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しんぶん赤旗
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Hi people
I need some advice on what to read to prepare for/read while playing the US Civil War.

I was about to order a new title but found two sets of books today going through the dumpsters at my local university after a tip off from a friend. The dumpster contained all six volumes of "Battle Chronicles of the Civil War by James M. McPherson" and Shelby Foote's "The Civil War 1 - 3". Are these books good for a beginner or is there another title that you would recommend? I love military history and read a lot so I am not worried about length or dry academic writing.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.
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Leo Zappa
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A great single volume history is "Battle Cry of Freedom", also by James McPherson. But at the same time, do pick up those volumes you found in the dumpster - they are great and I can't fathom why anyone would have thrown them out! No accounting for taste, I suppose!
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しんぶん赤旗
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The university in question is in the midst of a massive attack on the arts departments so they are systematically cleansing the library of as many books related to history or the arts as possible.
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Tim Korchnoi
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bolter wrote:
The university in question is in the midst of a massive attack on the arts departments so they are systematically cleansing the library of as many books related to history or the arts as possible.


As a former social studies teacher, I find the trend in education of minimizing the arts and social sciences(especially history in which I had a front row seat) depressing soblue
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Etien
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Both authors are excellent reads. For flavor and the good narrative, you cannot beat Shelby Foote. Libraries do throw out books to make room for new orders, if it was the library that discorded them (their stamp would be on them). Its ashame but its the shelf space. Most will have a sale or a sale table.

thumbsup Battle Cry of Freedom

I once picked up a copy of an original West Point Atlas of the Civil War from a trash pile on a tip. Eaker Air Base was closing and a cleaning crew simply threw out hundreds of books that were left in the library.
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しんぶん赤旗
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smic wrote:
Libraries do throw out books to make room for new orders, if it was the library that discorded them (their stamp would be on them).


They were discarded by the library. I made sure that they all had cancelled stamps so security didn't nab me.
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Aaron Silverman
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catosulla wrote:
bolter wrote:
The university in question is in the midst of a massive attack on the arts departments so they are systematically cleansing the library of as many books related to history or the arts as possible.


As a former social studies teacher, I find the trend in education of minimizing the arts and social sciences(especially history in which I had a front row seat) depressing soblue


As a human with a brain and a sense of culture, I do too.
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Jim Brown
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"Lee's Lieutenants" was a pleasant read, and will save you quite a bit of reading individual bios, unless one of the cast of stars hooks your attention, as several of them did mine. By the way, you struck gold with your find.

I currently work at a public library and the librarians, from time to time, will go through and pull old titles, which are either sold by our "Friends" organization, very cheaply, or recycled. It saddens me, but we just don't have room for everything.

Please reply in this thread if more tactical level works are desired, or if you want some other level of study. I'm sure someone will recommend Catton. Many worship him, I thought he was at least interesting. To each their own.
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しんぶん赤旗
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Just had a quick browse and I have decided to start with Battle Chronicles of the Civil War by James M. McPherson.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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bolter wrote:
Hi people
I need some advice on what to read to prepare for/read while playing the US Civil War.

I was about to order a new title but found two sets of books today going through the dumpsters at my local university after a tip off from a friend. The dumpster contained all six volumes of "Battle Chronicles of the Civil War by James M. McPherson" and Shelby Foote's "The Civil War 1 - 3". Are these books good for a beginner or is their another title that you would recommend? I love military history and read a lot so I am not worried about length or dry academic writing.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions.


Shelby Foote's work is excellent if you want detailed descriptions of the battles, with a lot of anecdotes about many of the leaders involved. He has no footnotes, and was not a trained historian, so it is popular history, not serious research. He is highly regarded among civil war buffs though, so I think you can trust his accounts to be mostly accurate. Someone has said he had a bias against the north, but I didn't notice. At least he had much respect for Lincoln.

James McPherson wrote Battle Cry of Freedom, the civil war volume for the Oxford series about american history. This leads me to believe he is more highly regarded among historians. Battle Cry of Freedom is very good. I think McPherson is actually easier to read than Foote (Foote had a proclivity to write extremely long sentences), and at the same time is written more as professional history, with footnotes etc. I don't know his Battle Chronicles of the Civil War though.

If you found these books in a dumpster, I would certainly keep both series.
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Brian Morris
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oivind22 wrote:


Shelby Foote's work is excellent if you want detailed descriptions of the battles, with a lot of anecdotes about many of the leaders involved. He has no footnotes, and was not a trained historian, so it is popular history, not serious research. He is highly regarded among civil war buffs though, so I think you can trust his accounts to be mostly accurate. Someone has said he had a bias towards the north, but I didn't notice. At least he had much respect for Lincoln.


Foote had a bias but it was for the South which is not a surprise considering he grew up in the south. I wouldn't call it a bias as much as a romantic notion with him. Wonderful gentleman and talented writer. He was a good old fashion storyteller.

As you say with Foote, he was not a trained historian. He himself said he was a novelist not a historian and he freely admitted to there being errors in his work. His work is a great place to start though as is McPherson.

If you want to take the next step from that I recommend Stephen Sears. His series of books on the major battles like Antietam, Gettysburg and Chancellorsville are must reads.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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mrbeankc wrote:
Foote had a bias but it was for the South which is not a surprise considering he grew up in the south.


Yeah, I meant to say 'bias against the north'. I don't know how 'against' ended up as 'towards'.
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Andrew N
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If you want to learn about specific battles/campaigns, I'd recommend any books by Peter Cozzens, Gordon Rhea, or Noah Andre Trudeau (although I've heard his Gettysburg book isn't very good).
 
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Battles and Leaders of the Civil War is an excellent series of books. I have the 4 volume set but I think you may find that other publishers condensed it down into 3 volumes or less.

Everything is written by officers who were actually eye witnesses and participants in the campaigns in which they fought. On top of that you get multiple participant accounts of most battles from both north and south viewpoints.
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Carlo Marinozzi
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Having profited from the kind suggestions of this forum not so long ago, I'm pleased to say that "The Grand Design" by Donald Stoker has been an interesting and informative read.

In addition to making me rethink about a good deal of preconceived ideas (I used to appreciate old Joe Johnston more than he, apparently, deserved, while there was something good in McClellan, too), the book seems well suited to forge and guide your war(gaming) strategy.

Thanks again to all the BGGers who helped me decide (I also bought the first book from Mr. Foote but I'm experiencing an ancient history frenzy by now, so that one have to wait).


 
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Brian Morris
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wernervoss wrote:
If you want to learn about specific battles/campaigns, I'd recommend any books by Peter Cozzens, Gordon Rhea, or Noah Andre Trudeau (although I've heard his Gettysburg book isn't very good).


Trudeau's Gettysburg book isn't in the same league as Sears or Cottington. His book on Petersburg however was excellent. Other authors I recommend pretty much anything from them are Charles Flood, Earl Hess, Craig Symonds, Jeffry Wert and Harry Pfanz.
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Steve
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Foote's works are great, but they are not PC so it doesn't surprise me that a university would toss them, but dumpster? Don't those people recycle?
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Tom Willcockson
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McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom is where I think I would start, but Foote's 3 volumes are what I would want to have next (even though his Southern bias is a little irritating at times, particularly his constant use of nicknames for the southern generals). Foote's volumes are indispensable I think if you want to get in deeper from McPherson. After that I would get some of Steven Sears books on the campaigns, "Landscape Turned Red", "Chancellorsville","Gettysburg.
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James D
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bolter wrote:
The university in question is in the midst of a massive attack on the arts departments so they are systematically cleansing the library of as many books related to history or the arts as possible.
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Doug
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If you can find them, Bruce Catton's Civil War books are top notch.

I'll second those recommending Stephen Sear, I'm reading the his Antietam book right now (Landscape Turned Red).

For a one volume work, I also thought that "None Died in Vain" by Robert Leckie was good.
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Øivind Karlsrud
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stevepop wrote:
Foote's works are great, but they are not PC


Whatever made you bring that up? Trying to provoke some of those PC university professors? Your bait is too obvious, and should be taken elsewhere.
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Robert Fix
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If you are looking for specific battle books, you can also look at the books of Peter Cozzens (Western Theater) and Wiley Sword.
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TomW731 wrote:
McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom is where I think I would start, but Foote's 3 volumes are what I would want to have next (even though his Southern bias is a little irritating at times, particularly his constant use of nicknames for the southern generals). Foote's volumes are indispensable I think if you want to get in deeper from McPherson. After that I would get some of Steven Sears books on the campaigns, "Landscape Turned Red", "Chancellorsville","Gettysburg.


I asked this exact same question of a friend and got these exact same two suggestions and read 50 pages of each to decide. McP is so much more succinct than Foote (basically 1000 pages vs 3000 pages) so I agree with the above assessment. That said... Foote's prose is so dang delicious that it made McP's read like a textbook. Perhaps foolishly I went with Foote. The heart wants what it wants!
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Tom Willcockson
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Yes that is true, McPherson is a bit dry compared to Foote and not enough of the glorious writing and detail. Still, reading all three volumes of Foote would take dedication.
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R C
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It sounds like you have enough recommendations for a year or two of reading, but I just needed to chip in to second, third, and fourth Landscape Turned Red by Stephen Sears. This was absolutely one of the best military history books I have read. Period. I live an hour from Antietam and have been to the battlefield several times. It wasn't until I read this book last year that I was able to walk the battlefield and fully understand how the battle developed. Sears just has a gift at cleanly narrating the battle, the commanders, and the ordinary soldiers.
I'm not sure of your knowledge of the ACW, but after reading Foote or McPherson, Sears would be a great way to start exploring the tactical aspects of one of the great campaigns of the war.
Then from there, go read Ambrose Bierce's fiction and non fiction stories from the war. I could go on and on.....

Good Luck!!
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