Eichler, a serious student of the Civil War, recently authored the well-received Civil War Battlefields: A Touring Guide
(Taylor, 1995). With the assistance of five well-known Civil War scholars (Gallagher, McPherson, Neely, Geoffrey, and Robertson), he has compiled a useful analytical bibliography of Civil War books. In the introduction, the compilers estimate there are more than 50,000 books dealing with the Civil War. Scrutinizing the standard bibliographies, they have come up with a list of 1,100 titles published from 1865 through 1995 that they consider to be the most important, current, or representative of a subject field.
The book is divided into five categories: "Battles and Campaigns," "Confederate Biographies," "Union Biographies," "General Works," and "Unit Histories." Each category is further divided into subject sections. For example, the biographies categories are divided into politicians, soldiers, sailors, and others. A typical entry provides complete bibliographic information although in a unique format. Some entries note the author's years of birth and death, or additional information such as whether the author won a Pulitzer Prize. Most annotations are at least three to four paragraphs in length and analyze the importance of the work and any biases or errors and also provide information on reprints and different editions. Rounding out this interesting bibliography are two appendixes: one lists 57 prolific publishers of Civil War books and the other 54 other Civil War bibliographies. An author/editor index and a title index will assist users. Also included within the indexes are books mentioned in annotations.
In the 1960s, during the Civil War Centennial commemoration, several excellent bibliographies were compiled by distinguished scholars. Not much had been done to update them until recently. Guide to Civil War Books by Barbuto [RBB Mr 15 96] surveys 320 monographs published in the last 20 years. According to Eichler, only about 27 percent of the 1,100 titles in The Civil War in Books were published since 1981. Thus, the two books are decidedly different in scope. Barbuto is definitely better in coverage of social aspects of the war, such as slavery, Native Americans, and secession. In addition, some significant historians such as Fogel, Genovese, Freehling, Quarles, Kantor, and Morsberger are not included in Eichler. The Civil War in Books is an excellent bibliography for academic, public, and Civil War collections that need a survey of the best books published over the past 130 years. Those that need a bibliography of just the best current books should purchase Guide to Civil War Books.
"An amazing achievement... This is the best critical bibliography in more than three decades. All of the best books are included, organized logically into categories that are easy to use, enabling the user to find the exact book or books relevant to his or her interest." -- James M. McPherson, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era