04 September 2009 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 19 comments

Plenty of Blame To Go AroundRecently, the newsletter of the Old Baldy Civil War Roundtable of Philadelphia published the results of an update poll as to the 50 greatest books on the Civil War of all time, and J.D.’s and my book Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg made the list! We’re in some very elite company, and it is both humbling and flattering to make a list like that. I’m also pleased to see Jim Morgan’s A Little Short of Boats: The Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edwards Ferry make the list; we published that book at Ironclad, and I was the one who persuaded Jim to write it. Given that thousands of books have been published on the war, to make the top 50 is an incredible honor.

Here’s the list:

1. The Civil War: A Narrative – Shelby Foote
2. Battle Cry of Freedom – James McPherson
3. Killer Angels – Michael Shaara
4. Lee’s Lieutenants – Douglas Freeman
5. Stonewall Jackson: The Man, The Soldier, The Legend – James Robertson
6. The Gettysburg Campaign – Edwin B. Coddington
7. Co. Aytch – Sam Watkins
8. A Stillness at Appomattox – Bruce Catton
9. Confederacy’s Last Hurrah/Embrace an Angry Wind – Wiley Sword
10. Fighting for the Confederacy – E. Porter Alexander
11. Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam – Stephen W. Sears
12. Gettysburg – Stephen W. Sears
13. American Brutus – Michael Kauffman
14. Gettysburg: The Second Day – Harry W. Pfanz
15. Generals in Blue – Ezra J. Warner
16. Gettysburg: A Journey in Time – William A. Frassanito
17. Team of Rivals – Doris Kearns Goodwin
18. A Little Short Of Boats: The Fights at Ball’s Bluff and Edward’s Ferry – James A. Morgan, III
19. Centennial History of the Civil War – Bruce Catton
20. Harvard’s Civil War: The History of the Twentieth Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry – Richard Miller
21. Mosby’s Rangers – Jeffry D. Wert
22. The Golden Book of the Civil War – American Heritage
23. Confederates in the Attic – Tony Horwitz
24. April 1865: The Month That Saved America – Jay Winik
25. This Terrible Sound: The Battle of Chickamauga – Peter Cozzens
26. Taken at the Flood: Robert E. Lee and Confederate Strategy in the Maryland Campaign of 1862 – Joseph Harsh
27. Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee, 1861-1865 – Steven E. Woodworth
28. The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy – Bell Irvin Wiley
29. The Civil War Dictionary – Mark Boatner
30. Robert E. Lee – Douglas Southall Freeman
31. Abraham Lincoln: The Prairie Years & the War Years – Carl Sandberg
32. The Red Badge of Courage – Stephen Crane
33. The Official Records of the War of the Rebellion – Participants
34. Antietam: The Soldiers’ Battle – John Michael Priest
35. The Class of 1846: From West Point to Appomattox – John C. Waugh
36. Stealing the General: The Great Locomotive Chase and the First Medal of Honor – Russell S. Bonds
37. Pea Ridge: Civil War Campaign in the West – Shea & Hess
38. Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant – Ulysses S. Grant
39. Hardtack & Coffee – John Billings
40. The Guns of Gettysburg – Fairfax Downey
41. Gone With The Wind – Margaret Mitchell
42. Warrior Generals – Thomas Buell
43. Generals in Gray – Ezra J. Warner
44. Battles & Leaders of the Civil War – Various
45. Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas – John Hennessy
46. The Secret War for the Union – Edwin C. Fishel
47. Three Years in the Army of the Cumberland – James Connolly
48. Retreat from Gettysburg: Lee, Logistics, and the Pennsylvania Campaign – Kent Masterson Brown
49. Last Full Measure – Jeff Shaara
50. Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg – Eric J. Wittenberg & J. David Petruzzi

I can’t fathom how a couple of these books would make such a list, such as the horrible dreck that Jeff Shaara churns out (I couldn’t even bring myself to finish that awful book), or how Gone With the Wind qualifies, but so be it. I am nevertheless greatly honored and greatly humbled all at the same time to be considered in such elite company as the rest of the list, and I thank everyone who voted for us.

Thanks to Tom Ryan of Bethany Beach, Delaware for bringing this to my attention.

Scridb filter


  1. Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 11:35 am

    I just made a blog post about the list on my blog at the same time you were doing it ๐Ÿ™‚

    It’s indeed gratifying and humbling to have your work though of in the same company as so many classics. It’s appreciated beyond words that many folks see our work as important and ground-breaking.

    And yes, there’s definitely quibbling about some of the inclusions – Jeff Shaara’s writing literally gives me a headache (the broken sentences and horrendous grammar can’t be read without copious amounts of Aleve!) and Goodwin’s Team of Rivals is one of the most inaccurate books based on a faulty theory (Lincoln’s cabinet was anything but a team) I’ve ever read, but I think any number of readers would come up with a completely different list. But the compilation of submissions put us on the list, and that’s really awesome. Awesome beyond words.


  2. Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 11:41 am



    Awesome is a very good word to describe it.


  3. Mike Peters
    Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 12:11 pm


    I have problems with the following:

    23. Confederates in the Attic โ€“ Tony Horwitz
    24. April 1865: The Month That Saved America โ€“ Jay Winik
    41. Gone With The Wind โ€“ Margaret Mitchell
    49. Last Full Measure โ€“ Jeff Shaara

    But then there are some great titles on the list. Congrats!


  4. Chris Evans
    Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 5:45 pm


    Congratulations on making the list.

    I like the ‘Last Full Measure’. I think that Shaara did a decent job on it. Not in the ‘Killer Angels’ league but leaps and bounds better than ‘Gods and Generals’ and better than any novel he has done since.

    But I hate to see some awesome Civil War fiction not in the list, if they are going to include fiction. Howard Bahr’s trilogy is some of the best writing on the Civil War in fiction or nonfiction. His ‘The Black Flower’ is one of the most heartbreaking books on the war. ‘The Year of Jubilo’, and especially ‘The Judas Field’ are up there with it. These novels are in the league of the best Civil War fiction ever written. I think as Southern literature goes they are up there with Faulkner. The Army of Tennessee and the Battle of Franklin both come to life in Bahr’s books and I highly recommend them to all Civil War readers.


  5. Ken Noe
    Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 7:25 pm

    Chris, I heartily agree with you about Howard Bahr. Why those three amazing novels don’t get more attention is beyond me, but I welcome every opportunity to get the word out about them. — Ken

  6. Todd Berkoff
    Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 8:33 pm

    Books that should have made the list (in no particular order):

    1) Any of Gordon Rhea’s books on the Overland Campaign
    2) Theodore Lyman’s Meade’s Headquarters
    3) Francis Walker’s History of the Second Corps
    4) The Virginia Campaign by Andrew Humphreys
    5) American Brutus by Michael Kaufmann
    6) The Iron Brigade by Alan Nolan

    Fiction books should have been left off this list.

    Todd Berkoff
    Arlington, Va

  7. Fri 04th Sep 2009 at 9:17 pm

    Like you said, it’s a peculiar list. Buell’s “Warrior Generals” has fatal flaws too numerous to list; Sandburg’s work on Lincoln has been enjoyed by many, but can’t be taken seriously among the “best of all time” for that subject. Boatner’s “Dictionary” was useful in its time, but was long ago supplanted by more reliable works.

    Sounds like nostalgia played a part in some of these selections.

  8. Chris Evans
    Sat 05th Sep 2009 at 1:47 am

    It would be a good idea to have a fiction list and a non-fiction list. But a book like ‘The Killer Angels’ has been as important in Civil War history reading as many non-fiction books have been.

    If the ‘Iron Brigade’ by Alan Nolan should be on the list, they should put James Robertson’s book on the Stonewall Brigade. And I love Peter Cozzens and his book on Chickamauga but Ithink his wonderful book on the Corinth campaign should have made the list because it added much to our knowledge of those battles. I would also had Ken Noe’s book on Perryville because it added great information to that important campaign. Reading Cozzens’ and Noe’s books together would give a reader great, readable information on the important fall 1862 campaigns in the Western theater.

    Bradley’s Bentonville book could have been on it instead of ‘April 1865’. Also Fonveille’s wonderful book on the Wilmington campaign.

    These lists are for fun and Civil War buffs can endlessly debate what should have been on the list. The list reminds me of Civil War Interactive’s from a couple of years ago.


  9. Sat 05th Sep 2009 at 5:42 am

    It would be interesting to know how the list was compiled. Did they poll all members and ask simply for a list of their top 50? I do my best to attend meetings of my local CWRT here in C-Ville. The members are very nice, but most people haven’t read to the extent that people here have, so it is not surprising that some of these books made the list. In fact, I would venture to guess that the majority have read a couple of books, including a few of the more popular fiction titles that appeared on the list.

  10. Sat 05th Sep 2009 at 9:30 am

    Congratulations! I’m in general agreement with the titles mentioned that don’t belong on the list and there are a few others that would have made my personal list, but that’s the nature of lists like this. Great that you guys are included!

  11. Sat 05th Sep 2009 at 12:20 pm

    I am not a full-blown expert on the Civil War, but judging from most of the titles, it looks like the western theater is once again left in the dust. Some of the titles are more vague than others, so perhaps there are some in there that I simply haven’t heard of? I would love to see someone acknowledge Price’s campaign in 1864, or even classic works by historians like Dudley Cornish, who includes quite a bit of information on Kansas and Missouri in his _The Sable Arm_.

  12. Mon 07th Sep 2009 at 6:51 pm


    Actually this isn’t a new list at all. It’s a reprint of the list we did on our site back in 2008. The list is at: http://www.civilwarinteractive.com/Top50Results2008v1.htm

    As for how we compiled it, we asked every reader to send their top 3 Civil War books in order. We then gave 3 pts. to their first choice, 2 to their second and 1 to their third. We then added all ponts together and ranked the results. The scoring system probably has flaws, but it was just for the enjoyment of our readers.

    For what it’s worth, trust me there were plenty of books I wouldn’t have ranked in the top 500 let alone the top 50, and there were even more that would make my top 10 that didn’t make the list at all.

  13. Chris Evans
    Tue 08th Sep 2009 at 12:39 am

    I thought the poll looked familiar. I was thinking that it reminded me quite a bit of the Civil War Interactive poll. No Wonder, because it was the Civil War Interactive Poll.
    Thanks for pointing that out,

  14. Teej Smith
    Tue 08th Sep 2009 at 11:35 am

    Congrats, Eric, J.D. and Jim Morgan. I pretty much agree with what Mike Peters wrote except for his inclusion of GWTW. As flawed as it is, for some of us, the perils of Scarlett O’Hara was our introduction to the CW. I couldn’t finish “Last Full Measure” and was disappointed to see that Francis Donaldson’s fantastic “Inside the Army of the Potomac” didn’t make the cut. As for “Confederates In The Attic,” I’ve already shared my feelings on THAT book and nothing has happened to change my mind so I won’t repeat myself. I agree with the poster who said Mark Bradley’s book on Bentonville and Chris Fonvielle’s book on the Wilmington Campaign should have been included.


  15. Chris Evans
    Tue 08th Sep 2009 at 12:57 pm

    Francis Donaldson’s ‘Inside the Army of the Potomac’ is wonderful. I picked it up last year and could not believe how excellently written his letters were and the light they threw on the inner turmoil of the Army of the Potomac and the battles they fought in.

  16. Sat 12th Sep 2009 at 11:38 pm

    Fantastic news Eric! Congrats!


  17. Sam Clemens
    Tue 15th Sep 2009 at 1:31 pm

    It is disappointing to see Jeff Shaara’s works on here and not, say, Gabor Boritt’s or Allen Guelzo’s works on Lincoln and Gettysburg.

  18. Robert Morey
    Wed 17th Jun 2015 at 11:33 pm

    Just finished The Destructive War, by Charles Royster. I can see why it’s so highly rated on many lists. A different, and difficult read. This author has quite the vocabulary! Big insight into Stonewall, and Sherman, but especially Sherman. I had no preconceived ideas about the man except for the given March to the Sea, but this book really gives a great look into the man himself, and Stonewall as well. A great read. Not easy, but well worth it.

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