20 Good Reasons to Study the Civil War

By John C. Waugh
Forward by Jim Lehrer

McWhiney Foundation Press, 2004
96 pages

This is a book of 20 essays proposing 20 good reasons (there are many more) to read about and study the Civil War — the great nation-defining event of American history.

That war of brothers still resonates today. Books about it continue to flood the bookshelves — with good reason. It was the crucible through which the nation had to pass to become a truly united union. To understand what we are and have become today, we must understand this titanic event in our past.

The 20 good reasons proposed in the book: it was unique, it was a watershed in American history, it was a war of firsts, it saved republican government, it killed slavery, it originated new ways of waging war on land, it revolutionized war on the water, it teaches us brotherhood, it showcases undaunted courage, it made heroes, it created a new industrial America, it produced men of fabulous fortunes, it was a war of political oddities, it pioneered a new journalism, it inspired great literature, it tested our faith, it is our own direct tie to the past, it makes us remember, it is great drama, and it speaks to us still.

There is a final essay on how to study it.

What Historians Think

“Here at last is a real tonic to those who keep asking why we should learn about the Civil War today. Its twenty simple reasons with examples could well be adapted for classroom use, and to good effect. Indeed, it should be required reading for teachers desperate to find means to make history come alive. John Waugh has written several distinguished works of history, but this modest little guide may in the long run be the most important of all.”
— William C. Davis, author of A Government of Our Own: The Making of the Confederacy and The Union that Shaped the Confederacy: Robert Toombs and Alexander H. Stephens

“Jack Waugh is a great writer. His new book—20 Good Reasons to Study the Civil War—is a masterpiece.”— Grady McWhiney, Professor Emeritus of Civil War History, Texas Christian University

“Another good reason for studying the Civil War is its stimulation of books like John Waugh’s. His easy style invokes the pathos, courage, the very spirit of the war itself. Readers from professionals to buffs to raw recruits will enjoy what’s in here.”
— Frank E. Vandiver, author of 1001 Things Everyone Should Know about the Civil War

“Jack Waugh has written another outstanding book. For those who have never studied the history of America’s Civil War, it gives glimpses of exciting vistas to be explored. For those of us who have long pursued Civil War studies, it brilliantly reminds us just why we find those years of conflict so compelling and endlessly fascinating.”
— Steven E. Woodworth, author of Beneath a Northern Sky: A Short History of the Gettysburg Campaign