Best Civil War History from the Confederate Side?
August 14, 2013 5:23 PM   Subscribe

I've been reading Bruce Catton's history of the Army of the Potomac, which is excellent. It occurs to me I've only ever read Civil War history from the Union side. So, it's all about those terrible Union generals and all the mistakes they made, and Lincoln's frustration, and how eventually superior manpower and manufacturing, and the Emancipation Proclamation, crushed the feisty Rebs. Now I'd like to read about what the Rebs were thinking during the Late, Great Unpleasantness. Who's the Bruce Catton of the South?
posted by musofire to Society & Culture (9 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Shelby Foote, the Civil War: A Narrative. Greatest >3000 pages of history you will ever read. Try to get the Grove Gardner audiobook version, his ringing voice really make those words come alive.
posted by Pantalaimon at 6:05 PM on August 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

Not sure I can give you a definitive answer, but The Diary of Mary Chestnut is regarded highly by historians as a source. (Whether you'd consider it a primary or a secondary source seems to depend on the version you see, so maybe get a ?
posted by Going To Maine at 6:06 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think of Shelby Foote this way. He doesn't exactly excuse the South but he also doesn't go out of his way to condemn it either. You might also be interested in the book Why the South Lost the Civil War.
posted by shothotbot at 6:10 PM on August 14, 2013

N'thing Shelby Foote. If you want a small taste, you can read Stars In Their Courses, which is an excerpt from his 3-volume narrative that just deals with the Gettysburg campaign.
posted by jquinby at 6:11 PM on August 14, 2013

For a different (yet still Southern) view, pick up the highly engaging Traveller by Richard Adams. It's the story of the Civil War written from the perspective of Traveller, Robert E. Lee's horse.
posted by workerant at 6:16 PM on August 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Yes, Shelby Foote is probably the most well-known of the mainstream Southern-sympathetic historians.

In addition to checking out Virginia's recent primary school history books (kidding!), these two university sites give great access to first person narratives if you find that of interest:
UVA's The Valley of the Shadow Project
UNC's First Person Narratives of the American South
posted by TwoStride at 6:16 PM on August 14, 2013

I will add to the Shelby Foote chorus. He spoke at my commencement and he can tell a riveting story.
posted by JohnnyGunn at 8:16 PM on August 14, 2013

Shelby Foote is a Southener and a tremendous novelist, but he is also too much of a historian to be a reliable "Southern" point of view. He is also a bit long-winded. For a view of the American Civil War from a more concise and different point of view, I recommend Winston Churchill's syopsis in Vol. 3 of his History of the English Speaking People. Long-winded himself, Churchill gives a fantastic summary of the entire war in about 125 pages. You get a much better big picture from this than from Foote's 3000 page triology.
posted by three blind mice at 10:14 PM on August 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Douglas Southall Freeman has a biography of Lee and a history of Lee's Lieutenants, which provide an exhaustive overview of the Army of Northern Virginia, at least.

(Link is to abridged version. Lee is 4 volumes, Lieutenants is 3.)
posted by Huffy Puffy at 7:54 AM on August 15, 2013

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