Return from Lafayette & Teaching the Civil War


Friday evening, I met with other contacts, including Jimmy and Thomas, the owner and manager of the Mason-Dixon store in Jefferson, Texas. They were very interested in my books and we are planning a signing/program there in the near future. It was a very good day for personal sales as I sold every book I had with me.

Saturday morning I drove from Marshall, Texas to the Sam’s Club in Lafayette, Louisiana. This was a quick sell-out, and a very enjoyable signing. I was so busy that I forgot to take any photos! The events manager, Maggie, was very pleased at the success of the event. I arrived home late last night, slept late, and as usual on Sundays, was on the run as soon as my feet hit the floor, catching up on business, and preparing for the week. I have a SCV Christmas party to perform for tomorrow night in Eldorado. If I can catch up on chores and tasks, I may go early enough to visit some schools and libraries there. Tuesday night, I have another SCV party here in West Monroe. Thursday, I’ll be in Vidalia, Louisiana presenting a historical/Christmas program there. It should be a lot of fun. Saturday, I’m scheduled to be at the Sam’s Club in Shreveport.


Books about the Civil War continue to be churned out. I think the War Between the States must be one of the most popular topics to write about. Through the years, I’ve managed to build up a respectable library on the War. I’m working on a book for one of my publishers, Booklocker, on how to write about the Civil War. This book is on the list of my future projects, and as soon as I get a lot of rat killing done, I can see to it.

As an English teacher for both the high school and college levels, I’ve read and taught many books about the Civil War that are in the genre of fiction. Some of the literature is very good, some VERY bad—badly written, full of inaccuracies and stereotypes and misinformation. If you’re a teacher, or just one who is interested in reading good Civil War fiction, here’s a list of those books with a few comments.

Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell. An all time best seller and classic on the Civil War—and with good reason. I don’t think anyone has written anything comparable. It is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, few in the modern generation have read it. Few have even seen the movie, one of the greatest movies of all time.

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier The movie was good, the book is better, but as they say, “Never judge a book by its movie.” This novel is rich in detail, honest about the Confederates who fought in the war, and more or less written from a Confederate-friendly point of view. His second epic novel on the Civil War didn’t have as much success, in spite of the big bucks he received for it.

Andersonville by McKinlay Kantor. When I first began reading this novel, I was expecting more of the usual Yankee-point-of-view misinformation and propaganda. I was delightfully surprised. An honest representation of both sides and an unsettling description of this Georgia prisoner of war camp.
Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt. Okay, I know this is a commonly taught book, on at least one AP list I’ve seen, and I know it presents the dynamics of a divided country (and families) well, but the ending spoiled it for me. The ending (with a deus ex machina feel to it) promotes the “Saint Lincoln” myth. I suppose Lincoln was capable of acts of kindness on occasion, but for every deserter he spared (as in this story) he executed or arrested many more, many of whom were innocent of everything but disagreeing with Lincoln. Aside: Lincoln also seemed to be quite fond of not only taking away the right of Habeus Corpus, but of arresting newspaper editors (I heard over 200) who criticized him. I know one of them was the grandson of Francis Scott Key! (How ironic is that!)

The Writings of Ambrose Bierce: Bierce is best known for his story, “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” which is rightfully a standard inclusion in high school and college anthologies. Bierce actually wrote a collection of Civil War Stories and it is worth reading. Though he was a Yankee, he writes about the war with the venom of a Copperhead (Democrats in the North who opposed the war). Definitely worth reading. I recently taught his haunting story, “Chickamauga” in my college American Literature class.

Stephen Crane: Crane is the author of The Red Badge of Courage which has been a classic for a long time. This is a great novel. Though the main character is a Yankee soldier, it is NOT a anti-South book. Rather, it reflects the philosophy of Naturalism which Crane embraced. A beautiful and well-written novel. Crane also has a collection of short fiction about the War entitled, “The Little Regiment” and Other Stories. This is also a good read.