War Between the States and Reconstruction

1850 to 1870

copyright 1997 by Historical Novelists Center

The American Civil War, along with the Napoleonic Wars and WW2, is a contender for Most-Written War. Considering that it was much shorter than the Napoleonic period, and fought in only part of one continent by two halves of a not-over-populous country, we think that the War Between the States wins. Naturally, this bibliography is not exhaustive, does not dent the surface, indeed is hardly a fingerprint on the surface.

If you wish to write about specific battles in detail, in homage to Killer Angels, you are cordially invited to become a Civil War historian. If you want details of everyday life for non-battle stories, you will find a good guide below. Note how many period sources are available in reprint, especially for the re-enactor. This is a period when newspapers and magazines of the period can give you a lot of background detail, like how people of education spoke, and how dialect sounded to them. These periodicals can always be obtained on microfilm.

We begin this period in the long tense decade during which the war nearly broke out several times.


The Ladies' Self Instructor ****
Patterns and instructions for all sorts of dressmaking and millinery, not to mention knitting, netting, and crochet. T3


The Crystal Palace Exhibition Illustrated Catalogue ****
1851; now from Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 426 pg, 1700 illos
More on Victorian Design than the Exhibition or the Crystal Palace itself. T3

Ball, Edward

Slaves in the Family ***
Ball tracked down the descendents of his ancestors' slaves, and gives a chronicle of the lives they led. An insight into African-American life through ten generations. T2

Barnard, George N.

Photographic Views of Sherman's Campaign ****
1866; now from Dover; 80 pg
61 plates of the various battlefields. T3

Blum, Stella, editor

Fashions and Costumes From Godey's Lady's Book, 1837-1869 *****!
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 136 pg, 400 illos
If you can get no other costume book for the period, this one will carry you through all women's fashions and accesories from rising to sleeping, many children's garment, and even some views of men. T1

Victorian Fashions and Costumes from Harper's Bazar, 1867-1898 *****!
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 320 pg, over 1000 engravings
Fashions and accessories for all occasions. Includes detailed hairdressing! T3

Boucher, Francois

20,000 Years of Fashion: The History of Costume and Personal Adornment ***
Harry N. Abrams, 1966; 440 pg, index, glossary
Pretty good in this period. T1

Bray, Peter, editor

Transport Through the Ages **
Taplinger Publishing Co., Inc., NY, 1971; illos by Barbara Brown
Covers a bit of everything, from dugout canoes on. Emphasis on later periods. T1

Brett, Gerard

Dinner is Served ***
Archon Books, Hamden, CN, 1968
British meals of the day and their conduct; Part Two covers 1660 to 1900. Do remember how much Eastern Society follows Britain. T3

Brockett, Oscar G.

History of the Theatre ***
Allyn and Bacon, Inc., 1977
Good university-level text on staging conventions, acting forms, audience behavior, etc. T3

Clay, Henry, 1777-1852

Henry Clay's Remarks In House And Senate
When you want to read what was actually said. T3

Cook, G & D & Co.

Illustrated Catalogue of Carriages and Special Business Advertiser, Illustrated with 104 Carriages and 101 Early Advertisements****
Dover, orig 1860
Solid pictures and ads, nearly. Very specialist, but will get you over the idea that Eastern buggies and carriages are big heavy clunky things like home-made buggies built for Colorado. The ads are the real view of the period, including those for various resorts and hotels. T3

Cyst, Henry Martin (1836-1902)

Army Of The Cumberland, The
8-bit text (with accented letters)

Davis, Richard Harding, 1864-1916

Adventures And Letters Of Richard Harding Davis

Davis, William C. and Bell I. Wiley, editors

Photographic History of the Civil War *****!vol. I, Fort Sumter to Gettysburg
BD&L, 1996; 1,371 pgs
vol. 2, Vicksburg to Appomattox
BD&L, 1996; 1,366 pgs
Killer visual set, text by the gang at Civil War Times Illustrated. Genuine lapbreakers, but worth the injury. T2-3

Duffy, Christopher

Fire and Stone: The Science of Fortress Warfare, 1660-1860 ****
Hippocrene Books, NY, 1975
Well-written, well-illustrated and well-designed. The Fortess Wargame for Miniatures is tactical fun while teaching you how things can work or go wrong. The other appendix, on how to tour old fortifications, is good if you get to make the research trip. T3

Gardner, Alexander

Photographic Sketchbook of the Civil War ****
1866; now from Dover Publications, Inc., NY
100 photos, including ones of slave pens. T3

Gernsheim, Alison

Victorian and Edwardian Fashion: A Photographic Survey, 1840-1914 *****!
Dover Publications; 240 pg, 235 photos (most two to the page, sideways)
The text is wonderfully researched, with period comments on fashion, cosmetics, emigrant kits, dyes and colour combinations -- priceless! Must read, even though very European. T2

Hall, Richard

Patriots in Disguise; Women Warriors of the Civil War *****!
Paragon House, NY, 1993; 225 pg, select bibliography, index
The size of Appendix A: "Honor Roll for Female Soldiers" will astound you. Mostly disguised as boys and men, the lack of medical tests, the bodily modesty considered natural among men of the time, and the loose military organization allowed them to slip in and out of combat roles, and even identities. Even if you do not write about one, you must consider the possibility that the next soldier down the line, on either side, could be a woman. T1

Harwell, Richard B.

The Confederate Reader ****
Dover; 416 pg
Good for your first round of reading, to get you well settled in the Confederate mind before digging deeper. May be all the depth you need. T1

Hogg, Ian V.

The History of Fortification ***
St. Martin's Press, NY, 1981
Clear, interesting and accurate overview from 7000 BC through the 1970's, well illustrated with photos and diagrams; bibliography and glossary. T2

Holloway, Mark

Heavens on Earth: Utopian Communities in America, 1680-1880 ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY
And you thought "cults" were a new thing! Explore the attempts build new Edens, where your characters may get involved, or at least discuss if there's one in the neighborhood. T2

Howe, Octavius T., and Frederick C. Matthews

American Clipper Ships: 1833-1858 ****
Dover; 928 pg in 2 vol., 109 halftones, 5 illos
See Matthews on later ships. Thorough coverage of 352 American vessels of your period. T3

Ingraham, Holly

People's Names: A Cross-Cultural Reference Guide to the Proper Use of Over 40,000 Personal and Familial Names in Over 100 Cultures *****!
McFarland & Company, Inc., Publishers, Jefferson, NC; 1997; 613 pgs, index, select annotated bibliography
While there is a specialty chapter on Victorian American names, you will also reference all the Contemporary chapters for family names from all over the world. T1

Kohler, Carl

A History of Costume ****
1930; New York, G. Howard Watt
Hand-sized, info-packed, based on surviving clothes first and artwork secondarily. Author's line drawings of construction and detail. Neophytes should use with a picture book, which it will greatly clarify. T2

Lincoln, Abraham (1809-1865)

Complete Project Gutenberg Abraham Lincoln Writings

Lubbock, Basil

The Western Ocean Packets ****
Dover; 192 pg
These are the ATLANTIC Packets (fast ships) that are the forerunners of the fast ocean liners later in the century. Gives which lines are active when, which ships they added when, and what days they sailed. A good informative book. T3

Lyman, Darryl

Civil War Wordbook: Including Songs, Phrases, and Expletives *****!
Combined Books
Here's the book of slang and catch-phrases for this period, some of which will be borne into the next period by the young men who started using them during this time. Especially valuable for army slang and those expletives. T2

Macy, Jesse (1842-1919)

Anti-Slavery Crusade, An; a chronicle of the gathering storm

Markle, D. E.

Spies and Spymasters of the Civil War ****
Brings out the arguements as to just how much use espionage was to either side, and especially examines the advances of communications technology -- the telegraph and the newspaper -- for secret communication. T2

Matthews, Frederick C.

American Merchant Ships, 1850-1900 ****
Dover; 960 pg in 2 vol, 195 B&W illos
The builders, tonnage, voyages, cargoes, and stories aboard of 322 vessels. Surely one is the ship you're looking for! T3

McElroy, John (1846-1929)

Your basic text on the Andersonville Prison Camp atrocities. T2

McPherson, James M.

What They Fought For: 1861-1865 *****!
Political scientists and historians can later come up with all sorts of reasons "why" wars and battles were fought, but only this sort of gleaning from the diaries and letters of soldiers of both sides can tell you why they thought they were fighting, why they stayed to risk death, instead of deserting as was not too terribly difficult in this war. T2

Mellon, James, ed.

Bullwhip Days: The Slaves Remember *****!
now from Avon
Based on WPA (1930s) interviews with nearly 2000 ex-slaves. Gives 29 stories in full, buttressed by excerts from others, for a fulsome recreation of the life by those no longer in fear of retribution for telling the truth. T2

Miller, Nathan

Spying for America; the Hidden History of US Intelligence **
The Paragon House, 1989; 482 pg, index, bibliography
Consider this a primer, if you consider it at all.

Mills, Betty J.

Calico Chronicle: Texas Women and Their Fashions 1830-1910 *****!
Texas Tech Press; 1985; 191 pg, 104 photos
Frontier, pioneer, and other plain, common, unfashionable folk, with whom the country is filled. What they wore, 1830-1910, and even how they took care of it. T1

Nock, O .S., editor

Encyclopedia of Railroads ****
Galahad Books, NY, 1977; 480 pg, index
History of railroads and equipment over the entire world, including Africa, Asia, and south America. Sections on equipment and operation, also the great luxury trains, past and present. Gorgeous colour layout, oversize. One lap-breaker worth the effort of lifting. T2

Osprey Books

Osprey military monographs are always worth reading IF you are dealing with members of the target group. Their worst is three stars; the quality of research and illustration is always high, just some are more repetitive of basic information, others more illuminative. T2.
Men-at-Arms Series:

  • American Civil War Armies: (1) Confederate; #170
  • American Civil War Armies: (2) Union; #177
  • American Civil War Armies: (3) Staff Specialists, Maritime; #179
  • American Civil War Armies: (4) State Troops, #190
  • American Civil War Armies: (5) Volunteer Militia, #207
  • Army of Northern Virginia, #37
  • Army of the Potomac, #38
  • Flags of the American Civil War: (1) Confederate, #252
  • Flags of the American Civil War: (2) Union, #258
  • Flags of the American Civil War: (3) State & Volunteer, #265

Warrior Series:

  • US Cavalryman, #4
  • Confederate Infantryman, #6

Pinkerton, Allan

Thirty years a detective: a thorough and comprehensive exposé of criminal practices of all grades and classes, containing numerous episodes of personal experience in the detection of criminals, and covering a period of thirty years' active detective life ****
1884: New York: G. W. Carleton
Allan Pinkerton made his name synonymous with "private eye" (his trademark was "The Eye that Never Sleeps"), besides running counterintelligence for the Union in the War Between the States. There's hundreds of plots hiding in here. T2

Pollard, E. A.

The Lost Cause ****
1866; now from Gramercy Press, NY; 752 pg
The Confederate version of the War Between the States, which you owe it to yourself to read if you have a single Reb doing other than a walk-on. On the other hand, you need to remember that "the lost cause" is largely a myth unsupported by historical evidence. T2

Russell, Capt. A. J.

Russells's Civil War Photographs ****
Dover Publications, Inc., NY; 128 pp
116 Civil War photos, with captions. T3

Salmonson, Jessica Amanda

The Encyclopedia of Amazons: Women Warriors from Antiquity to the Modern Era ***
Paragon House, NY, 1991; 290 pg, no index, bibliography
The War Between the States had hundreds of women killed and wounded on the battlefields, on both sides. Most had to go disguised as young men. Some botched their disguises early, some were discovered only when sick or wounded. One at least spent the rest of her life as a man. However, the subject is covered in more detail by Hall, above, without being mixed in with other ages. T1

Scheffel, Richard L., project editor

Discovering America's Past **
Reader's Digest Books, Pleasantville, NY; 1993; 400 pg, index, no bibliography
An omnium gatherum of inventions, customs, practices and lifestyles, divided into 11 chapters by topic, such as "Educating America" which follows educational development as a series of short articles (half to full page) on unusual (to us) practices or noteworthy developments. Heavily illustrated, flashes of information, one of which may suit you. Best for the pages in the back listing Living History sites you can visit. T3

Schuyler, Hartley, & Graham

Illustrated Catalog of Civil War Military Goods: Union Army Weapons, Insignia, Uniform Accessories and Other Equipment, Schuyler, Hartley & Graham *****!
1866 catalog; now from Dover; 160 pg, 226 illus.
The title sums it up. Most re-enactors swear by this. T3

Severa, Joan L.; Forewords by Nancy Rexford and Claudia Brush Kidwell

Dressed for the Photographer: Ordinary Americans and Fashion, 1840-1900 ****
Kent State University Press; January 1995; Hardcover, 540pp.
Expensive, but revelatory. Gives the clues for telling a lower class person dressed in their best from the true upper class look. Look for at library! T2

Stephens, Autumn

Wild Women: Crusaders, Curmudgeons and Completely Corsetless Ladies in the Otherwise Virtuous Victorian Era ****
Conari Press, Berkley, CA, 1992; 249 pg, no index, bibliograph
150 mini-biographies (none over two pages) of unconventional women. Good to whet the appetite for further research in the bibliography. Note the social hell these women caught, too, for their actions. T2

Stephenson, Nathaniel W. (Nathaniel Wright), 1867-1935

Abraham Lincoln and the Union; a chronicle of the embattled North

Stokesbury, J. L.

A Short History of the Civil War ****
A good grounding for the major events and players, 1860-1865. T1

Tunis, Edwin

Frontier Living ****
The World Publishing Company, Leveland, OH & NY, 1961; illustrated by the author
Pen drawings manage to be technically accurate and artistic at once. Text in easy, personal style, accurate on what it covers, which is quite a lot of primitive technology. Hits early log cabin settlements, rivermen, Alta California, mountain trappers, weapons, food, milling shelter, clothes, vehicles, etc.! T2

Vivian, E. Charles

A History of Aeronautics***
Project Gutenberg; original, 1920
Rather over-written, with too much ornament to the prose. Does begin the history in antiquity with legends of flight, and moves on to recorded attempts of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Continues thick coverage through this period. T2

Waugh, Norah

Corsets and Crinolines *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1954
Underpinnings, 1600's to 1925, in period art. T3

The Cut of Men's Clothes 1600-1900 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1964
The most fashionable men's dress, in period illustrations, with tailor's patterns, period comments on colours and fabrics, etc. Superb. T3

The Cut of Women's Clothes, 1600 to 1930 *****!
Theatre Arts Books, 1968
The same for women. Both books show fastenings! T

White, Andrew Dickson, 1832-1918

Autobiography of Andrew Dickson White -- Volume I

Wood, William Charles Henry, 1864-1947

Captains Of The Civil War; a chronicle of the blue and the gray


Of course this is before recording, but plenty of sheet music survived, and is being performed and recorded.

Classical Brass

Honor to Our Soldiers: Music of the Civil War *****!

CD or Cassette

Songs from both sides, but mainly dance tunes, the sort heard at any social gathering, or while idling away a bit of time on the porch or in camp.


American Memory ****!


For everything American, whether books, maps, pamphlets, or pictures. The Library of Congress might have up what you're looking for, as well as things you never imagined were available.

H-GIG Historical Times & Places ***


A thorough-going linksite maintained by the University of California at Riverside, H-GIG sorts by area, by era (ancient, Medieval, early Modern, Modern<yours>, and 20th C), or by topic (military, women, etc.). It's a good place to start a hunt for books and essays online.

  • Leave for H-GIG

Internet Modern History Sourcebook ****


Halsall, whom we know from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, is responding to demand in the world by now compiling an onl-line library on modern subjects. As it grows, you never know what has been lately added.

Making of America****


Cornell is hosting a site heavier on periodicals than books. Don't just look for period publications: look for ones maybe 30 years later talking to old-timers.

The Phrenology Page ***


"Phrenology is the science which studies the relationships between a person's character and the morphology of the skull." Includes a historical overview, definitions of words and concepts, and images with meanings of various characteristics.

Project Gutenberg ****


Since 1971 putting classic books into electronic form.


To 1860 Map of Manhattan & Brooklyn

To Monograph on Corsets

To 1861 Horse Care

To Western Expansion Bibliography

Back to Times and Places