Tag Archives: Books

Best of 2010

Civilians During the battle of Fredericksburg

Unfortunately, this year’s picks are based on a slightly shorter list of books than in the past owing to the amount of time I spent over the summer revising my book manuscript on the battle of the Crater.  However, that didn’t prevent me from reading a fairly large number of books that are worth acknowledging at the end of another year.  Thanks to all of you for taking the time to read, comment, and consider what I have to say.  I have no plans to quit blogging.  In fact, the popularity of this site continues to grow and continues to open up new opportunities for me that I could not have imagined just a few short years ago.  The coming year promises to be another good one on both the professional and personal fronts.  I hope all of you are enjoying the Holiday Season.

Best Civil War Blog: This was one of the easiest choices that I’ve had to make in this category since starting this list.  While there are plenty of good Civil War blogs to choose from only a select few stand out to me as important resources for both scholars and general enthusiasts.  John Hennessy’s Mysteries and Conundrums is hands down the most important Civil War blog in our little corner of the blogosphere.  M&C is the group blog of the staff at the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park and while Hennessy is the most visible writer other contributors include Noel Harrison, Mac Wycoff, and Eric Mink.  Their blog offers a behind-the-scenes look at the complex process involved in interpreting some of America’s most sacred and controversial historic sites.  The site offers interested readers a primer on how public history is done and it does so by engaging the public as an integral part of the process.  No other website or even published study has taught me more over the past year about the history of the Fredericksburg area, public history, and Civil War memory.  Thanks to John and the rest of the staff for inviting us inside, showing us how it is done, and for providing a blueprint that other historic sites can employ.

Best History Book of 2010: Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (Knopf, 2010).

Best Overall Civil War History: George Rable, God’s Almost Chosen Peoples: A Religious History of the American Civil War (Littlefield History of the Civil War Era, 2010).

Best Campaign/Battle Study: Earl J. Hess, Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg (University of South Carolina Press, 2010).

Best Biography: Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and American Slavery (Norton, 2010).

Best Confederate Study: Kenneth W. Noe, Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army after 1861 (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Best Union Study: Lorien Foote, The Gentlemen and the Roughs: Violence, Honor, and Manhood in the Union Army (New York University Press, 2010).

Best Slavery Study: Stanley Harrold, Border War: Fighting over Slavery before the Civil War (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Best Memory Study: Benjamin G. Cloyd, Haunted by Atrocity: Civil War Prisons in American Memory (Louisiana State University Press, 2010).

Best Edited Collection: Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller eds. ,The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction as America’s Continuing Civil War (Fordham University Press, 2010).

Best Social History: Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press, 2010).

Some good things to look forward to in 2011: Joseph Glatthaar, Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia: A Statistical Portrait of the Troops Who Served Under Robert E. Lee (University of North Carolina Press); David S. Reynolds, Mightier Than the Sword: Uncle Tom’s Cabin and the Battle for America (Norton); James Marten, Sing Not War: The Lives of Union and Confederate Veterans in Gilded Age America (University of North Carolina Press); Wallace Hettle, Inventing Stonewall Jackson: A Civil War Hero in History and Memory (Louisiana State University Press); Brooks Simpson, The Civil War in the East: A Reassessment (Praeger); Gary W. Gallagher, The Union War (Harvard University Press); David Goldfield, America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation (Bloomsbury Press).

Acquisitions (American Revolution Edition)

Every year as I prepare my classes I rediscover my love for the history of the American Revolution.  Like the Civil War, the Revolution enjoys a wide range of talented scholars and popular writers, who continue to crank out thought-provoking studies many of which I end up incorporating into my class lectures.  This year was no different.  Here is a list of the books that I’ve read over the past few months or hope to complete at some point soon.  I know many of you have an interest in the period so I am curious as to what you’ve read recently or are looking forward to reading.

  • Benjamin L. Carp, Defiance of the Patriots: The Boston Tea Party and the Making of America (Yale University Press, 2010).  I am just about finished with this book and I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it.  Carp does an outstanding job of placing the event within the context of the British Empire as a whole.  He analyzes the local social and political scene in Boston as well as the choice of disguise and the consequences of the act.
  • Julie Flavell, When London Was Capital of America (Yale University Press, 2010).  I love books that force you to take a new perspective on familiar people and events.  I recently heard that David McCullough’s next book will attempt something along the same lines.
  • Woody Holton, Abigail Adams (Free Press, 2009).  Holton goes furthest in exploring Abigail’s role as the caretaker of the family’s finances during John’s many absences.  I know that Joseph Ellis recently published a book on John and Abigail, but the reviews have not been good.
  • Jill Lepore, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle over American History (Princeton University Press, 2010).  You can read this in one or two days.  It compliments Carp’s study nicely.  As much as I found Lepore’s focus on the modern Tea Party movement to be interesting, I was much more surprised by earlier appropriations of the event.
  • Pauline Maier, Ratification: The People Debate the Constitution, 1787-1788 (Simon and Schuster, 2010).  I’ve not had a chance to read this, but if it is as good as her study of the Declaration of Independence it’s going to be a real treat to read.
  • Alan Taylor, The Civil War of 1812: American Citizens, British Subjects, Irish Rebels, & Indian Allies (Knopf, 2010) Taylor proves once again that there is an aesthetic quality to solid research that is beautifully written.

Acquisitions, 11/13

Acquisitions, 10/09

To be honest, the last thing that I need to be reading is another book on Abraham Lincoln given everything that has been published over the past few years.  However, I have to say that I am thoroughly enjoying Eric Foner’s new book on Lincoln and slavery and I suspect that it will quickly establish itself as the standard study – highly recommended.  I will also have quite a lot to say about Earl Hess’s new book on the Crater, which is by far the most thorough study of the battle.  Hess adds quite a bit to our understanding of the racial aspect of the battle.

Shearer Davis Bowman, At the Precipice: Americans North and South During the Secession Crisis (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Paul A. Cimbala and Randall M. Miller, The Great Task Remaining Before Us: Reconstruction As America’s Continuing Civil War, (Fordham University Press, 2010).

Eric Foner, The Fiery Trial: Abraham Lincoln and Slavery (Norton, 2010).

Earl J. Hess, Into the Crater: The Mine Attack at Petersburg, (University of South Carolina Press, 2010).

Kate Masur, An Example For All the Land: Emancipation and the Struggle for Equality in Washington, D.C. (University of North Carolina Press, 2010).

Louis P. Masur, The Civil War: A Concise History (Oxford University Press, 2011).

Acquisitions, 06/30

I haven’t updated my list of new books in quite some time.  Unfortunately, I haven’t had much time to read, but I highly recommend books by McCurry, Miller, and Noe.  Happy reading.

Daniel Crofts, A Secession Crisis Enigma: William Henry Hurlbert and “The Diary of a Public Man” (LSU Press, 2010).

Stanley Harrold, Border War: Fighting Over Slavery Before the Civil War (UNC Press, 2010).

Graham R.G. Hodges, David Ruggles: A Black Abolitionist and the Underground Railroad in New York City (UNC Press, 2010).

Michael Kammen, Digging Up the Dead: A History of Notable American Reburials (University of Chicago Press, 2010).

Stephanie McCurry, Confederate Reckoning: Power and Politics in the Civil War South (Harvard University Press, 2010).

Brian Craig Miller, John Bell Hood and the Fight for Civil War Memory (University of Tennessee Press, 2010).

Kenneth W. Noe, Reluctant Rebels: The Confederates Who Joined the Army After 1861 (UNC Press, 2010).

Michael O’Brien, Intellectual Life and the American South, 1810-1860 (UNC Press, 2010).

Donald Stoker, The Grand Design: Strategy and the U.S. Civil War (Oxford University Press, 2010).

Cynthia Watchell, War No More: The Anti-War Impulse in American Literature, 1861-1914 (LSU Press, 2010).