The Best Novels About the Civil War

Over 300 Ranker voters have come together to rank this list of The Best Novels About the Civil War
Voting Rules
Fiction books that use the American Civil War as a setting or major theme

This is a list about the best novels about the Civil War; this list answers the question, "What are the best historical fiction books about the Civil War?" Also known as the War Between the States or the American Civil War, this battle lasted from 1861 – 1865 in the United States. This list of the best Civil War novels includes classics set during the war, like Little Women, to antebellum novels like Gone with the Wind and The Sound and the Fury. The issue of slavery caused several Southern states to succeed from the union and form the Confederate States of America, also known as the “Confederacy” or the “South”. The states that remained a part of the union were called the “North” or “Union”. After four years of combat and 600,000 slain soldiers from the battlefield, the process of Reconstruction to restore national unity and guarantee rights to freed slaves began. Some of the most popular war stories of all time were formed during this time, including: “Gone with the Wind”, “Cold Mountain”, “Little Women” and the “Red Badge of Courage”. Each novel depicts a time when families had to pull resources together to survive; communities had to watch each other’s back; a nation divided took its toll on every resident of the United States. The Civil War remains the deadliest war in American history; an estimated 10% of all Northern males and an estimated 30% of all Southern males died in the battlefield. 

Vote on this list of the best novels about the Civil War to move your favorites to the top. 
Most divisive: The bloody ground
Ranked by
    • First Published: 1974
    • Subjects: Literary, Pennsylvania, Literature, Classics, Battle of Gettysburg
    • Genres (Book): War novel, Historical fiction, Fiction, Historical novel
    • Original Language: English Language
    The Killer Angels is a historical novel by Michael Shaara that was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. The book tells the story of the four days of the Battle of Gettysburg in the American Civil War: June 30, 1863, as the troops of both the Union and the Confederacy move into battle around the town of Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, and July 1, July 2, and July 3, when the battle was fought. The story is character driven and told from the perspective of various protagonists. A film adaptation of the novel, titled Gettysburg, was released in 1993.
  • Gods and Generals
    92 votes
    • First Published: 1996
    • Subjects: American Civil War
    • Genres (Book): Fiction, Historical novel
    • Original Language: English Language
    Gods and Generals is a novel which serves as a prequel to Michael Shaara's 1974 Pulitzer Prize-winning work about the Battle of Gettysburg, The Killer Angels. Written by Jeffrey Shaara after his father Michael's death in 1988, the novel relates events from 1858 through 1863 during the American Civil War, ending just as the two armies march toward Gettysburg. Since 1988, Jeff Shaara has written The Last Full Measure, which follows the events presented in The Killer Angels. In 2003 Gods and Generals was made into a film directed by Ronald F. Maxwell and starring Robert Duvall and Jeff Daniels. The film shares most of its cast with Gettysburg, the film adaptation of The Killer Angels.
  • The Last Full Measure
    64 votes
    • Subjects: American Civil War
    • Genres (Book): Fiction
    The Last Full Measure is the sequel to The Killer Angels and Gods and Generals. Together, the three novels complete an American Civil War trilogy relating events from 1858 to 1865. The Last Full Measure was written by Jeffrey Shaara after his father, Michael Shaara, author of the Pulitzer Prize-winning The Killer Angels died in 1988. Employing the same style as the previous two books in the series, The Last Full Measure takes the reader inside the minds of several of the most important officers of the Union and Confederate Armies as they regroup after Gettysburg and march on into the final two years of the war. Returning from the previous novels are General Robert E. Lee and the newly promoted Brigadier General Joshua Chamberlain. The new addition to this volume is Lieutenant General Ulysses S. Grant, who is given control of all Northern troops after a series of poor commanders have failed to ensure victory. From the Overland Campaign to the Siege of Petersburg, from Chamberlain's home in Maine to Appomattox Court House, Shaara gives a detailed account of honorable men whose heroism, egotism, and occasional outright incompetence changed the course of United States history.
  • The Red Badge of Courage
    87 votes
    • First Published: 1895
    • Subjects: Coming of age, United States of America, American Civil War, History, Virginia
    • Genres (Book): Fiction
    The Red Badge of Courage is a war novel by American author Stephen Crane. Taking place during the American Civil War, the story is about a young private of the Union Army, Henry Fleming, who flees from the field of battle. Overcome with shame, he longs for a wound, a "red badge of courage," to counteract his cowardice. When his regiment once again faces the enemy, Henry acts as standard-bearer. Although Crane was born after the war, and had not at the time experienced battle first-hand, the novel is known for its realism. He began writing what would become his second novel in 1893, using various contemporary and written accounts as inspiration. It is believed that he based the fictional battle on that of Chancellorsville; he may also have interviewed veterans of the 124th New York Volunteer Infantry Regiment, commonly known as the Orange Blossoms. Initially shortened and serialized in newspapers in December 1894, the novel was published in full in October 1895. A longer version of the work, based on Crane's original manuscript, was published in 1982.
  • Shiloh
    Shelby Foote
    62 votes
    • First Published: 1952
    • Subjects: Literary, Tennessee, United States of America, American Civil War, History
    • Genres (Book): War novel, Fiction, Historical novel
    • Original Language: English Language
    Shiloh: A Novel is an historical novel about the American Civil War battle of that name, written in 1952 by Shelby Foote. It employs the first-person perspectives of several protagonists, Union and Confederate, to give a moment-by-moment depiction of the battle.
  • Gone with the Wind
    Margaret Mitchell
    128 votes
    • First Published: 1936-06-30
    • Subjects: Women, Plantations in the American South, United States of America, American Civil War, History
    • Genres (Book): Historical fiction, Fiction, Novel
    • Original Language: English Language
    Gone with the Wind is a novel written by Margaret Mitchell, first published in 1936. The story is set in Clayton County, Georgia, and Atlanta during the American Civil War and Reconstruction era. It depicts the experiences of Scarlett O'Hara, the spoiled daughter of a well-to-do plantation owner, who must use every means at her disposal to come out of the poverty she finds herself in after Sherman's March to the Sea. A historical novel, the story is a Bildungsroman or coming-of-age story, with the title taken from a poem written by Ernest Dowson. Gone with the Wind was popular with American readers from the onset and was the top American fiction bestseller in the year it was published and in 1937. As of 2014, a Harris poll found it to be the second favorite book of American readers, just behind the Bible. More than 30 million copies have been printed worldwide. Written from the perspective of the slaveholder, Gone with the Wind is Southern plantation fiction. Its portrayal of slavery and African Americans is controversial, as well as its use of a racial epithet and ethnic slurs.