Military memoirs and histories are some of the most treasured possessions for veterans, their families, and book collectors alike. The tradition of chronicling conflicts goes back at least to the 1st century, when the Jewish historian Josephus documented the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in the year 70.

Books on military strategy go back even further, most famously to Sun Tzu’s “The Art of War,” which dates to the 6th century BCE. Despite being more than 2,500 years old, the document is still studied by military scholars and personnel. For example, it is required reading for staff sergeants in the U.S. Marine Corps.

In the 19th century, the Civil War produced untold volumes documenting that storied struggle. During the war, “Harper’s Weekly,” a magazine based in New York City, published accounts of the fighting from the battlefield, complete with maps and engravings.

After the war, in 1875, D. Appleton & Co. first published “Memoirs of General William T. Sherman. By Himself.” For almost the next 40 years, numerous editions of Sherman’s memoirs would be reissued. Some of these editions were published by Charles L. Webster & Co., which was co-owned by author Mark Twain. In 1885, Webster would also release a two-volume set of memoirs by former U.S. President and Civil War hero Ulysses S. Grant.

Also notable at the end of the 19th century are the histories written by Elizabeth B. Custer, the widow of General George Armstrong Custer, who met his maker in 1876 at the Battle of Little Big Horn. After his death, Mrs. Custer made it her mission to bring her husband’s successes in what were then called the Indian Wars to light. Her three works were “Boots and Saddles” (Harper & Brothers, 1885), “Tenting on the Plains” (Webster, 1887), and “Following the Guidon” (Harper & Brothers, 1890).

In the second decade of the 20th century, the Great War, as it was known before people were forced to refer to it as World War I, proved the source of countless works of literature. Numerous books were published during the war, from “Nothing of Importance” by Bernard Adams to Roy Bridges’s “The Immortal Dawn,” which was based on diaries written by two Australian soldiers during the battle at Gallipoli. One title often associated with World War I, but not a war book per se, is “The Good Soldier” by Ford Madox Ford, which is sought for its extremely rare cover.

Many more titles were published in the 1920s and ’30s, including Ernest Hemingway's novel "A Farewell To Arms" and Erich Maria Remarques’s “All Quiet On the Western Front,” both from 1929. The conflict also spurred poets, from Rupert Brooke (“1914 and Other Poems,” 1915) to Wilfred Owens (“Poems,” 1920)...

Similarly, World War II produced chroniclers on the ground as well as historians and novelists. Bill Mauldin’s three years with the 45th Division of the U.S. Army produced the “dogfaces” Willie and Joe, who appeared in the Army’s publication “Stars and Stripes” before they were collected for Mauldin’s debut book, “Up Front” from 1945. After the war, between 1948 and 1953, the wartime Prime Minister of Great Britain, Winston Churchill, wrote his six-volume opus, "The Second World War," which earned him a Nobel Prize for Literature in 1953.

Around the same time, in 1951, novelist Herman Wouk penned “The Caine Mutiny,” which won the Pulitzer Prize and was adapted into both a play and film, the latter starring Humphrey Bogart as Captain Queeg. Joseph Heller “Catch-22,” 1961, was also made into a memorable movie, while Wouk’s subsequent World War II novels—“The Winds of War” in 1971 and its sequel, “War and Remembrance,” 1978—were made into TV mini-series.

Other postwar writers looked back to the Civil War. Shelby Foote's 1952 historical novel, "Shiloh," devoted itself entirely to the Battle of Shiloh that took place one year into the conflict in Tennessee. Foote followed up his novel with a three-part history called "The Civil War: A Narrative," which was published between 1958 and 1974.

More recently, conflicts in Korea, Vietnam, and the Middle East have produced informative and moving works of literature, from James Webb’s “Fields of Fire,” 1979, to Denis Johnson’s “Tree of Smoke,” 2007.

About our sources | Got something to add?

▼ Expand to read the full article ▼

Best of the Web (“Hall of Fame”)

Great War Dust Jackets

Great War Dust Jackets

Alan Hewer's comprehensive site is devoted to World War I books and dust jackets from 1914 to 1939. Most of the boo… [read review or visit site]

Google Book Search

Google Book Search

Want to do one quick search and pull up the mother lode of vintage books? Try Google Book Search, a database filled… [read review or visit site]

This resource for historic arms and armour collectors provides exhaustive information on modern reproductions (cust… [read review or visit site]

The Civil War

The Civil War

Paul McWhorter’s amazing reference site tells the story of the Civil War through high resolution scans of Harpers… [read review or visit site]

Bruce Black's gallery of paperback book covers from the 1940s and 50s. With help from numerous contributors, he's a… [read review or visit site]

Mikes Tanks

Mikes Tanks

Mike Seeber’s extensive collection of over 500 diecast tanks and military vehicles, dating back to WWII. Browse b… [read review or visit site]

Clubs & Associations

Other Great Reference Sites

Most watched eBay auctions    

1895 Our Country Indian Massacres War Of Revolution Civil War Washington LincolnEstienne 1544 Caesar On Gallic War France Spain Africa Celts Rome/ Maps WoodcutsEarly American Almanac Torture By Native American Indians/revolutionary War 17971842 United States Revolutionary War Indians Slavery George Washington Colonial1862 Mcclellan Manual Of Bayonet Exercise Rare Civil War Army Book Soldier Sign1839 U.s. Presidents Declaration Of Independence Signers Revolutionary War VtgFirst Aid Army Civil War Indian Anatomy Us Medicine Surgery Surgical Medical KitThe Civil War Signed By Shelby Foote Easton Press Leather Book Three Volumes Set1894 Beautiful Civil War Volume Antique Illustrated Confederate Union Army Photo1891 Savage Indians Massacre War Torture Scalping Murder Custer Sioux Apache1855 Antique Life Of George Washington American Revolutionary War PresidentPresident Richard M Nixon Signed The Real War Autograph Book Signature 1stFolio Society Non-fiction Lot Of 10 History Military Science Rome France More1887 Mcclellan's Own Story Rare Old Civil War Book First Edition Army GeneralSigned President Richard Nixon First Printing Book The Real War Brian O'higgins 1933 Signed Memories Of Ireland's War 1916 Wolfe Tone Annual 1798 Private Life Of Napoleon Bonaparte French Revolution Military Wars Chapbook15 Vol History Of United States Naval Operations In World War Ii Reading Copies1867 Civil War Southern Us Confederate Army Battles Slavery Lost Cause New South1996 Easton Press Book "luftwaffe" Military History Series First EditionHistory Of The Civil War, Leather Bound Antiquarian First Edition Oxford 1702/31897 Civil War History 16th Regiment Nh Union Army New Orleans Gunboats- Signed1993 Easton Press Book "the War Lords" Military History Series1916 Rising Then And Now Easter Rebellion Irish War Of Independence Ireland1988 Easton Press "seven Days To Disaster" Lusitania Military History1990 Easton Press Book "the Generalship Of Alexander The Great" Military History1986 Easton Press Book "life Of General George Armstrong Custer" First Edition1863 The Soldier's Manual Of Devotion Or Book Of Common Prayer Civil WarEaston Press War And Peace Leo TolstoyLot (2) Hg Wells Armed Services "the Time Machine" & "war Of The Worlds" Vg+Lot Of 8 War Dept/dept Of Army Manuals 1942-1973 Rocket Launcher, Pistols, More!Rare 1868 Civil War History Of Connecticut Heavy Artillery By Vaill -huge- Early -world War I- Military Book Collection - Illustrated/us Army/wwi1995 Easton Press Book "mcclellans Own Story" First Edition Military HistoryEaston Press, Sherman Fighting Prophet 2 V Set, Vf Leather 1991 Military History1853 A Key To Uncle Tom's Cabin Civil War Negro Slavery Black Americana 1st Ed.Records Of Xv International Brigade Spanish Civil War Madrid 1938 1st EditionAmerican History Wilson 1847 Origins Of Indian Tribes Mexico War For Texas AlamoInternational Collectors Library Lot Of 7 Books. War & Peace, Iliad, Ect1895 Abraham Lincoln President Civil War Slavery Gettysburg Illustrated AntiqueThe Great Rebellion, A History Of The Civil War, Vol. 1 By J. T. Headley, 1865History Of Peloponnesian War, From Greek Of Thucydides By William Smith/18451941 Jane's Fighting Ships - Macmillan - Every Military Ship Starting WwiiNew Man Magazine October 1970 Vol. 8 No. 4 Monique Just War Nazi Bondage Gga1880 James Garfield Major General Jas Brisbin Civil War Military Life Americana1882 Civil War Gettysburg Andersonville Libby Confederate Antique Prison HorrorsAztec Mexican Occult Mexico Mayan Indian Inca Tribe Texas Us Old South West WarThe War Reports 3 Vol. Set Easton Press Collector's Ed. Leather Books1995 Easton Press Book "lee" First Edition Military History1943 Light Cargo Carrier T-15 Technical Manual From War Department Tm 9-8931898 History Of The Spanish American War Havana Cuba Uss Maine Spain Navy Ships1984 Easton Press "son Of The Morning Star" - Military History - Custer1991 Easton Press Book "the Edge Of The Sword" Israel's War Of Independence1993 Easton Press Book "the War Of American Independence" Military HistoryEaston Press, The British At The Gates, Robin Reilly Vf1990 Military History1963 Rare Missouri's Confederate Capital At Marshall Texas Centennial Civil WarDisney Editions Deluxe Ser.: Disney During World War Ii : How The Walt Disney...1866 History Of The 104th Pennsylvania Regiment Civil War Doylestown Pa - 1st EdThe Civil War (time-life) Complete 28 Volume Set-Easton Press The Forever War Joe Haldeman 1988 Bound In Genuine Leather Mint