Can someone explain to me some of the literature for the American Civil War?I am doing a research paper on it, and I do not know where to start.  Can you suggest some books and/or websites?...

Can someone explain to me some of the literature for the American Civil War?

I am doing a research paper on it, and I do not know where to start.  Can you suggest some books and/or websites?

thank you for your time!

Expert Answers
mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Another classic with the setting of the Civil War is "The Red Badge of Courage" by Stephen Crane.  Although he himself had never experienced soldiery, Crane explores the emotions of a young Union recruit in this novel.  Thus, Crane's narrative is predominantly psychological, blending elements of color imagery, symbolism, impressionism, and naturalism, with Henry Fleming "an amoral creature in a deterministic world."

Crane's novel is significant because it breaks with the Romantic tradition of glorifying war; instead, the author portrays the confusion, terror, and senselessness of war.  Critic Sharon Cumberland observes that Crane purposely withholds information from the reader in order to create the disorientation of Henry on the battlefield, the chaos and helplessness that follow. Cumberland concludes,

The Red Badge of Courage offers a powerful text on the internal struggle of one young person to accept the great--even unreasonable--responsibilities placed upon him that will transform him from a child to an adult.  This is the primary thematic approach for younger readers.

These feelings of chaos and helplessness seem appropriate to modern-day wars and offensives, indeed.  Perhaps, reading Crane's novel can provide insight for readers nowadays.

Susan Hurn eNotes educator| Certified Educator

I'm not sure I'm clear about your question and the nature of your research. If you are researching nonfiction literature about the Civil War, I would recommend Shelby Foote's history, The Civil War: A Narrative.It consists of three separate volumes. Foote is perhaps the most noted Civil War historian. If you are looking for fiction that depicts the Civil War or is set during the war, an excellent novel for young readers is Across Five Aprils. And, of course, there is Gone With the Wind. Some aspects of the war's impact in the South are well done, especially in terms of Reconstruction following the war. Two other pieces of literature also come to mind, and both are poems. When Lilacs Last in the Dooryard Bloomed, by Walt Whitman, addresses the grief of President Lincoln's assassination. by Do Not Weep, Maiden, for War is Kind by Stephen Crane depicts the Civil War with realism and irony.

parkerlee eNotes educator| Certified Educator

What about Twain's The Adventures of Huckelberry Finn for a start? An easier read would be Harriet Beecher Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin, which supported the abolitionist movement just before the war and created quite a sensation. Then you might read a biography of Harrriet Tubman, the Negro slave who escaped to the North only to return to help many other slaves find freedom by organizing what became known as the 'Underground Railroad.'

There is a lot of other literature out there, but these three works focus on the aspect of slavery and the abolitionist movement. It might be a good idea to limit the scope of your paper to this or another particular aspect; there's a danger of getting dissipated if you don't.

scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Are you looking for literature or nonfiction Civil War material?  If you are looking for fiction, I would certainly look at Ambrose Bierce's works, especially his short stories such as "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge." Bierce was a Civil War veteran; so his writing not only represents the style of his time but also the perspective of someone who experienced the war.

Also, Herman Melville has several poems connected to the war which present a more realistic view of it than Whitman's poetry.

If you need a well-written true narrative of life before the Civil War, I would suggest Frederick Douglass' autobiography.

Ashley Kannan eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The previous posts are very strong.  If you wanted to look at young adult fiction from the Civil War, I would look at two, in particular.  Paul Fleischman's Bull Run details many characterizations that help bring out the richness of emotions in the Civil War.  Another work that helps to develop the emotional compass of the time period would be Paulsen's Soldier's Heart.  Both works develop a strong emotional portrait of the Civil War.

swimma-logan | Student
Were it me, I'd read a good story. Killer Angels by Michael Shara was excellent, as well as full of information. I learned a lot without realizing I had.