Useful Reference Books

.

The books listed here have been read and reviewed by readers of this site, and the ratings reflect their opinion.

.

After The Civil War by John S Blay
★★★☆☆
Outlet 1970

A pictorial profile of America from 1865 to 1900.

.

Age of the Gunfighter: Men and Weapons on the Frontier 1840-1900 by Joseph G. Rosa
★★★★☆
Thunder Bay Press (CA) (Sep 2000)

The life and times of the notorious gunfighters of the American West. The book provides a vivid account of this violent time, combining contemporary accounts with meticulous historical research and an unjaundiced appraisal of the facts. Telling the story of every major gunfighter, peace officer, and outlaw of the American West, John Westwood places them in the context of an unpredictable frontier and the coming of law and order. Well illustrated and gives a good general overview of the times, the men that lived there and their guns (and other weapons, of course). Highlighted more than few unknown gunfighters and had photos/plates of firearms in detail.

.

All Color Book of Horses by Elizabeth Johnson
★★★☆☆
Octopus, 1974

With 100 Illustrations in color. A good basic book

.

Allen Illustrated Guide to Saddlery by Hilary Vernon
★★★★★
J A Allen 2003

Very detailed on English, Western, sidesaddles etc. different types of bridles and hackamores.

.

(The) American Cowboy by Harold J McCracken
★★★☆☆
Doubleday, 1873

Pretty good source of info on the cowboy way of life.

.

American Horse Drawn Vehicles by Jack Rittenhouse
Crown Publishers: Bonanza Books, 1968

A Collection of 218 Authentic Reproductions of 183 Early American Horse-Drawn Vehicles…All Illustrations Taken from Original Fashion Plates and Photographs of the Builders, or from Little-Known Original Photographs. Original book 1948 Gets good reviews on Amazon

.

Arms & Equipment of the Civil War by Jack Coggins
2004

The tools of war of all branches and both armies. Wonderfully illustrated by the author.

.

Audubon Bird Guides by Richard Pough
★★★★★

A range of guides to birds of all habitats and regions in the US

.

Ballads and Songs of The Civil War by Jerry Silverman
Mel Bay Publications 1993

Songs are grouped into the following categories: The Union, The Confederacy, Lincoln, Universal Sentiments, Soldiers Songs, Battles, Negro Spirituals & Abolitionist Songs, The Lighter Side, and Post Bellum. A special feature of this text is the inclusion of authentic formal and informal portraits, plus depicting military encampment of the aftermath of the battle. Arranged for voice with piano accompaniment and guitar chords.

.

Baseball in Blue and Gray by George B. Kirsch
Princeton University Press, 2007

A history of baseball, particularly during the Civil War

.

Best Loved American Folksongs by John A Lomax
Grosset and Dunlap, 1947

Good reviews on Amazon.

.

Brothels, Bordellos and Bad Girls – Prostitution in Colorado, 1860 – 1930 by Jan McKell
★★★★☆
University of New Mexico Press, 2004

A history of prostitution, with stories and anecdotes about the many girls who worked in Colorado. An interesting review of red light districts, some of the practices, health issues, and uses the stories of the girls themselves to relate this. A more scholarly version of Soiled Doves (see below)

.

Cahaba Prison and the Sultana Disaster by William O.Bryant
★★★★★
University of Alabama Press, 2001

A look at prison conditions at Andersonville, Cahaba and their relation to the Sultana disaster. Excellent book

.

Cities and Towns of San Joaquin County since 1874 by R W Hillman & L A Covello
★★★★☆
Panorama West Books, 1885

A history of San Joaquin County, its communities and people Useful for the history of the development of Stockton, and other incorporated townships.

.

Civil War Catalog by Antony Shaw
Running Press, 2003

Arms, equipment, uniform etc

.

Civil War Chronicle by Matthew Gallmand and J. Matthew Gallman
Konecky & Konecky, 2010

Drawing on journalistic accounts, memoirs, battle dispatches, and letters from actors large and small in the harrowing conflict, Gettysburg College historian Matthew Gallman gathers an indispensable day-by-day record of the Civil War. Good reviews on Amazon

.

Civil War Curiosties by Webb Garrison

True stories of unusual happenings during the civil war.

.

Civil War Soldiers, Their Expectations and Experiences by Reid Mitchell
★★★★★
Viking, 1988

Outlines both Confederate and Union sides, including the psychology of service, landscape of war. Excellent resource

.

Civil War : State by State by Paul Brewer
★★★★★
Thunderbay Press, 2004

An account of how the war was fought and manned, state by state

.

Civil War Up Close by Donald Cartmell
New Page Books, 2004

Curious, obscure and fascinating facts

.

Cowboy (The) by Phillip Ashton Rollins
★★★★★
University of Oklahoma Press

First published in 1922, this is the revised and enlarged edition of 1936. Rollins did two cattle drives himself as a teenager and draws on his own experiences. A classic. Great style, very readable and masses of useful detail on the cowboy’s life and daily toil. The illustrations are all grouped in the centre of the book, and include some lovely drawings of cowboy kit. Recommended.

.

Cowboys of the Old West by Editors of Time Life
★★★★☆
Time Life Books

Richly illustrated history of the cowboy’s role and life. Oddly, the huge amount of illustration left me feeling that I was reading the comic book version – possibly unfair, since it’s a readable and useful book giving a lot of good information. I particularly liked the gallery of phographs at the back, showing cowboys in their best clothes.

.

Custer by Larry McMurtry
★★★★★
Simin &Schuster, 2012

Biography by the author of Lonesome Dove. Easy reading. Detailed.
** Gets very mixed reviews on Amazon

.

Encyclopedia of the American West edited by Robert Utley
★★★★★
Wings Press, 1997

Comprehensive, fully illustrated A-to-Z encyclopedia covering topics from notorious outlaws to ethnic groups. Illustrated on practically every page with rare black-and-white photos, period engravings, and maps.

.

Encyclopedia of (the) Civil War by Civil War Society
★★★★★
Value Propriety, 1998

.

Encyclopedia of Horses and Ponies by Tamsin Pickeral
Barnes and Noble, 2005

Covers nearly 200 breeds

.

Encyclopedia of Native American Tribes by Carl Waldman

Covers every tribe Not detailed, but not bad

.

Everything Horse by Cheryl Kimball
★★★★★
Adams, 2001

Comprehensive equine guide Mostly for the modern reader, but for the un-horsey amongst us, gives helpful advice on grooming, feed, choosing the right mount etc

.

For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War by James McPherson
★★★★★
OUP, 1998

Review of thousands of Civil War writings from soldiers on both sides of the conflict. Poignant and powerful

.

Garden of the Sun: A History of the San Joaquin Valley 1772 – 1939 by Wallace Smith
2nd Edition
★★★★☆
Craven Street Books 2004

A story of the Valley’s history, with an account of the various forces vying for control of the region. Eminently readable, despite its considerable size. Well illustrated. It goes beyond our period at each side, so to speak, but can give an excellent overview of life in the Valley from the time of Murdoch’s assumed arrival.

.

(The) Gentle Tamers by Dee Brown
★★★★★
Bison, 1981

Highlights women in the Old West. Insightful

.

Great Battles of the Civil War by John Macdonald
★★★★★
1988

Offers computer graphics and battlefield reconstructions, plus history of both sides for each major battle. Loved this book. It kind of gets you right in the action, but more importantly it takes a bunch of known battles and puts a face, timeline and geography to them.

.

Guns of the Wild West
David Kennedy (with the Buffalo Bill Historical Center)
★★★★☆
Courage Books, 2005

A lavishly illustrated book aimed at the popular market rather than a scholarly audience, tracing the history and use of firearms. It uses the resources of the Buffalo Bill museum in Cody, Wyoming, which has a huge collection of period firearms. Photographs by Bruce Curtis. A lighter read than John Walter’s more scholarly tome, but accessible and interesting.

.

(The) Guns That Won The West (Firearms on the American Frontier, 1848-1898) by John Walter
★★★★★
Greenhill Books and MBI Publishing, 2006

The story of the wide range of firearms in use in the American west, tracing their history and giving detailed descriptions and performance evaluations Meticulously researched and very scholarly. This is a densely written book full of useful information.

.

Harvard’s Civil War by Richard F. Miller
★★★★☆
2005

It outlines the history of the 20th Massachusetts Volunteer Infantry. Kind of an interesting social experiment at the time although they didn’t realize it. Most of the officers, commanders came from the elite, and most went to Harvard. The rest of the company was made of immigrants, mostly Irish and German. .A great read for historical details and the “mood” of the time, how people acted/reacted to things

.

(The) Healing Power of Herbs by May Bethel
★★★★☆
Wilshire, 1968

Medicinal herbs and how to use them at a time where access to medicines was limited, and many families relied upon handed-down herbal recipes.

.

Health and Wellness in 19th-Century America by John C Weller

Documents sickness and wellness in environments like rural homesteads, urban East-coast slums, and the hastily built cities of the West. It provides a fascinating historical examination of a century in which Americans made giant strides in understanding disease yet also clung to traditional methods and ideas, charting how U.S. medical science gradually transformed from being a backwater to a world leader in the field.

.

Herbs and Herb Lore of Colonial America by Colonial Dames of America
Dover, 1995

.

History of New England by Candace Floyd
★★★☆☆
Portland House, 1990

Useful.

.

Horse Owner’s Vet Book by E C Straton
★★★☆☆

Basic horse health care

.

Horse-Drawn Commercial Vehicles by Don H Berkerbile
★★★★★
Dover, 2012

More than 250 illustrations of 19c horse drawn vehicles – stagecoaches, delivery wagons, fire engines

.

How The West Was Worn: Bustles and Buckskins on the Wild Frontier by Chris Enss
TwoDot Press 2006

Examines the clothing of the Old West. You’ll learn how a cowboy’s home state determined the way he wore his pants and hat, as well as how to distinguish one Indian tribe from another by their moccasins. Mixed reviews on Amazon.com

.

Life and Death in Civil War Prisons by J Michael Martinez
Rutledge Hill, 2004

The gruesome reality of Civil War prison life is found in the personal stories of those who suffered it. Two such victims were Corporal John Wesley Minnich – a Southern teenager from Louisiana – and Sergeant Warren Lee Goss of Massachusetts. In Life and Death in Civil War Prisons, these two common soldiers become uncommon symbols of the largely untold under-life of the American Civil War. Good reviews on Amazon

.

Life Among the Soldiers and Cavalry by James A. Corrick
★★★★★
2000

Details out the who, what and where, how the soldiers were recruited, how the the companies/troops formed, differences among the Union and Confederates, training and general life as a soldier. Wished it was a bit more in depth, but very good overall.

.

Myths and Mysteries of the Old West by Michael Rutter
TwoDot, 2004

Accounts of Billy the Kid, Cassidy and Sundance etc

.

North American Indians in Early Photographs by Paula Richardson Fleming and Judith Luskey
★★★★☆
Barnes and Noble, 1992

2 photography and Indian experts from the Smithsonian have compiled an excellent documentation of early field and studio photos of Native Americans. They use the work of professionals and amateurs to show how photography was used to portray the Indians before World War I.

.

Photographic History of the Civil War by William C Davis
★★★★★

2 large volumes of contemporary photographs charting the Civil War.

.

Roses of the West by Anne Seagraves
★★★☆☆
Wesanne Publications 2002

Stories of western women achievers – Wyoming’s first female governor, Montana’s cattle queen etc. A book of potted biographies. Interesting as background reading in relation to exceptional women, but don’t look for great insight into the day to day lives of ordinary women living on farms and ranches.

.

San Francisco’s Lost Landmarks by James R Smith
★★★★☆
World Dancer Press 2005

Stories and photographs charting the history of SF through its buildings and other landmarks. Covers the whole of SF’s history through to the end of the 20th century, so only part within the relevant period – but what is relevant, is very well done indeed.

.

Seventy-Five Years in San Francisco by William Heath Davies
★★★★☆
On line version. Originally A J Leary, San Francisco, 1889

A first hand account of life in San Francisco from the author’s arrival in 1831 Lively and entertaining, and perfect for the Lancer period. A wealth of detail on life in California from the Mexican period, through to the end of the 19th century

.

Soiled Doves by Anne Seagraves
★★★☆☆
Wesanne Publications 1994

A history of prostitution in the early West, telling the stories of the women who worked in bordellos, parlour houses and cribs. Any book that starts by saying that “Queen Victoria’s strict morality temporarily put a halt to prostitution in England in the 1800s” should be read with extreme caution in terms of its historical analysis, but the womens’ stories are both affecting and useful background reading.

.

Soldier Life: Voices of the Civil War by Time Life
★★★★★
Time/Life Books

Gives descriptions of everyday life as a soldier, includes letters that were written by the soldiers and the things they went through during the war (from both sides). It’s a great reference to get the ‘voice’ and feel of the times. Insightful

.

Strange Battles of the Civil War by Webb Garrison

Covers Port Royal, Fort Fisher, Cold Harbour etc

.

Three Centuries of Harvard Samuel Eliot Morison
★★★★☆
1936

Spans the history of the university from its beginnings to the early part of the 20th century. Divided into segments such as the Puritan Age, Augustan Age, etc. It outlines explicitly was happened at the university during those time frames, including the presidents, college life. An old read, but a great find

.

Vicksburg – A Self-guided Tour of the Battlefield by Michael A Mullins and Terrence Winschel
★★★★★

History of the siege with modern photography and sketches Excellent account.

.

Victorian America: Classical Romanticism to Gilded Opulence by Wendell Garrett
★★★★☆
Universe Publishing, 1996

Victorian house, interiors and furniture styles. Great if you’re trying to get a feel as to how the posh set lived during the Victorian Age in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and New York

.

Victorian America: Transformations in Everyday Life, 1876-1915 by Thomas J. Schlereth
★★★★☆
HarperPerennial 1992

A social historyof the changes that occurred in the workplace, housing preferences and communication – what was driving America and how that affected the way of life, i.e. developed the character and lifestyle of the middle class. A good book to thumb through, interesting to see all the occupations and inventions that came about in this time frame.

.

Weapons of War by Gail B Stewart
★★★☆☆
2000

A history of the weaponry used during the Civil War, compares and contrasts them in some instances. Wished it could have gone into more detail

.

Wicked West (The) by Sherry Monahan
★★★★☆
Rio Nuervo Publishers 2005

Subtitle “Boozers, Cruisers, Gamblers and more” this is an account of life in the bad old days. An anecdotal book based on memoirs and eyewitness accounts. Includes interesting snippets on things like the rules of Faro; lists of synonyms for, well, the various sins; and even recipes for early cocktails. A fun read. Short, and therefore necessarily superficial, but gives you a good overview.

.

Wild West Catalog by Bruce Wexler
Running Press, 2008

Maps, memorabilia, archival photos, summaries of Western TV shows, and movie reviews. The archival photos depict Western towns, lawmen, and outlaws. They also offer close-ups of a variety of popular frontier weaponss. Good reviews on Amazon. Appears to be a ‘popular’ book rather than scholarly analysis.

.

Writer’s Guide to Everyday Life in the West (1840-1900) by Candy Moulton
★★★★★
Writers Digest Books 1999.

Covering the Land, Government and War–Everyday Life–Wild West Society, it gives the facts of life on the western frontier. Good stuff. It helps with timelines, too.

.

.

.

If you have a reference book you’d like to add to the list, please email the Archive Team with details and a short summary, any comments you think will help and a rating out of five, where five is “excellent and you should read it”

%d bloggers like this: