Book Suggestions for Gifts for the Upcoming Holidays?
by Gordon Thorsby
It is about this time every year that my wife will emit an audible UGH and ask for American Civil War books that I would be interested in as Christmas gifts. She also inquires if I would be interested in something else for a change. Don't be silly. With one eyebrow raised I give a look of disdain and immediately rattle off a list, author, subject and where they might be purchased.
To those who have the same problem, I offer a few suggestions for budding students of the subject, Civil War ninjas, or anyone in general.
Also, if you have thoughts and suggestions, feel free to comment.
To the new students on the subject?
A Strange and Blighted Land, by Gregory Coco. Savas Beatie Publishers. https://www.savasbeatie.com/?ref=ux_V2Lj2TtB8LO
The description of the aftermath of Gettysburg provides the details of the consequences of the bloodiest battle of the war but it also helps the reader understand how soldiers and civilians were affected by every battle east and west and by the war itself. If one wants to understand battle and destruction that the war wrought and its full impact, read this book. You will gain new appreciation.
To the Civil War Ninjas who seek to understand each movement and thought?
The Chickamauga Campaign, all three volumes, by David A. Powell. Savas Beatie Publishers. https://www.savasbeatie.com/?ref=ux_V2Lj2TtB8LO
The Chickamauga campaign is very difficult to understand even to “ninjas” but it is a
required reading and yes, the battle was confusing. Maybe this why writers and historians avoid writing about the subject. Powell succeeds in the explanation. Every "ninja" must have the series.
Something for every Civil War Library?
Gettysburg, A Journey in Time by William A. Frassanito. Thomas Publication. This is not a new book, published in 1996.
The Civil War introduced two things that benefit to understanding, the conflict and the people of time; photographs and the multitude of letters from the thousands of soldiers.
Frassanito analyzed some of the photographs of Gettysburg to understand the possible stories of the men pictured and the photographers who took them. His analyses helps everyone to look into the eyes of every subject and see them better in the times that they lived. For the new student, or an interested historian this book illustrates how the pioneers of photojournalism documented Gettysburg.
A biography suggestion from one who hates biographies?
Grant by Ron Chernow, Penguin Press. (Most any bookstore. Support your Independent Bookstores if possible.)
Yes, I tell you that I hate biographies? Yup, I do. I wondered when I received it as a gift two years ago. It was huge, some 1100 pages! However, this biography seemed different. It was difficult to set down from the start, completing it in three weeks. This is not just a Civil War book, but much more. Grant had to evolve from soldier to President and then had to do to rebuild America after a war that tore us apart while ensuring liberty for everyone. It was a tough time for a President when the South was basically destroyed, when the country was growing west, the Native American tribes were threatened, slavery was gone and financial crises. When you have finished, you will have a totally new understanding of the Grant, the General, the husband and the man.
How about something with action, entertaining and very informative?
Plenty of Blame to Go Around, by Eric Wittenberg. Savas Beatie Publishers. https://www.savasbeatie.com/?ref=ux_V2Lj2TtB8LO
We often limit ourselves to the three days of Gettysburg. Wittenberg and Petruzzi explain a fuller story of the days before Gettysburg. They expand on what happened in Stuart’s ride around the Union army. They detail many small towns around Gettysburg. They shed light on the great Cavalry leader's controversy that calls into question generally accepted notions leading up to the battle. It is eye opening.
And if at a total loss?
Get a book on Lincoln. We all need some Lincoln today. Books that explain how and where he needed to lead the country are the most profound, and in many ways, very timely.
How about for the loved ones who say they "would like to know more but please do not bore me?"
This is tough because we don’t understand why our loved ones aren’t Civil War "ninjas". I mean REALLY!?
There are titles omitted and to those excellent authors and historians, my apologies. It is not deliberate. Suggestions were from readings of the past year or so and there are excellent works from writers out there.