Further Readings on Civil War Fiction

Prepared by Robert Nagle for the ebook Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews (1925-2013) .

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Philosophical stories about youth and war by an eminent author of 8 short story collections.

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Anthologies and Critical Overviews

Classics and Notable Novels

Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction

Notable Civil War fiction by Woman Writers

Juvenile Civil War Novels

Literary Memoirs and Nonfiction

Poetry Anthologies

Online Journals and Book Reviews

One of the challenges in learning about literature from the Civil War era is knowing where to get started. The three titles by Jack Matthews (Gambler's Nephew, Soldier Boys and the unpublished Boys from Elm Grove) are interesting additions, but the body of fictional works about this time period has been growing steadily (to say nothing of movies, TV shows, poetry, songs, visual art, memoirs and critical histories). Here's a brief overview of the more notable fiction with a Civil War theme. This list is certainly not comprehensive (so please don't fret about omissions). You can download for free a lot of public domain (PD) ebooks about the Civil War from Project Gutenberg (PG). Books which are in the public domain wil have the abbreviation (PD) next to publication date. PG maintains a Civil War bookshelf which contains a lot of fiction and essays about that time period. The reader can use a search engine to download public domain ebooks from Project Gutenberg, so specific links will not be included.

Note: Literary works are in the US public domain if they were published before 1923. (In a small number of cases, some post-1922 works which didn't have their copyrights renewed have also entered the public domain). Starting on January 1, 2019, works published in the US before 1978 will enter the US public domain if they were published more than 95 years ago.

Anthologies and Overviews

Even though a lot of Civil War texts are public domain titles (and thus downloadable as free ebooks), it helps to have a modern overview or anthology to introduce you to names and titles. At the time of this writing (2016), there are no topics specifically on Civil War fiction on Wikipedia. It is relatively easy to find online essays with titles like "Best Books about the Civil War," but these kinds of lists tend to emphasize history books over fiction.

Bibliography of the American Civil War. Wikipedia entry, (no author)

This page simply lists notable books and bibliographical works about the Civil War. Each section includes books about various topics (i.e., Memoirs, Art & Music, Slavery, Woman, etc.) Many recent books have been about cultural history, so one would expect literary topics to be integrated into a discussion of other topics.

Goodreads Civil War Book Lists. (Community-Generated Book Lists)

Some online book/library services let users create, save and share book lists which they can tag with a keyword. Goodreads is a book community site with the most extensive lists; the above link contains all user-generated lists with the "Civil War" tag. That includes irrelevant stuff (i.e., "British Civil Wars"), but also some cool subgenres within U.S. Civil War fiction (such as "novels containing ghosts from the Civil War.")

Madden, David and Bach, Peggy. Classics of Civil War Fiction, 1991.

This anthology of critical essays by various people about Civil War themed literary works focuses on 14 works published before 1950. It covers a good mix of usual suspects and unknowns; the contributor essays are interesting, readable and insightful. Highly recommended (especially the first essay which analyzes the challenges and expectations of this "genre.")

Madden, David, Tangled Web of the Civil War and Reconstruction: Readings and Writings from a Novelist's Perspective, 2015.

Madden is a noted scholar, novelist and editor who has written about Civil War fiction for decades. This new essay collection covers ground not covered in Classics of Civil War Fiction and topics he has explored since that book. Provocatively, he calls Robert Penn Warren's All the King's Men one of the greatest Civil War novels (and throws in Faulkner's Absalom, Absalom! as well). He suggests that O'Henry's fiction belongs to the genre because it take place against a backdrop of post-Civil War and Reconstruction. "Artistically," Madden writes, "the son Jeff Shaara is the better novelist than his more famous father Michael." His essay "Last American Epic" (and possibly others) are available online on his website.

Menendez, Albert J., Editor. Civil War Novels: An Annotated Bibliography, 1989.

This out-of-print bibliography gives an annotated list of 1028 Civil War titles. About 40% are titles published in the 19th century, and the other 60% were published in the 20th century up until the year this bibliography was published. This book lists and describes a lot of distinguished books which are mentioned nowhere else. (For sake of comparison, the Wikipedia entry for "Civil War Novels" lists only 70 novels). Some book descriptions are skimpy though.

Talley, Sharon. Southern women novelists and the Civil War: trauma and collective memory in the American literary tradition since 1861, 2014.

This new essay collection reviews Civil War fiction by various Southern women writers in the 19th and 20th century. (Many of the titles discussed in the book are listed in the Woman Writers section.)

Warren, Craig. Scars to Prove It: The Civil War Soldier and American Fiction, 2009.

Author Craig A. Warren explores seven popular novels about the Civil War – The Red Badge of Courage, Gone with the Wind, None Shall Look Back, The Judas Field, The Unvanquished, The Killer Angels, and Absalom, Absalom! His study reveals that the war owes much of its cultural power to a large but overlooked genre of writing: postwar memoirs, regimental histories, and other narratives authored by Union and Confederate veterans.

Wilson, Edmund. 1962. Patriotic Gore: Studies in the Literature of the American Civil War, 1962.

Noted Critic Edmund Wilson wrote a long critical study of literary works about the Civil War. This critical study encompasses mainly fiction but also some noted memoirists like Ulysses Grant. Wilson provides a lot of historical context and focuses mainly on literary works published before 1920. 30 writers are discussed including Ambrose Bierce, George Washington Cable, Mary Boykin Chesnut, Kate Chopin, John William De Forest, Charlotte Forten, Ulysses Grant, Francis Grierson, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Hinton Rowan Helper, Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., Henry James, Sidney Lanier, Abraham Lincoln, John S. Mosby, Frederick Law Olmsted, Thomas Nelson Page, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Albion W. Tourgée, John Townsend Trowbridge, Mark Twain, and Walt Whitman.

Classics and Notable Novels

Works are listed in chronological order. Note: Below this section you can find separate sections for prize winners, works by women writers, and juvenile fiction. This section lists all the novels discussed in the 1991 survey book, Classics of Civil War Fiction. It also lists well-known public domain titles and a few more recent ones.

Stowe, Harriet Beecher, Uncle Tom's Cabin, (PD-1852).

Predating the war, this famous abolitionist novel triggered the national consciousness about the injustices committed by slavery. In addition to having a didactic purpose, the novel is generally admired for style, depiction of characters and motivation.

De Forest, John W., Miss Ravenel's Conversion from Secession to Loyalty, (PD-1867).

Early novel written by an actual veteran. Tells the story of a complicated love triangle facing a Union soldier. Generally praised by critics and singled out for special attention by Edmund Wilson in Patriotic Gore (mentioned above).

Bierce, Ambrose. Tales of Civilians and Soldiers, (1891-PD).

Extremely well-regarded short stories written by a Union soldier who later became a journalist, author and poet. It contains the "Occurrence at Owl Creek" short story which is anthologized practically everywhere.

Crane, Stephen. Red Badge of Courage, (PD-1895).

Famous novel (if not the most famous) about an everyman soldier's private battles while serving as a Union soldier. Known for psychological analyses and naturalistic/impressionistic style. Crane died at 28, but the publication of this novel made him famous. It is frequently taught at high school (and has a lexile score of HL 680L).

Bishop, John Peale. Many Thousands Gone, 1931.

Short story collection by a noted poet which novelist Mary Lee Settle described as having a European sensibility and whose "slow and inexorable disintegration of domestic life in the attribution of war rang truer than anything I had ever read about the Civil War." The stories focus on how female heads of households fended off looters and deprivations and ex-slaves after the war was over. These are small dramas, but compelling and tragic. Unfortunately, the book quickly went out of print and was never republished; now it sells on Amazon.com for $350.

Stribling, Thomas Sigismund. The Forge (Book 1 of the "Vaiden" Trilogy), 1932.

This highly readable trilogy centers about the Vaiden family in Alabama before, during and after the Civil War. Miltiades Vaiden is a yeoman farmer who owns slaves but whose business is overshadowed by the opulence and decadence of nearby plantations. This novel (and its Pulitzer-winning successor, The Store ) have won plaudits for depicting Southerners and their lifestyle honestly (though critics quibble with the historical details of his Civil War scenes). More importantly, it depicts how the relations between whites and African-Americans evolved during those turbulent times. Theodore Dreiser called it "as fine an American realistic novel as I know of. There is something so truly human and real about every line of it. More than that, it is fair to life and to the individual in the South who found himself placed as he was at that time. Really it is a beautiful book – dramatic, amusing, sorrowful, true." The book remains in print and ebook, with excellent critical introductions. Stribling wrote in his autobiography Laughing Stock, "To think of those poetic figures just after the Civil War, their world, their ways of life, their insouciance, their kindness, their charm, for this particular group to vanish from the world of men, utterly forgotten, lost in the abyss of death – that to me is a tragic and almost unbearable consummation … . It was my impulse to stave off death as best as I could from my mother's people, and the dwellers of Gravelly Springs and Florence whom she knew, who exerted such a charm over me, that I always had planned, when the time was ripe, to write a story which would preserve as long as might be that beloved world."

Heyward, DuBose. Peter Ashley, 1932.

Son of an aristocratic family in Charleston is studying in Oxford when the war breaks out. He returns home with the aspiration to be a writer only to realize that the world he once knew is gone. Despite his opposition to the war and embrace of the artist's lifestyle, he confronts a variety of moral dilemmas about whether he needs to get involved or stay disengaged. Novelist Rosellen Brown found the High Romantic/melodramatic writing style offputting, but greatly admired the character's individuality and the ambiguity of motive and morality.

Lytle, Andrew. Long Night, 1936.

A young man in Alabama seeks revenge on an underground band of criminals who murder his father. He decides to kill them one by one and uses the cover of the Civil War to do it – when people are distracted by other things. Robert Penn Warren admired this book, both for the author's ability to recreate the Southern world and his remarkable use of language. He wrote, "We are not reading a realistic novel … but the whole is more like a ballad than a novel – a quintessential poetry of action, pathos, humor, and doom, to be read innocently, in its own terms, in its perspective of distance and a climate of feeling. It is strangely like a dream, springing from a certain society, from a certain historical moment – not a record, but a dream, the paradoxical dream of that society's, that historical moment's, view of itself."

Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind, 1936.

Famous bestselling saga about Georgia belle Scarlett O'Hara and how her plantation life was overtaken by the death and destruction of the Civil War. Probably the movie adaptation is now more famous than the book, but at the time the book was considered groundbreaking and the definitive tale of Southern viewpoints about the war.

Faulkner, William. Absalom, Absalom!, 1936.

Although David Madden calls this Southern Gothic novel one of the greatest Civil War novels, in fact the story about a man's failed dynasty just takes place against the backdrop of the Civil War. Three interconnected stories recount the life of Thomas Sutpen, a white man born into poverty in Virginia who moves to Mississippi to set up a plantation, goes to fight and returns to find his plantation ruined by carpetbaggers. This complex novel is known for unreliable narrators, run-on sentences and characters from previous Faulkner novels. It was specifically cited in the Nobel citation for the literature award and chosen by 134 scholars and authors of Oxford American literary journal judged as the "best Southern novel of all time." Despite its importance, the runon sentences and sometimes circuituous style can make it a slow and difficult read. Bring a pencil to keep track of everything!

Tate, Allen. The Fathers, 1938.

Noted essayist and poet wrote exactly one novel – it happens to be about the Civil War. It has what Tom Wicker calls a "double point view" of a 15 year old Lacy Buchan in 1861 and the same person 50 years later as a retired doctor. The subject is less about the war than the underlying contradictions of Southern society: the rituals and customs which ultimately become the spark for its destruction. Tom Wicker notes the novel dilutes the perniciousness of slavery and possibly even romanticizes it a bit by showing civilized interactions between slave and master. Critic Jonathan Yardley describes The Fathers as an "intelligent, vivid, multi-layered and historically accurate novel, one that treats the antebellum South not without sympathy but with far more irony and distance than Margaret Mitchell was capable of mustering."

Pennell, Joseph Stanley. History of Rome Hanks and Kindred Matters, 1944.

When the narrator researches his family history, he learns that his grandfather and great-grandfather were illustrious Civil War soldiers. He tries to piece together the stories he had heard them tell, leading to a series of speculative flashbacks about the battles they were involved in. Yale Review labeled it "brilliant, powerful, perplexing, irritating." It is told in a rambling, experimental style with changing points of view and stories-within-stories; one critic called the style "obscure, racy and ribald." This novel was very well received and widely praised.

Lockridge, Ross Jr. Raintree County, 1948.

Expansive novel consisting of a 40 years of flashbacks over a single day. It centers around the life of a small town teacher who in his younger days served as a Union soldier. Over the novel we learn about his triumphs and travails, his fall and redemption. Described as a kind of Indiana Ulysses, the novel was written by the author in his early 30s. Despite receiving critical acclaim and fanfare, the depression-prone author was tormented by the publisher's insistence on shaving significant parts of the manuscript; his success was overshadowed by his suicide two months after publication. The novel is considered "flabby," but many appreciate the novel's scope and ambitiousness in trying to mix the mythic and heroic in a small Midwestern town.

Kantor, MacKinley. Andersonville, 1955.

Pulitzer Prize-winning bestseller about prisoners in a Confederate prison in Georgia. Two critics called it the greatest Civil War novel of all time. About two decades earlier, Kantor had written two other novels with a Civil War setting. Arouse and Beware (1936) is about how two Union soldiers escape a prison and form a love triangle with a woman who is also trying to return to the North. Long Remember (1934) is about a Westerner who returns home to Gettysburg only to have an affair with a woman whose husband is fighting in the war. Kantor is also known for a 1961 speculative essay, If the South Had Won the Civil War.

Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels, 1974.

Pulitzer Prize winner which was noted for historical accuracy and its depiction of the military aspects of the Battle of Gettysburg. This widely-praised bestselling novel has influenced many contemporary treatments of the subject. It also inspired his son Jeff Shaara to write six (!) novels about the Civil War time period (including two which were considered to be a continuation of the father's novel: (Gods and Generals, 1996) and a sequel (Last Full Measure, 1998). Both Killer Angels and Gods and Generals were made into movies.

Keneally, Thomas. Confederates, 1979.

Well-regarded historical novel by the noted Australian author. Its focus is on the poor white Confederate soldiers. Newsweek wrote, "It's as if the veil of history were ripped away and our senses drenched by the actions of living people at the extremity of human experience."

Gurganus, Allen. Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All, 1989.

Bestselling novel (and winner of the Sue Kaufman Prize) about a 90 year old widow who at the age of 15 marries a 50 year old soldier haunted by the memory of the Civil War. In addition to selling well, this book was adapted both into a play and a TV series.

Turtledove, Harry. Guns of the South, 1992.

In this sci fi alternate history novel, 21st century South African white supremacists armed with AK-47s travel back in time to help the Confederate army fight the war against the North. Sci fi author Harry Turtledove is a prolific author of alternate histories, and this book won wide acclaim as a historical novel. (Even CW historian James M. McPherson called this book "absolutely unique – without question the most fascinating Civil War novel I have ever read"). Turtledove fleshed out the entire alternative timeline in a 11 book series extending from the 19th to the 21st century. But only this title (and the later title How Few Remain(1997) actually take place during the Civil War era. This 11 book series is often called the "Southern victory" or "Timeline-191" and stands out as a remarkable example of alternate history fiction. If this sort of thing interests you, you should also check out Wikipedia's gigantic listing of American Civil War alternate histories (containing examples from multiple genres).

Shaara, Jeff. Multiple Titles, 1996-2015.

Despite the fact that his father's Pulitzer Prize winning novel is so well known, Civil War author David Madden said "artistically, the son Jeff Shaara is the better novelist" than his more famous father Michael. Jeff wrote a prequel to his father's novel (Gods and Generals, 1996) and a sequel (Last Full Measure, 1998) which can be taken together as a trilogy. After a decade of writing novels about other time periods, Jeff returned to writing about the Civil War in 2012 with a four-volume Civil War series about lesser military campaigns in the West. The 2012 Blaze of Glory is about the Battle of Shiloh. The 2013 Chain of Thunder is about Grant's campaign against General Pemberton at Vicksburg. The 2014 Smoke at Down is about the battle of Chattanooga. Finally the 2015 Fateful Lightning focuses on Sherman's military campaigns during the last campaign of the war.

Madden, David Sharpshooter, 1996.

A 13 year old boy from Tennessee tags along with Union sympathizers who plan to blow up a critical bridge, is captured by Confederates and recruited by them to be a sharpshooter. The novel covers how the war affects him afterwards as he ponders the extent of his guilt and the misleading way that history is written afterwards.

Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain, 1997.

This National Book award winner is about a wounded Confederate soldier who returns to his North Carolina home and hometown sweetheart. The story concerns how the experiences of war have changed both the protagonist, his sweetheart and loved ones. This was later made into a movie.

Brooks, Geraldine. March, 2005.

This Pulitzer Prize winning novel re-imagines the father in the Alcott novel Little Women during the Civil War period. Not to be confused with E.L. Doctorow's The March, which is also about the Civil War and was published in the same year. (It is listed in the next section).

McNair, Charles. Pickett's Charge, 2013.

One day in 1964, a 114 year old Southerner named Threadgill Picket sees a ghostly vision of his twin brother who was needlessly killed 100 years ago during the Civil War. After the ghost of his brother beckons him to kill the last living Union soldier, Threadgill begins a long comic (and highly readable) journey to try to do so. Says the book's website: "Imagine Kurt Vonnegut and Ken Kesey joining forces with Shelby Foote and Margaret Mitchell to tell the last story of the American Civil War." It's a tall tale about what happened to the South and its people over the last century. McNair's earlier futuristic/dystopian 1994 novel (and Pulitzer nominee), Land O’ Goshen, touches upon a similar theme of a divided South with a similarly comic tone.

Michael Shaara Award for Excellence in Civil War Fiction

(Listed in chronological order by publication date). In honor of his father's career as a novelist, Jeff Shaara set up a $5000 annual prize for best fiction work with a Civil War theme. The award was only given between 1997 to 2014 (while skipping 2003 and 2005). Here is a list of winners.

Madison Jones. Nashville 1864, 1997.

A family emergency compels a 12 year old son of a Confederate soldier and his slave to go out searching for the father. He runs into a bloody battle around Nashville and witnesses the horrors of war firsthand. A fairly short novel (144 pages).

McCaig, Donald. Jacob's Ladder: A Story of Virginia During the Civil War, 1998.

A large, ambitious, carefully researched novel tracing the impact of the Civil War on a Virginia slave-owning family, their neighbors, and their slaves. After impregnating a mulatto girl he is in love with, a 17 year old plantation heir is shipped away to a military academy (and eventually to war) after she is sold south. The sequel to this novel Canaan won the same award in 2008. Notable also is that McCaig was one of the few authors which the Margaret Mitchell estate authorized to write sequels to Gone with the Wind. Eventually he wrote two books, Rhett Butler's People (2007) and Ruth's Journey: The Authorized Novel of Mammy from Margaret Mitchell's Gone with the Wind (2014). These Gone with the Wind sequels are recognized as competent and smart – certainly not the disaster of the earlier authorized sequel by Alexandra Ripley.

Mrazek, Robert J, Stonewall's Gold, 1999.

This adventure yarn and coming-of-age tale is about a 15 year old boy in the Appalachian Mountains at the end of the Civil War who discovers a dark secret about one of the boarders in his mother's house. That leads him to go searching for hidden gold, make interesting adventures and learn about how the world around him has been changed by the war. This award-winning book is considered popular for the "Young Adult" readers.

Slotkin, Richard. Abe: A Novel of the Young Lincoln, 2000.

Fictional account of Lincoln's early years by a noted American scholar.

Youmans, Marly. The Wolf Pit, 2001.

Story of a stormy relationship between a Confederate soldier and a mulatto slave girl who has learned to read and write. Youmans has a distinguished reputation as a poet and dabbles in a lot of genres. The novel is widely praised for its lyricism and rich detail.

Jakober, Marie. Only Call Us Faithful: A Novel of the Union Underground, 2002.

Fascinating story of a Northern spinster who returns to her father's home in Richmond, Virginia, frees the slaves and runs a successfully spy ring for the North of the Confederate army. Jakober is a Canadian author equally known for her sci fi fiction. The novel's protagonist is based on an actual person who aided the Union POW's in Libby Prison. In 2006 Jakober wrote another novel with a similar theme in Civil War times called Sons of Liberty. It's about an Austrian revolutionary living in Baltimore who learns about a Confederate conspiracy to seize the city.

Williams, Philip Lee. A Distant Flame, 2004.

Tale of how a Confederate sharpshooter's perspective on the Civil War changes over the course of time.

Doctorow, E.L. The March, 2005.

This novel imagines Sherman's military march through Georgia and the Carolinas and the ensuing chaos it brought. This novel won the PEN/Faulkner Award for Fiction (2006) and the National Book Critics Circle Award/Fiction (2005).

Bahr, Howard. The Judas Field, 2007.

Twenty years after the Civil War, a Confederate veteran agrees to return to a battle site with a war widow to help her recover the bodies of her father and brother.

McCaig, Donald. Canaan, 2008.

This is a sequel to the 1998 winner Jacob's Ladder (although reading the earlier novel isn't necessary to read this book). It relates the different paths that various people took after the Civil War (the freed slaves, the plantation owner, etc). An interesting look at how people managed after the war.

Taylor, Nick. The Disagreement, 2009.

Tale of a young Virginia medical student who dreams of going to medical school in Philadelphia at the beginning of the Civil War. He finds himself torn between his duty to work in a military hospital and his dream to escape to Philadelphia. One Amazon reviewer described the novel as "less about the Civil War and more about conflicting loyalties and relationships."

Nixon, Cornelia. Jarrettsville, 2010.

Based on a true story about one of Nixon's distant relatives, this novel is about a Southern woman who killed her Union veteran fiance while he was celebrating the Confederate surrender at Appomattox in 1869. The novel talks about the circumstances leading to the event, plus the trial afterwards. Is the woman a hero, a victim or a heartless murderer?

Oliveira, Robin. My Name is Mary Sutter, 2011.

A New York midwife who dreams of becoming a surgeon goes to Washington D.C. during the Civil War to tend the wounded; there, she finds herself in the middle of the war's tragic history while struggling to persuade the leaders to do something about it.

Foster, Sharon Ewell. The Resurrection of Nat Turner, Part One: The Witnesses, 2012.

Part One of a two part novel about the famous slave who led a slave revolt in Virginia in 1831 where he was killed. In Part I, the fictionalized Harriet Beecher Stowe encounters a mysterious runaway slave who recounts stories of people who knew Nat Turner, both friends and enemies. Their words reveal the mystery and conspiracy of Turner’s life, death, and confession. Part 2: The Testimony relates the whole story – from Turner’s early slave years with his Ethiopian-born mother through the uprising, his trial, and hanging – from Nat’s perspective.

Troy, Peter. May the Road Rise Up to Meet You, 2013.

Tale of four people from different backgrounds whose lives are thrown together during the Civil War. This includes an Irish immigrant fleeing the Irish potato famine who has a passion for photography, a Spanish society girl who becomes an abolitionist once inside the States and two slaves plotting a winter escape. Robin Oliveiria calls it "a hopeful, magnanimous depiction of America at its most vulnerable.”

McFarland, Dennis. Nostalgia, 2014.

A former baseball player who later served in Grant's army wanders aimlessly through the woods after having been wounded and abandoned by his regiment. He is traumatized and made mute. Later, he is treated by a medical volunteer who turns out to be Walt Whitman. The novel is widely praised for its psychological portrait of someone afflicted with post-traumatic stress disorder who desires to reunite with his family and bring his life back to normal.

Notable Civil War fiction by Woman Writers

(Listed in chronological order). The 2014 book Southern women novelists and the Civil War by Sharon Talley discuss a variety of books from both 19th and 20th century. Some older titles listed here, in fact, are not even on Project Gutenberg; the only way to read them may be to download a PDF from archive.org or Google Books to read this book. This section lists all the titles mentioned in Talley's book.

Ford, Sallie Rochester. Raids and Romance of Morgan and His Men, (PD-1863).

This early historical novel is based on the colorful Confederate cavalry general John Hunt Morgan. It depicts fictional raids into the North and Morgan's willingness to risk his life for the secessionist cause.

Evans, Augusta Jane. Macaria; or, Altars of Sacrifice, (PD-1864).

This very early novel is about two Confederate women who grapple with their feelings about the Southern cause. Evans charts their journey of two southern women toward ultimate self-realization through service in the war-torn Confederacy. Discarding the theme of romantic fulfillment, Evans skillfully crafts a novel about women compelled by the departure and death of so many southern men to find meaning in their own 'single blessedness' rather than in marriage.

Harland, Marion. Sunnybank, (PD-1866).

This novel describes the many privations and dangers of wartime Virginia, and the conflicts emerging in Southern society at that time. The protagonist is a native Southerner who followed her husband to live in the North. Her loyalties were divided during the war even though she opposed secession.

Cruse, Mary Anne. Cameron Hall: A Story of the Civil War, (PD-1867).

Although published in 1867, this Alabama author wrote this book several months before the war's end (when it was obvious that the war effort was doomed). This novel centers around two sons and two daughters of an Alabama plantation owner before and during the war. Generally pro-Southern in its sympathies, the book illustrates the "dangerous naivety" of Southerners towards the war. Sarah E. Gardner wrote that the book "unmistakably had strong roots in the antebellum sentimental, melodramatic school of women's fiction, with romantic subplots, lost relatives, mistaken identities and a perfect little girl named Agnes …"

Davis, Rebecca Harding. Waiting for the Verdict, (PD-1868).

A mulatto slave is adopted by a Quaker woman and in time, passing for white, becomes a surgeon. He falls in love with a white woman who does not know his racial identity, and this aggravate tensions when the Civil War erupts. Tim Morriss calls this a "tremendously powerful epic novel, comparable to Eliot or Stowe in its wide-ranging assessment of a nation in crisis." Davis is known for her realist, naturalistic novels, and her most famous work is Life in the Iron Mills.

Murfree, Mary Noailles. Where the Battle Was Fought (PD-1884) and The Storm Centre (PD-1905).

Prolific Tennessee author who also wrote under the pen name "Charles Egbert Craddock." Her novels were known for local color, dialect and depictions of mountain life. The earlier first novel starts in 1871 from the perspective of a disabled Confederate general who lives in a ramshackle home by a battlefield, caught in between the desolation of present woes and haunting memories of the past. The later book focuses on the courtship of Tennessee girls by Union soldiers and how the shadows of the "Lost Cause" complicated their marriages.

Glasgow, Ellen. The Battle-Ground (PD-1902).

At the start of the 20th century (and early in the author's career), Glasgow wrote three novels about Virginia society and pastoral life: Voice of the People (1900), The Battle-Ground (1902), and The Deliverance (1904). The middle one depicts two aristocratic Virginia families who are divided by the war even as they defend the Southern lifestyle (and right to own slaves). Men from both families fight alongside whites from lower class households. In the war's aftermath, the young women from both families must adapt to what their society has become. Talley comments, "The plantation and the love story – both conventions in pastoral romances – become devices to criticize the old order and imagine the possibility of a new, more egalitarian society in terms of gender, race, and class."

Johnston, Mary. The Long Roll, (PD-1911) and Cease Firing, (PD-1912).

Popular novelist and suffragette who wrote many novels (including the best-selling and widely praised 1899 work To Have and to Hold), but her two Civil War novels are considered among her best (especially because her father was a Confederate major as were many of her relatives). The first volume is about the wartime battles of Confederate General "Stonewall" Jackson. The second volume mixes fact and fiction, drawing upon wartime diarists and memories of her fighting cousin whom Johnston includes in the book as a character. One commentary said that Johnston used her "unimpeachable" Confederate credentials to indict the conflict. These two books impressed Margaret Mitchell so much that she wrote, “I hesitate to write about the South after reading Mary Johnston."

Scott, Evelyn. The Wave, 1929.

Widely-praised novel by a noted modernist author. Called a "comprehensive, cosmic novel of the Civil War," the novel consists of interweaving strands of plot and character and individuals being overwhelmed by social forces during a war they cannot hope to understand. David Madden calls Scott "the most intellectual and at the same time incredibly lyrical and sensitive woman writer."

Gordon, Caroline. None shall look back, 1937.

This Civil War novel has the sad fate of being published within a year of Gone with the Wind, so it is frequently overlooked. This novel was admired by people such as John Crow Ransom and Katherine Anne Porter (who described the book as "a legend in praise of heroes, of those who lost their battle, and their lives.") Unlike Mitchell's novel, Gordon's novel focuses on the tragic aspirations of a Confederate soldier. In addition to marrying author Allen Tate (listed above), Gordon was a prominent member of the Southern Agrarian literary moment and wrote a considerable amount of high quality fiction in the 1930s and 1940s; she had won several distinguished awards for her short stories.

Walker, Margaret. Jubilee, 1966.

Semi-fictional account of Vyry Brown, who was based on Walker's grandmother, a mixed-race slave in Alabama and Georgia. It relates her struggles and heartbreaks before and during the war and Reconstruction. Walker first established a reputation as a poet. A collection of her poetry This Is My Century, is worth hunting down.

Gibbons, Kaye. On the Occasion of my Last Afternoon, 1998.

A 70 year old woman, near death, reminisces about growing up in a Virginia plantation with a dysfunctional family. Later – during the war – she marries a Boston surgeon and tends the war wounded in the hospital with him.

Humphreys, Josephine. Nowhere Else on Earth, 2000.

Story about Rhoda Strong, a teenage girl of Scottish and half-Indian descent who lives in a poor Indian settlement in North Carolina during the last year of the Civil War. During that time marauding gangs from both the Union and Confederate side seize property and force men into labor; she falls in love with one of the local boys who hides gang members.

Randall, Alice. The Wind Done Gone, 2001.

Controversial novel which inverted the Gone with the Wind plot by taking the perspective of a black slave on the Tara plantation.

Juvenile and Young Adult Fiction

Generally most titles listed here are appropriate for middle school students – and possibly students who are older or younger. Several titles comes from Tim Morriss' list of Civil War fiction for juveniles and the list of kids' titles at the Civil War Book Review. Generally, titles from juvenile fiction series are omitted here in favor of non-series titles (which tend to be less formulaic and have more interesting characters). Titles listed below constitute only a fraction of excellent historical novels about that time period (and it overlooks many distinguished novels about slaves and slavery such as the ones written by Julius Lester). When available, lexile score will be provided for books to indicate approximate reading level. Public domain titles will be listed first; after those, books will be listed in alphabetical order by author's last name.

Adams, William Taylor (as "Oliver Optic"). Various Novels, (PD: 1860s-1890s) (Lexile: Varies, usually between 1000L-1100L).

Using the pen name "Oliver Optic," Taylor wrote a lot of adventure books for young boys in the late 19th century which used the Civil War as a backdrop. Ebooks of almost all the titles can be downloaded for free from Project Gutenberg under the name "Oliver Optic." He wrote three series of books about the Civil War. The first series (called Army and Navy or simply the Soldier Boys) was written in the 1860s. It consists of: The Soldier Boy; – or Tom Somers in the Army (1863); The Sailor Boy – or Jack Somers in the Navy (1863); The Young Lieutenant; or The Adventures of an Army Officer (1865); The Yankee Middy – or The Adventures of a Naval Officer (1865); Fighting Joe; or, The Fortunes of a Staff Officer (1865); and Brave Old Salt; or Life on the Quarter Deck (1866). Contemporary sci fi author Robert Charles Wilson admires this series very much, describing the books as "breathlessly optimistic stories of train wrecks, steamboat explosions, an escape from Libby Prison, secret codes deciphered, blockade runners foiled, slaveholders defied, betrayals and reverses, etc. etc." Optic published two more series about the Civil War two decades later: Blue and the Gray Afloat (1883-1893) and Blue and the Gray on Land (1894-1899). Each of the two later series consists of six volumes and are not as highly regarded as the earlier Soldier Boys series. Lexile range for the later Civil War series are in the 1050L-1150L range, and I am guessing that lexile scores for the earliest series is slightly lower.

Crane, Stephen. Red Badge of Courage, (PD-1895). (lexile: HL 680L).

Famous novel (if not the most famous) about an ordinary soldier's private battles while serving as a Union soldier. Tragically he died at the age of 28.

Altscheler, Joseph A. Civil War Series (8 Volumes), (PD: 1914-6).

Another Civil War series by another popular author of juvenile novels. This includes V1 The Guns of Bull Run, a story of the Civil War's eve (1914); V2 The Guns of Shiloh, a story of the great western campaign (1914); V3 The Scouts of Stonewall, the story of the great valley campaign (1914); V4 The Sword of Antietam, a story of the nation's crisis (1914); V5 The Star of Gettysburg, a story of southern high tide (1915); V6 The Rock of Chickamauga, a story of the western crisis (1915); V7 The Shades of the Wilderness, a story of Lee's great stand (1916) and V8 The Tree of Appomattox, a story of the Civil War's close (1916). Of one title, Tim Morriss writes, "the novel follows standard juvenile formulas of the early 20th century, as its heroes cycle from adventure to respite to new adventure. They are for the most part as blithe and chipper as heroes of baseball stories or scouting tales."

Beatty, Patricia. Who Comes with Cannons? (and others), 1984. (Lexile: 760L)

Beatty has published historical novels for grades 5-9 including several about the Civil War. For this one, Truth Hopkins is a 16 year old Quaker girl whose family hates slavery but also because of their Quaker beliefs, hates the war being waged to end it. Truth becomes involved in protecting a runaway slave on a North Carolina station of the Underground Railroad and demonstrates considerable bravery. Another novel Turn Homeward, Hannalee (1984) (Lexile: 830L) is about a 12 year old Georgia girl who is involuntarily sent with others to the North to work in a Yankee mill during the fighting. It describes her return to Georgia at war's end and what she witnessed. One parent complained that some scenes are a little too mature for 9 or 10 year old girls; one involves soldiers harassing some girls; another involves graphic battle depictions. Aside from these caveats, many have praised the character and story. A similarly bleak sequel, Be Ever Hopeful, Hannalee (1988) (Lexile: 830L) covers how she deals with the hardships of life upon her return. Charley Skedaddle (1987) (Lexile: 870L) was winner of the 1988 Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction. It's based upon a true story about a 12-year-old Bowery Boy from New York City who joins the Union Army as a drummer, deserts during a battle in Virginia, and encounters a hostile old mountain woman. For Jayhawker (1991) (Lexile: 780L) is about a teenage farm boy who becomes an abolitionist raider freeing slaves from the neighboring state of Missouri – and later goes underground as a spy.

Fleischman, Paul. Bull Run, 1993. (Lexile: 810L)

Innovative young-adult novel which consists of 16 different monologues from people who were present during the Battle of Bull Run. Each monologue is 1-3 pages and gives a different perspective on the same event. This novel has won several prizes and is frequently taught in high schools. Despite its lexile rating, this is actually a complex and intricate novel and deserves comparisons with Winesburg, Ohio.

Hunt, Irena. Across Five Aprils, 1964 (see note!) (Lexile: 1100L)

This expansive historical novel for young readers and teens has quite a following even though some complain that the author's use of local dialect makes the book harder to read. The author (who won a Newbery for another historical novel, but calls this one her favorite) heard her grandfather relate what it was like to grow up during the Civil War, so she wrote a novel from a similar perspective. At the book's opening, the protagonist is a 9 year old Illinois boy who has to help take responsibility for the family farm while the men go off to war. One critic described it as a "celebrated juvenile novel that has dated fairly well. Its characters are earnest well-meaning people, and the tone is one of optimistic liberal humanism." Despite the youthful perspective, the novel has a relatively high lexile count, making it probably more appropriate reading material for 8th and 9th graders. Several Amazon reviews go like this: "I hated the book when I had to read it for class, but I ended up reading it later and liking it a lot." The book has several editions, but one edition (published in 1990 as Across Five Aprils and Related Readings) is particularly outstanding. In addition to the novel itself, the book contains 40 pages of additional readings such as poems, letters, a Lincoln Speech and even a Ray Bradbury story called "The Drummer Boy of Shiloh." This edition was first published in 1990 by McDougal Littell in their "Literature Connections" series. Glencoe republished the same edition a few years later.

Keith, Harold. Rifles for Waitie, 1957. (Lexile: 910L)

Keith's Newbery-Medal-winning novel features Jeff Bussey, a 16-year-old free soil sodbuster in eastern Kansas who quickly joins the Union Army in 1861 to avenge border ruffian attacks on his family. Jeff escapes participation in the major battles of the Kansas/Arkansas/Indian Territory campaign, but a strange twist of events land him in the Confederate cavalry. Jeff acts for a time as a double agent before having to definitively choose sides.

Lunn, Janet. The Root Cellar, 1981. (Lexile: 840L)

This novel is about a 12 year old Canadian girl who discovers in the cellar a way to travel through time to various locations in the United States during the Civil War era.

Mrazek, Robert J. Stonewall's Gold, 1999. (Lexile: 890L)

This Young Adult novel was the Winner of the Michael Shaara Award for Civil War Fiction (described more fully in a previous section of this chapter).

Reeder, Carolyn. Shades of Grey and other titles, 1989. (Lexile: 800L)

This (unfortunately named) title won the Scott O'Dell Award for Historical Fiction in 1989. It's about a 12 year old Southern boy's resentment at his uncle for refusing to fight for the Confederacy. Note: Do not confuse this title with a 2014 Civil War romance novel by Jessica James bearing the same title! In Across the Lines (1997) (Lexile: 1000L), Edward, the son of a white plantation owner, and his black house servant and friend, Simon, witness the siege of Petersburg during the Civil War and find themselves on opposite sides of the battle. Using the perspectives of three different boys, Before the Creeks Ran Red (2003) consists of three linked novellas about the tumultuous times beginning with the secession of South Carolina and leading up to the first major battle of the Civil War.

Wilhelm, Doug. Gunfire At Gettysburg (Choose Your Own Adventure No. 151), 1994.

The well-known interactive fiction series has a volume about a boy witnessing the Battle of Gettysburg. Despite the ludicrous premise, the author pulls it off and gives an informative history lesson in the process. The protagonist is a young boy who wants to watch a Civil War battle, but finds various opportunities to participate. Should he agree to speak with General Lee and do reconnaissance for his troops to minimize casualties? Or should he help Union medics care for the wounded or help a captured slave escape to freedom? Besides providing fascinating historical color, the book also makes the reader confront the ethics of getting involved (and lets the reader "replay" various decisions to help decide the best course of action).

Literary Memoirs and Nonfiction

Watkins, Sam B. Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War, (PD-1900).

Many people involved in the Civil War wrote memoirs, but Co. Aytch is considered one of the quirkiest and most memorable. Watkins did not intend to write a history of the overall war but simply to describe his personal experience as a private soldier. This memoir is universally praised for its folksy style which blends humor and pathos; it is no surprise that director Ken Burns quoted it many times during his Civil War documentary series.

Chesnut, Mary, Allen. Edited by C. Vann Woodward. Mary Chesnut's Civil War, 1981 (Based on a public domain 1905 text).

This "fake diary" (written in 1880-1900) was based on actual diary entries kept by a wife of a prominent Confederate politician during the Civil War. Chesnutt's diary was partially published as "A Diary From Dixie" in 1905. Chesnutt embellished her memories and timelines a bit and wrote with the value of hindsight, but it is generally believed that she witnessed most of these events firsthand and had keen insights into Southern society and the peculiar institution of slavery. Although Edmund Wilson didn't realize that Chesnutt's diary was written well after events, he admired the diary's literary (and almost novelistic) sensibility. This diary was published in longer form in 1949, but the 1981 version edited by C. Vann Woodward is considered to be definitive and well-annotated. The 2011 Penguin classics edition (edited by Catherine Clinton) also contains good annotations and an introductory essay – plus it's the only edition currently available in ebook form.

Widmer, Ted, editor. Disunion: Modern Historians Revisit and Reconsider the Civil War from Lincoln's Election to the Emancipation Proclamation, 2013.

In 2010, the New York Times launched a weekly blog called "Disunion" which consisted of magazine-length essays about the Civil War era. This volume collects 106 articles from this blog. Although most of the essays are by historians, the essays have a literary bent and reference a lot of original texts. A typical essay from this book sheds light on a little known event or person from the time period. Highly engaging and geared towards a general audience.

Poetry Anthologies

Barrett, Faith and Miller, Cristanne. Editors. Words for the Hour: a New Anthology of American Civil War Poetry, 2005.

A well-organized and annotated 400 page anthology of poetry produced during and shortly after the Civil War. It has three parts. The first part consists of poems published in journals and newspapers (listed by year); the second part consists of generous excerpts from volumes of verse about the Civil War (by Whitman, Melville, etc.) The third part consists of unpublished and posthumously-published poetry (Emily Dickinson, etc.) This anthology includes biographical sketches and two introductory essays which put things into context. A lot of these verses are already in the public domain, but the number of unfamiliar literary names and the excellent supplemental material make this volume a delight to peruse.

Marius, Richard and Frome, Keith. Editors. The Columbia Book of Civil War Poetry: From Whitman to Walcott, 1994.

This 543 page anthology provides a mixture of poetry both from the 19th century and 20th century. Instead of listing things alphabetically or chronologically, the book divides poems into sections by specific themes (i.e., "Horrors of War," "Moral Fervor," "Snapshots of War," "Pantheon," "Lincoln," "Aftermath," and "Stillness"). Juxtaposing poems from different time periods can help the reader to see how themes from the Civil War were re-imagined and how they influenced the American psyche in later generations. Includes an excellent 14 page introduction.

Online Journals and Book Review Sites

Civil War Book Reviews. Civil War News (website and print journal).

"Civil War News" is a monthly journal which has been published since 2003; it covers many facets of the Civil War, including history, preservation, commemorative events and book reviews. The journal also contains regular columns about special topics. The Book Review section of the website contains a generous listing of books which have been reviewed over the years.

Civil War Book Review. Civil War Book Review (website and print journal).

Started by author David Madden and located at Louisiana State University, this journal covers lots of disciplines. Coverage of literary aspects of the Civil War is particularly strong, and the reviewers are top rate. You can sort the published book reviews by book genres (Fiction, Social History, For Kids, Biographies, etc). At the time of this writing, this website lists reviews for about 200 recently written fiction titles.

Online Guide to Civil War fiction. (Prepared by Tim Morriss).

Scholar Tim Morriss has been keeping an online guide to Civil War novels which contain recommendations for many titles not listed here. It organizes Civil War fiction by subject matter, time period, author and even unusual categories (like "Counterfactual," "Detective Fiction" and "Sports Novels").

The final version of this bibliography chapter will be available on the author's website.

Creative Commons License

The bibliography on this web page was written by Robert Nagle, editor of Personville Press. It is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. This bibliography was written as an appendix for the ebook Soldier Boys: Tales of the Civil War by Jack Matthews (1925-2013). Please note that the rest of the ebook is copyrighted by the author -- and not licensed under Creative Commons. For feedback about this page, contact Robert Nagle (idiotprogrammer AT gmail.com ). Last Update: April 2, 2017. For your amusement, creating this annotated bibliography inspired me to write an essay declaring my undying love for the annotated bibliography format.

If you have a title to recommend or if you are yourself an author, you can let me know; this is a static HTML file (derived from Docbook XML) which I pulled from an ebook, so I will not be updating this page often. It's possible that I may expand this bibliography at some later date; I cannot predict.