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D his opus have already been writtenFirst and foremost The Civil War A Narrative is a masterpiece of storytelling Because Foote wrote fiction it s tempting to call this novelistic but that s far too reductive Parts of it read like a novel it is true Other parts though read like Homer or the Bible The Civil War is the seminal event in American history In terms of both drama and importance it is second to none Shelby Foote manages to capture that sense while also bringing these past events to vivid life Foote s descriptions can t be beat There are no pictorial inserts in my editions but I hardly needed them Foote paints with his words Just four pages in for example is this image of Jefferson Davis poised to resign the Senate He was dressed in neat black broadcloth cuffless trouser legs crumpling over his boots the coat full skirted with wide lapels a satin waistcoat framing the stiff white bosom of his shirt a black silk handkerchief wound stockwise twice around the upturned collar and knotted loosely at the throat Close shaven except for the tuft of beard at the jut of the chin the face was built economically close to the skull and than anything it expressed an iron control by the brain within that skull He had been sick for the past month and he looked it He looked in fact like a man who had emerged from a long bout with a fever which was what he was except that the fever had been a generation back when he was twenty seven and now he was fifty two Beneath the high suare forehead etched with the fine crisscross lines of pain and overwork the eyes were deep set gray and stern large and lustrous though one was partly covered by a film a result of the neuralgia which had racked him all those ears The nose was acuiline finely shaped the nostrils broad and delicately chiseled The cheeks were deeply hollowed beneath the too high cheekbones and above the wide determined jawFoote accomplishes a great deal with his portraits He is not just giving us a picture but a characterization You get to know the war s major players on very intimate terms The battle scenes are memorable because they are told from the participants viewpoints Take for instance Foote s telling of the climax of Pickett s Charge as Lewis Armistead reaches the AngleArmistead sawthat it would not do to lose momentum or allow the Federals time to bring up reinforcements Come on boys Give them cold steel he cried and holding his saber high still with the black hat balanced on its tip for a guidon he stepped over the wall Novel to Film An Introduction to the Theory of Adaptation yelling as he did soYoung Lieutenant Alonzo Cushing s two guns were just ahead unserved and silent because Cushing himself was dead by now shot through the mouth as he called for a faster rate of fire and General John Gibbon had been taken rearward a bullet in his shoulder Then Armistead fell too killed as he reached with his free hand for the muzzle of one of the guns and the clot of perhaps 300 men who had followed him over the wall was struck from the right front by the two regiments Colonel Arthur Devereux had brought down pretty damn uick from the uphill slope beyond the clump of trees The fight was hand to hand along the fringes while others among the defenders stood backand fired into the close packed heaving mass of rebel troops and colorsEven General Henry Hunt was there on horseback emptying his revolver into the crush See em See em he cried as he pulled the trigger Then his horse went down hoofs flailing with the general underneath Men on both sides were hollering as they milled about and fired some cursing others praying and this combined with the screams of the wounded and the moans of the dying produced an effect which one who heard it called strange and terrible a sound that came from thousands of human throatset was not a commingling of shouts and The Axe of Sundering yells but rather like a vast mournful roar With nearly 3000 pages with which to work Foote could afford to be comprehensive and he is The Civil War took place in thousands of locations and to his credit Foote tries to hit most of them Though he obviously prioritizes in terms of importance he does not neglect any theater Thusou get a chronicle of the entirety of Grant s Vicksburg campaign with all its false starts along with lesser known fights such as battle of Valverde in Arizona and Glorietta Pass in New Mexico While Foote does his best to touch on all the military concerns the social and political aspects of the war go largely unremarked upon When Foote does venture into that territory he mostly blunders For example his treatment of Lincoln s Emancipation Proclamation borders on the ignorant It must be noted that The Civil War A Narrative is not an academic history There are no endnotes or citations If So Youre Having a Teenager you want to know where Foote found a particular piece of evidenceou are straight out of luck Foote had his reasons and it s too late to argue with him In general I can accept that as a narrative historian he is not interested in weighing evidence or parsing sources His chief purpose is a coherent story meaning choosing a version of the truth the mass of contradictory documents that are the War meaning choosing a version of the from the mass of contradictory documents that are the War primary sources However it is worth noting the downside to this approach Foote seems to follow the old rule that when the truth becomes legend print the legend He loves a good anecdote and he never shows much concern for corroboration there are things printed here that sound too good to be true because they aren t true One striking example of Foote s lack of source scrutiny comes from his gleeful retelling of Ulysses Grant s alleged Yazoo bender an incident often used by Grant s detractors to reduce him to a *bumbling alcoholic most serious historians discredit this story *alcoholic Most serious historians discredit this story it comes from a single source who was not present and who did not make a record of it until 1897 Here though the tale is related as gospel The mythologizing though is part of the charm of these books If The Art of Animal Drawing: Construction, Action Analysis, Caricature you want the hardcore research the diligent analysis and the careful parsing of evidence there are plenty of other places to turn The Civil War A Narrative is just about as good as history writing gets Upon my reread though I did have one nagging concern that of tone I hesitate to mention it since this is such an overwhelmingly praised body of work but I don t think I can ignore it Ken Burns helped make Foote into an honest to god celebrity People who might not have read 3000 pages on the Civil War were suddenly than willing to crack those covers As Foote s fame increased and people came to see Foote as some kind of oracle They journeyed to study at what Tony Horwitz called the Foote of the Master During this period of fame Foote let loose with a lot of opinions some of them a bit troubling I ll spareou the list and skip to one representative example Shelby Foote once said with a microphone in his face Believe me no soldier on either side gave a damn about the slaves That statement is breathtakingly arrogant and unthinking No soldier on either side Really There were 200000 black troops who fought for the Union Know what was on their damn mind Slavery and freedom which they were willing to take at the tip of a bayonet I think this uote really captures Foote s mindset He is not a true Lost Causer in the sense that he denigrated the white Union soldiers at the expense of the Confederacy In fact he goes to pains relate the bravery of those Union troops whether it s the suicidal charges up Marye s Heights at Fredericksburg or Hancock the Superb s glorious hour at Gettysburg He has also named Lincoln one of the two geniuses of the war the other naturally being Robert E Lee No despite many Lost Cause shadings the true tone of The Civil War A Narrative is of white reconciliation At the end of Burns The Civil War Foote is given the valedictory which he uses to uote the Benson letter I excerpted above While he speaks we are shown images of old white men in blue and gray shaking hands and making amends This is the post Reconstruction moment where white America decided the war had been a contest of moral euals You were brave and I was brave I was brave and Under the Jolly Roger Being an Account of the Further Nautical Adventures of Jacky Faber you were brave Now we can all get along This is the reason Gettysburg is a national gathering place and a popular tourist destination rather than a national scarTo be sure the theme of white reconciliation played a role in binding the nation in the immediate decades following the end of hostilities At the expense of black Americans the country or less endured Today though the continuing distortion of the War s historiography is disheartening I don t mean to lay all or even most of the blame at Foote s feet However his work has become immortal and so it has great influence WJ Cash observed that no one wants to believe their heroes fought and died for something so crass and unbeautiful as the preservation of slavery Whenou read Foote The Fortune Cookie Chronicles Adventures in the World of Chinese Food you can continue to maintain that illusion The Civil War A Narrative is almost exclusively about the battles the men who fought them and the courage that took Far be it from me to criticize anyone who wants to read about Civil War battles I do it all the time and will continue to do so But it s worth pondering 150ears later what s actually important still today Is it the genius of Lee s army chomping Pope at Second Bull Run Is it Jackson s smashing of Howard s flank at Chancellorsville Is it Sherman s masterful March to the Sea Is it Grant s ruthless and relentless Overland Campaign Or is it something and something far complicate. Ute sense of the relative importance of events and a novelist's skill in directing the reader's attention to the men and the episodes that will influence the course of the whole war without omitting items which are of momentary interest His organization of facts could hardly be bettered AtlanticRed River to AppomattoxAn unparalleled achievement an American Iliad a uniue work uniting the scholarship of the historian and the high readability of the first class novelist Walker PercyI have never read a better vivid understandable account of the savage battling between Grant's and Lee's armies. ,

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This is probably the leading complete history of the Civil War which for me means there is a great opportunity for someone to write something betterGood things1 Good turn of phrase 2 Good ability to paint a full personalityProblems1 Too strong a bias in favor of South2 Too strong a bias in favor of covering less important western action3 Too much filler Could have trimmed 25% 33% of total words4 For me needed and better maps with dates and times on them5 Would have benefitted from a Cast of Players list so reader could keep straight on who various military figures were and provide refresher on where one had last read about them6 Most importantly Mr Foote should have gotten a few hours of tutoring on basic military art A stronger reader than I might take on the assignment of counting what seemed like a reuse of Cannae hundreds of times during the trilogy7 Andersonville deserved at least a paragraph Can only attribute to Southern protectionism Could have done it sympathetically Shelby Foote was the silver haired gentleman with the Robert E Lee beard who had such interesting anecdotes to tell during Ken Burns s documentary series The Civil War How do ou think he got that job By writing this trilogy that s how Umpty ump thousand pages and he did it on paper With a dip pen no less He said in an interview I saw that he got a better rhythm that way I believe it Often I find myself turning to pen and paper too although I ve never gone so far as dip pens There s certainly nothing wrong with this trilogy s writing style Foote goes into great detail and makes the time live and breathe It is a classic history if it were about half as long it would be better known but it wouldn t go into the depth of detail that makes it uniueLike all Civil War histories the interesting and exciting parts are at the beginning By the end of the war all the illusions had been stripped away The armies of both sides had gone from eager volunteers out for adventure to bitter veterans and unwilling draftees engaged in an industrial war of attrition from the fifes and drums of the Revolution to the trench warfare of Verdun and Flanders in four ears The Civil War taught anyone who had eyes to see that if war ever had been bright flags and heroic adventure which it hadn t of course it wasn t that now and it never would be again In fact it had become so horrible that we couldn t even lie to ourselves about it any Or so The Alchemy of Finance you d like to thinkIn any case by the time I got to the end of this trilogy I was wondering how much longer the blood and suffering could go on Until every drop of blood drawn by the lash is repaid by one drawn by the sword apparently and beyond For all that anyone interested in the United States should read a good history of the Civil War and this is one of the best As Foote himself said everything the United States has become since good and bad we became because of this war I have read this set half a dozen times for a while there I re read them every summer Foote was a novelist before he was a historian and it shows in his style The books give a fairly even handed treatment of the military history of the American civil war using actual uotes to flesh out the interactions among the characters to a surprising extent One of the best histories I ve ever read I couldn t find a listing for just Volume 3 Red River to Appomattox which I finished thisear Last BWWM (Interracial African American Billionaire Baby Romance Marriage Urban) year I read the first two volumes This is the last volume which covered Grant arriving in Washington to take up duties as commander and looking like a scruffy nonentity who was offered a room in the attic of Willard s Hotel until the clerk saw his name to the death of Jefferson Davis Foote is a southerner after all Really great work it s taken me a couple ofears to read itThere I think Foote focused on the South but not to the extent of being unfair I was amazed that the death of Lincoln was treated relatively perfunctorily but it may be that I was disappointed because I had been so wrapped up in the assassination details and the plot details to kill Seward and Stanton too in Goodwin s Team of Rivals which I had just read that this one seemed decidedly minimilist And the book ended with Jefferson Davis going back to Mississippi actually it ended with the death of Davis many Shades of Adolescence years later as if only then was the war really over I gathered there was considerable admiration for Davis on Foote s part Me I d never considered Davis as a person at all I had considered Alexander Stephens partly because that was my husband s name Something else I read awhile ago possibly McPherson detailed his friendship with Lincoln when they were both together in Congress manyears beforeI m not one for military details but I found Foote s focus on mistakes of southern generals like Hood and Johnson always forget whether it was Johnson or Johnston I mean Joseph Johnson interesting They seemed to do little right while Sherman did everything right and I sense there *Was Even Some Affection For Him On *even some affection for him on s part And I was surprised that he didn t make as much as other histories I ve read of the possibility of generals not surrendering and continuing a guerilla war for ears I thought he downplayed Nathan Bedford Forrest too in that regard but also just as a Southern heroStill I m no Civil War expert and no matter how hard I try it s the people and the human events that engage me
*than the battles *
the battles the strategy Foote is very good at that If Red River to Appomattox ended with the death of Jefferson Davis it began with Grant s coming to Washington and being taken for a run of the mill nonentity general when he asked for a room at Willard s hotel until he signed his name I d not have persisted through all the battles if his dealing with people and his ability to conjure up memorable vignettes were not so good OMG It took me like 4 fuckin months to read this colossus but I finally finished it all 3 1000 page volumes And es it totally lives up to the hype It s a wonderful masterful piece of narrative history A treasureIt s also the most homoerotic thing I ve read in a long time Real talk Every other sentence was like Lee penetrated deep into Johnson s rear and Having read and enjoyed Shelby Foote s novel Shiloh which I highly recommend I was motivated to attempt his magnum opus the one million plus word trilogy The Civil War The books are surprisingly readable come in a bright box set and are great for flipping through if The Art of Rebellion 2 World of Urban Art Activism you have any background with the Civil War I suggest reading the introduction and then skipping around and reading about the battles or figuresou re interested in For me that included William T Sherman Nathan Bedford Forrest Jefferson Davis Vicksburg and a few others Foote is the master of the anecdote so these books make for great conversational resources and are uite memorableI cannot recommend this trilogy however without a nod to the greatest definitive history set Gibbon s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire In college I convinced my parents I needed the books which I could not afford for a class even though I didn t Since then I have returned to them often I have a found memory of sitting in Los Angeles art deco Union Station while reading Volume 1 utterly lost in the world of ancient Rome Gibbon s vivid descriptions of the contests in the coliseum prefaced first by the idyllic rule of Antoninus and Aurelius outshine anything put forth by the contemporary writers of Rome who actually lived it I can t stress how strongly Jonas Fink L'adolescenza your bookshelf deserves this set Shelby Foote was commissioned to write a concise narrative of the American Civil War in 1958 following his great success with the book Shiloh The project grew beyond the bounds of the original plan from Random House and blossomed into one of the greatest works ever written about the war Foote was born in Mississippi but was later transplanted to Memphis His was the first Southern voice to describe the Civil War in than a generation In spite of his background he is no disciple of the lost cause movement He was freuently uoted as saying that The North fought that war with one hand tied behind its backreferring to the inadeuate leaders misuse of technology and bungled strategies and tactics employed by the Union forces in the firstears of the war He also views the failures of the Confederacy in their lack of vision in the Western theater of operations where the war was lost militarily and the lack of leadership in depth on that side He has been taken to task for providing a primarily military narrative of the war with little emphasis on the economic andor social backdrop of the war These elements are actually woven into his work as the production capacity of the South was crippled with the capture of the Mississippi river Rail lines Atlanta Richmond and the other few manufacturing areas in the South Shelby Foote also demonstrates his respect for Lincoln long before Ms Godwin s Team of Rivals who was fighting the war on multiple fronts Lincoln was fighting his cabinet the Copperhead Generals Democrats who had their own war aims the Radical Republicans and come to grips with his own ignorance of modern warfare Footes writing style makes the work As he was writing he became THE living expert on the Civil War so much so that Ken Burns and Geoffrey Ward spent much time interviewing him 5X than any other expert interviewed for the Civil War PBS series made in 1991 He was an academic who spoke and wrote like a storytellernovelist wh. Foote's comprehensive history of the Civil War includes three compelling volumes Fort Sumter to Perryville Fredericksburg to Meridian and Red River to Appomattox Collected together in a handsome boxed set this is the perfect gift for any Civil War buffFort Sumter to PerryvilleHere for a certainty is one of the great historical narratives of our century a uniue and brilliant achievement one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters Van Allen Bradley Chicago Daily NewsAnyone who wants to relive the Civil War as thousands of Americans apparently do will go through this volume wi. Ich he was He is the antithesis of the facts and dates school of American history and has made the subject accessible to generations of Americans These are must read books for anyone deeply interested in the topic I purchased Foote s trilogy because it was a well known trilogy about the American Civil War All told it was a waste of time and moneyI had read Battle Cry of Freedom and become much interested in this field than when I began teaching it to 8th graders I read one of Sears books a couple by McPherson and some that dealt with African Americans both in slavery in the resistance to slavery and their participation which is considered pivotal in the Civil WarHere are some of the ways in which I found Foote s trilogy miserably lacking though full of detail the details selected for viewing are skewed so far toward the secessionist effort that he refers to the president as Davis and the various cabinet members posts Secretary of War etc are all also members of the Confederate government in waiting members of a so called government that existed solely during a failed Civil War recognized by no other entity Union soldiers and officers are referred to most of the time as the enemy These things alone should have caused Foote to leave aside his shuck and jive introduction about being a sucker for a lost cause and instead honestly include in the title making it The Civil War A Confederate Perspective or something similar Though he says he has written a nonfiction series using narrative form because he wrote primarily as a novelist which he was good at and should have stuck to IMHO he takes the third person omniscient stating what various members of the secessionist army and political leadership were thinking at so many times that it is hard to believe his blanket statement that it is all documented it surely is not referenced as the McPherson work I am currently reading is His bibliography is rife with Confederate sources and though Sherman s memoirs show up there he uses them sparingly More on that But again in terms of factual information he somehow has lengthy passages of dialogue that once again are not referenced and again I find myself wondering whether he has not veered into the land of historical fiction where he feels comfortableIf one read no other work on the American Civil War than Foote s one would come out badly misinformed In the Battle Cry of Freedom the valorous crossing of the Chattahoochie River as Sherman and his men enter the heavily fortified tactically critical city of Atlanta is described in detail The men strip down and cross naked Sherman adds except for their boots and since they must ford a surging river chest deep they hold their weapons above their heads If they must fire they reload still overhead as practiced this is no longer Sherman whose memoir is remarkably modest it is McPhersonwith their heads under water to avoid being struck and then raise up fire and move forward It is an astonishing feat well worthy of history books How does Foote deal with this First he lets us know that the Chattahoochie was a pleasant temperature by referring to the Union soldiers as bathing 100 days grime off of themselves in its balmy depths Then later he makes a lot of hay out of the cleverness of Hood seeing to it that bridges are destroyed or guarded but refers to the Union s crossing of the Chattahoochie as amphibious crossing Two words Sherman reports that once they were out and he makes it light and funny but Once Upon a Baby you can also see the sacrifice his men have made in carrying this out and HOW many commanders could persuade troops to do this they entered Atlanta and there they were naked and shivering cold and wet right in the middle of town in DECEMBER Canou see why I find the discrepancy in reporting to be deplorable There are of Davis s words here than there are of Lincoln s as many references to the Confederate Breckinridge nearly as there are to Sherman fewer than ten pages in this entire trilogy refer to Black people Negroes or worse and these were numerous and generally listed along with property the N word and I know it s historically accurate but I won t use it There is no mention for example of the fact that the first troops to enter Richmond following the collapse of the Confederacy were Black troops The best Foote can do is within 2 or 3 sentences adm May 3 20113 volumes 1000 pages each this is going to take a while But I ve just finished Volume 1 Fort Sumpter to Perryville and since at this rate I won t finish the whole thing for another Outnumbered year I thought I d make some initial notes Basically this is glorious I m not a Civil War buff and I m certainly not interested in getting down into the weeds of whether Foote gets this or that detail exactly right or is fair or unfair to this or that general The things that impress here are 1 the sheer scope of the enterprise and 2 the fact that Foote can take something of the size and complexity of the Civil War and render it intelligible and in prose that always pleases and sometimes sings He also does that thing that I think is too rarely seen is histories and is one of the reasons I so liked Brand s biography of Ben Franklin he renders historical figures as fully human rather than as a collection of waxworks dummies on display You really can make a case for these books being our Iliad or at the very least our History of the Peloponnesian War it s a shame they re not widely read the intimidating length notwithstanding That s how I feel about it now anyway Seeou in 4 6 monthsOctober 25 2013Well that was longer than 4 6 months but I ve now got Volume 2 Fredericksburg to Meridian under my belt and continue to be impressed by Foote s erudition *and delighted by his storytelling The stand in this volume is unsurprisingly Gettysburg I ve *delighted by his storytelling stand out in this volume is unsurprisingly Gettysburg I ve understood either the nature or significance of the battle the way I do now that I ve read Foote s account But in some ways Gettysburg is marginal to the great theme of the volume the search for a winning Union general and the Union s salvation in Grant This is a story masterfully told and I m eager to begin Volume 3 which will open with Grant s elevation to overall Union commanderAugust 30 2014It is accomplished All told it took only slightly longer to fight the Civil War than it did for me to read Foote s account of it but my opinion remains unchanged this is an absolute masterpiece There s much that s worth praising in the third volume the balanced assessments of Grant and Sherman the dignity of Lee the blind stubbornness verging on monomania of Jefferson Davis in defeat But the greatest praise must go to the overall impact I feel like I truly understand the War now in ways I never have in spite of a lifetime spent reading American history My only uibble is that the reader hasn t lived with this material the way Foote did and so it s a bit hard to keep up when Foote tosses off a casual reference to something that happened 2500 pages ago But that s a minor uibble with this major work both of history and of storytelling In time even death itself might be abolished who knows but it may be given to us after this life to meet again in the old uarters to play chess and draughts to get up soon to answer the morning roll call to fall in at the tap of the drum for drill and dress parade and again to hastily don our war gear while the monotonous patter of the long roll summons to battle Who knows but again the old flags ragged and torn snapping in the wind may face each other and flutter pursuing and pursued while the cries of victory fill a summer day And after the battle then the slain and wounded will arise and all will meet together under the two flags all sound and well and there will be talking and laughter and cheers and all will say Did it not seem real Was it not as in the old days Private Barry Benson Army of Northern Virginia 1880 uoted by Shelby Foote at the conclusion of Ken Burns The Civil War It s hard to know where to start when discussing Shelby Foote s three volume The Civil War A Narrative When he began working on the project he was a novelist of some acclaim though not widely known When he finished he had created a literary Rush not just a book or rather three books but a veritable monument It brought Foote fame and fortune unusual for an authority on the Civil War He may be dead but because of this achievement his name lives on forever I first read The Civil War A Narrative while in high school which should tell Scripture Culture and Agriculture An Agrarian Reading of the Bible you allou need to know about my popularity When I finished the last page my initial response was one of accomplishment This is a hefty series after all In the paperback versions I have the first book Fort Sumter to Perryville comprises 810 pages of text the second Fredericksburg to Meridian 966 and the third Red River to Appomattox 1060 for a grand total of 2836 pages not including the acknowledgments bibliographies and indexes In a very real sense finishing Foote s trilogy marked the beginning of my serious adult reading Over the last several Hakeems Side Piece years I have been making my way through them again Not in a concerted way but at my leisure A chapter here A chapter there The first time around I wasoung and just wanted to finish The second I took my time and enjoyed the journey Since my first read through ended in 98 in the era of AOL disks and dial up I never had reason to put down any thoughts This go round I decided a review was in order though most things that can be said about Foote an. Th pleasure Years from now Foote's monumental narrative most likely will continue to be read and remembered as a classic of its kind New York Herald Tribune Book ReviewFredericksburg to MeridianThis then is narrative history a kind of history that goes back to an older literary tradition The writing is superbone of the historical and literary achievements of our time The Washington Post Book WorldGettysburgis described with such meticulous attention to action terrain time and the characters of the various commanders that I understand at last what happened in that battle Mr Foote has an ac. The Civil War A Narrative