Top 10 Civil War Non-Fiction Books

This past summer, we covered the many National Park Service (NPS) sites dedicated to remembering the Civil War, the bloodiest conflict in American history with the greatest outcome (freedom for the country’s enslaved people).  We previously ranked our Top 10 novels and films about the war, but for the non-fiction list we widened the time frame to include antebellum and postbellum works (click here to see all our Top 10 lists).

10. Raising the Hunley: The Remarkable History and Recovery of the Lost Confederate Submarine by Brian Hicks and Schuyler Kropf (2002)

The discovery of the wreck of the world’s first submarine is a fascinating story.

9. Andrew Johnson by Annette Gordon-Reed (2011)

After Abraham Lincoln’s assassination, President Andrew Johnson had impossible shoes to fill.

8. Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl by Harriet Jacobs (1861)

One of many heart-wrenching, first-hand accounts of slavery published by abolitionist groups before the Civil War.

7. West from Appomattox: The Reconstruction of America after the Civil War by Heather Cox Richardson (2007)

An in-depth look at the history of the country after General Lee surrendered at Appomattox Court House.

6. Black Reconstruction in America by W.E.B. DuBois (1935)

A seminal work on the period of Reconstruction following the Civil War.

5. Company Aytch by Samuel Watkins (1882)

An interesting autobiography from a soldier in the Confederate Army.

4. Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass: An American Slave by Frederick Douglass (1845)

Frederick Douglass was an escaped slave who became an impassioned voice for freedom before and after the war.

3. A Diary from Dixie by Mary Chestnut (1905)

A lengthy narrative of one woman’s experiences living in the south during the Civil War.

2. Up from Slavery by Booker T. Washington (1901)

Autobiography of Booker T. Washington, the founder of Tuskegee Institute who was born into slavery.

…and finally our #1 non-fiction book about the American Civil War:

1. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln by Doris Kearns Goodwin (2005)

One of the best history books ever written, it tells the story of the competing egos within President Lincoln’s Cabinet.

Honorable Mentions

Southern Lady, Yankee Spy: The True Story of Elizabeth Van Lew, a Union Agent in the Heart of the Confederacy by Elizabeth R. Varon (2003)

There are so many excellent histories of this period, but this biography is especially interesting.

Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom by Catherine Clinton (2004)

Any biography of Harriet Tubman is worth reading.

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