If you want to understand what happened at Fort Sumter to start the Civil War, this book is indispensable. Samuel Wylie Crawford was the surgeon for the Fort Sumter garrison. Afterward, he became an infantry officer and a major general in the war.
Not only was he present for the events he details, but he also did a marvelous job of gathering resources. He quotes documents and letters he received from other participants, having had access to a number of different sets of papers, including the papers of South Carolina’s Francis Pickens. The result is a finely crafted history that is almost a primary source itself.
You should read this book as soon as you can if you want to consider yourself a serious student of the Civil War. It’s that important and that well done.