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    

1783 Rare Book With Early United States Map Revolutionary War John Adams More1863 Handwritten Civil War Era 17yr Old Teacher's Diary Hulda Comstock Albion Ny1796 The Odyssey Homer Alexander Pope 5vl Set Greek Mythology Troy Trojan War $$English Civil War *1702-04* History Rebellion 3v Clarendon Military Battles 1st1708 History Ancient Rome Titus Livy 6vl Set Full Leather Italy Europe War Ills Rare English Civil War *1643* Declarations Orders Speeches King ParliamentRare Lucan's Pharsalia *1718* Nicholas Rowe Roman Civil War Engrvs Map 1stJagdwaffe - Luftwaffe Colours 5/2 - War In The East 1944-1945 - V. Rare Oop!Jagdwaffe - Luftwaffe Colours 4/3 - War In Russia Nov 42 - Dec 43 - V. Rare Oop!Junkers Ju88 V.2 - The Bomber At War - Classic Publications - Superb Book!The World Crisis (6 Vols) Sir Winston Churchill's Classic History Of World War I1880 French Revoution Thomas Carlyle 2vl Set Full Leather Napoleon War Europe $$Pictorial History, Civil War In America, 3 Vols, Benson Lossing, 1866-74, 1st EdA History Of The Mediterranean Air War 1940-1945 Vol.2 - Shores - Magnificent!!1796 The Odyssey Homer Alexander Pope Greek Mythology Troy Trojan War Leather $$Knives Of The United States Military In Vietnam By Michael W. Silvey (1997, Hard1892 Rise Of The Dutch Republic John Lothrop Motley 3vl Set Leather War Spain $$General Hal Moore Signed We Were Soldiers Once Vietnam War Flat Press Easton Private Eye Detective Confederate Civil War Spy Abraham Lincoln Assassination PiCarl Sagan Hand Signed Autograph German 1st Edition "nuclear War" Psa/dna GrailWar Speeches Of Sir Winston Churchill 1939 - 1945 (3 Vols)1884 War Manual Of Fencing Sword Fighting Bayonets France Illustrated EscrimeConfederate Memorial Day Daughters Of Confederacy Csa Soldier Civil War VeteranUncle Tom's Cabin 1st Edition 100 Engravings Slavery Civil War Black AmericanaWow!"life Of Sitting Bull"1891,1st Ed. Indian Wars,ghost Dances,custer,b. Bill The Winds Of War Vol I & Ii By Wouk - Easton Press 1818 Hudibras Samuel Butler 2vl Set Small Leather Illus Satire English Civil WarOn War (2 Vols) By Carl Von ClausewitzGreat Courses: History's Great Military Blunders & The Lessons They Teach (cds)Panzer-division 1935-1945: (3) War On Two Fronts 1943-45 - Concord - Superb RareAntique Huge! Book 1865 History Of The Great Rebellion Civil War Illustrations!War And Remembrance Vol I & Ii By Wouk - Easton Press History Of The King's Shropshire Light Infantry In The Great War 1914-1918: Wood26 Books - Time Life The Civil War Includes Master Index 1917 To 1921, 15 Books And Sets On World War I., Some ScarceWorld War Z : An Oral History Of The Zombie War Max Brooks Signed LimitedWarcraft: War Of The Ancients Triology (books 1-3) By Richard A. Knaak1929 Goodbye To All That Robert Graves 1st Edition Illus Wwi England War Book $$Antique Irish Brigade Military Army Companies BookFantastic Four #53 (1966) 2nd Black Panther! V. Nice Uk Pence Copy! [civil War]Joe Haldeman The Forever War Easton Leather Bound 1988First Edition 2 Vol Set W/ Map Memoirs Of General W T Sherman Civil War 18751904 Rob Roy Sir Walter Scott Full Leather Scotland Highlands History War Book $Raf Fighter Command Losses Of The Second World War V.2 1942-43 - Scarce Ref!The Conduct Of The Ministry 1756 • Re French And Indian War, Braddock, Adm. ByngThe Second World War By Winston Churchill First Edition Of All Six Volumes1911 Photographic History Of The Civil War Miller Vol 1-10Purnell's Complete 6 Vol History Of The 2nd World War1847 Andrew Jackson Indian Wars Creek Seminole War Presidential Terms Death OfSome Still Live By Tinker. 1st Ed. 1938. Spanish Civil War Aviation Ace. Rare1978~the Captive Luftwaffe~west~wwii~german Military Aircraft~putnam~aviation5 X Books Armoured Trains Military Railway Estonia Finland Yugoslavia Germany1891 General William T. Sherman Civil War Campaigns Seminoles Florida CaliforniaRare 1883 Civil War Gulf Battles Vicksburg New Orleans 8 Maps Lemon Thomson 1stVintage Antique Military Book~the Log Of The U.s.s. Maui In The World War~hcAdvanced Techniques Painting And Weathering Military Vehicles Books Panzer Iii1942 Historic Magazine Negres And The War/ 1942 Flag MagazineNew Man Vintage 1964 Men's Magazine - War Prisoner Graphics(3) Brooks Kubik Books-"legacy Of Iron Clouds Of War-1,000 Pound Total -novel"Rare 1939 Spain Civil War Men In Battle Blacklisted Screenwriter Alvah Bessie Dj