The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville

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Overview

Twenty years ago, in 1954, novelist Shelby Foote began this monumental work with these words: "It was a Monday in Washington, January 21; Jefferson Davis rose from his seat in the Senate..."

In the third — and last — volume of this vivid history, he brings to a close the story of four years of turmoil and strife which altered American life forever. Here, told in vivid narrative and as seen from both sides, are those climactic struggles, great and small, on and off the field of ...

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The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville

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Overview

Twenty years ago, in 1954, novelist Shelby Foote began this monumental work with these words: "It was a Monday in Washington, January 21; Jefferson Davis rose from his seat in the Senate..."

In the third — and last — volume of this vivid history, he brings to a close the story of four years of turmoil and strife which altered American life forever. Here, told in vivid narrative and as seen from both sides, are those climactic struggles, great and small, on and off the field of battle, which finally decided the fate of this nation.

"Red River to Appomattox" opens with the beginning of the two final, major confrontations of the war: Grant against Lee in Virginia, and Sherman pressing Johnston in North Georgia. While the Virginia-Georgia fighting is in progress, Kearsarge sinks the Alabama and Forrest gains new laurels at Brice's Crossroads.

With Grant and Lee deadlocked at Petersburg, Sherman takes Atlanta — assuring Lincoln's reelection, together with the certainty that the war will be fought (not negotiated) to a finish. These events are followed by Hood's bold northward strike through middle Tennessee while Sherman sets out on his march to the sea, to be opposed at its end by the ghost of the Army of Tennessee. Hood is wrecked by Thomas in front of Nashville-the last big battle — and Savannah falls to Sherman, who presents it to Lincoln as a Christmas gift.

Meantime, Early has threatened Washington, Price has toured Missouri, Farragut has damned the torpedoes in Mobile Bay, Forrest has raided Memphis, and Cushing has single-handedly sunk the Albemarle. And Sherman heads north through the Carolinas, burning Columbia en route, while Sheridan ripsthe entrails out of the Shenandoah Valley.

Lincoln's second inaugural sets the seal on these hostilities, invoking "charity for all" on the Eve of Five Forks and the Grant-Lee race for Appomattox. Here is the dust and stench of war, a sort of Twilight of the Gods, with occasional lurid flare-ups, mass desertions, and the queasiness that accompanies the risk of being the last man to die.

Then, penultimately. Lee at Appomattox, the one really shining figure in this last act.Davis's flight south from fallen Richmond overlaps Lincoln's death from Booth's derringer, and his capture at Irwinville comes amid the surrender of the last Confederate armies, east and west of the Mississippi River. The epilogue is Lincoln in his grave: and Davis in his posthumous existence. "Lucifer in Starlight."

So ends a unique achievement — already recognized as one of the finest histories ever fashioned by an American — a narrative of over a million and a half words which recreates on a vast and brilliant canvas the events and personalities of an American epic: The Civil War

Foote's comprehensive history of the Civil War includes three compelling volumes: Fort Sumter to Perryville, Fredericksburg to Meridian, and Red River to Appomattox.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives of our century, a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters... a stirring and stupendous synthesis of history."

-- Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

"A grand, sweeping narrative... will continue to be read and remembered as a classic of its kind."

-- Richard N. Current, N.Y. Herald Tribune

The Civil War:

A Narrative

Fredericksburg to Meridian

"This, then, is narrative history -- a kind of history that goes back to an older literary tradition... The writing is superb ... one of the historical and literary achievements of our time."

-- T. Harry Williams, Book World

"The lucidity of the battle narratives, the vigor of the prose, the strong feeling for the men from generals to privates who did the fighting, are all controlled by a constant sense of how it happened and what it was all about. Foote has the novelist's feeling for character and situation, without losing the historian's scrupulous regard for recorded fact. The Civil War is likely to stand unequalled."

-- Walter Millis

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780307290427
  • Publisher: Sterling Publishing
  • Publication date: 12/19/2005
  • Pages: 840
  • Product dimensions: 6.80 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 2.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Shelby Foote was born on November 7, 1916 in Greenville, Mississippi, and attended school there until he entered the University of North Carolina. During World War II he served as a captain of field artillery but never saw combat. After World War II he worked briefly for the Associated Press in their New York bureau. In 1953 he moved to Memphis, where he lived for the remainder of his life.

Foote was the author of six novels: Tournament, Follow Me Down, Love in a Dry Season, Shiloh, Jordan County, and September, September. He is best remembered for his 3-volume history The Civil War: A Narrative, which took twenty years to complete and resulted in his being a featured expert in Ken Burns' acclaimed Civil War documentary. Over the course of his writing career, Foote was also awarded three Guggenheim fellowships.

Shelby Foote died in 2005 at the age of 88.

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Customer Reviews

Average Rating 4.5
( 52 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star

(36)

4 Star

(7)

3 Star

(5)

2 Star

(3)

1 Star

(1)

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See All Sort by: Showing 1 – 20 of 53 Customer Reviews
  • Anonymous

    Posted January 14, 2001

    Unmatched Narrative

    This book is the first in what is generally considered the seminal historical narrative of the Civil War. Shelby Foote's lyrical style positively shimmers and his pacing clearly reflects his training as a novelist. The size of this book will deter many, but don't let it deter you. Foote spent 30 years writing this series and the care he took is obvious. Someone who reviewed this series called an 'The American Illiad' and it is at least that. When I was done with the third book (Red River to Appomattox), the last line left me in tears (note: do not expect to be moved to tears by skipping to the last line!). Despite its sheer size, this series should be considered among the best writing by any American author, ever.

    7 out of 7 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 3, 2007

    Simply the best!

    This summer, I resolved that I was going to begin and finish the Shelby Foote Civil War Trilogy ... mainly because it was such a challenge. Having read many, many volumes on the Civil War by a multitude of authors both fiction and non-fiction, I was pretty sure there was not a lot I could learn by trudging through the some 3,000 pages. Was I ever wrong! Foote manages to give the entire affair, north and south, east and west ... on land on and on the sea a clarity that had previously proved rather elusive as I read bits and pieces of the war battle-by-battle, general-by-general. I had previously read the wonderful 'Battle Cry of Freedom' by James McPhereson and had also read Bruce Catton. While both of these authors were wonderful, neither gave me anywhere near the overall depth and detail that I got from spending my summer with Shelby Foote. So, in conclusion, no matter what else you have or will read on the Civil War, you must invest the time to read the Foote Trilogy ... you will be glad that you did. It is absolutely essential!

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 6, 2013

    Shelby Foote opens his masterpiece, The Civil War, A Narrative w

    Shelby Foote opens his masterpiece, The Civil War, A Narrative with the resignation of Jefferson Davis from the Senate on 21 January 1861 recounting his farewell address, departure for Mississippi and rendezvous with destiny. Anticipating a commission in the state militia, fate had greater challenges in store for this veteran of the Mexican War, past Secretary of War, respected statesman and formerly loyal servant of the Union. On that same date the relatively unknown president elect, Abraham Lincoln, made his final preparations to leave Springfield, Illinois for his pending inauguration in Washington D. C. Their lives now hopelessly intertwined, for the next four years the fate of millions rested upon the decisions of these two brilliant, principled and personally tormented men. Indeed the very future of the United States hinged upon the strengths and weaknesses of these two extraordinary yet fallible mortals.
    The Civil War, A Narrative closes with the assassination of Abraham Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in 1865 and the subsequent ordeal of Jefferson Davis until his death in 1889. Flanked by these events Shelby Foote covers every major land and naval campaign of the American Civil War. The Civil War, A Narrative is far more than a military history however. The author describes in exquisite detail the personalities and politics behind the scenes of these momentous events. The vicious political infighting and bitter personality conflicts often had more impact on the battlefield than the troops drawn up in closely ordered ranks.
    In his closing note Shelby Foote discloses two primary objectives for The Civil War, A Narrative. The first, in his words, is “recreating the war and making it live again.” This he accomplishes with skillful prose and rich detail. He captivates the reader from first page to last with political and personal elements, making the titanic struggle come to life in real, human terms. The second stated objective is to bring “balance” between the Eastern and Western Theaters of this enormous conflict. Far too many texts focus on the epic battles fought in Virginia, the heroic qualities of Lee and Jackson, and the incredible ineptitude of McDowell, Pope, McClellan, Burnside and Hooker. One cannot finish The Civil War, A Narrative without a greater appreciation of the critical nature of the conflict in the west. To paraphrase Shelby Foote, truly the siege of Vicksburg was as decisive as the battle of Gettysburg if not more so. The capture of Fort Donelson, which introduced Grant, and masterful recovery at Shiloh, which thrust him onto the national scene, may have had more to do with the final outcome of the war than any battle in the east before 1863. Even the naval war, often glossed over in many texts, receives fair treatment considering the scope of the work.
    If James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom is the best single volume account of the civil war as many claim, then The Civil War, A Narrative is, without a doubt, the finest multi-volume account for the lay reader. Thoroughly researched, richly detailed, artfully depicted, yet highly readable Shelby Foote painlessly educates through discerning analysis while he entertains. The Civil War, A Narrative is the work of a master craftsman.
    Organized chronologically by major campaigns, Shelby Foote shifts seamlessly from the Eastern Theater to the Western; from the brown water battles to the blue water engagements; from the vicious politics at home to the diplomatic intrigues abroad; giving the reader an encompassing overview of the civil war.
    The strength of The Civil War, A Narrative lies in the meticulous research, captivating prose and rich human detail typical of the author. Many history texts claim to hold your interest like a novel. Shelby Foote delivers with the ease and natural style of a gifted storyteller. This wealth of historical and personal information keeps The Civil War, A Narrative fresh and relevant in a field saturated with worthy texts.
    Each volume ends with a List of Maps, Bibliographical Note and Index. The Bibliographical Note is the work’s only weakness. While I do not doubt the accuracy of the account, as a historian I would prefer a more comprehensive citation of sources if for no other reason than to expand my own reading. In addition, if the lack of footnotes was a conscious decision in order to preserve the “book’s narrative quality” as Shelby Foote asserts, end notes would have served the same purpose while giving the reader the opportunity not so much to verify but to further explore the subject for himself.
    Do not be intimidated by its nearly 3000 pages. The Civil War, A Narrative is one of those books you cannot put down yet regret when you finish, as you are left longing for more. The depth of research satisfies the most exacting scholar, the exciting prose captivates the civil war buff and the depiction of human drama entices the casual reader. There is something here for everyone.
    One of the many ironies that impressed me in reading The Civil War, A Narrative, was the parallel between the election campaigns of 1864 and 2004. In both cases, vitriolic democrats led by former generals turned politician plagued the president, who, even on the brink of victory, ranked poorly in public opinion. Attacks on the president by the press are nothing new either. Consider the lead editorial of the New York World run after the National Union (Republican) convention nominated Lincoln and Johnson, “The age of the statesman is gone, the age of rail-splitters and tailors, of buffoons, boors, and fanatics, has succeeded…. In a crisis of the most appalling magnitude, requiring statesmanship of the highest order, the country is asked to consider the claims of two ignorant, boorish, third-rate backwoods lawyers, for the highest situations in the government. Such nominations, in such a conjecture, are an insult to the common-sense of the people. God save the republic.”
    For a comprehensive, insightful overview of America’s greatest conflict, Shelby Foote’s work is second to none. It is well worth the reader’s investment in time and definitely belongs in the library of any serious Civil War student.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted May 24, 2010

    Good, But Over Researched

    The primary flaw with this book is it has a very difficult time keeping one interested. The book is extremely well researched; however I think that it is a whole lot easier to endure say the cowardly decline of McClellan when one only has to sit through about twenty pages before he is fired rather than all of about five hundred. I really enjoyed the first chapter due to its primarily political and biographical themes, but when the number of Generals and military themes began piling up around a hundred pages in I did get slightly lost and looked forward to the parts where the book discussed primarily political/biographical issues. However, this book did have a few good insights into the primary causes of the war and into the personalities of the major characters in the war.

    1 out of 5 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted September 1, 2009

    Excellence in writing

    You will not find many historical books that flow like this one. It makes history come alive on the pages. One of the best books I have ever read. The attention to detail and the southern style of story telling really shines through.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 13, 2008

    The Best book on the Civil war.

    I got into this book after my history teacher told me that he was reading all three volumes of this series and being the history buff that I am, I started to read it and I was amazed how well witten Mr. Foote wrote this. I plan on reading the other two volumes as well.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 31, 2013

    The best

    Mc

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2013

    Hate

    I hate this book

    0 out of 6 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted February 29, 2012

    Highly Recommended- should be a must for students to read

    The way Mr. Foote weaves the story from both sides keeps the interest high and I look forward to the rest of the series.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 7, 2012

    Good

    I didnt read it

    0 out of 10 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted October 18, 2011

    Civil war

    Such a sad time in life. War. There were so many deaths in this war. The battle of bull run (Manassas) to the burning of Rickmond. This book is perfect for you if you show sympathy to people during this tragic event in our history.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted July 28, 2011

    more from this reviewer

    Amazing

    This well researched and beautiful accounts is one of my favorites and the author is fair and without bias.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 11, 2011

    Highly Recommended - great perspective

    While a factual history, Shelby Foote tells the story behind the facts. How and why the President, his generals and soldiers felt and coped with the battles.

    0 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 29, 2010

    To Much Detail

    The primary flaw with this book is it has a very difficult time keeping one interested. The book is extremely well researched; however I think that it is a whole lot easier to endure say the cowardly decline of McClellan when one only has to sit through about twenty pages before he is fired rather than all of about five hundred. I really enjoyed the first chapter due to its primarily political and biographical themes, but when the number of Generals and military themes began piling up around a hundred pages in I did get slightly lost and looked forward to the parts where the book discussed primarily political/biographical issues. However, this book did have a few good insights into the primary causes of the war and into the personalities of the major characters in the war.

    0 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

    Was this review helpful? Yes  No   Report this review
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    Posted April 8, 2011

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