David J. Eicher, The Civil War in Books: An Analytical Bibliography
University of Illinois Press, 1997, $39.95). Pp. 432. ISBN 0 252 02273
Gary W. Gallagher, The Confederate War (Cambridge, Mass. and
Harvard University Press, 1997, $24.95). Pp. 222. ISBN 0 674 16055 x.
Judith N. McArthur and Orville Vernon Burton (editors), “A
and an Officer”: A Military and Social History of
James B. Griffin's Civil War
(New York: Oxford University Press, 1996, $30.00). Pp. 382. ISBN 0 19 509311
A. K. McClure, Abraham Lincoln and Men of War Times: Some Personal
Recollections of War and Politics during the Lincoln Administration
edition, with introduction by James A. Rawley; Lincoln: University of
Nebraska Press, 1996, £18.95). Pp. 496. ISBN 0 8032 8228 1.
James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the
War (New York: Oxford University Press, 1997, £20.00). Pp. 256.
ISBN 0 19 509023 3.
John Michael Priest, Before Antietam: The Battle for South Mountain
York: Oxford University Press, 1992; pbk 1996, £15.99). Pp. 455.
ISBN 0 19 510712 8.
Jack D. Welsh, Medical Histories of Union Generals (Kent, OH:
University Press, 1996). Pp. 442. ISBN 0 87338 552 7.
Donald Yacovone (editor), A Voice of Thunder: The Civil War Letters
George E. Stephens (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1997, $26.95).
Pp. 372. ISBN 0 252 02245 9.
Like Ol' Man River, Civil War historiography just keeps rolling
along. It changes
course occasionally, leaving behind bayous of stagnant argument, while
out new lines of inquiry and debate. The books under review here follow
meandering course of this great river of historical writing. There are
scholarly editions of the writings of Civil War soldiers, one northern
southern, one black one white. There are two reference works, each of them
bearing the rather idiosyncratic stamp of its editor. The immensely detailed
battlefield narrative, as exemplified by John Michael Priest's book
Mountain, adheres to a tradition of Civil War historical writing that resists
changing historiographical fashions, and continues to appeal to a readership
which knows the kind of military history it likes, and simply wants still
it. Another honoured tradition in Civil War literature
is the reprint of a “classic”
written by someone who lived through the conflict, and Alexander McClure
good claims to inclusion in this category. Finally, there are two quite
by two heavyweight historians, James McPherson and Gary Gallagher, who
address some of the perennial Civil War issues, such as why did men fight
go on fighting, and which is more in need of explanation: why did the
Confederacy lose, or how did it manage to fight for so long?