No, Ed did not mention a book on Glorieta Pass in his top five, but I'll bet you he read this one, and thought highly of it. On his tours of Glorieta and Valverde, no doubt he crossed paths with the late historian Don Alberts, who sadly passed away from Parkinson's in November of 2010. I love the New Mexico desert, and I love Don's book on Glorieta (read Don's account of the battle at the Civil War Trust website).
I started thinking about Don's book when I stumbled upon this link over at the fine "Past in the Present" blog, a Billings Gazette article that asked Ed Bearss to list his five favorite Civil War books. I was very curious to see what Ed would list, since these kinds of things are so subjective, and imagining what any one person would say after a lifetime of study is difficult. Battle Cry of Freedom and Grant's memoirs are unassailable choices. I imagine a great many people would list them as a "must" for any top five ranking. I do.
I was interested to see the Sears' book on Gettysburg—which I have not read—make the list for best book on a single battle. Now I feel like I have to read it, though before today my chances of getting around to it were less than 50-50. Still waiting on my metaphorical nightstand is Steven Woodworth's single volume Gettysburg history, Beneath a Northern Sky (about which Jeffrey Hall wrote a fairly penetrating review).
For personal gratification, I was hoping Bearss would name Mark Bradley's book on Bentonville, Last Stand in the Carolinas, which I assembled in Quark on my Mac in the dining room of our then Santa Clara apartment. Ed did make it known he considers Mark's tome a landmark work. I won't take issue with Ed's choice of Killer Angels, only say that it's a gripping story the first time you read it, but harder to revisit the more you learn about the Civil War. At least that was my experience.
Of course picking five "favorite" books from a list of literally thousands of titles is pretty impossible, like naming your favorite five novels of the 20 century, or favorite five movies of the last 40 years. But like Rob in Nick Hornby's brilliant novel (later movie) High Fidelity, ranking items in lists is something we are inclined to do as a way to get a handle on things.
My five favorite Civil War books (not counting reference works, for which I have an inordinate fondness)? I thought you'd never ask. One has to distinguish between "favorite" and "indispensable." Edward Porter Alexander's, Fighting for the Confederacy is indispensable, and a good read, but I guess I wouldn't rank it among my top five favorites. Likewise, Charles Roland's, The American Illiad is my favorite concise single-volume history, but you can't have two single-volume histories in your top five, can you? Isn't there a rule about that? Anyway, if it's Monday, then the list must read this way:
1. Battle Cry of Freedom, by James McPherson
2. Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant
3. Decision in the West, the Atlanta Campaign of 1864, by Albert Castel
4. A Stillness at Appomattox, by Bruce Catton
5. The Battle of Glorieta, Union Victory in the West, by Don E. Alberts
What's your top five, just off the top of your head?