Surveys and Textbooks
Steven E. Woodworth
Some of the finest writing in the vast body of Civil War literature, indeed, some of the finest history writing of any sort, has been devoted to broad overviews of the Civil War. The war's popularity with readers, its continuing fascination for scholars, and the many and intricate insights it affords into the American experience have attracted leading historians to devote years to the production of enormous, highly detailed, and carefully crafted surveys of the war and surrounding events. The best of these rise not only to the level of excellent history but to that of enduring literature as well.
As with all the other literature of the war, works of this genre are numerous-- extremely numerous. Addressing even a high proportion of them would become not only excessively lengthy but tedious as well. Thus this chapter assesses only some of the most recent and significant.
Among this type of work are some of the towering monuments of Civil War literature. The chief of them are discussed here, though it is doubtful that any will be unfamiliar to students of the war.
Allan Nevins massive eight-volume The Crisis of the Union ( 1947- 1971) remains the standard for completeness. Four volumes deal with events leading up to the war, and the next four, entitled The War for the Union ( 1959- 1971), cover the war years themselves. Nevins had planned to produce additional volumes covering Reconstruction but died shortly before the appearance of the final volume of The War for the Union. In the volumes on the war years, individually