No other subject in U.S. history, perhaps no other subject in the history of the world, has elicited the tremendous outpouring of writing that has been lavished on the American Civil War. Estimates of the number of books devoted to the topic vary, and although any estimate is little more than an educated guess, some such guesses run as high as 70,000 books--more than a book a day since the war ended over 130 years ago. And interest in the war is not waning. On the contrary, it seems never to have been higher than in recent years. The remarkable response to the 1990 PBS documentary "The Civil War" is one indication of this, as is the reception of such films as Glory and Gettysburg. Dozens of Civil War roundtables nationwide and thousands of reinactments are further evidence of Americans' fascination with the conflict, as is the existence of at least six popular magazines devoted entirely to the war. Trade book publishers offer substantial numbers of Civil War titles geared to popular audiences. Scholarly interest in the Civil War remains intense as well, with a scholarly journal and a tremendous output of scholarly books.
An old midwestern proverb claims that no great ill comes without some small good. In the case of this great bounty of Civil War literature, the reverse may well be true. The excess of fine scholarship and writing (if such work can ever be said to exist in excess) may, by its daunting bulk, begin to obscure almost as much as it enlightens. How is the scholar to find all of the relevant works-- and the best ones--on even one small area of Civil War studies. Mastering all the literature of the war would be the work of several lifetimes. Few scholars can hope to do better than gain a working familiarity with the most important works in their own particular subfields of Civil War history. Yet the interrelat-