1. Welcome to the Fantasy Writing Forums. Register Now to join us.

Tactics, Histories, and Biographies Concerning the American Civil War

Discussion in 'Research' started by Garren Jacobsen, Jun 6, 2015.

  1. Good evening my admirable Scribers. I have to ask a question, well several questions. All of them center around the American Civil War (hereinafter Civil War).

    I want to write a story that takes place in a time period that is equivalent to the American Civil War. Now, this story is not set in the United States or on Earth. It is a new story in a new world. I am just having the time period be in or around that time period. I am planning this novel being to the Civil War as GoT is to the War of the Roses. I need some reading recommendations.

    First, I need some good books that center on the basic history of the Civil War. I'll need a broad-based understanding of the political, social, and economic forces at play. I feel I have a decent understanding, but before I write the project I'll need to brush up and get some more knowledge than what my schooling so far has granted me.

    Second, I'll either need recommendations or find something that can give me some tactics, and especially the philosophies behind the tactics, that the generals used during the Civil War.

    Third, are there any good books that relate the life of the common soldier fighting in the Civil War, especially about brothers, fathers and sons, or other close friends and family fighting each other.

    Last, I'll need some good, preferably one volume, recommendations of the various personalities of the Civil War. I have read Team of Rivals and I plan on reading it again since much of it is forgotten. I've also read a book about Robert E Lee but can't remember the name of it off hand right now. (I'll have to browse my parent's bookshelves to see if I can find it again) But any other good biographies would be genuinely helpful, especially if they are about Grant, Jackson, Lee, Lincoln, Davis, and any other "major players."

    I wouldn't ask you all first. There is such a glut of information on the Interwebs that I am not sure where to begin. So any direction would be helpful. Thanks in advance.
     
  2. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    4,385
    1,564
    163
    As a non-American [so we didn't learn much American History] I found 1400 Days: United States Civil War Day [by Day by Ian Drury, Chris Bishop] very useful. It has enough information in the text to get me thinking and looking but also has lots of maps and diagram/diorama to explain battles, the bigger picture and the like. I think and learn visually so it worked for me.
     
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  3. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    438
    200
    43
    Just to be clear ... are you looking at the reconstruction era as well or just the pre-war conflict and war itself?

    I've never seen it but I've heard that Ken Burns' "The Civil War" documentary (series?) is a must-see. I can't really speak concerning the quality of it but I've heard some great things about it so if you haven't already seen it you might want to track it down.

    The nice thing about that time period is that it was contemporary enough to be fairly well documented (photographs, diaries, letters etc.) relative to earlier periods but it's far enough back that everything is open to public domain AND curated in nifty compilations for study. For primary sources check the national archives. There might be some overlap but it looks like there are some legal documents on Fold3.com as well.

    This period has never been my specialty so I'm not sure i can point you towards the appropriate (credible) secondary sources. Like anything, the more recent the research the more likely it is to reflect modern trends in social/historical thought. You might find a list of credible scholars here.

    Also, books on this list may be of interest to you. If you have access to Jstor any further research should be very simple. If not, there's still probably more than enough info (online & in public libraries) to keep you busy for quite awhile.


    Hope this helps!
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2015
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  4. TheCatholicCrow

    TheCatholicCrow Inkling

    438
    200
    43
    If the list on Salon is unsatisfactory, you can supplement it with those discussed in the comments beneath it.

    If you have the ability, you could also try (even auditing) a college history course on the subject. Any decent class will give you a variety of perspectives and the professor will no doubt be more than happy to point you towards some additional materials.
     
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  5. I'm not particularly interested in post-war. That isn't where I am finding my stories. Some of it will be at the end, but it will be briefly mentioned at the end. I want some old combatants meeting at a place that is considered the turning point of the war (like what happened at Gettysburg in 1913) long after the war is over and reconciling with each other. I'm not sure where to go with the story, but we will see what happens. If I need to I will research post-war stuff later.
     
  6. CupofJoe

    CupofJoe Myth Weaver

    4,385
    1,564
    163
    I second the Ken Burns Documentary. It is long... 11/12 hours, but it doesn't feel like it. A great telling of the story using a lot of original letters and all original images. It looks like much of it maybe on-line...
     
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  7. I'll have to watch it and take notes then. I hope it is still on Netflix when I get around to it.
     
  8. Caged Maiden

    Caged Maiden Staff Article Team

    3,598
    1,518
    163
    I've watched several documentaries on the Civil War, but there was one recently that was really good. I think it was titled "Killing Lincoln" or something like that. It was about the plan to assassinate Lincoln and about how he wouldn't live in fear. I know that is probably outside the scope of your book (being rather specifically about one man) but the reason I mention it is because the other information surrounding the reasoning behind the plan to assassinate Lincoln was what I considered obscure and not the "usual" facts you hear about the time period.

    A few things to specifically research:
    Camp Followers. You'd be surprised how many men had their wives and children along with them.

    Rations. Men got rations, but so did their wives and their children or nieces or nephews along for the road.

    The time between actual battles and how mini towns followed the soldiers, profiting on men who had to use their pay to upkeep their equipment. It was actually rather civilized in many respects--not what immediately comes to mind when one thinks of the bloodiest war fought on this soil.

    I also want to use these ideas for a novel set in a war in my fantasy world. I just love the amount of civilians who joined the war effort and how it changed life for so many folks.

    P.S. I'll try to find out what that program was called.
     
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
  9. ScipioSmith

    ScipioSmith Sage

    249
    33
    28
    One author who doesn't get a mention either in the Salon article or in the comments is Douglas S Freeman, who wrote R.E Lee: A Biography and Lee's Lieutenants: A Study in Command. I read Lee's Lieutenants for university and it's well worth a look, even if you only get the abridged version. I haven't read his Lee biography but it is widely considered a majestic, seminal work.
     
    Garren Jacobsen likes this.
Loading...

Share This Page