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Entertaining History

Entertaining History

The Civil War in Literature, Film, and Song

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Edited by Chris Mackowski


E-book (Other formats: Paperback)
27 illustrations

Engaging the Civil War


Additional Materials

  • Table of Contents
  • Supplemental Materials

Table of Contents

Table of Contents

About the Book

Popular media can spark the national consciousness in a way that captures people’s attention, interests them in history, and inspires them to visit battlefields, museums, and historic sites. This lively collection of essays and feature stories celebrates the novels, popular histories, magazines, movies, television shows, photography, and songs that have enticed Americans to learn more about our most dramatic historical era.

From Ulysses S. Grant’s Memoirs to Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter, from Roots to Ken Burns’s The Civil War, from “Dixie” to “Ashokan Farewell,” and from Civil War photography to the Gettysburg Cyclorama, trendy and well-loved depictions of the Civil War are the subjects of twenty contributors who tell how they and the general public have been influenced by them. Sarah Kay Bierle examines the eternal appeal of Gone with the Wind and asks how it is that a protagonist who so opposed the war has become such a figurehead for it. H. R. Gordon talks with New York Times–bestselling novelist Jeff Shaara to discuss the power of storytelling. Paul Ashdown explores ColdMountain’s value as a portrait of the war as national upheaval, and Kevin Pawlak traces a shift in cinema’s depiction of slavery epitomized by 12 Years a Slave. Tony Horwitz revisits his iconic Confederates in the Attic twenty years later.

The contributors’ fresh analysis articulates a shared passion for history’s representation in the popular media. The variety of voices and topics in this collection coalesces into a fascinating discussion of some of the most popular texts in the genres. In keeping with the innovative nature of this series, web-exclusive material extends the conversation beyond the book.



Chris Mackowski is the editor in chief of Emerging Civil War and a coeditor of the Engaging the Civil War series. The historian-in-residence at Stevenson Ridge, a historic property on the Spotsylvania battlefield, and the author of more than a dozen books, he is a writing in St. Bonaventure University’s Jandoli School of Communication, where he also serves as associate dean of undergraduate programs.


“With history getting short shrift these days in the halls of academia and almost everywhere else in society, it is gratifying that an attempt is being made to potentially engage the interest of the social media generation with this edition of public history essays which seek to elucidate via the three most popular forms of media: print, video and audio.”—Stuart McClungJournal of America’s Military Past

“Civil War history buffs will no doubt find treatments of the their favorite works as well as make discoveries of unknown gems.”—Jim Cullen, Journal of Southern History

"As befits its subject, this is an interesting, eclectic work whose contributors frequently offer personal testimony to how particular representations of the was in popular culture sparked and shaped their interests. . . . [It] offers plenty to not just inform, but also entertain its readers."—Ethan S. Rafuse, Civil War Times

"Entertaining History contains a highly eclectic collection of perspectives on many notable examples of Civil War education and entertainment through novels, short stories, mail order book series, movies, television programs, music, and theater. . . . A thoroughly engaging exploration of the popularization of the Civil War in song and on page and screen. Recommended."—Andrew WagenhofferCivil War Books and Authors

“Brisk and lively, the essays in Entertaining History convey the immersive joy of reading, watching, and listening to popular Civil War history.”—Megan Kate Nelson, author of Ruin Nation: Destruction and the American Civil War

“The contributors to this volume have written an engaging collection of short essays introducing readers to many of the key works of literature, film, and music that influence how we remember the Civil War.”—Christian McWhirter, author of Battle Hymns: The Power and Popularity of Music in the Civil War