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Publisher's Summary

The Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. 1 begins one of the most remarkable works of history ever fashioned. All the great battles are here, of course, from Bull Run through Shiloh, the Seven Days Battles, and Antietam, but so are the smaller ones: Ball's Bluff, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge, Island Ten, New Orleans, and Monitor versus Merrimac

The word “narrative” is the key to this extraordinary book’s incandescence and its truth. The story is told entirely from the point of view of the people involved in it. One learns not only what was happening on all fronts but also how the author discovered it during his years of exhaustive research.

This first volume in Shelby Foote’s comprehensive history is a must-listen for anyone interested in one of the bloodiest wars in America’s history. 

©1986 Shelby Foote (P)2011 Blackstone Audio

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    4 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars

Comprehensive narrative for involved listeners

Comprehensive and well-paced, attention to names and places from both sides of the conflict sometimes disorienting in audio format (Polk/Pope, etc.). Necessarily dense in content, the breadth of source material including personal accounts and anecdotes adds a powerful colouring of the time period to the narrative with enthralling effect. Not recommended as a starting place for anyone without a background in historical or military writing due to the sheer scale of the work (over 150hrs with all 3 volumns) but very rewarding otherwise.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Judd Bagley
  • 2009-01-09

One of the great literary achievements of all time

Yesterday I finished listening to the final volume of this series, and am left feeling somewhere between awe over the sheer value and magnitude of this amazing work and depression over what seems a bit like the loss of a dear friend.
In fact, I'm tempted to start the series over!
Listening to these books while making some independent study of what I've learned from them has been, without doubt, the most personally enriching project I've ever undertaken. My understanding of every aspect of these key years in American history is unlike any other -- including years I've personally experienced.
Given the intense level of detail consistently manifest in this book, I had to continually remind myself that Foote's wasn't actually there to personally document these events.
That said, I should point out that this series is not for everybody. Unless you're serious about really understanding *everything* that happened during the US Civil War, you'll probably grow bored, very quickly.
If, on the other hand, you value deep context and objective examination based on eye-witness accounts and the assessments of noted historians, you'll adore this series.
And then you'll probably buy the print version, like me.
Again, I cannot begin to heap enough praise on this work.

50 of 50 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tad Davis
  • 2008-07-17

Storytelling brilliance

Shelby Foote is a brilliant storyteller, and his history of the Civil War is a masterpiece. Other histories give you the view from a thousand feet; Foote shows you what it must have looked like to the birds in the trees. It's often said that he's biased toward the South, but I think that's an exaggeration. He may not be overly fond of Grant, but he lavishes praise on Abraham Lincoln. His "bias," such as it is, comes partly from the narrative device of trying to give equal time to Jefferson Davis, as if he were in the same league as Lincoln. (Sorry, Shelby, but Jeff was a pill and even you can't make him sympathetic.)

I like Grover Gardner's narration a lot. There is some variation in audio quality, as others have noted, but for the most part Gardner is clear and forceful, and the story unfolds almost effortlessly. I can listen to it for hours at a time without fatigue.

The only drawback to listening to this, rather than reading it, is the absence of maps. Foote's book is peppered with maps, large and small, strategically placed throughout the text, and they support the narrative descriptions with economy and precision. I was fortunate in having the book at hand and could follow the maps. Wikipedia also has a number of excellent Civil War maps that can be used for this purpose.

103 of 105 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Jeanne
  • Brentwood, TN, USA
  • 2004-10-02

The best

This is the most sweeping history of the American civil war. It is almost impossible to describe the depth, feeling, and excitment of his triology(Audible, get the other 2 volumes quickly).

I read the books in 1990 and 1991. Yes, it took that long to enjoy the writing. Grover Gardner does an outstanding job as narrator.

Just listen to the sample. I think that will hook you. This is a long audio book, and everyone interested in our Civil War must listen. The book read like a novel, and on audio it is superb.

93 of 96 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Tim
  • Fremont, NE, United States
  • 2005-03-21

Astounding detail, but novices beware!

First of all, let me say that this is truly a classic. However, like classes in college that require prerequisites before enrolling, make sure you have some background knowledge before diving in.

This is NOT a criticism - just an observation for those who may not realize the depth & breadth of the book. As an example, cities, towns, rivers and other geographic locations are mentioned - often without reference to the states in which they reside. Generals and military leaders are discussed at times without stating which side they are on - the reader must figure it out by context.

However, for those who have at least a working knowlege of the civil war and/or a general knowlege of the geography of the states involved, this is a great read. The biographies of Lincoln, Jefferson Davis and Grant are fantastic! The story of the first naval battle with ironclads and the effect on naval warfare was fascinating, as were all the stories regarding naval battles. The detail regarding letters between the two presidents and their generals was also insightful.

This is a great book, but if all you know about the Civil war is that the North won and that the major characters were Lincoln, Davis, Lee & Grant, you may want to read a more general account of the Civil war or watch Ken Burns' PBS special before starting. On the other hand if you have an interest in the civil war, there is an incredible amount of detail about the generals and politicians involved and the battles of the war, both major and minor. And, on top of this, it's a bargain for a 32 disk audiobook (and this is the shortest of the three parts!). And the narrator is great!

104 of 108 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Henry
  • Rapidan, VA, USA
  • 2009-03-24

Not a Civil War Buff

I was drawn to this book after years of living in Virginia and passing signs every 30 seconds mark some major (or often minor) event in the Civil War. Even from that perspective this book is a masterpiece. It is so well written and informative that you can't put it down (or I guess press stop(?)) Be prepared for the second and third volumes, because you won't want to miss them.

29 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • George Tucker
  • Fort Lauderdale, FL USA
  • 2004-11-01

Narrative history at it's finest

I know almost nothing about the American Civil War. Shelby Foote's account is vivid, full of character portraits and details of a vanished society. Sometimes difficult to follow (I imagine there are diagrams of battles in the print version) but always delightful to listen to.

22 of 23 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Performance
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Story
    5 out of 5 stars
  • The Louligan
  • DC-MEM-SF-MD-VA-OAK-LA-ATL-PHX
  • 2013-08-22

OUTSTANDING! I'M PROUD TO BE A BLACK AMERICAN!!

As a black American who grew up in Washington, DC, I never had ANYTHING good to say about the Confederacy. Reading this series only proved my personal credo "Racism is born out of ignorance". Guess who was a hypocritical, ignorant racist? ME!!! I discovered that I knew about as much about the Civil War as I was taught in school about African-American and black Americans - NOTHING!!! Oh, we got a smidgen on George Washington Carver, Booker T. Washington and Frederick Douglass but only enough to fill a thimble. Although my family home was just 3 blocks from Fort Stevens where the Confederate army almost took Washington and where President Lincoln was almost killed by a Confederate army, we never learned the amazing story behind the fort which we used as a playground.

This series of books covers the Civil War from "A to Z". They are extremely well-researched, providing little-known information about this historical fight. I came away with a new respect for the South for fighting and dying for a cause in which they believed in totally. I learned that the Civil War wasn't about white people hating black people (although there were quite a few whites who held the ridiculous belief that we weren't even humans). The war between the North and South was more about the economic necessity for cheap labor to maintain America's dominance in agriculture which fueled Europe's dominance as an industrialist giant. And the proof was in the South's total destruction after the Emancipation Proclamation. Rich plantation owners were broke, busted and bankrupt. No cotton or sugar - no money.

I have a new-found respect for Jefferson Davis, Stonewall Jackson, and Robert E. Lee and the multitudes of Confederate soldiers who lost their lives fighting to maintain their way of life. Of course, as a descendant of slaves, I'm glad that the North prevailed. It's just unfortunate that the South couldn't see past their noses and let over 20,000 skilled black artisans (carpenters, blacksmiths, seamstresses, etc.) leave for the North instead of revamping the South by becoming the nations center of furniture makers, ironworks, and purveyors of clothes for the rich and poor. To compound the country's total lack of vision, the alleged Northern abolitionists lost out also because it gave these new black citizens jobs as cooks, maids, nannies - actually, let's just call "a spade a spade: "Mammies" - butlers, house boys, and manual laborers.

That said, Shelby Foote gives a well-rounded objective insight into a much misunderstood war that didn't really advance America's narrow-minded view of the people it brought to these shores in bondage and oppressed for more than a century after this horrible conflagration. But I thank him for helping me see the Confederacy from a different and enlightening perspective. I had lived in Atlanta, GA for 15 years when I read this book. My northern family and friends couldn't understand how I could stand the "racist South" with its "good ole boy" attitude. That is something I have never experienced in Georgia. I don't worry about the Confederate flag or the hero leaders of the Civil War which are carved in the side of Stone Mountain, like Mount Rushmore. In all my years there, I was never called a "nigger" not once. Yet, after moving to Phoenix, AZ, I was called "nigger" four times in my first six months here. Has this country learned nothing? I still consider myself a "Georgia Peach".

According to Shelby Foote's amazing account, the south has nothing to be ashamed of for fighting for what it believed was right at the time. Now if the whole country can learn from past mistakes and move forward as a COMPLETE country - white, black, brown, red, yellow or purple with pink polka dots - we will be ready as a nation to defend our shores from foreign threats. Reading this book is the first step in the right direction,

94 of 102 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • plongchp
  • 2005-03-11

The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I (Unabridged

Not for the timid, this is a long detailed "narrative" on the Civil War. It is well done and mixes information from published history, historical letters and newspaper articles in a manner that gives the tone and mood of both the union and confederate sides of the War thoughout all three books. It ranks of one of the best non-fiction audible titles I have listened to and one of the few where I was "stuck in the driveway" waiting for things to happen many times.

18 of 19 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Dr. Bill
  • Atlanta, GA
  • 2006-10-10

Breathtaking!

This sweeping history of the Civil War took Foote, who died in 2005, 20 years to write, and it took me over 4 months of listening during my 1-1/2 hour round trip commute to my office. The three volumes represent over 136 hours of listening, every minute of which provides fascinating insights. I found myself actually eager to make my commute and get back to the story. I was sorry when it came to its end. I will undoubtedly listen to it again in the future.

I have been a student of the Civil War all of my life. My great-great grandfather rode with Nathan Bedford Forrest and two of his brothers were killed in the battle for Atlanta where I live among historic markers that tell the story of that struggle that was fought here over 140 years ago.

Every American should read or listen to this epic narrative told by a Mississippi story-teller. His is a balanced account, neither pro-North nor pro-South, a quality sadly lacking in the revisionist histories being produced today.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

  • Overall
    5 out of 5 stars
  • Eric
  • Philadelphia, PA, USA
  • 2005-02-20

Excellent listening, great book

I read all three volumes twenty years ago and enjoyed them immensely. I never thought I read them again until I got an iPod and found Audible.com. I've gone through the first book in a little over two weeks, reading it the first time took over two months. I like the reader's voice, although he doesn't realize how some names should be pronounce (i.e., Cairo is pronounced 'kay-row' in southern Illinois). I look forward to listening to the other two books.

10 of 11 people found this review helpful