Here you will find a treasure trove of links, book titles and information about the "U.S. Civil War". This is by no means a definitive collection but information that has caught Wes Mayhle's eye or he has used in his studies of the time. In other words it is an immense collection of materials and references. Enjoy!!
Wes Mayhle's Civil War Library
At some point I realized I had photographed quite a few US Civil War reenactments and needed to learn more about the time, main characters, battles, issues, weapons and much much more. I wanted to be knowledgeable when talking reenactors or writing reports, and when asked to speak in public settings on the US Civil War . So I began to study everything I could get my hands on. Public libraries and the internet were valuable but I needed resources I could go back to time and again. So I began to collect the following library of US Civil War books. I was especially interested in first-person accounts, battle maps and period photography. I also purchased hundreds of magazines which provided articles by serious historians on a wide array of topics.
The short list shown below are books that I often re-read or consult and I recommend each as a valuable resource. (listed alphabetically by author) Click here to see my entire collection list of 97 books.
Deeds of Valor: How America's Civil War Heroes Won the Congressional Medal of Honor by W. F. Beyer (Author, Editor), O. F. Keydel (Editor), Oscar F. Keydel (Editor)
The Coming Fury (American Civil War Trilogy, Vol. 1) by Bruce Catton
Terrible Swift Sword (American Civil War Trilogy, Vol. 2) by Bruce Catton
Never Call Retreat (American Civil War Trilogy, Vol. 3) by Bruce Catton
The Civil War Archive: The History of the Civil War in Documents by Henry Steele Commager (Editor), Erik Bruun (Editor)
Civil War Album: A Complete Photographic History: Fort Sumter to Appomattox by William C. Davis (Editor), Bell Irvin Wiley (Editor)
The West Point Atlas of War: The Civil War by Vincent J. Esposito (Editor)
POEMS AND SONGS OF THE CIVIL WAR by Editor - Lois Hill
The Complete Civil War: The Definitive Fact File of the Campaigns, Weapons, Tactics, Armies and Key Figures by Philip Katcher
The Historical Atlas of the Civil War by John MacDonald
Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life in the Army of Northern Virginia, 1861-1865 by Carlton McCarthy (Author), William L. Sheppard (Illustrator), Brian S. Wills (Introduction)
Atlas Of The Civil War Hardcover by James M. McPherson
Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields: Discovering America's Hallowed Ground by Jeff Shaara
Images from the Storm: 300 Civil War Images by the Author of Eye of the Storm by Robert Sneden (Author), Jr. Charles F. Bryan (Editor), James C. Kelly (Editor), Nelson D. Lankford (Editor)
click here to see Wes Mayhle's 97 book library on the US Civil War
What is the US Civil War and what caused it?
In 1860 USA had 34 states and 11 of those states seceded from the Union declaring themselves independent and they united as the ‘Confederated States of America’. The C.S.A. is often referred to as ‘The South’ and the USA as ‘The North’. The Confederacy claimed an additional 2 states and several territories as well. The CSA was never diplomatically recognized by any foreign government.
In the preceding decades leading up to 1861 western territories were being formally recognized as states of the United States as settlers pushed westward into North America. Slavery had been abolished in northern states while it remained legal and profitable in the south, whose economy was still largely driven by crop growing. States were admitted to the union in pairs, one slave state for every free (non-slave) state, thereby appeasing both sides. But the issue would not go away by itself and the rhetoric and animosity on both sides of the issue grew hotter with time. The newly-formed, anti-slavery Republican party candidate for President, Abraham Lincoln, won the election in 1860. Abraham Lincoln was publicly opposed to the expansion of slavery into U.S territories.
Southern states viewed this election as doom to their way of life and economy. They also perceived that their previous dominance of the U.S. government had eroded to the point that the rights of each state (especially the southern ones) would be trampled by the North. Before Lincoln’s inauguration in March 1861, seven slave states with cotton based economies seceded and formed The Confederate States of America. The C.S.A. seized many federal forts within their territories.
President Lincoln sent re-supply ships to Ft. Sumter, a key fort still held by Union troops in South Carolina, and in response, Confederate forces fired on and captured it on April 12, 1861. Lincoln then called for every state to provide troops to retake the fort which precipitated 4 additional states to secede the U.S and join the Confederate states.
The next 4 years saw a complete destruction to the South’s economy, the deaths of 750,00+ Americans and wholesale changes in the lifestyles and government of the United States. The U.S. Civil War effectively ended with the surrender of Confederate Gen. Lee on April 9, 1865 soon followed by other Confederate forces.
Why do people reenact terrible battles/wars like the US Civil War?
History is a fascinating study whether it is casually studied, or in deep detail. It is interesting to read about the lifestyles, choices and words that have preceded our own. History is also important to study. We re-discover intents, hopes and reasons for our own lives and the way we live. We learn from our fathers and mothers when we are young, who learned from their own mothers and fathers, who learned from their parents, and so on. Given that truth, it is easy to see why the study of history is important.
Some people take that study to another level just as some children who climb playground equipment, later in life go on to climb mountains. Just as some children with toy doctors bags go on to discover medical miracles as adults. Some people love history enough to want to relive important events especially one as momentous as the US Civil War. Some love the gentility of the time period or have fallen in love with movie depictions of the romanticism i.e. ‘Gone with The Wind’. For some it is an honor to partially recreate the hardships that an ancestor experienced in the war. For some it is no more than a large, organized adult activity that allows them to make tremendous noise with a cannon. For most it is a little bit of many reasons.
Reenacting is mostly a family-friendly, wholesome, outdoor weekend activity that brings people together who share a common interest. US Civil War reenacting groups can be found in all 50 states and several foreign countries. Many many other types of reenacting (WW2, French-Indian war, Revolutionary war, Medieval, Spanish-American war et. etc.) can be found as well and other countries have their own wars to reenact but the US Civil War reenacting community is the largest such community in the world. In 1986 Time magazine estimate there were 50.000 US Civil War reenactors. No reliable count has every been attempted to my knowledge but having immersed myself in the culture for many years I believe that number to be low but a very reasonable estimate.
Why do some battles have two names?
US Civil War Battles were often named by it’s association with a nearby town, city or a geographical feature. Union names for a battle were more likely to use the name of a town nearby while Confederate names were more likely to be tied to the geographical river, mountain or other features. Therefore some battles have retained two names. It is argued that reason for the differences is that southern soldiers were more likely to have come from rural lives and more impressed with man-made structures than geography and northern soldiers were more impressed with geographical features in unfamiliar territory. The most familiar battles with two names include:
Time and historian’s writings have slowly determined the one name we now use for the approximately 8,000 occasions of hostility that occurred during the war but in a few cases both names have survived and both are correct.
A List of US Civil War Battlefields
In 1993 the Civil War Sites Advisory Commission (CWSAC) reported to Congress and the American Battlefield Protection Program (ABPP, a department of the National Park Service) on their extensive analysis of significant battles and battlefields. In their Report on the Nations Civil War Battlefields they classified 384 of the estimated 8,000 occasions of hostility as having significant interest, noting classes, results, major players and casualties. That list, with some interactive elements can be found on the American Battlefield Protection Program website and on Wikipedia.
Civil War sites I have visited
Olustee/Ocean Pond - largest Civil War Battle in Florida
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