Let me tell you about one of my favorite obsessions. It started way back in 1994. A friend gave me a copy of The Battle Cry of Freedom, a one-volume history of the Civil War. (it's very good but also long and written for grownups) Like most guys, I had taken American History in school and thought I knew all about the conflict between the states. But, while reading that book, I was amazed at how much I didn't know. And I was much further amazed at all the stories I didn't know about. Tales of courage, heroism, and incredible endurance.Stories like soldiers marching through icy rivers with icicles forming on them. Or the First Minnesota at Gettysburg, the 262 Union soldiers who charged into 1200 Confederates to keep the Confederates from breaking through a hole in the lines. Or the story of The Angel of Marye's Heights at the battle of Fredericksburg, the Confederate soldier who took water to wounded Union soldiers, even when he was being shot at. The more I read, the more stories I found and became hooked on reading about Civil War history. I've recently read some terrific books about the CW and liked them so much that I wanted to tell you about them--not to mention it's in keeping with my 2014 resolution to share more nonfiction with all you boys.
You Wouldn't Want to be a Civil War Soldier: A war You'd Rather Not Fight by Thomas Ratliff, illustrated by David Antram
What a great book! It's one of the You Wouldn't Want to Be...series which covers everything from Ancient Greek athletes to sailing on the Titanic to climbing Mount Everest. This one covers the Civil War from beginning to end, telling what life was like for Union and Confederate soldiers (hints: take baths in the summer and try not to get captured), covers all the major battles (including a list at the end of the Top 10 Bloodiest Battles) and shows what types of weapons soldiers would use. It's a good introduction to the Civil War but would also be fun to read for CW fans like me. Plus the illustrations are terrific! Humorous, yet capturing all the horror of a real war. It was a great read but, after finishing it, I really would not want to have been a CW soldier!
What Was the Battle of Gettysburg? by Jim O'Connor, illustrated by John Mantha
Another great read, good for both the novice CW reader or long-time fan. Lots of good info about the most famous battle of the Civil War, as well as about its leaders. Plus a section of truly cool photos from that time! And a truly touching letter the the author's ancestor who actually fought in that battle! This book is good for the experienced reader or what the grownups call "reluctant readers."And it would be good for a school report or just some fun and interesting reading. PS--if you like this one, check out other books in the "What Was.." series of nonfiction or the "Who Was..." series of biographies. Those books fly off our shelves here at the library!
Civil War Forts by Victor Brooks (part of the Untold History of the Civil War series)
The title grabbed me. Think about it--forts, guns, cannons. Sounds cool to me. I thought this would be just a description of CW forts but was amazed to find another book of cool stories. Just wait until you read about Major Robert Anderson being trapped inside Fort Sumter or General Grant's attacks on Forts Henry and Donaldson in the middle of winter or the 54th Massachusetts, an African-American unit, attacking the Confederate Fort Wagner or how the youngest general in the U. S. army stormed Fort Fisher. Really exciting stuff!
Big Bad Ironclad: A Civil War Steamship Showdown--written and illustrated by Nathan Hale
I've saved the best for last. Man. Oh. Man. What a truly terrific book!!! It's one of the Nathan Hale's Hazardous Tales series of graphic novels. The idea is that Nathan Hale, the Revolutionary War Patriot who was caught and hanged by the British as a spy, had actually fallen into a big book of American history and knows the future of his country. He talks the British officer and the hangman into not hanging him (for now) if tells them stories about the future history of the US. In this one, he tells them about the Civil War and how both the Union and Confederacy will build naval ships out of iron instead of wood. (shocking!) He also goes on to tell the story of the Monitor and the Merrimack. (more appropriately called the Virginia--as he keeps reminding us) Furthermore, he tells some truly exciting and amazing stories about mischievous William Cushing, who was kicked out of naval school for drawing pictures of his teachers but learned his lesson and went on to become a true hero. What great stories! What great thrills along with great laughs! And what great artwork! I enjoyed this book more than any other I've read this year and can't wait to find more in this series. GO GET IT, GUYS!!! (PS--the writer/artist's name really is Nathan Hale, just like the Patriot spy)
In fact, go and check out all these books. You'll find out that, despite what some people may tell you, history is not boring!