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.
"Washington's Crossing" is a great narrative and has plenty of surprises. I'm no expert on the American Revolution, but I've read three or four books on the subject, as well as a couple of biographies of George Washington; and I don't remember any that laid out the action of this part of the war, or the stakes for the colonies, as clearly as this book.
I knew in broad outlines how disastrous the summer and fall campaign of 1776 was for the Continentals. Washington lost Brooklyn, Manhattan, and most of New Jersey in one long, nearly continuous, retreat. But I didn't know a lot of the details: the atrocities committed by the British and Hessian soldiers in New Jersey; the activities of New Jerseyites in fighting back; the second battle of Trenton, with Washington facing off against Cornwallis (and making a brilliant night march around his flank to attack the garrison at Princeton). I never thought about the vast difference in the way British generals and Washington held councils of war, and what that meant for the future of the republic. It never occurred to me that the very different way British and Americans treated their prisoners was a key to what the Americans were fighting for, and a reason why they were successful. (Americans gave quarter. British and Hessians did not. In both cases it was a matter of principle.)
Fischer also does a remarkable job clarifying what made Washington such a good leader. He learned from his mistakes, and he learned fast; and he valued the opinions of his subordinates, and fought tirelessly for the comfort of his men. He may not have always led from the front - sometimes his subordinates refused to let him do so - but he would never have been caught miles behind the lines in the arms of a mistress.
The problem with the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, says Fischer, is that it makes Washington look Napoleonic; and there was never a general who led - not commanded - his army in a less Napoleonic manner.
Good narration from Nelson Runger. Enjoyed it thoroughly. Includes an interview of author by narrator that talks about a lot of the surprises Fischer himself encountered when researching the book.
It's an incredible book, and the narration is beautiful. If you can't have Shelby Foote reading it himself, Grover Gardner is a good alternative. Foote carries the story well past the usual Appomattox tableau, with a riveting description of Lincoln's assassination, a careful exploration of the consequences of that act, and a long, elegiac, unbearably sad narration of the winding down of the war and the outcome, especially for the freed slaves. Everybody lost. The long national nightmare ended in the age of the robber barons and union busting; and blacks found themselves frozen out, hunted down, and at times massacred by North and South alike.
It took me about a year of off-and-on listening to work through all three volumes. It was worth every second. I can't recommend this audiobook too highly. Yes, you need other viewpoints for balance, but no one else tells the story in such an utterly enthralling way and with such captivating and humanizing detail.
Junger's excellent diary of four years' war is put down in highly descriptive prose. He never looses sight of the beauties of nature in a time of horror. The comparison with the descriptions of the same tragedy by Graves and Sassoon will not escape the reader. Junger's unflinching love and support of the Motherland shows through until the end. It is easy to compare the values of the three writers under similar conditions. Junger was in constant combat for four years and served in most of the major battles of the Western Front. He was wounded seven times and received the "Pour le Merit" (Blue Max) for his service. The only fault I found with this great book is that he makes it somewhat difficult to relate his descriptions of war in a limited area to the overall engagement. This is the view from the trench as he watched it unfold and is a classic work of military literature.