Posted in Book Reviews, History

Civil War Research Book Review: Recollections and Letters of General Robert E. Lee

38The book is both the most wonderful thing and the most dreadful all at once. First, let’s talk about what’s so great about it.

What I Loved: There’s nothing like reading original letters from people in the past. They shine so much light on the culture of the time. This recollection and letters by the famous general is made better because it was compiled together by one of his sons. If you’re interested in reading Lee’s letters, then you’re going to love reading his son’s commentary along the way!
The one thing I really wish he’d done differently was to leave the letters whole. I understand wanting to cut off the more mundane portions but 150 years later, the mundane sections can carry the best information. As it is, this collection is mostly snippets of letters. Some longer than others.

What I Didn’t Love: The formatting might have been acceptable when it was originally published, but it isn’t anymore. It would have been nice if someone would have made the effort to bring the format up to date. You can hardly read the book at all. The font is extremely small. There are NO breaks ANYWHERE on the page. Not between letters or commentary. If it wasn’t for the timeless information offered here, I would say it was a complete waste.

Buying Options: I bought a used paperback copy from Amazon but also found a FREE Kindle edition. Follow the link to find your favorite buying option.

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Posted in Book Reviews, History

Civil War Research Book Review: The Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the 1800s by Marc McCutcheon

28The wonderful and fascinating details of the 1800s have been gathered into one interesting volume, in which McCutcheon has included quotes from 19th-century citizens concerning or describing hairstyles and fashion, favorite swear words and slang, jokes of the period, courtship and marriage rituals, and more. A must for both fiction and nonfiction historical writers.

Oh how I wish I had found this book sooner!!! The book is exactly as it claims to be. A guide for writers (or history enthusiasts) for all things in the 1800s. You’ll find another version by the same title but a different cover. Rest assured, you’re looking at the same book. However, there is another version specifically on the Civil War. That is different. 

The Everyday Life collection is pretty extensive. You’ll find others on Regency and Victorian England, Prohibition through WWII, Colonial American, Indian, Wild West, etc. If you write historical fiction and haven’t heard of this collection, it’s time to do a quick search on Amazon to see what you can uncover to assist you in your work. 

What I Loved: I love how easy it is to gather the information offered. For me, being a busy mom of four and trying to keep up with the demands of writing full time, I don’t always have the time to research. I MAKE the time, but I don’t always have the time. I appreciate sources that lay things out in an easy to read format that doesn’t involve long-winded paragraphs.
The book actually looks like a dictionary with one word in bold on the left and a brief explanation. Some words are simply definitions and others have a more detailed explanation and even a short quote from a source during that time. Marc shares the dates of his sources so it’s helpful to understand whether it directly applies to your particular decade or not.
I also really appreciate how many categories were compiled together in this one book. Here’s a look at the table of contents:
Slang and Everyday Speech
Getting Around (This was my favorite section! Marc breaks down the various types of carriages, coaches, and wagons and also the details of a Stage Line. Then explains the various details and companies of the Railroad, Water travel, and even the mail carrier.)
Around the House
Clothing and Fashion
Occupations
Money and Coinage
Health, Medicine, and Hygiene
Food, Drink, and Tobacco
Amusements
Courtship and Marriage
Slavery and Black Plantation Culture
The Civil War
Out on the Range
Crime

Clearly, this is a goldmine. It’s a handy overview of the time and a great asset to your library. I encourage you to slip on over to Amazon and take a look inside this book for yourself.

Rating and Buying Options: I’m giving it 5 stars.
As previously noted, I like to buy my used books from Amazon or Half.com At the time of writing this post, I didn’t find any copies on Half.com but found plenty on Amazon. Used copies start at $3. 

Posted in Book Reviews, History

Civil War Research Book Review: The Civil War Years: A Day-by-Day Chronicle by Robert E. Denney

18Follow the story of the Civil War as it unfolds in the words of the people who lived through it. With records of daily events from January 1, 1861 to May 30, 1866, this fascinating chronicle includes illuminating background information on the population of America, its society and economics, the issue of states’ rights, and even medical practices of the day. Here is a major contribution to the legacy and recorded history of the Civil War.

I have heard back from several of you, and know that I’m far from the only Civil War fan out there. I thought you’d be interested in taking a better look at my research shelf. Since the fourth Monday of the month is History week on the blog, I decided to bring you a review on one of my research books on the 4th week of every month. I hope you enjoy the new review series!!

This was one of the first research books I picked up, and it remains a goldmine.This isn’t the only chronological book out there. If you’ve never seen one before, they’re well worth checking out! There’s nothing like having a full overview of the entire war at your fingertips.

What I Loved: It’s not possible to go into a great amount of detail since the book covers so much ground, but several other books detail the various battles. Where a Chronicle shines is in showing you what happened EVERY day of the way. It may seem simple, but just knowing what day of the week it was became extremely helpful to me as I wrote my novels. I had the pleasure of working with two different chronicles so far, but this one included excepts from letters, journals, and newspapers. I really enjoyed reading the experiences of the people along the way.

What I Didn’t Like: It’s my personal belief that when you bring historical facts to the table, you leave your opinions behind. The author never added his own voice to the work, but I did notice that nearly all (if not all) excerpts were from the Union perspective. This doesn’t hur the average person’s ability to enjoy and learn from it, but when I was digging deeper into the feelings of the Southern people during certain events, say…the surrender of Lee, I was greatly disappointed. Since the excerpts are more of an addition and not the purpose itself, I still greatly enjoyed it and can highly recommend it.

Buying Options: I do most of my used book shopping on Amazon and Half.com Since books come and go so quickly on these sites you’ll have to check for the best prices when you’re ready to purchase. But I did notice more buying options on Amazon. Both sites have copies listed at extremely reasonable prices. At the date of this post, I was able to find copies for under $5, making this an especially wonderful addition to your Civil War collection.

Sample: You can peek into the book from the Amazon link. I checked it out myself. You’ll have to pass several pages before coming to the actual chronicle, but they do show several entries to give you an idea of what the book has to offer.
I’ve also quoted the book here on my blog and you can read that entry here.