Civil War Sesquicentennial – Soldiers

Home Sweet Home Winslow HomerAccording to the National Park Service, over 3 million men (and a few women!) fought in the U.S. Civil War, which was about 10% of the population during that time. Most of them – at least 48% of Union men and 69% of Confederate men – were farmers prior to the war. And, for most of these men, going off to fight was the first time they had left their homes.

It’s fascinating, then, to see how they lived as soldiers, both on and off the battlefield. These men developed a camaraderie that lasted long after the war, which had lasting implications to the U.S. as a whole (for example, baseball developed into a national game because it was played, on both sides, during soldiers’ leisure time).

Learn more about these men and their heroism by picking up one of these books about the soldiers life during the war (and don’t forget, we have the Civil War 150 exhibition running until April 13!).


Between Two Fires: American Indians in the Civil War – Laurence M. Hauptman

  • Against this tragic backdrop, the author highlights both the lives of everyday Indian foot soldiers as well as the military exploits of such great Indian commanders as Confederate General Stand Watie.

Between Two Fires: Black Soldiers in the Civil War – Joyce Hansen

  • Facing both battlefield fire and the fire of hatred and deeply held racial attitudes, about 180,000 men of African descent fought as part of the Union Army, to help save the Union and end legal slavery in the United States and-they hoped-for their own liberty and dignity.

The Boys’ War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War – Jim Murphy

  • First-hand accounts that include diary entries and personal letters describe the experiences of boys, sixteen years old or younger, who fought in the Civil War.

Confederate Generals: Life Portraits – George Cantor

  • Extended biographical sketches of twenty of the most significant, compelling, and colorful of the Southern generals. Leavened with 10-15 relevant photographs and illuminating anecdotes, each profile also includes descriptions of the most important military actions in which each general was involved.

Courage Under Fire: Profiles in Bravery from the Battlefields of the Civil War – Wiley Sword

  • Through diaries and letter written on the battlefield, in camps, and on the deathbeds of soldiers from north and south, Wiley Sword, writes about more than the Civil War. He writes of the complex working of a soldier’s mind& coming to grips with life and death in a time when his country was at war with itself.

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War – James M. McPherson

  • McPherson shows that, contrary to what many scholars believe, the soldiers of the Civil War remained powerfully convinced of the ideals for which they fought throughout the conflict. Motivated by duty and honor, and often by religious faith, these men wrote frequently of their firm belief in the cause for which they fought: the principles of liberty, freedom, justice, and patriotism.

I’ll Pass for Your Comrade: Women Soldiers in the Civil War – Anita Silvey

  • In this compelling book, Anita Silvey explores the fascinating secret world of women soldiers: who they were, why they went to war, how they managed their masquerade.

The Life of Billy Yank: The Common Soldier of the Union – Bell Irvin Wiley

  • Describes the daily life of the Union soldier; camp life and food, medical treatments, and what fighting was like.

Medal of Honor: Profiles of America’s Military Heroes from the Civil War to the Present – Allen Mikaelian

  • Of the millions of Americans who have gone into combat in the past century, fewer than 1,300 have earned the Medal of Honor, and many of those were awarded it for actions they did not survive. Their courageous and selfless feats in battle are barely conceivable. They plunged into heavy fire, ventured boldly behind enemy lines, and threw themselves on live grenades. But who are these people?

A People at War: Civilians and Soldiers in America’s Civil War, 1854-1877 – Scott Reynolds Nelson

  • This book shows how average Americans coped with despair as well as hope during this vast upheaval. It brings to life the full humanity of the war’s participants, from women behind their plows to their husbands in army camps; from refugees from slavery to their former masters; from Mayflower descendants to freshly recruited Irish sailors.

The Soldier’s Pen: Firsthand Impressions of the Civil War – Robert E. Bonner

  • Drawing from the more than 10,000 documents housed in the privately held Gilder Lehrman Collection, Robert E. Bonner has movingly reconstructed the experiences of sixteen Civil War soldiers, using their own accounts to knit together a ground-level view of the entire conflict.

They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the American Civil War – DeAnne Blanton and Lauren M. Cook

  • A study of the hundreds of women who disguised themselves as male soldiers to fight on both sides of the Union and Confederate conflict chronicles the stories of Jennie Hodgers, Frances Clayton, and Loreta Velazquez, among others. (Description from NoveList.)

“Those Damn Horse Soldiers:” True Tales of the Civil War Cavalry – George Walsh

  • Many accounts of the Civil War battles, armies, and key figures have been written over the years, but none have looked at the bloodiest war in our nation’s history through the eyes of the cavalry. The horse soldiers in the Civil War are often referred to as the last of the cavaliers, men who valued their honor as much as their cause.

Union Soldier in Battle: Enduring the Ordeal of Combat – Earl J. Hess

  • Describes the agony and horrific nature of the Civil War from the perspective of the soldiers who fought in it. Draws upon the letters, diaries, and memoirs of Northern soldiers to reveal their deepest fears and traumas, and their sources of inner strength. By identifying recurrent themes found in those accounts, Hess (history, U. of Tennessee), constructs a multilayered view of the ways in which these men coped with the challenges of battle.

What This Cruel War Was Over: Soldiers, Slavery, and the Civil War – Chandra Manning

  • Using soldiers’ letters, diaries, and regimental newspapers, Chandra Manning allows us to accompany soldiers–black and white, northern and southern–into camps and hospitals and on marches and battlefields to better understand their thoughts about what they were doing and why.


Annotations courtesy of the TFPL catalog, unless noted otherwise.

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