Thursday, December 18, 2014

2014 - The "Civil War Books and Authors" Year in Review

The Wall Street Journal reviewed 1,000 books in 2014, their year end "best" considerations obviously stemming from a far broader base of reviewers and candidates than my modest one-man operation can manage. Nevertheless, I do my level best picking and sorting through what comes my way and each December come up with a personal list of favorite titles published over the preceding twelve-plus months. Comments can be found through the links provided. Better yet grab your gift cards, order a few, and read them yourself.


Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln by Jonathan W. White (LSU Pr).


Battle/Campaign Histories:
Trans-Mississippi Theater:
The Battle of Pilot Knob: Thunder in Arcadia Valley by Bryce A. Suderow and R. Scott House (SEMO Pr).
Western Theater:
Work for Giants: The Campaign and Battle of Tupelo/Harrisburg, Mississippi, June-July 1864 by Thomas E. Parson (Kent St. UP).
Eastern Theater:
The Early Morning of War: Bull Run, 1861 by Edward G. Longacre (Univ of Okla Pr).

General History:
When the Wolf Came: The Civil War and the Indian Territory by Mary Jane Warde (Univ of Ark Pr).

Social-Cultural History:
Busy in the Cause: Iowa, the Free-State Struggle in the West, and the Prelude to the Civil War by Lowell J. Soike (Univ of Neb Pr).

Political History:
Emancipation, the Union Army, and the Reelection of Abraham Lincoln by Jonathan W. White (LSU Pr).

Unit History:
Soldiers in the Army of Freedom: The 1st Kansas Colored, the Civil War's First African American Combat Unit by Ian Michael Spurgeon (Univ of Okla Pr).

Essay Collection:
Gateway to the Confederacy: New Perspectives on the Chickamauga and Chattanooga Campaigns, 1862-1863 edited by Evan C. Jones and Wiley Sword (LSU Pr).

Citizen-General: Jacob Dolson Cox and the Civil War Era by Eugene D. Schmiel (Ohio UP).

Naval History:
To Retain Command of the Mississippi: The Civil War Naval Campaign for Memphis by Edward B. McCaul (Univ of Tenn Pr).

Edited Letters/Memoir/Diary:
A Gunner in Lee's Army: The Civil War Letters of Thomas Henry Carter edited by Graham T. Dozier (UNC Pr).

Guide Book:
Manassas: A Battlefield Guide by Ethan S. Rafuse (Univ of Neb Pr).

Map Study:
The Maps of the Bristoe Station and Mine Run Campaigns by Bradley Gottfried (Savas Beatie).

Where Valor and Devotion Met: The Battle of Pilot Knob by Douglas L. Gifford.

Local History:
The Coal River Valley in the Civil War: West Virginia Mountains, 1861 by Michael B. Graham (The Hist Pr).

Regional History:
Kentucky Confederates: Secession, Civil War, and the Jackson Purchase by Berry Craig (UP of Ky).

Reference Book(s):
Guerrilla Warfare in Civil War Missouri, Volumes III and IV by Bruce Nichols (McFarland).

New Perspectives:
From These Honored Dead: Historical Archaeology of the American Civil War edited by Clarence R. Geier, Douglas D. Scott & Lawrence E. Babits (UP of Florida).

Classic Reprint:
The Civil War Diary of Gideon Welles: Lincoln's Secretary of the Navy - The Original Manuscript Edition edited by William E. and Erica L. Gienapp (Univ of Ill Pr).


  1. John FoskettDecember 19, 2014

    Drew: Battle/Campaign Histories was especially tough this year. I'd add Powell/Chickamauga, Smith/Shiloh, and Sommers/Petersburg (revised) to your list, which has 3 equally worthy candidates. The only way to select a winner is to toss the cards down the stairs and see which one lands closest. .

    1. They are and second half '14 releases were very heavily weighted toward the end which makes my task even more difficult this year. I haven't seen Smith and Sommers and Powell's Chickamauga is a monster that I haven't been able to get to yet (but will). I delayed my list in hopes of getting my review copy of Shiloh in time but it still hasn't arrived. Of course, it will probably get here today. But Parson's book is by no means an afterthought. The review of this excellent title is finished and will be posted soon.

    2. John FoskettDecember 22, 2014

      I definitely agree regarding Parson. I've only skimmed the book so far, but based on that and the excellent B&G article, it appears that he's made a significant contribution. Looking forward to the review..

  2. Many thanks for the honor for best biography of the year for my book on Jacob Cox. Thanks also for your incisive review. As always, we can argue about one point or another about Cox and the war, but as he found out even in the nineteenth century, the "re-fighting" of the war goes on and on and on -- including in excellent blogs like yours. Gene Schmiel
    (Please excuse if this comes up as a duplicate--I was confused by the methodology to post a comment)

  3. Many thanks, Drew. I am truly honored!


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