10 books like 1861

By Adam Goodheart,

Here are 10 books that authors have personally recommended if you like 1861. Shepherd is a community of 9,000+ authors sharing their favorite books with the world.

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For Cause and Comrade

By James M. McPherson,

Book cover of For Cause and Comrade: Why Men Fought in the Civil War

Douglas R. Egerton Author Of Thunder at the Gates: The Black Civil War Regiments That Redeemed America

From the list on Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize winners.

Who am I?

My father’s ancestors had deep ties to the South, owning slaves in North Carolina and fighting for the Confederacy. Raised in a household that was also home to a paternal grandmother born in Nashville in 1885, I grew up fascinated by the troubled, complicated world of the Old South. Over the years I have written nine books, all of which chronicle the intersections of race and politics in the nineteenth century. Since 1987 I have had the pleasure of teaching about the Civil War era to students in my home institution of Le Moyne College, but also at Colgate University, Cornell University, and the University College Dublin. Those classes never witnessed a dull moment.

Douglas' book list on Gilder-Lehrman Lincoln Prize winners

Discover why each book is one of Douglas' favorite books.

Why did Douglas love this book?

James McPherson, the dean of Civil War scholars, is known to most readers as the author of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era, far and away the best single-volume history of the conflict. But this volume, which came out roughly a decade later in 1997, was one of the first military histories to move beyond generals and commanders and examine why common soldiers enlisted and remained loyal to their fellows even as the bloody conflict dragged on.

After reading tens of thousands of letters and diaries of more than one thousand U.S. and C.S.A. soldiers, McPherson opens previously shuttered windows into their hearts and minds. Their letters home reveal both the tedium and terror of numerous campaigns, and most of all, show how common soldiers were forced to wrestle with the issue of slavery, with northern soldiers, rather like their commander-in-chief, increasingly committed to ending the South’s…

By James M. McPherson,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

General John A. Wickham, commander of the famous 101st Airborne Division in the 1970s and subsequently Army Chief of Staff, once visited Antietam battlefield. Gazing at Bloody Lane where, in 1862, several Union assaults were brutally repulsed before they finally broke through, he marveled, `You couldn't get American soldiers today to make an attack like that.' Why did those men risk certain death, over and over again, through countless bloody battles and four long,
awful years ? Why did the conventional wisdom - that soldiers become increasingly cynical and disillusioned as war progresses - not hold true in the Civil…


By Ron Chernow,

Book cover of Grant

Ron McFarland Author Of Edward J. Steptoe and the Indian Wars: Life on the Frontier, 1815-1865

From the list on biographies of army officers who wrested the West.

Who am I?

I’m a retired English prof with a lifelong interest in history. My father fostered my fascination with Civil War battlefields, and growing up in Florida, I studied the Seminole wars in school and later at FSU. While teaching at the University of Idaho (nearly 50 years), I pursued my interest in the Indian wars of the mid-19th century and developed a curiosity about tribes in the inland Northwest, notably the Coeur d’Alene, Spokane, and Nez Perce. My critical biography of Blackfeet novelist James Welch occasioned reading and research on the Plains tribes. I recommend his nonfiction book, Killing Custer: The Battle of Little Bighorn and the Fate the Plains Indians.

Ron's book list on biographies of army officers who wrested the West

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Why did Ron love this book?

I’m admittedly self-impressed, having read this volume of nearly a thousand papers, poky reader that I am. The Pulitzer Prize-winning biographer strikes me as little short of brilliant with this masterpiece on Ulysses S. Grant, whose military career began with distinguished service in the Mexican War and overlaps with that of Steptoe, subject of my biography. Chernow focuses much of his book on Grant’s Civil War service, but his relevance to my theme is the subject of Grant’s presidency, taken up in later pages. Like many officers who served in the West before and after the Civil War, Grant recognized that white incursions on Indian lands were largely to blame for the violence out West, and he was sympathetic to their plight. Custer’s defeat occurred during Grant’s second administration.

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…


By Allen C. Guelzo,

Book cover of Gettysburg: The Last Invasion

Lance Weller Author Of Wilderness

From the list on American Civil War history reads like literature.

Who am I?

I came to Civil War studies fairly late in life but still relatively callow, by a route too roundabout to explain. But after reading James McPherson’s, Battle Cry of Freedom (there’s a bonus book!), I found I had a love of every facet of the era. The only thing I’d ever wanted to be was a writer and, as I delved deeper into the vast body of literature on the American Civil War, I finally felt as if I’d found the subject I could pour all my passion into (that and my enduring love of dogs). My novel Wilderness, along with a few novels published in French, was the result.

Lance's book list on American Civil War history reads like literature

Discover why each book is one of Lance's favorite books.

Why did Lance love this book?

Part of the enduring popularity of the Battle of Gettysburg studies, is that the battle offers a true microcosm of the American Civil War—from politics to personalities. A meeting engagement, a desperate struggle, a turning point, and human tragedy on a scale the continent had never seen before, the events of those three days in July still resonant down the years. Guelzo’s book, besides being one of the most recent, offers wonderful descriptions of every facet of the battle with finely-crafted prose and a pacing that will keep readers invested from start to finish.

By Allen C. Guelzo,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

Winner of the Guggenheim-Lehrman Prize in Military History

An Economist Best Book of the Year

A Kirkus Reviews Best Nonfiction Book of the Year

The Battle of Gettysburg has been written about at length and thoroughly dissected in terms of strategic importance, but never before has a book taken readers so close to the experience of the individual soldier.

Two-time Lincoln Prize winner Allen C. Guelzo shows us the face, the sights and the sounds of nineteenth-century combat: the stone walls and gunpowder clouds of Pickett’s Charge; the reason that the Army of Northern Virginia could be smelled before it…

River Run Red

By Andrew Ward,

Book cover of River Run Red: The Fort Pillow Massacre in the American Civil War

Fergus M. Bordewich Author Of Congress at War: How Republican Reformers Fought the Civil War, Defied Lincoln, Ended Slavery, and Remade America

From the list on the American Civil War from a popular historian.

Who am I?

Fergus M. Bordewich is an American writer and popular historian. He is the author of eight nonfiction books and a frequent public speaker at universities, radio, and television. As a journalist, he has traveled extensively in Asia, the Middle East, Europe, and Africa, writing on politics, economic issues, culture, and history, on subjects ranging from the civil war in Burma, religious repression in China, Islamic fundamentalism, German reunification, the Irish economy, Kenya's population crisis, and many others.

Fergus' book list on the American Civil War from a popular historian

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Why did Fergus love this book?

More than 170,000 African Americans served in the Union Army and navy during the Civil War. From 1863 on, they performed heroically on many battlefields, most famously at the assault on Fort Wagner in Charleston Harbor, as dramatically depicted in the film “Glory.” Much less well-known was the deliberate slaughter of nearly two hundred black federal troops at Fort Pillow, Tennessee in 1864, by Confederate forces led by Nathan Bedford Forrest, a prewar slaver trader and a postwar leader of the Ku Klux Klan. It was the worst wartime atrocity committed on U.S. soil outside the Indian wars. What happened at Fort Pillow demonstrated the additional risk that every black soldier in blue faced: not just injury, but murder or reenslavement by the enemy. Ward’s account moves at a pounding pace. More than the account of a single battle, it places the role of black troops in the larger context…

By Andrew Ward,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked River Run Red as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

An account of the controversial April 1864 Civil War battle between Confederate cavalry leader Nathan Bedford Forrest and a garrison of Unionists and former slave artillerymen offers insight into how corruption and racism in occupied Tennessee played a role in the Confederate victory and how Forrest went on to found the Ku Klux Klan. By the author of Dark Midnight When I Rise. 30,000 first printing.

Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Book cover of Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings

Dennis E. Shasha Author Of The Puzzling Adventures of Dr. Ecco

From the list on to help you to think logically.

Who am I?

I became a scientist because I enjoyed the puzzles in Scientific American. I loved the notion that through mere thought, one could solve a question that at first glance seemed impossible to solve. When I had to design methods to detect ephemeral failures in electronic circuits underlying a mainframe computer, I created a puzzle having occasional liars. When I thought about ways to understand global wars, I constructed a puzzle about bullies in a playground. Some of my puzzles have been very computational, some purely paper and pencil. Over the years, my puzzles have appeared in Scientific American, Dr. Dobb’s Journal, and the Communications of the ACM.

Dennis' book list on to help you to think logically

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Why did Dennis love this book?

Abraham Lincoln famously had little formal education but was capable of sophisticated logical thinking in his arguments. He credits his ability to form his arguments to his encounter with Euclid’s writings about geometry. He felt in awe by the notion of “demonstration” and went on to apply that notion to his compelling arguments about the injustice and hypocrisy of slavery. 

By Roy Basler, Carl Sandburg,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Abraham Lincoln, His Speeches and Writings as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

This volume presents nearly 250 of Lincoln's most important speeches, state papers, and letters in their entirety. Here are not only the masterpieces,the Gettysburg Address, the Inaugural Addresses, the 1858 Republican Convention Speech, the Emancipation Proclamation,but hundreds of lesser-known gems. Alfred Kazin has written that Lincoln was "not just the greatest writer among our Presidents . . . but the most telling and unforgettable of all American'public' writer-speakers," and it's never been cleaner than in this comprehensive edition.

Lincoln on the Verge

By Ted Widmer,

Book cover of Lincoln on the Verge: Thirteen Days to Washington

Sylvia Shults Author Of Spirits of Christmas: The Dark Side of the Holidays

From the list on nonfiction books that read like a novel.

Who am I?

Sylvia Shults is a librarian by day, a ghost hunter by night, and the “hostess with the mostest ghosties” of the Lights Out podcast. During her twenty-plus-year career in libraries, she has managed to smuggle enough words out in her pockets to put together several books of her own, including 44 Years in Darkness, Fractured Spirits: Hauntings at the Peoria State Hospital, and Spirits of Christmas. She sits in dark, spooky places so you don't have to, and shares her experiences of her brushes with the other side of the Veil.

Sylvia's book list on nonfiction books that read like a novel

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Why did Sylvia love this book?

This book rocked my world. Imagine this: Congress is meeting to ratify the election of a new president. But half the country doesn't want the new guy; in fact, there are armed thugs wandering around the streets of Washington, making noise about insurrection. The rumors of violence are so disturbing that the police force is put on high alert, and the Vice President, carrying the election paperwork, is assigned extra security. Sound familiar? This was the situation in 1861, as Abraham Lincoln was readying himself for his trip to the Capitol to take office. The book follows his train ride there, and the writing rollicks along just like a train speeding down a track. I adored this book, and for me, it was made even more compelling because I read it about a week after the Capitol riots on January 6, 2021. As a really well-written book, filled with history…

By Ted Widmer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln on the Verge as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?


"A Lincoln classic...superb." -The Washington Post

"A book for our time."-Doris Kearns Goodwin

Lincoln on the Verge tells the dramatic story of America's greatest president discovering his own strength to save the Republic.

As a divided nation plunges into the deepest crisis in its history, Abraham Lincoln boards a train for Washington and his inauguration-an inauguration Southerners have vowed to prevent. Lincoln on the Verge charts these pivotal thirteen days of travel, as Lincoln discovers his power, speaks directly to the public, and sees his country up close. Drawing on new research, this…

A. Lincoln

By Ronald C. White Jr.,

Book cover of A. Lincoln: A Biography

Talmage Boston Author Of Cross-Examining History: A Lawyer Gets Answers from the Experts about Our Presidents

From the list on presidential biographies.

Who am I?

Over the last eight years, I’ve conducted as many onstage interviews with leading presidential historians as anyone else in the country. To prepare for them, I read presidential biographies thoroughly and constantly. The fact that my work has been strongly endorsed by people in presidential history circles with the stature of Ken Burns, David McCullough, James Baker, Jon Meacham, and Douglas Brinkley should be a strong indication that my opinion about this subject matters.

Talmage's book list on presidential biographies

Discover why each book is one of Talmage's favorite books.

Why did Talmage love this book?

It’s the best cradle-to-grave biography of Lincoln, quite an accomplishment, given that over 16,000 books have been written on him. The book goes deep on a special interest I have in our 16th president: his long and winding faith journey. White’s passion for his subject serves to energize the reader.

By Ronald C. White Jr.,

Why should I read it?

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

What is this book about?

“If you read one book about Lincoln, make it A. Lincoln.”—USA Today

The Washington Post • The Philadelphia Inquirer • The Christian Science Monitor • St. Louis Post-Dispatch.


Everyone wants to define the man who signed his name “A. Lincoln.” In his lifetime and ever since, friend and foe have taken it upon themselves to characterize Lincoln according to their own label or libel. In this magnificent book, Ronald C. White, Jr., offers a fresh and compelling definition of Lincoln as…

All the Great Prizes

By John Taliaferro,

Book cover of All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

Laurence Jurdem Author Of The Rough Rider and the Professor: Theodore Roosevelt, Henry Cabot Lodge, and the Friendship That Changed American History

From the list on the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge.

Who am I?

I am a historian who focuses on the political history of the United States during the 20th century. My particular interest focuses on the history of the Republican Party & the American presidency. I am curious about how individuals acquire political power and their use of it. I was drawn to write a book about the friendship between Roosevelt and Lodge because of my fascination with the friendship among Eastern elites and how Lodge served as a mentor to Roosevelt in helping him achieve prominence in United States politics. Despite the many books on T.R. no one has ever written a narrative about his relationship with Lodge. 

Laurence's book list on the lives of Theodore Roosevelt and Henry Cabot Lodge

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Why did Laurence love this book?

A wonderful biography of the journalist, poet, and diplomat.

Taliaferro’s narrative gives the reader a broad understanding of the political and diplomatic events which shaped the United States and the Republican Party from 1838-1905. Hay, like his close friend Henry Adams was a prolific letter writer and a man of strong opinions.

Within the text one gets a detailed description of not only what Hay’s relationship was like with Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt, but also his complex relationship with Henry Cabot Lodge and others within the political and diplomatic circles of Washington, D.C.

By John Taliaferro,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked All the Great Prizes as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

From secretary to Abraham Lincoln to secretary of state for Theodore Roosevelt, John Hay remained a major figure in American history for more than half a century. His private life was as glamorous and romantic as it was privileged. This first full-scale biography since 1934 is a reflection of American history from the Civil War to the emergence of the nation as a world power as Woodrow Wilson is about to take office.

If Henry James or Edith Wharton had written a novel describing the accomplished and glamorous life and times of John Hay, it would have been thought implausible—a…

Book cover of Lincoln and the Power of the Press: The War for Public Opinion

Garry Wills Author Of Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America

From the list on Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his words.

Who am I?

In high school (the best time for doing this) I read the first two volumes of Carl Sandburg’s six-volume biography of Lincoln. A year or so later I made my first trip on an airplane (Saint Louis to Detroit) and an easily recognizable Sandburg was one of the few passengers on our small commercial prop-plane. I was too shy to approach him, but I did sidle up the aisle to see what he was reading or writing (nothing that I could make out). He had boarded the plane alone, but there was a small party meeting him when we landed. I suppose it was Sandburg’s poetic approach to Lincoln that made me alert to the President’s astonishing feel for the English language.

Garry's book list on Abraham Lincoln, his life, and his words

Discover why each book is one of Garry's favorite books.

Why did Garry love this book?

When newspapers were the only medium before radio and TV and the internet, they were omnipresent in their own way, and highly partisan. They played dirty, and Lincoln did too. He knew that his careful words would have no impact unless he could get them printed in at least some of the papers he favored, bribed with access and rewards, or helped outflank their (and his) rivals.

By Harold Holzer,

Why should I read it?

1 author picked Lincoln and the Power of the Press as one of their favorite books, and they share why you should read it.

What is this book about?

“Lincoln believed that ‘with public sentiment nothing can fail; without it, nothing can succeed.’ Harold Holzer makes a significant contribution to our understanding of Lincoln’s leadership by showing us how deftly he managed his relations with the press of his day to move public opinion forward to preserve the Union and abolish slavery.” —Doris Kearns Goodwin

From his earliest days, Lincoln devoured newspapers. As he started out in politics he wrote editorials and letters to argue his case. He spoke to the public directly through the press. He even bought a German-language newspaper to appeal to that growing electorate in…

A Government of Our Own

By William C. Davis,

Book cover of A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy

George C. Rable Author Of Conflict of Command: George McClellan, Abraham Lincoln, and the Politics of War

From the list on the American Civil War beyond the usual battles.

Who am I?

I have been researching and writing about the era of the American Civil War for something over half a century. My passion for the subject remains strong today, having just published my seventh book. Given the seemingly endless amounts of material from soldiers and civilians alike, I have enjoyed deeply researching neglected subjects and writing about them in a way that appeals to both historians and general readers. For me the Civil War never grows stale, there are always little-used sources to research and fresh ideas to consider. The American Civil is omnipresent in my life—not excluding weekends and holidays!   

George's book list on the American Civil War beyond the usual battles

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Why did George love this book?

A Government of Our is a richly textured history of the formation of the Confederate States of America replete with high drama and compelling characters. 

This is political history in the grand narrative tradition grounded in excellent research and provocative assessments. Davis renders sharp judgments on his subjects in often pungent prose. 

This is a book to savor and enjoy as the author presents his story in loving detail. Here is a fascinating mix of the personal and the political, the humorous and the sad, the ironic and the bizarre.

By William C. Davis,

Why should I read it?

3 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.

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Interested in politics, the American Civil War, and Abraham Lincoln?

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