CIVIL WAR: Film, Literature & Classroom Resources
Novels Many of the following can be found in local libraries, ESD libraries, in Google Books, or for purchase.
Non-fiction books recommended for teachers of grades 7-12.
Foote, Shelby. The Civil War: A Narrative (3 Vol. Set) Vintage; November 12, 1986.
Shelby Foote brings a skilled novelist's narrative power to this great epic. The first volume opens by introducing Confederate President Jefferson Davis, rather than Abraham Lincoln.
Kearns Goodwin, Doris. Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln. Simon & Schuster; October 25, 2005.
Goodwin profiles five of the key players in her book, four of whom contended for the 1860 Republican presidential nomination and all of whom later worked together in Lincoln's cabinet.
McPherson, James M. Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Oxford University Press, USA. December 11, 2003.
James M. McPherson covers the military aspects of the war in all of the necessary detail, and also provides a helpful framework describing the complex economic, political, and social forces behind the conflict.
McPherson, James M. Crossroads of Freedom: Antietam. Thorndike Press; December 2002.
The bloodiest day in United States history was September 17, 1862, when, during the Civil War battle at Antietam, close to 6,500 soldiers were killed or mortally wounded and another 15,000 were seriously wounded.
Wiley, Bell Irvin. The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the… Louisiana State University Press; November 2007.
The Life of Johnny Reb does not merely describe the battles and skirmishes fought by the Confederate foot soldier. Rather, it provides an intimate history of a soldier's daily life--the songs he sang, the foods he ate, the hopes and fears he experienced, the reasons he fought.
Wills, Gary. Lincoln at Gettysburg: The Words That Remade America. Simon & Schuster; June 12, 1993
Wills painstakingly deconstructs Lincoln's Gettysburg Address and discovers heavy influence from the early Greeks (Pericles) and the 19th century Transcendentalists.
Non-fiction books recommended for teachers of grades 1-6.
Herbert, Janis. The Civil War for Kids: A History with 21 Activities (For Kids series), Chicago Review Press; November 1, 1999.
Grade 4-8-Using a clear style and lively tone, this book provides a look at the Civil War and its leaders and includes activities such as battle reenactments and recipes for soldiers' rations. The contributions of women, African Americans, and even children are described. Most of the activities require adult supervision and are geared toward groups, making them ideal for classrooms.
Moore, Kay. If You Lived At The Time Of The Civil War. Scholastic Paperbacks; September 1, 1994.
Describes conditions for the civilians in both North and South during and immediately after the war.
Murphy, Jim. The Boys' War: Confederate and Union Soldiers Talk About the Civil War. Sandpiper; March 22, 1993.
From first chapter ("So I Became a Soldier") to last ("We're Going Home"), this wrenching look at our nation's bloodiest conflict through the eyes of its youthful participants serves up history both heartbreaking and enlightening. Ages 8-12.
Ray, Delia. Behind the Blue and Gray: The Soldier's Life in the Civil War (Young Reader's Hist- Civil War). Puffin; September 1, 1996.
Grade 7 Up-- This sequel to A Nation Torn: The Story of How the Civil War Began (Lodestar, 1990) is the story of the Civil War as seen from the perspective of common soldiers who served in Union blue and Confederate gray; coverage is from the first shots fired upon Fort Sumter to the long trek home at war's end.
Austin, Lynn. Light to My Path. Bethany House Publishers; November 1, 2004.
Refiner's Fire book 3 Kitty, a house slave, always figured it was easiest to do what she’d always done--obey Missy and follow orders. But when word arrives that the Yankees are coming, Kitty is faced with a decision: will she continue to follow the bidding of her owners, or will she embrace this chance for freedom?
Crane, Stephen. The Red Badge of Courage. Tor Classics; November 15, 1990.
The story of a young soldier's quest for manhood during the American Civil War.
Frazier, Charles. Cold Mountain. Atlantic Monthly Press; May 16, 1997.
The story is simple. A wounded confederate soldier decides he has had enough of war and slowly makes his way home, hoping the woman he loves, Ada, is waiting for him. The book chronicles this journey and reminds me a little of The Odyssey as well as Don Quixote.
Jakes, John. North and South. Signet; June 1, 2000.
In the years during the Civil War, the Mains and Hazards achieve their triumphs and suffer their tragedies against the panorama of American history.
Jiles, Paulette. Enemy Women. Harper Perennial; January 21, 2003.
Jiles's story focuses on the trying times of 18-year-old heroine Adair Colley. When a group of renegade Union militiamen attacks the Colley home, stealing family possessions, burning everything down, and taking away her father--an apolitical judge--Adair gathers the remnants of her clothes and mounts a rescue effort. Unfortunately, she is falsely accused of being a Confederate spy, a charge that lands her in a squalid women's prison run by a decent commandant embarrassed by his post.
Mitchell, Margaret. Gone with the Wind. Warner Books; August 1, 1993.
Many novels have been written about the Civil War and its aftermath. None take us into the burning fields and cities of the American South as Gone With the Wind does, creating haunting scenes and thrilling portraits of characters so vivid that we remember their words and feel their fear and hunger for the rest of our lives.
Shaara, Jeff. Gods and Generals: A Novel of the Civil War. Ballantine Books; April 29, 1998.
Jeff Shaara explores the lives of Generals Lee, Hancock, Jackson and Chamberlain as the pivotal Battle of Gettysburg approaches.
Shaara, Jeff. The Last Full Measure. Ballantine Books; May 2, 2000.
The Last Full Measure picks up with Confederate General Robert E. Lee's retreat from Pennsylvania and continues through the end of the war. Shaara focuses on the characters of Lee and Union commander Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, both of whom play prominent roles in the earlier books.
Shaara, Michael. The Killer Angels. Ballantine Books; August 12, 1987.
This novel reveals more about the Battle of Gettysburg than any piece of learned nonfiction on the same subject. Michael Shaara's account of the three most important days of the Civil War features deft characterizations of all of the main actors, including Lee, Longstreet, Pickett, Buford, and Hancock. The most inspiring figure in the book, however, is Col. Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, whose 20th Maine regiment of volunteers held the Union's left flank on the second day of the battle.
Vidal, Gore. Lincoln. Vintage; February 15, 2000.
Lincoln is a masterwork of historical fiction, in which Gore Vidal combines a comprehensive knowledge of Civil War America with 20th-century literary technique, probing the minds and motives of the men surrounding Abraham Lincoln, including personal secretary John Hay and scheming cabinet members William Seward and Salmon P. Chase, as well as his wife, Mary Todd.
VHS & DVD Resources
Educational Service District
Many ESDs have Civil War videos available for use at your school. Check selections.
Local Library Systems
Many local library systems have Civil War videos available for use at your school.
NetFlix is an online DVD site where you can order many commercial and documentary movies which are mailed to you. A monthly subscription costs about $10, and you receive one DVD at a time. As soon as you have seen it, return the DVD and you are sent the next. The films listed and described below are all available from NetFlix, please search by title. If you work quickly, it would be possible to view all the movies easily in two months or less.
DVDs—Select EIGHT (8) OR
you may choose a different video with the instructor’s prior approval.
Most of the following titles can be found in the dvd version of Netflix or on YouTube.
Ambrose Bierce: Civil War Stories (2006) PG-13
Set against a meeting among renowned storyteller Ambrose Bierce (Campbell Scott), novelist Gertrude Atherton (Vivian Schilling) and William Randolph Hearst (Nathan Darrow), Bierce's tragic Civil War stories play out with epic battles and engrossing plot twists. A traitor faces hanging in "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," a commander passes the buck in "One Kind of Officer," and a captain recognizes an escaped spy in "The Story of a Conscience."
The American Civil War (2008) G
Explore the Civil War from the anti-slavery protests that sowed the seeds of its inception through more than four years of bloody fighting, which set neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother, to Robert E. Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Considering the historical, political, ethical and strategic elements that set the war in motion, this superb five-part program provides a dynamic portrayal of America's great national tragedy.
Andersonville (1996) NR
Directed by John Frankenheimer (who won an Emmy for his efforts), this searing Civil War miniseries centers on the appallingly inhumane conditions endured by Union prisoners at the notorious Andersonville stockade in Georgia. Set in 1864 and seen through the perspective of young Union soldier Josiah Day (Jarrod Emick), the made-for-cable drama is a tribute to the human spirit. Frederic Forrest, Cliff De Young and William H. Macy also star.
The Blue and the Gray (1982) NR
Based on the works of Pulitzer Prize winner Bruce Catton, this miniseries depicts -- with great attention to historical accuracy -- life in the United States just prior to and during the Civil War as seen by an artist correspondent. With a legendary ensemble cast (including Gregory Peck, Lloyd Bridges and Colleen Dewhurst), riveting battle sequences and intense drama, the war between the Blue and the Gray rips a nation -- and families -- apart.
The Civil War (2004) NR
As one of the country's and the world's most significant battles, the American Civil War has continued to be a point of interest among historians of military conflict. Throngs of literature, films and in-depth documentaries have been created about the bloody war that left so many dead. Now, viewers have the chance to see the battle through the eyes of a soldier as the story is reenacted by thousands of historical enthusiasts.
Civil War Battlefields (2006) NR
This documentary program examines the most notorious battlefields of the American Civil War, an unprecedented domestic conflict that caused the deaths of some 600,000 soldiers and injured more than 400,000 others. Segments focus on the battle sites at Manassas, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville and Spotsylvania in Virginia; Antietam in Sharpsburg, Md.; Gettysburg, Pa.; and the final surrender at Appomattox Court House in Virginia.
Civil War Combat: America's Bloodiest Battles (2000) NR
Using interviews with Civil War experts, reenactment footage and stirring recitations of correspondence and diaries, Civil War Combat brings to life the most crucial conflicts of the War Between the States. These encounters played a seminal role in deciding the result of America's most devastating war, which produced unparalleled casualties. Each episode covers a particular killing field, chronicling the battle progression and key combatants.
Civil War Journal: The Commanders (2001) NR
Learn the personal stories of famous Civil War leaders such as Robert E. Lee, Stonewall Jackson and William Tecumseh Sherman. This historical documentary explores some of the complex reasons behind these commanders' biggest decisions during the war. Stories include Sherman's destructive 300-mile march through Georgia from Atlanta to Savannah, as well as the West Point friendship between wartime enemies Lee and Jackson.
Civil War Journal: The Conflict Begins (2001) NR
The immediate prelude and first months of America's bloody Civil War are the topic of this compelling chronicle that covers John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry, the war's opening shots at Fort Sumter and its first major battle at Bull Run. Hosted by Danny Glover, this installment of the History Channel's "Civil War Journal" series also explores the historic role of the all-African-American 54th Massachusetts regiment during the war.
Civil War Minutes: Gettysburg and Stories of Valor (2004) NR
Narrated by Keith Carradine, this third installment in the Civil War Minutes Series delves into the history of the battle at Gettysburg -- the greatest, most pivotal battle ever fought in the Western hemisphere. Topics include Colonel Strong Vincent's defense of Little Round Top, the cryptic "Devil's Den" photographs, Confederate general Lewis Armistead's secret call for help (after being mortally wounded during "Pickett's Charge") and more.
Cold Mountain (2003) R
Anthony Minghella directs this epic tale of love and loss based on the best-selling book of the same name (and, in part, on Homer's The Odyssey) about a wounded Civil War soldier (Jude Law) making a long, treacherous journey to his home in Cold Mountain, N.C. All the while, his faraway love (Nicole Kidman) fights for her own sanity and survival on her father's farm with help from a brave young drifter (Renee Zellweger, in an Oscar-winning role.)
Gettysburg (1993) PG
The fiercest battle fought on American soil comes to the screen in a realistic production that painstakingly re-creates the events of three fateful days in July 1863 -- from the actual battle locations to the uniforms and boots. Tom Berenger, Jeff Daniels, Martin Sheen and Richard Jordan play key roles in this magnificent epic (based on Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels.
Glory (1989) R
Loosely based on the letters of Boston-born Union commander Col. Robert G. Shaw (Matthew Broderick), this Academy Award-winning war film follows the first group of African-Americans to serve in combat during the Civil War. The heroics of Shaw's volunteer regiment of black soldiers -- including a fugitive slave (Denzel Washington, in an Oscar-winning performance) and a grave digger (Morgan Freeman) -- help turn the tide of the war.
Gods and Generals (2003) PG-13
Director-producer Ron Maxwell mines America's history in this epic movie chronicling the Civil War's beginnings in 1861 to the tragic Battle of Chancellorsville in 1863 and the heroes who defended their honor on both fronts. Robert Duvall is Gen. Robert E. Lee, who leads the Confederates; Jeff Daniels is Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, a Bowdoin College professor who fights for the Union army, and Stephen Lang portrays Gen. Stonewall Jackson.
Gone with the Wind (1939) G
Margaret Mitchell's sweeping Civil War saga remains one of the greatest examples of cinematic storytelling. Vivien Leigh's tempestuous Scarlett O'Hara and Clark Gable's handsome rogue Rhett Butler bicker and battle from antebellum plantations to the streets of postwar Atlanta. This special collector's edition features a beautifully restored print and many extras.
Ken Burns: The Civil War (1990) NR
This documentary masterpiece from Ken Burns depicts the strategies and action of famous Civil War battles, and relates the stories of generals, field soldiers, politicians, heroes and a beleaguered president. The Emmy-winning miniseries begins by looking at the factors that led to the firing on Fort Sumter, and covers specific notable battles, climaxing with Gen. Robert E. Lee's surrender and Pres. Abraham Lincoln's assassination.
North & South (2004) NR
When her father uproots his family from their serene rural burg for an industrial mill town, parson's daughter Margaret Hale (Daniela Denby-Ashe) struggles to adapt to her harsh new surroundings in this BBC series based on Elizabeth Gaskell's novel. As her mother's health fails, Margaret throws herself into the fight for workers' rights and clashes with mill owner John Thornton (Richard Armitage). Sinead Cusack and Tim Pigott-Smith also star.
Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)
Outlaw Josey Wales is a film about the Kansas Jayhawkers (Red legs) and the Missouri Bushwackers. The warfare that took place out west between Kansas and Missouri during the Civil War, was nothing less than brutal murder. Both sides would invade each others states and kill, rape, pillage and burn. The movie Outlaw Josey Wales is about a farmer who was living in Missouri minding his own business when a band of Red legs kill his family. The only mistake they make is not killing Josey Wales when they had a chance.
The Red Badge of Courage (1951) NR
John Huston's classic film adaptation of the 1895 Stephen Crane novel, set against the backdrop of the American Civil War, ponders the feelings of anxiety and finally outright fear in a boy preparing for battle. Henry (Audie Murphy) begins losing his illusions of heroism during his first skirmish, and after witnessing his friend's death and receiving an accidental wound from a retreating soldier, he comes to terms with the realities of warfare.
A successful planter in Virginia is unwilling to take sides in the American Civil War. However, he is forced to become involved when Union soldiers mistakenly capture his son. The family then proceeds to retrieve the son and along the way discover the horrors of war and the importance of family values. The movie offers superb scenery, a great story and tremendous acting from Jimmy Stewart.
View one of history's most controversial military campaigns: Gen. William T. Sherman's infamous march through the South, which cut a swath of widespread devastation and brought an end to the Civil War. The documentary comes to life through personal accounts of soldiers, ordinary citizens and Sherman himself, thought to be one of the greatest military strategists ever. This program vividly captures his historic march to the sea.
The Unknown Civil War: Gettysburg (1999) NR
The pivotal conflict at Gettysburg remains the deadliest battle ever fought on U.S. soil. This documentary series recounts how a calculated gamble by Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee pitted him against Union forces led by Gen. George Meade. Each of three episodes covers a day in the three-day struggle via reenactments, photographs and commentary by Civil War historians; a fourth segment contains a roundtable discussion of the confrontation.
The Unknown Civil War: Greatest Battles of the Civil War (2000) NR
This documentary series carefully and dynamically recounts eight key battles of the Civil War: Antietam, Chancellorsville, Chickamauga, Gettysburg, Shiloh, the Appomattox Campaign, the Petersburg Campaign and the Siege of Vicksburg. Rare period photographs, reenactments and interviews with leading Civil War historians illuminate the circumstances and personalities at the core of each of these struggles.