The best books on politics and race in the Civil War era

Paul D. Escott Author Of Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era.
By Paul D. Escott

Who am I?

Paul D. Escott is the author of eleven books focused on the Confederacy or the Union, is co-author of other volumes, and has written many articles and book chapters. He won research fellowships from the Rockefeller Foundation and the Whitney M. Young Jr. Foundation and is the Reynolds Professor of History Emeritus from Wake Forest University.


I wrote...

Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era.

By Paul D. Escott,

Book cover of Lincoln's Dilemma: Blair, Sumner, and the Republican Struggle over Racism and Equality in the Civil War Era.

What is my book about?

The central issue of the Civil War was slavery and the status of African Americans in society. Abraham Lincoln occupied a middle position between abolitionists and advocates of colonization in his party, and he had close relationships with the two leaders of those positions: Senator Charles Sumner and Postmaster General Montgomery Blair. This book explores the friendships and events that shaped policy and was a CHOICE Outstanding Academic Title for 2014.

The books I picked & why

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The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861

By David M. Potter,

Book cover of The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861

Why this book?

This book is deservedly considered a classic. It is beautifully written and features penetrating analysis grounded in impressive research. Potter takes you into the minds of the politicians and policy-makers whose conflicts and struggles led to the Civil War and reveals how they thought about the issues and each other.

The Impending Crisis: America Before the Civil War, 1848-1861

By David M. Potter,

Why should I read it?

2 authors picked The Impending Crisis as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

David M. Potter's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Impending Crisis is the definitive history of antebellum America. Potter's sweeping epic masterfully charts the chaotic forces that climaxed with the outbreak of the Civil War: westward expansion, the divisive issue of slavery, the Dred Scott decision, John Brown's uprising, the ascension of Abraham Lincoln, and the drama of Southern secession. Now available in a new edition, The Impending Crisis remains one of the most celebrated works of American historical writing.


Lincoln

By David Herbert Donald,

Book cover of Lincoln

Why this book?

Abraham Lincoln is both vitally important to our history and a fascinating subject, and this book is, by far, the best single-volume biography of the president. Donald was an outstanding researcher and a Pulitzer Prize award-winning biographer. This book deals thoroughly and convincingly with all the issues that spark debates among historians.

Lincoln

By David Herbert Donald,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

A masterful work by Pulitzer Prize–winning author David Herbert Donald, Lincoln is a stunning portrait of Abraham Lincoln’s life and presidency.

Donald brilliantly depicts Lincoln’s gradual ascent from humble beginnings in rural Kentucky to the ever-expanding political circles in Illinois, and finally to the presidency of a country divided by civil war. Donald goes beyond biography, illuminating the gradual development of Lincoln’s character, chronicling his tremendous capacity for evolution and growth, thus illustrating what made it possible for a man so inexperienced and so unprepared for the presidency to become a great moral leader. In the most troubled of times,…


War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

By Joan E. Cashin,

Book cover of War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

Why this book?

We frequently read about the glories and historic decisions of the Civil War, but here is an eye-opening book that shows us how enormous was the civilian suffering caused by the conflict. Joan Cashin invigorates Civil War studies by treating military history, material culture, the environment, gender, and military-civilian relations from a fresh perspective. You will think about the war in a changed way after reading this fine book.

War Stuff: The Struggle for Human and Environmental Resources in the American Civil War

By Joan E. Cashin,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

In this path-breaking work on the American Civil War, Joan E. Cashin explores the struggle between armies and civilians over the human and material resources necessary to wage war. This war 'stuff' included the skills of white Southern civilians, as well as such material resources as food, timber, and housing. At first, civilians were willing to help Confederate or Union forces, but the war took such a toll that all civilians, regardless of politics, began focusing on their own survival. Both armies took whatever they needed from human beings and the material world, which eventually destroyed the region's ability to…


Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

By Joseph T. Glatthaar,

Book cover of Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

Why this book?

The decision to recruit Black soldiers made an enormous difference in the war and in politics. Black recruits to the U.S. Army equaled all the northern men lost in the first two years of fighting and proved themselves on many battlefields. Their sacrifice also made an irrefutable case for Black rights. Joseph Glatthaar’s book admirably tells the story of these soldiers and their white officers.

Forged in Battle: The Civil War Alliance of Black Soldiers and White Officers

By Joseph T. Glatthaar,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Forged in Battle as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

Sixteen months after the start of the American Civil War, the Federal government, having vastly underestimated the length and manpower demands of the war, began to recruit black soldiers. This revolutionary policy gave 180,000 free blacks and former slaves the opportunity to prove themselves on the battlefield as part of the United States Colored Troops. By the end of the war, 37,000 in their ranks had given their lives for the cause of freedom.

In Forged in Battle, originally published in 1990, award-winning historian Joseph T. Glatthaar re-creates the events that gave these troops and their 7,000 white officers justifiable…


Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

By Stephanie McCurry,

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

Why this book?

This history of the Confederacy – winner of many awards and a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2011 – expands our understanding of politics beyond the Confederacy’s male voters. Women in the South, who faced great problems and difficulties during the war, spoke out and protested in ways that forced an aristocratic, patriarchal political system to respond. Her book sheds new light on the challenges faced by the Confederacy.

Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South

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…


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