If I was being dropped off on a fire lookout for the summer (a job that I did for many summers while in uni), and had to limit my Civil War reading to a select few sources--here they are with no apologies for an obvious southern bias:
1) James McPherson. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era
. Oxford University Press, 2003 (952 pages).
2) The Civil War Times Illustrated Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume I: Fort Sumter to Gettysburg
. Black Dog & Leventhal Publishers; compact edition edition, 1997 (1376 pages)
--The Civil War Times Illustrated Photographic History of the Civil War, Volume II: Vicksburg to Appomattox
. As above (1366 pages).
3) Shelby Foote. The Civil War Trilogy Box Set: With American Homer: Reflections on Shelby Foote and His Classic The Civil War: A Narrative
. Modern Library; Har/Pap edition, 2011.
4) General Thomas Jordan and J.p. Pryor. The Campaigns Of General Nathan Bedford Forrest and Of Forrest's Cavalry
. Da Capo Press, 1996 (736 pages).
5) Edward Porter Alexander. Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander
. Scholarly Book Services Inc; Reprint edition, 2002 (692 pages).
6) Perry Lentz. The Falling Hills
. Scholarly Book Services Inc; New edition edition, 2002 (Orig publ. 1967).
7) Charles Frazier. Cold Mountain: A Novel
. Grove/Atlantic; First Ediiton edition, 1997.
1) About the best one volume academic study of the conflict.
2) Over 2000 photographs in this massive collection, many of which you will never see anywhere else.
3) Simply the best narrative history of the war.
4) A close look into the mind and soul of Shelby Foote's "other genius" of the war (the first being Lincoln). From Amazon: "...Biographies or studies of him have never totally superseded The Campaigns of General Nathan Bedford Forrest
(1868) by General Thomas Jordan (West Pointer and chief of staff to Generals Beauregard, Albert Sidney Johnston, and Braxton Bragg) and the professional journalist J. P. Pryor. Forrest himself gave them complete access to his military papers, spent many hours in interviews with them, and closely supervised their writing. Hence, this work is not just a flat campaign study of Forrest—in effect, it is his military memoir and as such remains the most valuable source on Forrest and his cavalry."
5) From Amazon: "Georgia native and West Point graduate Alexander was involved in nearly all of the significant battles in the Eastern theater of the Civil War and came into frequent contact with the highest command of the Army of Northern Virginia, including Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson, and James Longstreet. His perspective on such personalities and on the events unfolding around him is a most valuable one."
6) An outstanding novel about Forrest's attack on Fort Pillow in 1864. From Amazon: "This 1967 first novel garnered praise for its realistic depiction of the slaves and soldiers of the Civil War. The plot recounts the Fort Pillow massacre in which Confederate forces slaughtered Union soldiers and slaves in the Tennessee outpost."
7) A very fine novel about a confederate soldier's journey of discovery across the devastated South in North Carolina.
--Add Michael Shaara's Killer Angels
; Oh and throw in Gone With the Wind
if you haven't read it. Yes, seriously.