Frank Williams: Given a month off this summer, which Civil War sites would you visit and what new books would you read?

In this sesquicentennial season and with a month to do it in, I would travel to some old favorites and find some new haunts too.


Of course, the campaigns in the West, especially Shiloh, Corinth and Vicksburg beckon with memories of the evolution and growth of General Ulysses S. Grant. If there was time, I would end at my favorite place - Gettysburg - the first battlefield I toured as a very young man. Every location has a great story to tell - from General John Buford’s gallant stand with his cavalry on the first day to Colonel Joshua Chamberlain’s courage in repulsing the attack on Little Round Top.

With over 100,000 books on the Civil War, more keep coming. Not to be missed is Adam Goodheart’s fresh approach in 1861: The Civil War Awakening. The author describes the first year of the war through the eyes of little-known characters. Commander-in-Chief Abraham Lincoln knew more about the art of war than he has ever been credited as Harold Holzer demonstrates in Lincoln on War. David Goldfield’s exposition on how the Second Great Awakening created such a religious fervor that the debate over slavery and economic forces led to the Civil War and Reconstruction is a finely tuned argument which actually says something new (America Aflame: How the Civil War Created a Nation). And lastly, for now, is Amanda Foreman’s A World on Fire: Britain’s Crucial Role in the American Civil War gives us a new look at this challenging relationship during the war. If you do not like any of these, do not worry, as others will be published during the next four years and beyond!

This post is a continuation of a panel discussion that began in June.

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