THE CIVIL WAR IN BOOKS: AN ANALYTICAL BIBLIOGRAPHY
By David J. Eicher
Foreword by Gary W. Gallagher
407 pp., hardcover, University of Illinois Press, Urbana, 1997, ISBN 0–252–02273–4
Publication of The Civil War in Books will inevitably engender considerable controversy: why is this book left out and that one included? David Eicher’s evaluations of many of the books will also be challenged. While he obviously considers each book important, he does not hesitate to point out quite explicitly what he sees as their shortcomings. See, for example, his criticisms of Ezra Warner’s venerable volumes Generals in Blue and Generals in Gray (#s 866 and 867). (Eicher’s publisher is not that tickled about his pointing out piddling little errors in Peter Cozzens’ magisterial accounts of the battles of Stones River [#70] and Chickamauga [#100], we must say, although we applaud his enlightened views on the battles of Chattanooga [#103].)
Eicher’s “amazing achievement” is to have produced the most valuable reference book on the war since The Civil War Day by Day, by E. B. Long and Barbara Long, published in 1971 (see #851). Up to now the most significant bibliography has been Civil War Books: A Critical Bibliography, edited by Allan Nevins, James I. Robertson, Jr., and Bell I. Wiley, published in 1967–1969. Although that two-volume work included more than 6,000 titles, the annotations were very brief, usually one or two sentences. By contrast, Eicher provides comprehensive analytical annotations based on very close examination of all 1,100 volumes. The books were chosen with a board of advisors as the most significant works on the great conflict.
The original intent was to limit the bibliography to 1,000 volumes, but as Eicher received comments and suggestions from some of the leading authorities on the war it became clear that the number needed to be expanded. Among those who assisted in the selection of books to be included were Gary W. Gallagher, who has written extensively on the historiography of the war; James M. McPherson, author of the most comprehensive study in recent years; Mark E. Neely, Jr., author of a Pulitzer-Prize winning study of Lincoln; Ralph G. Newman, for many years a prominent dealer in Civil War books; and James I. Robertson, Jr., an editor of the earlier major bibliography sponsored by the Civil War Centennial Committee in the 1960s.
The Civil War in Books will be an essential volume for university and public libraries, dealers in rare and secondhand books, and of course for scholars and buffs of the Civil War/War between the States.