Certain topics in historical fiction have struggled over the years. The Civil War tops that list. Many books once considered classics and award winners have not stood the test of time with today’s youth. They want drama, details, and an emotional connection. On the other hand, they want simplicity. Finally, after reading, or attempting to read, many Civil War books, I have narrowed the field to these nine books.
John Lincoln Clem by E. F. Abbott
John Clem is 9-years-old and ready to fight for his country. Since he’s too young, he sneaks onto the train with the Ohio 3rd infantry. Unable to send him home, they give him a uniform and a drum with orders to learn the drum calls. Like all the soldiers, Johnny is ready for action, but he soon learns that war is not fun, and nothing could have prepared him for the Battle of Shiloh.
Iron Thunder by Avi
In need of a job to support his family, Tom becomes a messenger for Ericsson, designer of the Union ironclad ship the Monitor. As the Confederate’s own ironclad ship, the Merrimac, nears completion, the U.S. Navy urges Ericsson to get his ship to Virginia pronto. While en route, the ship narrowly escapes ruin and arrives at Hampton Roads to find the Merrimac has already wreaked havoc on Union ships. The battle of the ironclads begins.
The Not-So-Boring Letters of Private Nobody by Matthew Landis
Oliver, a walking Civil War encyclopedia, is thrilled when his Social Studies teacher assigns a research project on the Civil War. His enthusiasm nose-dives when he gets assigned the “dumb” girl for a partner and an obscure soldier no one has ever heard of. It only gets worse when he finds out that Private Stone died of dysentery at Gettysburg, before he ever stepped foot on the battlefield.
The Mostly True Adventures of Homer P. Figg by Rodman Philbrick
Homer and his brother, Harold, have been tight as thieves, since their parents died. Now Homer is about to lose his brother to the war when his uncle sells him off as a draft replacement. Homer sets off after his brother, encountering a slew of interesting characters along the way. Smelly horse thieves. A quaker. A love-sick reverend. A traveling showman. Even General JEB Stuart. The best part? The whopper stories he invents.
The Girls of Gettysburg by Bobbi Miller
Tillie, Annie, and Grace are teenage girls with different perspectives of the Battle of Gettysburg. Tillie tends to the wounded when her house becomes a make-shift surgical ward. Annie goes undercover as a boy and dies on the battlefield. Grace goes into hiding, fearful that she and her family will be sold into slavery if caught.
Like a River by Kathy Cannon Wiechman
When Leander’s older brother shatters his leg and can’t enlist in the Union Army, Leander goes in his place. He ends up in a field hospital where he is attended by Paul who is really a girl, Polly. Paul/Polly is captured by Confederates and sent to Andersonville Prison where she endures disease, starvation and exposure to the elements.
Crossing Ebenezer Creek by Tonya Bolden
Freed slaves join Sherman’s Army as they march across Georgia, pillaging food and property. Among the Union generals, Galloway is kind to the slaves, but another general, Jefferson C. Davis, is not. After the Union army crosses Ebenezer Creek, Davis removes the pontoons, leaving the slaves trapped by the advancing Rebel army.
Annie, Between the States by L. M. Elliott
Annie’s home is situated right in the middle of Civil War activity. Both Union and Confederate armies use her home for hospitality, caring for the wounded, and securing provisions. Annie comes face to face with men fighting on both sides. Confederate general JEB Stuart wastes no time charming his way into Annie’s heart. At the same time, a wounded Union soldier, who briefly shared her home, keeps popping back into her life.
I Survived the Battle of Gettysburg, 1863 by Lauren Tarshis
Thomas and his 5-year-old sister, Birdie, have just run away from their slave owner. While hiding, they discover a Union soldier about to be shot by a Confederate soldier. Thomas causes a distraction that allows the Union soldier to get away. Grateful for his life, the soldier takes the siblings under his wing as they move toward Gettysburg.