I came across a page for a 2010 American Civil War Reading Challenge, and thought I’d list my favorite Civil War books from 2009 in case anyone needs recommendations.

I don’t have time to read much fiction so my list this year is non-fiction.

1. My absolute favorite book is a Woman’s Civil War: A Diary, with Reminiscences of the War, from March 1862 by Cornelia Peake McDonald

This book is good on so many levels, I encourage everyone to read it – even if you’re not a Civil War enthusiast. The book is a diary, started on the night of March 11, 1862 as Cornelia’s husband marches off to war. She records a personal and distinctly female battle of her own – her struggle in the midst of chaos to provide safety for herself and her nine children.

Cornelia’s tremendous determination and unyielding spirit are compelling, disturbing and inspirational. It will make you realize how lucky and blessed you are – even in the economic climate we live in today.

2. A Southern Spy in Northern Virginia by Charles Mauro

It’s not often that an historical fiction author runs across a book that provides the perfect combination of war, romance, history, espionage, and famous historical figures, but that is what I found in A Southern Spy by Charles Mauro.

The book centers around a secret album presented to Fairfax County resident Laura Ratcliffe by Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart “as a token of his high appreciation of her patriotism, admiration of her virtues, and pledge of his lasting esteem.”

The album contains four poems, two written by Stuart to Laura and two he copied. It also contains 40 signatures – 26 Confederate soldiers and 14 civilians. Mauro has tracked down the personal history of each one and gives possible dates as to when each may have signed the album. The book gives readers a glimpse into the lives of some of the most revered and feared Confederate cavalrymen in the War Between the States.

3. They Fought Like Demons: Women Soldiers in the Civil War by De Anne Blanton, Lauren M Cook

This book is a real eye opener with actual accounts and reports of women who dressed as man and fought on the battlefield. It is written in a very dry and academic format so the reading can be difficult, but the research involved to bring these stories to print has to be lauded.

Among some of the interesting stories are accounts of six soldiers who are known to have performed their military duties while pregnant, and two Confederate prisoners of war who gave birth while incarcerated.

4. The Woman in Battle: The Civil War Narrative of Loreta Janeta Velazquez, Cuban Woman and Confederate Soldier (Wisconsin Studies in Autobiography)

A Cuban woman who moved to New Orleans in the 1850s, Loreta Valazquez fought in the Civil War for the Confederacy as Harry T. Buford. As Buford, she organized an Arkansas regiment, participated in the battles of Blue Run, Balls Bluff, Fort Donelson and Shiloh.

This seemingly impossible autobiographical account has been criticized as fiction, but it still makes an interesting read!

5. Undaunted Heart: The True Story of a Southern Belle and a Yankee General by Suzy Barile

I like this book because it’s written by the great-great-granddaughter of Ella Swain and Smith Atkins. Ella was the daughter of the president of the University of North Carolina – and Smith Atkins was a Union general who came to Ella’s father’s house to inform him that the town was under Union occupation.

Against this unlikely backdrop began a passionate and controversial love story still vivid in town lore. When President Swain’s daughter Ella met the Union general, life for these two young people who had spent the war on opposite sides was forever altered.

This famous courtship and marriage, needless to say, caused quite a stir. Interwoven throughout Undaunted Heart are excerpts from Ella’s never-before-published letters to her parents that reveal a loving marriage that transcended differences and scandal.

Happy reading in 2010!


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