In honor of its 50th Anniversary, the Louisville Civil War Round Table selected what it considers the 50 Essential Books on the Civil War. These works are not necessarily the best books on the era, but rather are the basic resources necessary for anyone to understand the period 1861-1865. The list is divided by categories and touches as much of the war as possible; no effort was made to rank the books within each category, or to decide the relative merits of each type of book. All of these titles are available today. Taken as a whole, they represent the Civil War and its myriad facets.

Battles/Campaigns:

Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas by John Hennesey
The Gleam of Bayonets: The Battle of Antietam by James Murfin
The Campaign of Chancellorsville by John Bigelow
The Campaign of Gettysburg by Edward Coddington
The Vicksburg Campaign 3 Vols by Ed Bearss
This Terrible Sound: Chickamauga by Peter Cozzens
Wilderness/Spotsylvania by Gordon Rhea
Shiloh: Bloody April by Wiley Sword
Stonewall in the Valley by Robert Tanner
Decision in the West: The Atlanta Campaign of 1864 by Albert Castel
Biography:

RE Lee 4 Vols by Douglas S. Freeman
The Edge of Glory: A Biography of General William S. Rosecrans by William Lamers
John Breckinridge by William C. Davis
The Young Napoleon by Stephen Sears
Rock of Chickamauga: The Life of General George H. Thomas by Freeman Cleaves
Lincoln by David Donald
Lee the Soldier edited by Gary Gallagher
Jefferson Davis by William Cooper
Lincoln and His Generals by T. Harry Williams
Stonewall Jackson by James I. Robe
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Fiction/Literature:

Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara
Red Badge of Courage by Stephen Crane
Uncle Tom's Cabin by Harriet Beecher Stowe
Unit Histories:

Lee's Lieutenants by Douglas S. Freeman
Mother May You Never See the Sights I have Seen: The 57th Massachusetts by Warren Wilkinson
The Union Cavalry in the Civil War by Stephen Starr
Two Great Rebel Armies by Richard McMurry
The Army of the Potomac 3 Vols by Bruce Catton
The Orphan Brigade by William C. Davis
Nothing but Victory: The Army of the Tennessee by Stephen Woodworth
Army of the Heartland and Autumn of Their Glory by Thomas Connelly
The Stonewall Brigade by Bud Robertson
Education in Violence: The Army of the Cumberland by Francis McKinney
General Histories:

Photographic History of the Civil War in Ten Volumes by Francis Miller
Battles & Leaders Century Magazine
The American Heritage History of the Civil War (Old Version Bruce Catton)
Battle Cry of Freedom by James McPherson
The Civil War 3 vols by Shelby Foote
Virginia at War 4 vols edited by William C. Davis and James I. Robertson
 Memoir:

Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant
by Ulysses S. Grant
Memoirs of William T. Sherman by William T. Sherman
The Civil War Papers of George McClellan by Stephen Sears
A Confederate War Clerk's Diary by John B. Jones
Fighting for the Confederacy by E.P. Alexander
Memoirs of a Dutch Mudsill: The War Memories of John Henry Otto 21st Wisconsin by John Henry Otto
Company Aytch by Sam Watkins
A Diary From Dixie by Mary Boykin Chestnut
Memoir of Service Afloat During the War Between the States by Raphael Semmes
The Children of Pride: A True Story of Georgia in the Civil War by Charles Babcock Jones edited by Robert Meyer