A few years ago, I took an online course at Cornerstone University entitled “The Civil War.” I own quite a few books about the “War of the Rebellion” and I wasn’t looking for a rehash of the usual – military strategies, battle tactics, and hero generals on which many of those books focus. The reading selections in the syllabus of this course intrigued me because they focused on areas that are not traditionally covered in depth in the prominent history books. This course centered on the people involved and the societal issues before, during, and following the Civil War.

img_20161105_051635-1 First was a book titled “Lincoln and the First Shot” (Richard Current, 1963) which was entirely about the few weeks leading up to the war’s onset – between the president’s inauguration and the assault on Fort Sumter.

Second was “A History the Southern Confederacy” (Clement Eaton, 1954), a topic I was quite unfamiliar with because I’ve usually looked at the Civil War from the perspective of the Union.

The third title was “The Negro in the Civil War” (Benjamin Quarles, 1989). A small portion of this book has been popularized in the movie “Glory,” the story of the 54th Massachusetts. This was one of the most enlightening parts of the course to me and I recommend the book highly. There are some incredible tales and intriguing characters that are not well known, but should be because their contributions were significant.

Fourth was a first hand recollection of a Yankee cavalryman who survived the infamous southern prison. The book is titled “Andersonville: A Story of Rebel Military Prisons” (John McElroy, 1999)  originally written in 1879. This book will open your eyes if you are at all curious and want to validate what you think you know about Andersonville prison.

The last book is “Doctors in Blue” (George W. Adams, 1952), a treatise on the medical practices during the Civil War. Adams explains how important advances in medical practices were a direct result of the deplorable conditions and lessons learned during the war. Things we take for granted today!

I thought I’d share these titles in case you, like me, have had a narrow perspective on the Civil War and would like to broaden your understanding. Check your neighborhood library. If you are in west Michigan, at last check, three of these titles are available at the Grand Rapids Public Library. “Lincoln and the First Shot” and “Doctors in Blue” are not; however, you can obtain any of these titles online, in used and new condition, fairly inexpensively. Enjoy.