My favorite books for an offbeat look at the Confederacy

Why am I passionate about this?

From a youth devouring the books of Bruce Catton to my formative years as a historian, I’ve been fascinated by the Civil War, especially the thinking and experiences of southerners who lived through the cataclysmic war years. In my teaching and writing, I’ve tried to focus on the lived experiences, the hopes and fears, of southerners who seemingly embraced secession and an independent Southern Confederacy in the expectation of a short, victorious war only to become disenchanted when the war they thought would come to pass turned into a long, bloody stalemate. The books I’ve listed share my passion for the war and open new and often unexpected windows into the Confederate experience.


I wrote...

Book cover of Rebels in the Making: The Secession Crisis and the Birth of the Confederacy

What is my book about?

Regardless of whether they owned slaves, Southern whites lived in a world defined by slavery. As shown by their blaming British and Northern slave traders for saddling them with slavery, most were uncomfortable with the institution. While many wanted it ended, most were content to leave that up to God. All that changed with the election of Abraham Lincoln.

Rebels in the Making is a narrative-driven history of how and why secession occurred. In this work, senior Civil War historian William L. Barney narrates the explosion of the sectional conflict into secession and civil war. Carefully examining the events in all fifteen slave states and distinguishing the political circumstances in each, he argues that this was not a mass democratic movement but one led from above.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

William Barney Why did I love this book?

A great book for teaching me how much the wartime experiences and political resistance of the soldiers’ wives and the slaves impacted the fate of the Confederacy and pushed it in directions never imagined by the planters who created the Confederacy to serve their interests and not the majority of the population they expected to do their bidding. 

By Stephanie McCurry,

Why should I read it?

3 authors picked Confederate Reckoning as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Pulitzer Prize Finalist
Winner of the Frederick Douglass Book Prize
Winner of the Merle Curti Award

"McCurry strips the Confederacy of myth and romance to reveal its doomed essence. Dedicated to the proposition that men were not created equal, the Confederacy had to fight a two-front war. Not only against Union armies, but also slaves and poor white women who rose in revolt across the South. Richly detailed and lucidly told, Confederate Reckoning is a fresh, bold take on the Civil War that every student of the conflict should read."
-Tony Horwitz, author of Confederates in the Attic

"McCurry challenges…


Book cover of The South vs. The South: How Anti-Confederate Southerners Shaped the Course of the Civil War

William Barney Why did I love this book?

This is the best source for understanding that the Confederacy, contrary to accepted wisdom, was not the South writ large. In a fast-paced narrative Freehling identifies the anti-Confederate dissenters – free as well as enslaved – who resisted Confederate rule and undermined it from within. He shows conclusively how Union victory was aided immeasurably by the lack of unity in the Confederacy.

By William W. Freehling,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The South vs. The South as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Why did the Confederacy lose the Civil War? Most historians point to the larger number of Union troops, for example, or the North's greater industrial might. Now, in The South Vs. the South, one of America's leading authorities on the Civil War era offers an entirely new answer to this question.
William Freehling argues that anti-Confederate Southerners-specifically, border state whites and southern blacks-helped cost the Confederacy the war. White men in such border states as Missouri, Kentucky, and Maryland, Freehling points out, were divided in their loyalties-but far more joined the Union army (or simply stayed home) than marched off…


Book cover of Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War: Class and Dissent in Confederate Georgia

William Barney Why did I love this book?

Focusing on Georgia, this study answers the question of just what rich Confederates were doing during the Civil War. It turns out that they were not sacrificing all for the Confederate cause but pursuing their self-interests by continuing to grow cotton, speculating in goods, and finding ways to use their class position to stay out of Confederate armies. By so doing, they aroused the class resentments of the plain folk who increasingly turned against the Confederate cause.

By David Williams, Teresa C. Williams, David Carlson

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Plain Folk in a Rich Man's War as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This text aims to shed new light on how planter self-interest, government indifference, and the very nature of southern society produced a rising tide of dissent and disaffection among Georgia's plain folk during the Civil War.


Book cover of The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience

William Barney Why did I love this book?

Here is the best introduction to how the Confederacy transformed itself into a mirror image of the South’s traditional portrayal as a static agricultural society based on states’ rights. To meet the demands of waging the Civil War, the Confederacy underwent rapid industrialization and urbanization directed by a strong centralized bureaucracy in Richmond. New and expanded roles opened up for southern women challenging the prerogatives of male patriarchy. How many of these changes would have become permanent had the Confederacy survived is an open question, but the Confederacy decidedly was not an extension of the Old South.

By Emory M. Thomas,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked The Confederacy as a Revolutionary Experience as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The purpose of this book is to show that the Confederacy not only enacted an external revolution (in terms of its war with the Union), but that it also experienced a very significant internal revolution. Provides an explaination of what things within Southern society were revolutionized and in what ways.


Book cover of Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War

William Barney Why did I love this book?

Few images of the Confederacy are as enduring as that of the selfless sacrificing and unbounded enthusiasm of southern women for the Confederate cause. This groundbreaking study peels away this mythic image to reveal the conflicted feelings of elite white women as they struggled to cope with a crush of new responsibilities for which they were ill-prepared and longed for the return of their husbands and sons. The letters they sent President Davis and their men in the war registered a growing disillusionment with the Confederacy and a yearning to return to the comfort of their pre-war privileged positions.

By Drew Gilpin Faust,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Mothers of Invention as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

When Confederate men marched off to battle, southern women struggled with the new responsibilities of directing farms and plantations, providing for families, and supervising increasingly restive slaves. Drew Faust offers a compelling picture of the more than half-million women who belonged to the slaveholding families of the Confederacy during this period of acute crisis, when every part of these women's lives became vexed and uncertain.


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By Bhavik Sarkhedi, Suhana Bhambhani,

Book cover of The Unproposed Guy

Bhavik Sarkhedi Author Of The Unproposed Guy

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Why am I passionate about this?

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What is my book about?

The Unproposed Guy is a captivating journey through the life of Kevin, a character stuck in a mundane existence and unfulfilling relationships, who discovers his passion for stand-up comedy and rapping amidst an existential crisis.

This contemporary fiction is peppered with humor, sarcasm, and poignant insights into modern relationships and societal expectations. Kevin's struggles and transformations offer a unique blend of comedy and emotional depth, making it a must-read for those seeking a fresh, humorous perspective on love, life, and self-discovery. Dive into Kevin's character of failed relationship and who portrays himself as "Every guy's best friend and every girl's worst nightmare".

The Unproposed Guy

By Bhavik Sarkhedi, Suhana Bhambhani,

What is this book about?

There has been no significant change in the life of Kevin—a monotonous routine, ordinary family, and miserably failing relationships—until he finds out he is going through something abnormal: 'Existential Crisis'.

He has always been a marvellous entertainer, but has a mysterious way of putting off girls. The talent in him is growing creatively, and abundantly, but his inability to impress a girl keeps pulling him down slowly. He realises he can be any guy’s best friend, but he also seems to be every girl’s worst nightmare.

Hop onto the rollercoaster journey of Kevin’s life, as he navigates through mocking friends…


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