The Civil War Came to Town on Saturday

I attended my first Civil War living history event this past weekend. This event is part of Guilford’s 375th Anniversary Celebration.

For a history buff who reads military history, I know woefully little about the Civil War, so I turned to my friend, author Janis Herbert who is a fount of knowledge when it comes to the Civil War and other historical periods. She’s written seven books, six for kids, including one on the Civil War and one on Abraham Lincoln.

All y’all with kids should check out her books because they not only provide great history, they contain fun activities, too, perfect for summer vacation. We used to sell a ton of her books at Borders.

I asked Janis if she’d recommend five historical works and five novels about the Civil War because I want to start reading about it. I’m sharing them here because I thought some of you might enjoy suggestions on where to begin as this is a HUGE field of study with an insane number of books out there. Yes, I realize limiting Janis to choosing a total of only ten books was cruel, but she cheated, so it’s all good.

Links go to Goodreads.


  • The Black Flower, by Howard Bahr. My top favorite. It’s an incredible novel that takes place during and after the Battle of Franklin (Tennessee). His other novels are also amazing.
  • Gone With the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell.  I’ve read it multiple times.  Of course you have to overlook the slaves who seemed to prefer slavery, but everything else is spot-on.
  • The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. A great recreation of Gettysburg with a real feel for those who fought.
  • Andersonville, by MacKinlay Kantor. About the infamous Confederate prison camp. Very tense and interesting.
  • The March, by E.L. Doctorow. About Sherman’s March to the Sea. I also love March by Geraldine Brooks, a novel about the father from Little Women.

History (I will cheat here – Bruce Catton and Shelby Foote works below are each 3-volume sets):

  • The Civil War: A Narrative, by Shelby Foote. Love these! Fort Sumter to Perryville,

    Fredericksburg to Meridian, and Red River to Appomattox.

And oh!  I can’t just pick 5!

Thanks for all these great recommendations, Janis! The only book I’ve read from the above is Gone with the Wind (and part of Team of Rivals). I think I’m going to start with The Killer Angels because I already own it and have wanted to read it for a long time.

And now for some pictures from the Civil War event:

We weren’t able to spend the whole day at the event as originally planned, but one of the perks of arriving later in the day was scoring a good parking spot. One thing I do know about the Civil War is that civilians often went to watch the battles (at least early on in the war). This sign made me wonder if there were horse and carriage parking signs back then, or perhaps someone directing people where to park their teams?
Horse and carriage rides were part of the day’s events.

Love this field desk and, of course, I checked out the books on top.

Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin is certainly an appropriate choice, but The Road To Serfdom? It wasn’t published until 1944. Somebody was making a statement. Stowe actually lived in Guilford with her aunt & uncle after her mother died.

Around the campfire.

Catching some shut-eye.

The drummer’s tent.

The company mustering on the green.

Showing the two types of rifles that were used by most soldiers in the Civil War. Only one guy pictured above has an original Civil War era rifle, all the rest are reproductions.

There were 9 steps to loading these rifles. The company demonstrated how units staggered their firepower so that while some men were shooting, others were at various points in that 9 step process of reloading so there would always be bullets flying.
That’s my wife, Laura, on the left. She’s from Virginia with family roots in South Carolina, but loves me so much that she accompanied me to this Union stronghold. And who doesn’t like Abe Lincoln?

I get easily overheated and wouldn’t have done well wearing this much clothing in the summer time. Or anytime, for that matter.
I also took two short videos of the reenactors:

Do you have a favorite Civil War history or novel that I should add to Janis’s list? 

Also, I’m thinking of hosting a read-a-long for The Killer Angels in July…would you be interested in reading along with me?

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