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

Who am I?

The writer part should be obvious. I write books under my own name and as a ghostwriter. But also, like any good writer, I am a reader. The earliest books I recall reading, after Dick and Jane, were books on American history, in particular the American Civil War. When I looked to write on my own, this was the first area I looked into. Write what you know. Write what you like to read.


I wrote...

Grant's Victory: How Ulysses S. Grant Won the Civil War

By Bruce L. Brager,

Book cover of Grant's Victory: How Ulysses S. Grant Won the Civil War

What is my book about?

The war in the east was the most prominent part of the Civil War. The most militarily important segment of the eastern war was the May 1863 Battle of Chancellorsville through the campaign starting with the May 1964 Battle of the Wilderness. Same location for both battles in Northern Virginia. Same armies. But the South clearly won at Chancellorsville. The North won a strategic victory at the Wilderness, which put in on the road to winning the war a year later.

Why? Robert E. Lee led both battles for the South. The North had a new commander for the second battle, Ulysses S. Grant. My book, the first one to focus on this period, makes the case that Grant made the difference, that his better understanding of a battle within the context of a campaign, made the difference.

The books I picked & why

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Grant

By Ron Chernow,

Book cover of 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.

Grant

By Ron Chernow,

Why should I read it?

4 authors picked Grant as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

The #1 New York Times bestseller and New York Times Book Review 10 Best Books of 2017

"Eminently readable but thick with import . . . Grant hits like a Mack truck of knowledge." -Ta-Nehisi Coates, The Atlantic

Pulitzer Prize winner Ron Chernow returns with a sweeping and dramatic portrait of one of our most compelling generals and presidents, Ulysses S. Grant.

Ulysses S. Grant's life has typically been misunderstood. All too often he is caricatured as a chronic loser and an inept businessman, or as the triumphant but brutal Union general of the Civil War. But these stereotypes don't…


Pickett's Charge

By George R. Stewart,

Book cover of 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.

Pickett's Charge

By George R. Stewart,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Pickett's Charge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This book covers a critical part of the Battle of Gettysburg.


A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

By William C. Davis,

Book cover of 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.

A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

By William C. Davis,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Government of Our Own as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Recounts the formation of the Confederacy, looks at the political forces that shaped it, and discusses the impact of slavery.


A Stillness at Appomattox: The Army of the Potomac Trilogy

By Bruce Catton,

Book cover of 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. 

A Stillness at Appomattox: The Army of the Potomac Trilogy

By Bruce Catton,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked A Stillness at Appomattox as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Recounting the final year of the Civil War, this classic volume by Bruce Catton won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award for excellence in non-fiction.

In this final volume of the Army of the Potomac Trilogy, Catton, America's foremost Civil War historian, takes the reader through the battles of the Wilderness, the Bloody Angle, Cold Harbot, the Crater, and on through the horrible months to one moment at Appomattox. Grant, Meade, Sheridan, and Lee vividly come to life in all their failings and triumphs.


The Passing of the Armies

By Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,

Book cover of 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.  

The Passing of the Armies

By Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Joshua Chamberlain's "The Passing of the Armies" is one of the classic books of Civil War history. When it was posthumously published in 1915, it received acclaim for its Victorian prose and accuracy in bringing to life the final twelve days of the war in Virginia. Although highly critical of Sheridan and defensive of the operations of his Fifth Corps, Chamberlain's work is an important contribution to the true story of this intense fighting. It is an important contribution by a contemporary who, as a distinguished Union officer, witnessed the events he wrote about. "The Passing of the Armies" is…


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