The first volume of Shelby Foote's tremendous narrative of the Civil War was greeted enthusiastically by critics and readers alike (see back of jacket for comments). In this dramatic second volume the scope and power, the lively portrayal of exciting personalities, and the memorable re-creation of events have continued unmistakably. In addition, "Fredericksburg to Meridian" covers many of the greatest and bloodiest battles of history.
The authoritative narrative is dominated by the almost continual confrontation of great armies. For the fourth time, the Army of the Potomac (now under the command of Burnside) attempts to take Richmond, resulting in the blood-bath at Fredericksburg: Then Joe Hooker tries again, only to be repulsed at Chancellorsville as Stonewall Jackson turns his flank a bitter victory for the South, paid for by the death' of Lee's foremost lieutenant.
In the West, during the six-month standoff that followed the shock of Murfreesboro in the central theater, one of the most complex and determined sieges of the war has begun. Here Grant's seven relentless efforts against Vicksburg show Lincol that he has at last found his killer-genera the man who can "face the arithmetic."
With Vicksburg finally under siege, Lee again invades the North. The three-day conflict at Gettysburg receives book-length attention in a masterly treatment of a key great battle, not as legend has it but as it really was, before it became distorted by controversy and overblown by remembered glory.
Then begins the downhill fight the sudden glare of Chickamauga and the North's great day at Missionary Ridge, followed by the Florida fiasco and Sherman's meticulous destructionof Meridian, which left that section of the South facing the aftermath even before the war was over.
Against this backdrop of smoke and battle, Lincoln and Davis try in their separate ways to hold their people together: Lincoln by letters and statements climaxing in the Gettysburg Address; and Davis by two long roundabout western trips in which he makes personal appeals to crowds along his way.
"Fredericksburg to Meridian" is full of the life of the times the elections of 1863, the resignations of Seward and Chase, the Conscription riots, the mounting opposition (on both sides) to the crushing war, and then the inescapable resolution that it must go on.
And as before, the whole sweeping story is told entirely through the lives and actions of the people involved, a matchless narrative which could be sustained so brilliantly only by one of our finest novelists.