Non-fiction readers have a bonanza of good books to read during the 2014 summer. The publishing business knows there's a strong interest in Civil War history and a study of the political times before and after the war during the 19th century.
I wanted to alert you to two new 2014 books about the Civil War—books you won't want to miss. The first, and perhaps the more unusual of the two just published is A Thousand Stories You Don't Know about the Civil War, by Thomas Power Lowry, MD. (Price listed by Amazon is $17.96 plus shipping. List price is $19.95 there and elsewhere.)
This 335-page paperback is, as one reviewer called it, "a treasure-trove" of unusual information and events about the Civil War. Dr. Lowry doesn't pull any punches to "pretty-up" the ghastly price of war to both soldiers and civilians on both sides. I don't know of any Civil War historian who delves deeper and more successfully into obscure and complex military records and other data. He and wife, Beverly, are to be commended for their long patience and diligence in making the war live for us, with narratives about individuals and actions not covered in most Civil War materials.
If you are new to reading Lowry's many Civil War books, you will be amazed at the work he goes to, bringing you outcomes of courts-martial, post returns, service records, prison records and much more. He and his wife read through and indexed records of all 75,596 general courts-martial in the Union Army during the Civil War. Much of the book uses these rather obscure, but sometimes interesting, court-martial sources.
But one of the advantages of Lowry's newest book is short chapters covering unusual incidents. There are 35 chapters, each readable in a short period of time. Some topics: "The Battle for Fort Nonsense," "Saints and Sinners: The Union Army and the Mormons," "Court-martialed Chaplains," "Abraham Lincoln's Foot Doctor," and "New Light on Gettysburg."
Reading A Thousand Stories You Don't Know about the Civil War is like eating potato chips—it's almost impossible to stop. There's something for all Civil War interests in this book.
The second book mentioned here is The Wars of Reconstruction: the Brief Violent History of America's Most Progressive Era" (Bloomsbury Press, 2014) by Douglas R. Egerton, professor of history at Le Moyne College. As is the case with the Lowry book author, Dr. Egerton has written many books on events in the Nineteenth Century of interest to readers who want an amazing amount of information about Reconstruction and problems after slavery ceased in the United States.
His style is generally readable and spiced up with many details which bring home the hard times for African Americans after the Civil War. Price on the hard-cover 438-page book has been dropped to $22.23 at Amazon and list price is $30.
My main criticism about this book is a sad system of footnoting, which lumps together numerous sources with one footnote. When you check the footnote you find it difficult to figure out just what the source might be. Also, the book has no bibliography. Is this rather wretched footnote system and lack of bibliography something Bloomsbury decided upon, or Dr. Egerton thought up? Either way, in my opinion, it's a loser. With these faults, it's still an important book, discussing the problems of Reconstruction.