The best books on leadership in the American Civil War

Bruce L. Brager Author Of Grant's Victory: How Ulysses S. Grant Won the Civil War
By Bruce L. Brager

The Books I Picked & Why

Grant

By Ron Chernow

Grant

Why this book?

Maybe you want to learn more about Grant, a whole lot more... then this is the book to read, at 950 pages of small print it is a lot to handle but you can learn a lot. The best answer to whether Grant was a better general than Lee has long been available – Grant won – but this book strengthens the case. It provides background to Grant before he reached high command during the Civil War. The book gives a balanced view of Grant as president, particularly his strong civil rights record.


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Pickett's Charge

By George R. Stewart

Pickett's Charge

Why this book?

The subtitle of this book is A Microhistory of the Final Attack at Gettysburg, July 3, 1863. This puts it well. This is virtually a “real-time” history of one of the most significant battles in American History. It is well documented and the book is very well written. It places the reader in the battle as the fate of the United States hangs in the balance.


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A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

By William C. Davis

A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

Why this book?

This is a detailed history and analysis of the establishment of the Confederate government. Southern leaders tried to create a government of their own, to correct what they saw as the errors in the 1787 national constitution. Primarily, Southern leaders wanted to ensure against any threat to the system of slavery. Had the government worked as well as its leaders wanted, they would have considered that the biggest threat to slavery was the start of the Civil War.


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A Stillness at Appomattox: The Army of the Potomac Trilogy

By Bruce Catton

A Stillness at Appomattox: The Army of the Potomac Trilogy

Why this book?

These are the first books I read on the American Civil War as an adult (thank you, History Book Club). Catton lets the reader march with the Army of the Potomac through the war in the east. You don’t just learn what happened, and why. You feel what it was like to be there. Catton never forgets the need to make history a good read as well as a way to transmit information. 


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The Passing of the Armies

By Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain

The Passing of the Armies

Why this book?

This is a reprint of the original edition from 1915. Chamberlain, the Maine general and hero of Little Round Top, was also a brigade commander in the last campaigns of the war in the east. Chamberlain tells the story of the end of the American Civil War, through the ceremonial surrender at Appomattox, which Chamberlain supervised and the parade in Washington DC. 

On the last page of his book, Chamberlain quotes the June 28, 1865 general orders of the Army of the Potomac, “ . . . this army, as an organization, ceases to exist.”  A one-time aspiring minister, Chamberlain is writing religiously when he adds “Ceases to exist!  Are you sure about that?” A century and a half later there is still a clear picture of the Army of the Potomac and the whole period remains a clear part of our historical memory. This book is well worth reading.  


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