Policies during the Civil War. 1997.
Topics: The Union War; Class, Labor, and Economics.
While fighting a war for the Union, the Republican party attempted to construct the world’s most powerful and most socially advanced nation. Rejecting the common assumption that wartime domestic legislation was a series of piecemeal reactions to wartime necessities, Heather Cox Richardson argues that party members systematically engineered path breaking laws to promote their distinctive theory of political economy. However, Richardson demonstrates, while Republicans were trying to construct a nation of prosperous individuals, they were laying the foundation for rapid industrial expansion, corporate corruption, and popular protest. They created a newly active national government that they determined to use only to promote unregulated economic development. Unwittingly, they ushered in the Gilded Age.
Scott, Sean A. “‘Earth Has No Sorrow That Heaven Cannot Cure’: Northern Civilian Perspectives on Death and Eternity during the Civil War.” Journal article. 2008.
Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death; Class, Labor, and Economics.
This article examines how religious Northerners conceived of death and eternity during the Civil War. Letters and diaries reveal that religious civilians coped with their own mortality or the deaths of family members with a steadfast hope that they would be reunited with loved ones in heaven. Comforted by a hope of attaining heaven, civilians described its blissful shores with some specificity, yet their conflicting depictions of heaven demonstrate a breadth of theological views. Far from representing the beginning of a secular approach to death and dying, the Civil War marked the continuation of a religious understanding of death while exposing the theological fragmentation that characterized mid-nineteenth-century American religion.
Silber, Nina. Daughters of the Union: Northern Women Fight the Civil War. 2005. Topics: Gender and the War; The Union War; Class, Labor, and Economics.
Daughters of the Union casts a spotlight on some of the most overlooked and least understood participants in the American Civil War: the women of the North. These women became wage- earners, participants in partisan politics, and active contributors to the war effort. But even as their political and civic identities expanded, they were expected to subordinate themselves to male- dominated government and military bureaucracies. Drawing on women’s own words from diaries and letters, Silber shows the women of the North – many for the first time – discovering their patriotism as well as their ability to confront new economic and political challenges, even as they encountered the obstacles of wartime rule.
Sizer, Lyde Cullen. The Political Work of Northern Women Writers and the Civil War, 1850-1872. 2000. Topics: Gender and the War; The Union War; Antebellum Culture.
This volume explores the lives and works of nine Northern women who wrote during the Civil War period, examining the ways in which, through their writing, they engaged in the national debates of the time. Lyde Sizer shows that from the 1850 publication of Uncle Tom’s Cabin through Reconstruction, these women, as well as a larger mosaic of lesser-known writers, used their mainstream writings publicly to make sense of war, womanhood, Union, slavery, republicanism, heroism, and death. Sizer pays close attention to how these mostly middle-class women attempted to create a “rhetoric of unity,” giving common purpose to women despite differences in class, race, and politics. This theme of unity was ultimately deployed to establish a white middle-class standard of womanhood, meant to exclude as well as include.
Skocpol, Theda. Protecting Soldiers and Mothers: The Political Origins of Social Policy in the United States. 1992.
Topics: Gender and the War; Class, Labor, and Economics.
It is a commonplace that the United States lagged behind the countries of Western Europe in developing modern social policies. But, as Theda Skocpol shows in this startlingly new historical analysis, the United States actually pioneered generous social spending for many of its elderly, disabled, and dependent citizens. During the late nineteenth century, competitive party politics in American democracy led to the rapid expansion of benefits for Union Civil War veterans and their families. Skocpol shows that the nation nearly became a unique maternalist welfare state as the federal government and more than forty states enacted social spending, labor regulations, and health education programs to assist American mothers and children. By examining afresh the institutional, cultural, and organizational forces that have shaped U.S. social policies in the past, Protecting Soldiers and Mothers challenges us to think in new ways about what might be possible in the American future.
Smith, Adam I. P. No Party Now: Politics in the Civil War North. 2006. Topics: Soldiering, Recruitment, and Death.
In No Party Now, Adam I. P. Smith challenges the prevailing view that political processes in the North somehow helped the Union be more stable and effective in the war. Instead, Smith argues, early efforts to suspend party politics collapsed in the face of divisions over slavery and the purpose of the war. No Party Now offers a reinterpretation of Northern wartime politics that challenges the “party period paradigm” in American political history and reveals the many ways in which the unique circumstances of war altered the political calculations and behavior of politicians and voters alike. As Smith shows, beneath the superficial unity lay profound differences about the implications of the war for the kind of nation that the United States was to become.
Taylor, Amy Murrell. The Divided Family in Civil War America. 2005. Topics: War, Children, and the Family.
The Civil War has long been described as a war pitting “brother against brother.” The divided family is an enduring metaphor for the divided nation, but it also accurately reflects the reality of America’s bloodiest war. In hundreds of border state households, brothers – and sisters – really did fight one another, while fathers and sons argued over secession and husbands and wives struggled with opposing national loyalties. Even enslaved men and women found themselves divided over how to respond to the war. Exploring the real experiences of families whose households were split by conflicting opinions about the war, Amy Murrell Taylor provides a social and cultural history of the divided family in Civil War America.
Wilson, Edmund. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War. 1962. Topics: Religion and the War; Antebellum Culture.
Regarded by many critics as Edmund Wilson’s greatest book, Patriotic Gore brilliantly portrays the vast political, spiritual, and material crisis of the Civil War as reflected in the lives and writings of some thirty representative Americans. The collection contains critical and biographical portraits of such notable figures as Harriet Beecher Stowe, Abraham Lincoln, Ulysses S. Grant, Ambrose Bierce, Mary Chesnut, William Tecumseh Sherman, and Oliver Wendell Holmes. Wilson emerges as the consummate witness to the most eloquently recorded era in American history.