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The Civil War, a narrative : Fort Sumter to…

The Civil War, a narrative : Fort Sumter to Perryville (1958)

by Shelby Foote

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1,393185,452 (4.48)56
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    The Civil War Dictionary by Mark Boatner (wildbill)
    wildbill: excellent reference work

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I've waited 20 years to read this and ... and ... it was pretty boring! Actually I listened to the audio version and the most common droning reader didn't help either. But this is all about the politicians, the generals, the geography, and the development of an ironclad navy. It is certainly a good layout of history -- but I found myself wanting the smaller story and details of the men in the trenches. The Foote series is an epic ... but now that I have a feel for it, the other parts will have to wait. (the audio version, 14 cds, is only 1/2 of book 1). ( )
  deldevries | Jan 31, 2016 |
Superlatives cannot describe this work. I've never enjoyed such a historical work more than this one. It is arguably the best work of its kind. You are transported to the events and become an involved observer of the horrific war that changed America forever. ( )
  JVioland | Jul 14, 2014 |
Volume 1 of Shelby Foote's epic narrative delivered as only he could have. I became interested in Shelby Foote from the PBS Ken Burns Civil War documentary that aired years ago. Foote's commentary throughout the series I found most entertaining and insightful. Years later I decided to purchase his boxed set of 3 volumes but like many things in ones life they sat there collecting dust before I decided maybe I should crack them.

I was not disappointed in the completion on this first volume only in that I waited so long to get at it. Shelby Foote's writing in a narrative style delivers what no doubt is the greatest event and tragedy of our nation in a great tale told as maybe only he could. Foote is able to get into much of the behind the scenes drama that played out and the human toll and sacrifice that touched every American on both sides of the line.

I am not hesitating to launch into volume two which carries on into yet the biggest battles of the war looking forward to the telling of the story to unfold from the master narrator. ( )
  knightlight777 | Jan 17, 2014 |
WOOT W00T Rooty-toot-toot! I finished!!


I did. I did. I read every word. Even when I despaired of ever finishing, I read and read and read. I gave it 5 stars too because it is a monument. Shelby marches every army over almost every mile of every day of the war from Jefferson Davis's farewell to the U.S. Senate to the aftermath of Perryville in 1862. His goal was to make the reader a participant, and he largely succeeded. I learned things that I never knew and more than I wanted to know about strategy and tactics and the sheer bloodiness of the war itself. I bogged down in swamps. I imagined marching the miles without shoes or food.
I was vastly relieved when the narrative turned itself to politics, whether Union or Confederate. I loved the Lincoln stories (could he borrow McLellan's army since he wasn't using it?) and the pictures of Stonewall Jackson sucking his lemon, and the appearance of Polk at Perryville at a Federal gun emplacement (he was wearing a new, dark uniform, and realized too late that the soldiers he was yelling at to stop firing at their own men were actually Yankees. He brazened out their questions and rode slowly away from them expecting a bullet at every heartbeat) and Bragg requisitioning supplies as commander and denying them to himself as quartermaster.
I came away astounded at how many men moved over huge distances. I was astounded also at the number of generals on both sides. I was astounded at how many mistakes were made because of miscommunications or some general deciding on his own to do something different from the battle plan. I was humbled and full of pity for the gallant, ignorant men on both sides who marched or ran into gunfire or turned tail and ran.
I wish that he had mentioned the year a little more often. I wish that he had included a listing of the generals by army (but I made my own). Otherwise, I find that I am glad to have spent the time I spent in this book, and I suspect that I'll move on to volume 2 next year when I've recovered.

ETA: DH reminds me that S. Foote wrote the whole thing with a nib pen - dip and write, dip and write, dip and write.
I see that volume 2 is even longer. ( )
8 vote LizzieD | Oct 26, 2013 |
Shelby Foote puts context around the dry facts found in one-volume Civil War histories. For example, Foote's Battle of Antietam is preceded by an elaborate description of the campaign Lee planned -- before the Union's discovery of his battle orders foiled those plans. The campaign-that-might-have-been is a crucial piece of the story, because it explains why troops were placed where they were at the start of the battle. But you don't find it in the standard texts I have read; or if you do, it's so summmarized and brief that you can't really picture it.

This book has given me a much better feeling for the movement of troops across the landscape, versus other histories where the soldiers just magically appear right before the battle. And the extent to which success or failure depended on military politics is a revelation that is both shocking, and, now that I have absorbed it, obvious. I wish all histories were written like this -- detailed, colorful, thorough, accurate, compelling -- and with great maps. (The maps in the book were based on Foote's own drawings.) ( )
  read.to.live | Jul 29, 2013 |
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Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Shelby Footeprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Gardner, GroverNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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It was a Monday in Washington, January 21: Jefferson Davis rose from his seat in the Senate.
The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth--not a different truth: the same truth--only they reach, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.
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THE CIVIL WAR : A NARRATIVE has been published in 3 volumes, but has also been subdivided differently to be published in 9 volumes and even 14 volumes. Consequently, there are different works numbered "volume 1". This volume 1, FORT SUMTER TO PERRYVILLE, is for the series as subdivided into 3 volumes.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0394746236, Paperback)

In 1954, Shelby Foote was a young novelist with a contract to write a short history of the Civil War. It soon became clear, however, that he had undertaken a long-term project. Twenty years later Foote finally completed his massive and essential trilogy on the War Between the States. His three books are prose masterpieces with lively characterizations and gripping action. Although Foote never sacrifices the truth of what happened to his penchant for artistry, his skills as a novelist serve him well. Reading all three of these books will take some time, but they are worth the investment--especially if you, like Foote, have a touch of sympathy for the South's lost cause.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 17:58:35 -0400)

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Foote's comprehensive history of the Civil War includes three compelling volumes: Fort Sumter to Perryville, Fredericksburg to Meridian, and Red River to Appomattox. 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. Anyone who wants to relive the Civil War will go through this volume with pleasure. Years from now, Foote's monumental narrative most likely will continue to be read and remembered as a classic of its kind.… (more)

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