The following books may enhance your enjoyment and expand your knowledge of the Civil War in cinema. Our December 4, 2013 speaker was Brian Steel Wills and shared with us the big picture in the movies but there are other books on this topic by other authors.

Here is Walt Bittle's review.

"Past Imperfect – History According to the Movies" (1995)
      by Mark C. Carnes, General Editor

"The Reel Civil War – Mythmaking in American Film."(2001)
      by Bruce Chadwick

"The Civil War in Popular Culture – A Reusable Past" (1995)
      by Jim Cullen

"The Blue & The Gray On the Silver Screen – More Than 80 Years of Civil War Movies" (1996)
     by Roy Kinnard

"Abraham Lincoln – Twentieth Century Popular Portrayals" (1999)
     by Frank Thompson

"Gone With The Glory – The Civil War in Cinema" (2007)
     by Brian Steel Wills
The Carnes book includes, but is not limited to, the Civil War era.  Cullen covers more than just movies.  Thompson includes television and stage productions as well as movies. 
Until I started searching in earnest, I didn’t realize there were so many resources available – and there may well be others.  (Please let me know if you are aware of others.)  Any or all of these books would broaden your view of the Civil War era and how it is perceived in American memory.  Choosing the best would be difficult, but I am partial to anything produced by Brian Steel Wills – and his is the latest.
Brian Steel Wills entertained and enlightened us at our meeting of December 4 2013, so I hope you have time to find his book(s) and enjoy them as much as I did. 

• Other books by Brian Steel Wills – all on Amazon and some available as e-books:

       "George Henry Thomas:  As True As Steel"

       "The Confederacy’s Greatest Cavalryman: Nathan Bedford Forrest"

       "The War Hits Home:  The Civil War in Southeastern Virginia" 

        "A Battle From The Start:  The Life of  Nathan Bedford Forrest"

         "Confederate General William Dorsey Pender: The Hope of Glory"
Submitted by Bill Jackson.

“Smithsonian Civil War: Inside the National Collection”  (Smithsonian, 368 pages, $40) is a handsome look at a war whose effects still echo 150 years later.  It’s one to browse, with pages of photographs of uniforms, equipment and the people involved, along with one-page looks at a particular aspect of the conflict: Zouaves, treating the wounded, flags and the “Miscegenation Ball,” among others.


On a recent visit to our new Missouri Civil War Museum’s gift shop I purchased “Lost Caves of St. Louis” (Virginia Publishing, 120 pages, $15)  It is very good history of the City’s forgotten caves.  What is not to like about a book that includes local Brewery histories, beer gardens, pre-historic Peccary bones, wine cellars, DeMenil and Lemp mansions, Lyon Park, Indians, tramps, thieves, speak-easies, and by the way Civil War use of St. Louis lost caves.  Enjoy the museum (222 Worth Road, 63125) and pick up your copy soon.

Submitted by Phil Baker

Appomattox – Elizabeth R. Varon, Langbourne M. Williams Professor of American History,

University of Virginia – 2013.


The title of this book relates to the terms of surrender dictated to Robert E. Lee by U.S. Grant and the various ways those terms were interpreted and re-interpreted to suit political understandings and goals.  Lincoln’s assassination added whirlwinds of hostility, North and South, and the presidency of south-leaning Andrew Johnson served to ensure that the plight of southern blacks would not improve much over what it had been under slavery. 


Varon stays in touch with south-worshipped Robert E. Lee, finding him in the end, duplicitous with respect to how he interpreted the surrender.  The book is clearly written and based on a treasure trove of historical detail involving the writings of political leaders, journalists, orators, and sermonizing clergy across the nation.  As such, the reader is exposed to the many intense and diverse views that held sway.  U.S. Grant, not political by nature, recognized President Johnson’s destructive southern policy for what it was and began to apply his considerable intellect in a direction that would lead him to the White House. 


To summarize, Appomattox cogently presents a readable range of well-researched information and observations about the immediate post-Civil War period.