The Coming Anniversary of the Civil War

By Stephen

Abraham Lincoln was elected President of  the United States one hundred and fifty years ago on November 6, 2010.  What followed Lincoln’s election was a bloody civil war that lasted over four years.  Almost as  many books have written about this war as there were casualties on the battlefields ( a slight exaggeration).  And, with the sesquicentennial of the war arriving next year, there are many more about to be published over the horizon.

The Civil War is undoubtedly one of the more popular subjects in American history.  Before the internet came into being,  historians and genealogists had to use research libraries to access some of the document collections that are now available from any computer.  Take, for example, the Official Records of the War of the Rebellion, a multi-volume collection of documents, reports, letters, telegrams, etc., that used be to available only in large libraries, is now as close as this link.

The various branches of the Fontana Regional Library enough books on the Civil War to keep any reader busy for a long time. There are some one volume reference books about the American civil war that you can check-out and take home.  For the novice, there is Kenneth C. Davis’ Don’t Know Much About the Civil War. For the slightly more knowledgeable reader, The Library of Congress Civil War Desk Reference outlines various facts about the war, battle  plans, statistics, biographical sketches, etc.   If you are into Civil War minutia, I would recommend The Civil Day By Day by E. B.  Long.  The title aptly describes this book, which mentions every battle, skirmish, etc. that took  place during the extent of the war.

There are more than a few narrative histories of the American Civil War.  Shelby Foote’s three volume history, The Civil War: A Narrative History, has been compared  with some of Winston Churchill’s historical  work.  If you prefer single volume histories, try James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom and/or John Keegan’s The American Civil War: a Military History.  McPherson is a noted American historian and Keegan is a famous British military scholar.

If you have ancestors who fought in North Carolina regiments, the library has North Carolina Troops, 1861-1865.  This roster of North Carolina troops is an ongoing project.  There is a complete set of these volumes  in the main libraries in each county in the region.

The  Civil War is subject of a number of documentary films.  The best known is Ken Burn’s production “The Civil War,” originally televised on PBS in 1990.  (This is film that made Shelby Foote a household name among persons interested in studying the war.)  The library also has some History Channel documentaries about the Civil War:   “Great Commanders:  Robert E. Lee” and “Great Commanders:  Joshua L. Chamberlain.

Closer to home, the Civil War in Western North Carolina is the subject of  the following  books.  Two of these, The Heart of Confederate Appalachia and Bushwhackers, discuss the  war in the mountains in general.    Victims tells the story of the massacre of Union sympathizers  in the Shelton Laurel community in Madison County.   William Holland Thomas is the subject of the biography Confederate Colonel and Cherokee Chief.  Thomas commanded Thomas’ Legion, a unit composed of eastern Cherokees,  in the Confederate Army.

The Fontana Regional Library has many more  resources pertaining to the Civil War.  To see a complete list to go the catalog here .

2 thoughts on “The Coming Anniversary of the Civil War

  1. As a transplanted Yankee, it took me some time after moving to the south to appreciate the strong interest that many southerns still have in the Civil War. The turning point came for me after visiting one of the battlefields – Shiloh National Park. It was a very powerful experience that inspired me to visit several others. The library has some wonderful books to help plan a visit to those many battlefield sites.


    • Karen,

      I appreciate your comment. I have been to Shiloh a number of times and to Fort Donelson once. You are right, visiting Civil War battlefields makes for a powerful experience.

      Shelby Foote used come in the Main Library in Memphis when I worked there. When I was in the graduate history program at the University of Memphis, he came one day and answered questions from the faculty and graduates students for over two hours. This was the spring before Ken Burns’ film was on PBS, Foote didn’t how much of a role he would play in the film.



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