The Bookshelf

The digital home of book reviews and author interviews—and your source of the most up-to-date information on all things Civil War literature

Published 11/16/2011

MORSMAN: The Big House After Slavery (2010)

By: Felicity Turner Category: Book Reviews

Amy Feely Morsman’s The Big House After Slavery examines changing gender relations amongst married elites in postemancipation Virginia. Drawing from family papers, diaries, newspapers, and periodicals, Morsman argues that the dire economic straits of former slaveholding elites during Reconstruction prompted an important transition in the gender dynamics of planter households...

Published 11/9/2011

COFFMAN: Going Back the Way They Came (2011) & MARTIN: I Will Give Them One More Shot (2011)

By: James I. Robertson, Jr. Category: The Bookshelf

It was in the 1950s when historian Bruce Catton first called attention to the value of Civil War regimental studies. These personal collections of experiences and quotations by the men in the ranks became a fascinating base for Catton’s award-winning, three-volume chronicle of the Union’s Army of the Potomac. That research breakthrough led to a veritable renaissance in the publication of unit...

Published 11/2/2011

MARTIN: General Braxton Bragg, C.S.A. (2011)

By: Jeffry D Wert Category: Book Reviews

In this lengthy and well-researched new biography of Bragg, Samuel Martin attempts to rectify the Confederate general’s historical record and reputation. It is a commendable effort by the veteran author that will assuredly stir further debate and controversy...

Published 10/26/2011

THOMAS: The Iron Way (2011)

By: Elizabeth Varon Category: Book Reviews

William G. Thomas’s The Iron Way is a tour-de-force, and offers a series of bracing insights about the origins, shape and outcome of the Civil War. Thomas argues that the railroads were sites and symbols of contested modernity in antebellum America. They did not simply symbolize northern industrial might and progress, but also the South’s determination to have modernity on its own terms: to...

Published 10/26/2011

GLATTHAAR: Soldiering in the Army of Northern Virginia (2011)

By: Brian Craig Miller Category: Book Reviews

Designed as a companion to his superb 2008 work General Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse, the statistical volume breaks down the sample of six hundred soldiers that Glatthaar used to tell the story of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia...

Published 10/19/2011

BYNUM: The Long Shadow of the Civil War (2010)

By: Laura Hepp Bradshaw Category: Book Reviews

“Few histories,” Victoria Bynum laments, “are buried faster or deeper than those of political or social dissenters” (148). By resurrecting the histories of three anti-secessionist communities in the South, Bynum’s latest book about the Civil War home front and its checkered aftermath bring previously ignored strains of political and social dissent back to life through an intricate examination of...

Published 10/19/2011

WOOD: Near Andersonville (2010)

By: Robert Bonner Category: Book Reviews

Peter Wood’s incisive new book asks us to set aside imagery of battles and soldiers, and even “Honest Abe,” so that we might visualize the world captured by the painter Winslow Homer in his long-forgotten masterpiece “Near Andersonville.”

Published 10/12/2011

MARTEN: Sing Not War (2011)

By: Brian M. Jordan Category: Book Reviews

More so than any previous historian, Marten sheds light on several important questions: how did veterans live, and how were they perceived by society? Sing Not War has given admirable shape and definition to an anemic subfield of Civil War history, and as such it is a welcome addition to the literature. Future studies of the war’s consequences must contend with the important questions that James ...

Published 10/12/2011

MCCURRY: Confederate Reckoning (2010)

By: David K. Thomson Category: Book Reviews

Confederate Reckoning’s sharp narrative and fresh analysis of the odds faced by slaveholders in the Confederacy and their contributions to its internal collapse is both timely and justified as historians try to reassess key issues of race and gender, such as the roles of southern women and slaves, in relation to the war. McCurry has opened the door for future scholarship and has further cemented...

Published 10/5/2011

BERRY (ed.): Weirding the War: Stories from the Civil War's Ragged Edges (2011)

By: W. Fitzhugh Brundage Category: Book Reviews

The essays themselves explore nooks and crevices of Civil War history that are always interesting, sometimes poignant, and often revelatory. Berry’s introduction is especially cogent about the thread that runs through the collection: the “littleness” of the war. Almost certainly this view of the conflict is rooted in the experience of contemporary Americans with war. We have a half century of...