Hard to Find or Expensive Civil War Books

by James Durney on January 19, 2010 · 5 comments

Hard to find or expensive Civil War books

By James Durney

Books are an integral part of our hobby.  The more we read, the more we understand how little we know and how much more we need to read.  Spouses threaten us with a fate worse than death as our library spills out of the book case(s).  Each month, there is another must have book that manages to slip into our library.  The following books while not impossible to find represent a major acquisition to a personal Civil War library.

When the Ripe Pears Fell: The Battle of Richmond, Kentucky by Dean W. Lambert published in 1966 by the Madison County Historical Society is an in-depth look at that battle in Madison County.  This book is an example of the excellent work done by a hobbyist deeply involved with the subject.

Embattled Arkansas: The Prairie Grove Campaign of 1862 by Michael E. Banasik published in 1996 by Broadfoot Publishing Company is very rare.  This is the definitive and for many years the only account of the Prairie Grove Campaign.  Not the easiest book to read, it is one of the “WOW, you have that!” books in our hobby.  I snapped my copy off the shelf in the Wilson’s Creek bookstore and only paid the publisher’s list price, about a third of the asking price.

Forrest at Brice’s Crossroads by Ed Bearss originated with Glenn Tucker was essentially redone by Bearss after his death.  Relying heavily on the O.R. and other primary sources and documents, the author traces the period of Forrest’s activities from April to August 1864 with a special focus on the battle at Brice’s Crossroads.  First published in 1979 and several times since, it is a classic.

Shiloh: Bloody April by Wiley Sword first published in 1974 and revised in 2001.  Until the Cunningham book was the most complete Shiloh history on the market.  This Morningside Bookshop publication may or may not be available from them.  Amazon pricing, on the secondary market, varies from reasonable to outrageous.  If you are buying this book, make sure it is the 2001 “Newly Corrected Edition”!

From 1979 to 1985, Stephen Z. Starr wrote a 3-volume history of the Union Cavalry in the Civil War.  The series is available in paperback but the hardback books command a premium and are hard to assemble. The titles are: The Union Cavalry in the CIVIL War, Volume I: from Fort Sumter to Gettysburg, THE UNION CAVALRY IN THE CIVIL WAR, VOLUME II: THE WAR IN THE EAST FROM GETTYSBURG TO APPOMATTOX, 1863-1865 and The Union Cavalry in the Civil War: The War in the West, 1861-1865.

Camp Pope Publishing

Available but expensive are two sets from Morningside Bookshop:

THE VICKSBURG CAMPAIGN SET (three VOLUMES) by Ed Bearss provides an exhaustive account of the fighting for the Mississippi’s primary fortress.

Bachelder’s History of the Battle of Gettysburg by John B. Bachelder is the correspondence Bachelder received from the officers and men of both armies, who fought at Gettysburg.  This massive collection of letters fills 2,081 pages in three volumes.

Editor’s Note: Jim is a Top 500 Amazon.com reviewer.

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{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Nick Kurtz January 19, 2010 at 12:32 pm

I never had any problem getting Sword’s book, each time at retial price. Plus I was given a first edition many years ago, I have 3-4 copies in all, which I’m sure puzzles my wife.

I found Starr’s set (in hardback) at a consignment shop, paid like $20 for the set, that was a great steal. Also once found Freeman’s 4 vol Lee set (first edition) for $20, I probably set a land speed record getting to the counter.

Have both Bearss entries, again nothing too spectacular about finding them or the cost. The Vicksburg set was actually a gift so my cost was fantastic.

And I xeroxed a copy of Lambert, a buddy owned it and I couldn’t find one online at all. So this works just as well.

I’d also add to your list Imhof’s Gettysburg July 2 map book. There is a serious demand for a second edition but he won’t do it. Again I had to xerox a buddy’s copy.

And until it was recently reprinted there was a book on Wilder’s Brigade covering Chickamauga/Chattanooga (title and author escape me now). I found a copy on ebay cheap and until the reprint came every other copy I saw was upwards of $200. I just had good timing on that one.

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Donald Hallstrom January 21, 2010 at 10:42 am

Hello James
Very interesting post. I’m a collector and only collect first editions, first printings. This adds another layer of difficulty in finding these books.
Since you have included only Battles or Campaigns, I’ll list some I think were hard to find.
1. Battle of Fort Donelson – Hamilton
2. Rebel Victory at Vicksburg – Bearss
3. The Port Hudson Campaing – Cunningham
4. Battle of Jackson – Bearss
5. Steele’s Retreat from Camden – Bearss
6. Red River Campaign – Johnson
7. For Cause and Country – Jacobson 2006
8. A Slight Demonstration – 2007
9. Yankee Blitzkrieg – Jones 1976
10. Battle of Mine Creek – Buresh 1977
11. Gleam of Bayonets – Murfin 1965
12. The Fredericksburg Campaign – O’reilly 2003. Recent, but hard to find 1st printing
13. Crisis at the Crossroads – Hassler 1970
14. Here Come the Rebels – Nye
15. Backdoor to Richmond – Robertson 1987
16. Breaking the Backbone of Rebellion, The Petersburg Campaign – Greene 2000 1st printings are really hard to find for some reason.
17. Any of the Campaign books done by Stackpole in the first printings are really hard to find.

Don

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Michael C. Hardy January 21, 2010 at 11:12 am

Interesting that you call Dr. Lambert a “hobbyist” – he was a professor of history at Berea College and one of his teaching areas was American Civil War. I have a signed copy of When the Ripe Pears Fell. No, it’s not for sale.

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James Durney January 22, 2010 at 8:53 am

I call ed Dr. lambert a “hobbyist” as he did not have a number of book published nor a mainstream publishing house. I did not mean to imply that he was not an experienced professional historian.

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Chris Evans February 1, 2010 at 1:55 am

I was lucky to find a Hardcover edition with Dust Jacket of ‘Shiloh Bloody April’ for $10. It is not the 2001 edition but I still believe that it is quite a good find at a reasonable price. I wanted a Hardcover to go along with my Softcover version.

I have been lucky to own for many years the 1st edition of ‘Blue Lightning: Wilder’s Mounted Infantry Brigade in the Battle of Chickamauga by Richard A. Baumgartner’ which came out in 1997. Excellent book by the way.
Chris

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