This is the most complete and detailed account of the Civil War I have ever heard. The amount of time it must have taken to accumulate the data from all of the different sources must be huge. It keeps you wanting to listen more and more. Also gives you a new prospective on what you learned in US history class. The reader is great and does an awesome job .
I bought these volumes 6 months before my first trip to Gettysburg. I was a bit overwhelmed by the information given here, but I'm glad I dived in. The other criticisms are correct that this is not for the novice, unless you are well motivated. I now understand the motivations, tactics and horror so much better now and can have, at least, an elementary conversation about the war. I even had a few facts that my father hadn't heard of before, which is really hard to do. This is a work that delves very deeply into each battle on both sides with the politics included. Shelby Foote's work is amazing and if you've ever seen Ken Burn's Civil War work, look for him. His stories from this work is included.
Shelly Foote's narrative places you in the action of the battle. Also you are like a mouse in the corner while Lincoln, Lee or McClellan are speaking and writing letters. Down load the maps at any of the Civil War websites and follow the war like a mini series, my boyhood fascination of the civil war has now come alive, as I sleep, eat and fight with the blue and gray.
While this book gives all of the requisite dates and battle movements of armies, which can be a little hard to follow without the maps and apendixes a book like this is sure to come with, it's narrative styles makes learning the civil war a delight. This book delves deeply into the beginnings of the civil war and shows the characters of the people behind the start of the war fairly. People easily take sides when it comes to civil war, but this book gives a relatively unbiased view of what the author believies happened that led to the war. A very long, but rewarding listen.
Because 2011 marks the beginning of the Civil War Sesquicentennial, Foote's marvelous narrative is a great introduction to the history of the conflict, and to the people and personalities who lived and fought it. This first volume covers from shortly before the start of the war in 1861 until just after the battles of Antietam and Perryville in the late summer-early autumn of 1862.
As some others have noted, this is a highly readable (and listenable) account, but the absence of maps does detract from the experience a bit because the original version was well-supplemented with them, and Foote wrote the story assuming that the reader would have their aid in the original version. Still, even in audio-only, it's a thorough, entertaining account of the era, written with a deft hand by a man who was, first and foremost a novelist; he thus brings a storyteller's gift to this work, stopping every so often in the chronological account of the events to spend some time recounting the personal history and idiosyncrasies of the men (and occasional women) who populate the story.
Those new to the story will perhaps be surprised to discover that the war was fought not only in Virginia and Tennessee, but also in Arkansas, along most of the Mississippi River, and even in the mountains of New Mexico. For a Southerner, Foote managed to get deeply into the psyche of Abraham Lincoln, and despite his regional origins, tells the story fairly, giving each side its due and each major participant the praise or scorn he deserves.
The 37+ hours went far more quickly than I would have thought possible, and left me wanting to delve immediately into volume 2. The only drawback was the narrator, whom many people seem to like, but whose voice I have always found a tad grating. He does a competent job with the pace and the pronunciation, though, and if you don't find the sound of his voice displeasing (it grows on you after a while -- sort of), it doesn't detract from a wonderful book.
I love this book because it takes a military history and turns it into what reads like a compilation of biographies. Every engagement, every decision, described from inside the heads of those who were there. Every new, important character receives a background sketch. The natural result of this is a very human history of a very epic period in American history. I recommend this book to everyone interested in American history.
Make no mistake: We're all mammals here.
Foote's narrative history of the war is beautifully written. Once you start reading (or listening), you're hooked. This 3-vol. set of recordings, however, leaves a lot to be desired. There is background feedback which is very prevalent in volumes 1 and 2, and the narrator mispronounces many names (example, Kanawha). The most unforgivable aspect of the recordings however, is found in the third and final volume in which entire seven-hour chunks of the book are not broken into subsections. When listening on an iPod, it's very easy to brush the controls and cause it to go backwards or forwards an entire section. When there are no subsections, this means holding the fast forward (or reverse) button down through hours of narration trying to find your place. It only happened to me once, but that was frustrating enough. The book gets 5 stars, but the audio version leaves a lot to be desired.
I loved every minute of each of the three volumes of Shelby Foote's masterpiece. It was a deeply facinating journey through those tumultous times and events. I felt this audiobook bought to life the great charachters and personalities that defined the Civil War. Grover Gardners reading of this was outstanding and suited perfectly to the subject.
I am quite enjoying this story; it's lively, interesting, well-told. Blackstone Audio's bargain-basement production values, however, distract terribly from the audiobook. While the primary narrator is a fairly skilled reader, his abilities are lacking in some points, including, as mentioned by another reviewer, pronunciation; various words are mispronounced throughout the book, and I puzzled for some time (in disbelief and amusement) over Foote's describing one Army general as "flamboyant in a dress" before I figured out that he meant the general was "flamboyant in address" - a point which could have been clarified with the proper pronunciation. Another problem with the narrator is his simply having been chosen for the job, because his voice has a somewhat grating nasal quality I found it more difficult to get past than I usually do such narrators' quirks. But worst of all are the numerous terrible, obvious overdubs by DIFFERENT NARRATORS that we're supposed to just take in stride and not notice at all. There are in fact at least three and possibly four different narrators' voices heard in this first volume, with the dubbed-in narrators' voices even more grating than Mr. Gardner's, and the combination of their vocal qualities and the abrupt, brief, and obvious drop-ins in which they're heard are so distracting that I seldom assimilate what's said during the overdubs because my mind is stuck in its disbelief that Blackstone would let such glaring flaws make it into the final version of the audiobook. It's really pathetic.
Also, one quality of the written book that doesn't translate well into audio is the way Foote will mention a person by name once and then refer to him exclusively by second-person pronouns for minutes on end, such that if you missed the one mention of his name earlier on, you may have no idea who's being talked about for five minutes at a time.
So in the end, this book is enjoyable, but I'd probably recommend reading it over listening to it.