Friday, May 3, 2013

If You Could Only Choose One Book...

The last few days I've followed the sesquicentennial events at Chancellorsville from afar using social media. With the return of nice weather to Cooperstown (and it seems like beautiful weather in Virginia as well from the photos I've seen), I've felt a little jealous of those lucky enough to be there. I've been retweeting some of the coverage from the Chancellorsville 150th, as well as a nice post from Brooks Simpson reminding us to not forget about the anniversary of a significant moment in the Vicksburg Campaign today. You can find those links in my twitter bar off on the right.

Meanwhile, I've been working my way along in Scott Hartwig's To Antietam Creek. I've passed the 500 page mark, and so far I'm impressed. I will post a full review when I finish, but the book has gotten me thinking about books that become "standard works" - books that are so comprehensive that they become the benchmark recommendation for those looking to learn about a particular battle or campaign.

I started compiling a list in my head. If I had to recommend one book, and only one, for various Civil War campaigns - which ones would I choose? I'll be the first to admit that for many campaigns, and most assuredly those in the Western Theater, I'm not sure that I've read enough of the literature to recommend the very best book. For Gettysburg, my choice would be Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command. It's not my favorite work (that nod would go to Pfanz's The Second Day), but the most thorough study of the full campaign in my opinion.

I'd like to throw the question out there, to see what books shine through as the standard works on each campaign. Let's start with Eastern Theater (revealing my bias perhaps). If you could choose one book to recommend for each of the following campaigns/battles, what would your list look like?

1st Manassas
Peninsula Campaign
Valley Campaign
2nd Manassas
Maryland Campaign
Mine Run
The Overland Campaign
(You can separate out the battles here)
1864 Valley Campaign

I'm curious to see what people come up with, and hope perhaps to add a few books to my wish list in the process.

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