Are you looking for classic military literature to inspire your thinking this summer? MOAA's reviewer Col. William Bushnell, USMC (Ret), has put together a compilation of
Vintage Books that will keep you turning pages while reminiscing of battles fought long ago. For more ideas on what to read next, check out our
If you like what you see, order these books through
MOAA's Scholarship Fund as your shopping beneficiary and together we can help provide educational assistance for children of military families.
1. Swords Around the Throne: Napoleon's Grande Armee
By John R. Elting (Colonel, U.S. Army, Retired). The Free Press, 1988. ISBN 978-0-75380-219-9.
Why you should read it: As an excellent companion to David G. Chandler's 1966 classic, The Campaigns of Napoleon, this comprehensive military history covers all aspects of life in Napoleon's army, from recruiting, training, uniforms, pay, rations, and medical care to road marches, bivouacs, discipline, looting, foraging, weapons and ammunition, strategy and tactics, and the all-important role of logistics. Line infantry, grenadiers, cavalry, artillery, hussars, lancers, staff and service personnel, and camp followers are also discussed in colorful detail. Entertaining, informative, and essential reading for fans of Napoleonic warfare.
2. Civil War Soldiers: Their Expectations and Their Experiences
By Reid Mitchell. Viking, 1988. ISBN 978-0-1402-6333-6.
Why you should read it: Among all the books written about the Civil War few have so clearly focused on the soldiers themselves and what they thought about their enemy, why they fought, and how they handled battlefield violence and death. Mitchell uses source documents to explore the soldiers' thoughts about deserters, prisoners, and fellow soldiers, as well as how Yanks and Rebs viewed each other. He also examines the psychology of service for volunteers, regulars, and conscripts. Best is his chapter on how the end of the war affected the soldiers.
3. Great Naval Blunders: History's Worst Sea Battle Decisions From Ancient Times to the Present Day
By Geoffrey Regan. Andre Deutsch, 1993. ISBN 978-0-233-00350-4.
Why you should read it: Historian Regan has written 27 books, many about military blunders. This one focuses on colossal naval blunders caused by “lunatic admirals,” unsafe warships, top brass meddling, and screwy decision-making, along with twenty-two naval battle case studies. He tells of incompetent naval gunnery at Jutland, the Union's floating whorehouse on the Ohio River in 1863, and the destruction of Force Z in 1941. Battle studies include explanations of disasters at the Medway (1667), Toulon (1744), Coronel (1914), and Denmark Strait (1941). Instructive lesson on how not to do stupid things.
4. A Dictionary of Battles, 1715-1815
By Brig. Michael Calvert. Mayflower Books, 1979. ISBN 978-0-8317-2261-6.
Why you should read it: This fascinating book is a collection of a century's battles fought around the globe from 1715 to 1815 - Europe, Southern Asia, Africa, Middle East, North and South America. Arranged by geographic area, battles are then listed alphabetically and include information on location, date, reason, aims, participants, the battle itself, and its outcome. Famous battles like Waterloo, Derna, and Trenton are covered, but best are the many obscure battles like Dettingen in Bavaria in 1743 (the War of Austrian Succession) which was “the last occasion in which a King of England led his troops personally into action” (King George II against the French). An outstanding military history reference book.
5. The Loom of History
By Herbert J. Muller. Harper, 1958. ISBN 978-0-1950-0432-8.
Why you should read it: This is an intriguing work of historical interpretation, as Professor Muller “traces the rise and fall of civilizations in the storied cities of Asia Minor.” From the Bronze Age to the Ottoman Empire, Muller describes the civilizations of Mesopotamia, Greece, and the Hellenistic Age, the Jews and Romans in Asia Minor, the Byzantines, and the rise of Islam. He also explains why Asia Minor “has been the great bridge between East and West,” and why the ancient civilizations, their cities and peoples, contributed so much to modern civilized ideals. Reads like a textbook but is still entertaining and informative.