Civil War

A note from the webmaster:

I am aware that many people even today have lingering sentiments over the Civil War. As I grew up in California from more recent immigrants to the U.S., I have no particular emotional or other attachment to either side of "The War Between the States." I think the best way to get a balanced picture of the good and bad on both sides is to read a variety of good books from different points of view. Besides being a moral issue in its own right, there are many parallels between slavery and abortion. The study of the Civil War and the effects and problems of slavery can shed much light on issues of today.

Uncle Tom's Cabin

Book cover: 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'
Harriet Beecher Stowe

There are a plethora of resources for you to find out the plot of this book out on the web and in the bookstores (eg. Cliffs Notes!!). Many contain "spoilers". And this is OK - after all it's a classic. Moreover, the book is good even if you know what is going to happen. I had the enjoyable luxury of reading this book without having run across the spoilers and with no real knowledge of the plot. I was not required to read it in school - oh happy fault.

The Story of the Pony Express

R. Conrad Stein

Although I expect that this series was designed for mid-grade school, my younger children have still found it to be very interesting for read-alouds. The story of the Pony Express tends to be one of rather high interest for young children, but one that is given very brief mention in most history textbooks. I found it very interesting to discover that the Pony Express only ran for a year and a half, how it was affected by the California Gold Rush and the Civil War and how it paved the way for running of telegraph lines coast to coast which made the service obsolete.

The Killer Angels

Book cover: 'The Killer Angels'
Michael Shaara

This is really a rather remarkable novel about the battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania - probably the most famous battle of the Civil War. The Southern Armies, under General Lee, decided to invade the North in order to strike a blow that would "hit home" and make the Northerners wish to end the war. North and South met in the small farming town of Gettysburg in Pennsylvania and engaged in bloody battle for three days. The cost in human life was devastating to both sides.


Book cover: 'Gettysburg'
MacKinlay Kantor

The Civil War Battle of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania (July 1 - 3, 1863) is a complex, multi-faceted piece of history that would be difficult to understand after reading just one book. If you ever find yourself in the South-Central Pennsylvania, I would recommend a visit. I've been there twice and it's very a moving, historically interesting site.

History of Us, Volume 6: War, Terrible War

Book cover: 'History of Us, Volume 6: War, Terrible War'
Joy Hakim

This is an interesting, very readable overview of the Civil War. There is a significant focus on the issue of slavery as a plague upon American culture of the time. The author's basic thesis is that, while different people fought for different reasons and the focus was especially blurred when the war began (when there was more emphasis on preservation of the union), the war was essentially fought over the issue of slavery.

Flight into Spring

Book cover: 'Flight into Spring'
Bianca Bradbury

This is a sweet, but challenging story about a 16 year old girl from pro-Confederate Maryland who marries a Union soldier from Connecticut just after the Civil War. The story presents the conflicts of hard feelings and the need for healing between North and South in the context of family relationships. It seems quite unusual as stories usually lead up to an unknown "happily ever after." Here, the emphasis is on this young bride's married life.

Abraham Lincoln

Book cover: 'Abraham Lincoln'
Ingri and Edgar Parin D'Aulaire

Our family has almost worn out our copy of this well-loved book. Abraham Lincoln the boy comes alive in the story and illustrations. We see him grow to a young man and take several adventurous trips "down river" and learn that a fortune-teller from New Orleans predicted that he would be president some day. The authors indicate his empathy for the slaves during this trip and show how his honesty and integrity eventually win the respect of many, although they don't make for an easy life.

Magical Melons

Book cover: 'Magical Melons'
Carol Ryrie Brink

This is a delightful collection of additional stories about Caddie Woodlawn and her family (and one additional story as explained in the introduction that doesn't quite belong). These stories take place between 1863 and 1866 and so in some places overlap the original stories in Caddie Woodlawn which took place in 1864. Here each chapter stands alone as an interesting and true story and many are very touching and beautiful.


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