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Civil War

One of Lee’s greatest lieutenants is slowly winning his reputation back after losing it for daring to criticize his boss

No one has ever come up with a satisfactory count of the books dealing with the Civil War. Estimates range from 50,000 to more than 70,000, with new titles added every day. Read more >>

What are the 10 greatest movies ever about the Civil War?

Richard Dobbins has made it his mission to gather every single record of every single soldier into one huge, organized, searchable Internet database.


“The Cold War is over,” said Paul Tsongas, campaigning for the Presidency in 1992. “Japan won.” Read more >>

How two devotees of the American flag and one Supreme Court justice shaped the story of a border town—and the nation

The Italianate building at 101 West Church Street in Frederick, Maryland, had by 1861 become a house divided. The patriarch of the Baers, the family who lived there, was staunchly pro-Union, while his son had married a Southerner and taken up her cause. Read more >>
Most Overrated War Correspondent:
Most Overrated Civil War General:


“THERE WAS A WITHCERY IN his name,” a Mississippian wrote, “which carried confidence to friend and terror to foe,” Northerners victimized by Stonewall Jackson’s daring thrusts were hardly less laudatory. Gen. Gouverneur K. Read more >>
TWENTY YEARS AGO I WAS WORKING in the American Heritage book division side by side with our (now) senior editor Jane Colihan, the two of us younger, of course, and darker-haired, and glummer. Read more >>


by James M. McPherson , Oxford University Press, 272 pages, $25.00. CODE: OUP-13 Read more >>

Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War

by Drew Gilpin Faust , University of North Carolina Press, 326 pages, $29.95. CODE: UNC-7 Read more >>
While fully and freely admitting that my knowledge of the field is not much greater than George M. Cohan’s, I will say that a great many CD-ROMs look pretty feeble to me. Read more >>
American Heritage’s debut on CD-ROM mentioned in “Letter From the Editor,” American Heritage: The Civil War—The Complete Multimedia Experience , is available from Byron Preiss Multimedia and Simon & Schuster Interactive (two CD-ROMs, for Wind Read more >>

The Union Army’s siege ended in 1865, but it still has a grip on Petersburg, Virginia

This isn’t the first time a Virginia governor has found himself embroiled in controversy about the commercialization of a Civil War site

WHEN THE CIVIL War ended, a second fierce and divisive conflict began, fought on the same battlefields but over a different issue: not political secession but the commercial development of the battlefields themselves. Read more >>

A scholar searches across two centuries to discover the main engine of our government’s growth—and reaches a controversial conclusion

Alexis de Tocqueville observed in 1835 that America had no neighbors and hence no enemies. Read more >>

After every war in the nation’s history, the military has faced not only calls for demobilization but new challenges and new opportunities. It is happening again.

Not many people appreciate a military base closing. Like the shutting of a factory, it can devastate nearby towns, throwing thousands of people out of work. Merchants face losses and even bankruptcy as sales fall off. Read more >>
There is something irresistible about Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the soft-spoken, be-spectacled Bowdoin College professor who somehow transformed himself into one of the Union Army’s ablest commanders. Read more >>

Lee. Grant. Jackson. Sherman. Thomas. Yes, George Henry Thomas belongs in that company. The trouble is that he and Grant never really got along.

Of all the great commanders in the Civil War, the most consistently underrated and overlooked is Gen. George H. Thomas, the big Virginia cavalryman who fought for the Union. Read more >>

During three days in May 1863, the Confederate leader took astonishing risks to win one of the most skillfully conducted battles in history. But the cost turned out to be too steep.

The ability of Robert E. Lee and Thomas J. (“Stonewall”) Jackson never showed itself more vividly than during three days of battle in May 1863 around a rustic crossroads called Chancellorsville. Read more >>

More than the Revolution, more than the Constitutional Convention, it was the crucial test of the American nation. The author of Battle Cry of Freedom, the most successful recent book on the subject, explains why the issues that fired the Civil War are as urgent in 1990 as they were in 1861.

McPherson’s Basic Reading List    

In September 1862 the New York Tribune ran a masterly account of the Battle of Antietam. Here were no vague claims of “Great and Glorious Victory” or “Great Slaughter of the Rebels.” Instead, the paper offered six columns of accurate, forceful prose—and got it to the readers less than thirty-six hours after the fight.

New York throbbed with the usual breakfast-hour bustle on September 19, 1862, apparently undisturbed by the recent Confederate invasion of Northern soil. Read more >>

The storm broke over their small town and changed their lives forever

Beside [our] little front porch … lay two dead Union soldiers. Read more >>

The bloodiest day’s fighting in our nation’s history took place on ground that has hardly changed since 1862. Antietam today offers a unique chance to grasp what a great Civil War battle was actually like.

During the recent Third Battle of Manassas—the struggle in northern Virginia between a shopping-mall developer and the Manassas National Battlefield Park—I noticed among the flying brickbats a letter to the Washington Post from Read more >>

The more fiercely the Confederacy fought for its independence, the more bitterly divided it became. To fully understand the vast changes the war unleashed on the country, you must first understand the plight of the Southerners who didn’t want secession.

Americans tend to think of the Civil War as a titanic struggle between two regions of the country, one united in commitment to the Union, the other equally devoted to its own nationhood. Yet neither North nor South was truly unified. Read more >>

In the Republic’s direst hour, he took command. In the black days after Bull Run, he won West Virginia for the Union. He raised a magnificent army and led it forth to meet his “cautious & weak” opponent, Robert E. Lee. Why hasn’t history been kinder to George B. McClellan?

Gen. George B. McClellan possessed a particular talent for dramatic gesture, and on the afternoon of September 14, 1862, at South Mountain in western Maryland, he surpassed himself. Read more >>

The United States had promised black soldiers that they would be paid as much as whites. Sergeant Walker believed that promise.

This is in honor of Sgt. William Walker, of the 3d South Carolina Infantry Regiment, a young black soldier who believed in the United States government’s promises of equal rights. This is in honor of Sgt. William Walker, who was brave enough to act on his belief in his rights. Read more >>