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.
My library is not exhaustive nor complete but it may provide you with some ideas for your own. Yes I have read each and every book and some I refer to over and over. I would welcome donations if you have unwanted US Civil war books that are not in my library. Contact me at wesley@azitwes.com.

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.

DeedsofValor1

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)
Amazon link - Description: Personal reminiscences and records of Civil War soldiers who were awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.

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The Coming Fury (American Civil War Trilogy, Vol. 1) by Bruce Catton
Amazon link - Description: A thrilling, page-turning piece of writing that describes the forces conspiring to tear apart the United States--with the disintegrating political processes and rising tempers finally erupting at Bull Run.

 

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Terrible Swift Sword (American Civil War Trilogy, Vol. 2) by Bruce Catton
Amazon link - Description: The second episode in this award-winning trilogy impressively shows how the Union and Confederacy, slowly and inexorably, reconciled themselves to an all-out war--an epic struggle for freedom.

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Never Call Retreat (American Civil War Trilogy, Vol. 3) by Bruce Catton
Amazon link - Description: The final work in this series begins in December of 1862. Four months before, the Union Army tasted long-awaited victory at the bloody battle of Antietam. Grant continued on towards Vicksburg, Mississippi. The grim battles that lay ahead would be costly: the Vicksburg campaign, Chattanooga, the Battle of the Wilderness, the Battle of Atlanta and the March to the Sea, the siege of Petersburg. There would be two and a half more years of war before Lee's surrender at Appomattox, followed by Lincoln's death just six days later
 

TheCivilWarArchive1

The Civil War Archive: The History of the Civil War in Documents by Henry Steele Commager (Editor), Erik Bruun (Editor)
Amazon link - Description: The Civil War Archive presents the full story of the war between the states in documents direct from the minds, pens and hearts of the men and women who experienced it.
Hundreds of papers, letters, memoirs -- culled from family records, private correspondences, public archives and a variety of other sources -- trace the war from the nomination of Abraham Lincoln, through violent battles at Bull Run, to the surrender of Lee at Appomattox, Reconstruction and beyond. Messages from lonely mothers at home, stories from soldiers on the front lines, lyrics to rousing battle hymns, confidential communications among officers - these primary documents render history in its rawest form and depict the war's impact on every spectrum of American society.
Expanding upon Henry Steele Commager's critically-acclaimed two-volume The Blue and the Gray, editor Erik Bruun brings to light new material that presents the Civil War through a contemporary lens, taking into account previously under-represented perspectives of blacks in the Civil War and including new sections on the war's aftermath and Reconstruction.
Entries are arranged chronologically, allowing The Civil War Archive to be read as a start-to-finish narrative of the war and its aftermath. In addition, each document is indexed by author and title, so history buffs can reference each piece by source or subject.

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Civil War Album: A Complete Photographic History: Fort Sumter to Appomattox by William C. Davis (Editor), Bell Irvin Wiley (Editor)
Amazon link - Description: Monumental album offers nearly 4000 rare photographs from the war era. Brings to life not only the battles, bunkers, soldiers, and parades, but also the farms, cities, and towns as they appeared at the time. This singular volume is enhanced with numerous essays by our country's finest Civil War historians, who provide an overview of each battle, and describe each image. 4000 illustrations. Size 9 x 12 inches.

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The West Point Atlas of War: The Civil War by Vincent J. Esposito (Editor)
Amazon link - Description: The Civil War is considered a classic of military history. The original volumes were prepared by distinguished members of the Department of Military Art and Engineering at the U.S. Military Academy and used as instructional tools for the cadets. This mammoth and invaluable work was created under the direction of Brigadier General Vincent J. Esposito, a faculty member at West Point for more than twenty years. His highly respected endeavor allows readers to easily follow the entire course of a campaign or battle in detail while gaining a greater understanding of the Civil War.

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POEMS AND SONGS OF THE CIVIL WAR by Editor - Lois Hill
Amazon link - Description: Patriots, historians, and poets will find this original and stirring anthology of poetry and songs from the Civil War era both enlightening ad enjoyable. From the secession of South Carolina and the opening battle at Fort Sumter to Lee's surrender at Appomattox and Lincoln's assassination, this moving literature records a remarkable period in American history in a contemporary perspective.

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The Complete Civil War: The Definitive Fact File of the Campaigns, Weapons, Tactics, Armies and Key Figures by Philip Katcher
Amazon link - Description: The Campaigns, chronology, battles; the Weaponry, arms, strategy, tactics on land & sea; the Warring Sides, armies, navies, leaders & led; the Commanders, the significant leaders & characters; the Sources, contemporary records, books, the graphic arts, photography, video; Miscellanea, statistics, pay, clothing issues, weapons performance, etc.; Glossary of Period & Technical Terms; plus more than 200 illustrations, maps & charts.

 

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The Historical Atlas of the Civil War by John MacDonald
Amazon link - Description: This book explains the seeds of the conflict, and examines important topics such as the development and use of new tactics and weapons, the roles of the great commanders, the maritime war, and the war’s painful aftermath. The illuminating text is supported by over 100 full color maps, beautiful illustrations and photographs, and original black and white archive photographs presenting stark imagery from the front line.

 

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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)
Amazon link - Description: This Civil War classic of soldiering in the ranks debunks all the romantic notions of war. Like his Northern counterpart, the Confederate soldier fought against bullets, starvation, miserable weather, disease, and mental strain. But the experience was perhaps even worse for Johnny Reb because of the odds against him. Never as well equipped and provisioned as the Yankee, he nevertheless performed heroically.
Carlton McCarthy, a private in the Army of Northern Virginia, describes the not-always-regular rations, various improvisations in clothing and weaponry, campfire entertainments, the jaunty spirits and the endless maneuvering of the men in gray. Real but forgotten faces are glimpsed momentarily in famous battles, and the tramp of feet on the way to Appomattox is heard. Detailed Minutiae of Soldier Life does for the Confederate side what John Billings’s Hardtack and Coffee, also a Bison Book, does for the Northern. David Donald wrote in the New York Herald Tribune that McCarthy’s book, too, was "as fresh, as amusing, and as revealing" as the day it was first published in 1882.
In a new introduction Brian S. Wills considers the book’s niche in Civil War literature.

TheAtlasoftheCivilWar1

Atlas Of The Civil War Hardcover by James M. McPherson
Amazon link - Description: Here is the definitive reference to the battles of the Civil War, written by America’s leading military historians and edited by the Pulitzer Prize-winning Civil War expert James M. McPherson. This authoritative volume includes gripping eyewitness accounts plus 200 specially commissioned, full-color maps that detail all of the major campaigns and many of the smaller skirmishes of the war between the states. Maps provide a superb visual reference to troop movement, battlefield terrain, and communication lines. Dynamic reconstructions depict battles fought on land, river, and ocean, and time-line descriptions provide play-by-play commentary of the action. With more than 200 photographs and many personal accounts that vividly recount the experiences of soldiers in the fields, this book brings to life the human drama that pitted the north against the south.

 

 

JeffShaarasCivilWarBattlefields1

Jeff Shaara's Civil War Battlefields: Discovering America's Hallowed Ground by Jeff Shaara
Amazon link - Description: Jeff Shaara, America’s premier Civil War novelist, gives a remarkable guided tour of the ten Civil War battlefields every American should visit: Shiloh, Antietam, Fredericksburg/Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, New Market, Chickamauga, the Wilderness/Spotsylvania, Cold Harbor, and Petersburg/Appomattox. Shaara explores the history, the people, and the places that capture the true meaning and magnitude of the conflict and provides

 

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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)
Amazon link - Description: The Civil War legacy of Robert Knox Sneden is an unparalleled treasure trove of words and pictures. The publication of the bestselling "Eye of the Storm" in the fall of 2000 first brought his memoir to light, accompanied by a sample of his artwork. In all, however, he crafted some 900 watercolors and sketches. Now, with the 300 watercolors, sketches, maps, and diagrams in "Images from the Storm, " his artistic legacy can be appreciated on its own terms -- an achievement equal in magnitude to his writings, and unsurpassed by any other Civil War soldier-artist. "Images from the Storm" presents the best of Sneden's art throughout his odyssey of combat, capture, imprisonment, and deliverance, a pictorial record of the war that puts the viewer in the shoes of a Union soldier as nothing else can. Sneden aimed for vivid detail and documentary accuracy in his maps, landscapes, battles, and scenes of camp life. He sketched the camps and surroundings of the Union army, the siege of Yorktown, the battle of Williamsburg, the approach of the army to within sight of the church spires of Richmond, and the tumultuous fighting retreat of the Seven Days' battles as the Union army shrank before a relentless Confederate offensive. He drew dozens of maps and sketched daily life around Washington, D.C., before his capture in autumn 1863. For the next thirteen months, Sneden was a prisoner of the Confederacy. In a drafty tobacco warehouse in Richmond, he sketched prison life and Confederate scenes before being packed with others aboard cattle cars for a jolting train ride south. In a remote corner of rural Georgia, he survived the outdoor prison at Andersonville and drew some of his most astonishing images of camp life and its suffering. When Andersonville was evacuated, he continued to make secret pencil sketches of Confederate prisons in Savannah and Millen, Georgia, and in Florence and Charleston, South Carolina. Finally freed in a massive prisoner exchange in Charleston harbor, he returned home to New York at Christmas 1864. He made little use of his architectural training thereafter, but devoted himself to compiling his memoir of the war and converting his pencil sketches into watercolors. A solitary man who never married, Sneden died at an old soldiers' home in Bath, New York, in 1918. His watercolors and his story were forgotten for nearly a century. Images from the Storm reproduces the best of Sneden's art in sharp colors, so we can appreciate fully the mastery of a miniaturist who saw it all, and sketched whenever and wherever he could.

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:
Bull Run(a nearby stream)/Manassas (nearby railroad station)
Antietam( a river)/Sharpsburg (a village)
Pittsburg Landing(location on a river)/Shiloh(small log church on the battlefield)

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

US Civil War Informative Links

Johns Military History Page - virtual tours and descriptions of various historical places

Website created in 2015 by Wes Mayhle using Freeway Pro, Exhibeo, Photoshop and other tools. All rights reserved ©Wes Mayhle