The best books on Civil War soldiers and home life experiences

Who am I?

Steve Magnusen is an officer in the Indianapolis Civil War Roundtable and holds associate membership in three other roundtables in Wisconsin, Ohio, and Indiana. He enjoyed a nationally recognized engineering and public works administration career in north suburban Chicago after receiving his degree from Purdue University. He has led several professional and non-profit organizations and served fifteen years as an infantry and armor officer in the US Army Reserve.


I wrote...

To My Best Girl: Courage, Honor, and Love in the Civil War: The Inspiring Life Stories of Rufus Dawes and Mary Gates

By Steve Magnusen,

Book cover of To My Best Girl: Courage, Honor, and Love in the Civil War: The Inspiring Life Stories of Rufus Dawes and Mary Gates

What is my book about?

History is about the stories of real people and their actions and experiences during impactful events. To My Best Girl focuses on the true drama involving two young people caught up in the brutal American Civil War - Rufus Dawes and Mary Gates. Battlefield action, daily life in an elite combat unit, parallel drama occurring at home, and trials of family and friends - all combine in a timeline narrative spanning thirty years, but primarily involving the desperate days of the war. Many authentic original letters and diaries are quoted throughout, and are also utilized to create dialog that is realistic and accurate.

To My Best Girl has been awarded the publisher’s “Award of Literary Excellence”, and was selected as a Finalist for the Independent Author Network “Book of the Year Award for History – Fiction in 2019”.

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The books I picked & why

Book cover of Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers

Steve Magnusen Why did I love this book?

This memoir has long been considered a classic, referenced by scores of Civil War authors over many decades. The editor of the 1961 edition, historian and author Alan T. Nolan, noted the following: “Its excellence is the product of three factors: the character and abilities of the author; the historical techniques and the materials which he used, and the events in which he and his regiment participated. These factors – author, technique and events – combine to make the book a superb document of its kind.

By Rufus R. Dawes,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Service with the Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book has been considered by academicians and scholars of great significance and value to literature. This forms a part of the knowledge base for future generations. We have represented this book in the same form as it was first published. Hence any marks seen are left intentionally to preserve its true nature.


Book cover of Fort Sumter to Perryville

Steve Magnusen Why did I love this book?

This sweeping, multi-volume history is a thoroughly researched and readable recording of the Civil War. Written as a narrative, Foote uses his informal writing style to tell the complete history from the perspective of the participants – both north and south – while involving every aspect - the military, political, diplomatic, and home fronts. In my opinion, it is the best overall account of the conflict.

By Shelby Foote,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Fort Sumter to Perryville as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This first volume of Shelby Foote's classic narrative of the Civil War opens with Jefferson Davis’s farewell to the United Senate and ends on the bloody battlefields of Antietam and Perryville, as the full, horrible scope of America’s great war becomes clear. Exhaustively researched and masterfully written, Foote’s epic account of the Civil War unfolds like a classic novel. 
 
Includes maps throughout.
 
"Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives…a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters."—Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

"A stunning book full of color,…


Book cover of Co. Aytch: Maury Grays, First Tennessee Regiment Or, a Side Show of the Big Show

Steve Magnusen Why did I love this book?

“High Private” Sam Watkins wrote his memoir from memory eighteen years after the war. His account of life and death as a rebel soldier is gripping, shocking, and tragic, yet often humorous. He dutifully followed orders, was dedicated to his cause, saw many friends killed close by, and killed enemy soldiers close up – young men in a different uniform much like himself. His attitude and prejudices reflect those of the average Confederate enlisted man. The reader experiences in intimate detail the often-desperate life of the common soldier.

By Sam R. Watkins,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Of the 120 men who enlisted in "Company H" (Or Co. Aytch as he calls it) in 1861, Sam Watkins was one of only seven alive when General Joseph E. Johnston's Army of Tennessee surrendered to General William Tecumseh Sherman in North Carolina on April, 1865. Of the 1,200 men who fought in the First Tennessee, only 65 were left to be paroled on that day. "Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War" is heralded by many historians as one of the best war memoirs written by a common soldier of the field. Sam R. Watkin's writing style…


Book cover of The Killer Angels

Steve Magnusen Why did I love this book?

This historical fiction work won a Pulitzer Prize and caught the interest of the average reader, thus promoting Civil War history more effectively than many other scholarly works. The author uses the three-day battle of Gettysburg to relate the causes of the war and the motivations that led old friends to face each other on the battlefield. Each day is told from the perspectives of Robert E. Lee and James Longstreet for the Confederacy, and Joshua Chamberlain and John Buford for the Union. It is filled with the author’s sense of emotion-laden decisions made by these officers as they went into battle.

By Michael Shaara,

Why should I read it?

13 authors picked The Killer Angels as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“My favorite historical novel . . . a superb re-creation of the Battle of Gettysburg, but its real importance is its insight into what the war was about, and what it meant.”—James M. McPherson
 
In the four most bloody and courageous days of our nation’s history, two armies fought for two conflicting dreams. One dreamed of freedom, the other of a way of life. Far more than rifles and bullets were carried into battle. There were memories. There were promises. There was love. And far more than men fell on those Pennsylvania fields. Bright futures, untested innocence, and pristine beauty…


Book cover of The Iron Brigade: A Military History

Steve Magnusen Why did I love this book?

Named one of the “Top 100 Civil War Books” by the Centennial Commission, this records the history of the most famous Union unit of the war. Nolan uses many first-person accounts to ensure accuracy; Service with The Sixth Wisconsin Volunteers being predominant. This book first inspired my interest in studying the Civil War, and sparked my special admiration for Rufus Dawes, eventually leading to the creation of my own book, To My Best Girl – Courage, Honor and Love in the Civil War: The Inspiring Life Stories of Rufus Dawes and Mary Gates.

By Alan T. Nolan,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

"I am immensely impressed . . . this particular Brigade needed a book of its own and now it has one which is definitely first-rate. . . . A fine book." -Bruce Catton

"One of the '100 best books ever written on the Civil War.'" -Civil War Times Illustrated

" . . . remains one of the best unit histories of the Union Army during the Civil War." -Southern Historian

". . . The Iron Brigade is the title for anyone desiring complete information on this military unit . . ." -Spring Creek Packet, Chuck Hamsa

This is the story…


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The Child Riddler

By Angela Greenman,

Book cover of The Child Riddler

Angela Greenman Author Of The Child Riddler

New book alert!

Who am I?

Author Communications expert International traveler Human relations champion Focused

Angela's 3 favorite reads in 2023

What is my book about?

Zoe Lorel, an elite operative in an international spy agency, is sent to abduct a nine-year-old girl. The girl is the only one who knows the riddle that holds the code to unleash the most lethal weapon on earth—the first ever “invisibility” nano weapon, a cloaking spider bot. But when enemies reveal the invisibility weapon’s existence to underground arms dealers, every government and terrorist organization in the world wants to find that little girl.

Zoe races to save not only the child she has grown to care about but also herself. Her agency-prescribed pills—the ones that transform her into the icy killer she must become to survive—are beginning to threaten her engagement to the one person who brings her happiness.

The Child Riddler

By Angela Greenman,

What is this book about?

Despite the angry scars she carries from her childhood training, Zoe Lorel has reached a good place in her life. She has her dream job as an elite operative in an international spy agency and she’s found her one true love. Her world is mostly perfect—until she is sent to abduct a nine-year-old girl.

The girl is the only one who knows the riddle that holds the code to unleash the most lethal weapon on earth—the first ever “invisibility” nanoweapon, a cloaking spider bot. But Zoe’s agency isn’t the only one after the child. And when enemies reveal the invisibility…


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