The Civil War: A Narrative, Volume I 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.
Bonus: In partnership with Audible and Playtone, the television and film producer behind the award-winning series Band of Brothers, John Adams, and The Pacific, this audiobook includes an original introduction written and read by acclaimed documentarian Ken Burns. For more from Audible and Playtone, click here.
©1986 Shelby Foote (P)2011 Blackstone Audio
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.
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.
Max Fisher of Rushmore Academy
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.
Computer Programmer and Worship Leader. Have enjoyed reading since my mom got me hooked on Nancy Drew and Agatha Christie prior to my teen years. My brother got me hooked on audio books after I started having a longer commute to work. Love a variety of genres.
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!
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.
Whatever prevents you from doing your work has become your work. - Albert Camus (1913 - 1960)
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.
I have given this book 4 stars based on the extraordinary writting and storytelling ability of the author Shelby Foote. It is a massive and riveting account of the War told in detail but never boring.
It fails to rate a fifth star due the narration of the book. The sound quality is uneven and the reader takes long pauses when there seems to be no natural break in the text, and then goes rambling on at places where there seems to be a natual break in the text.
The most annoying aspect of the reader was his habit of mispronouncing place names and the names of people. Anyone with an interest in the Civil War or 19th century American history will be familiar with the names that are being mispronounced and I am sure like me will find it disconcerting.
These are minor problems with what is overall a great piece of writing and a wonderful story.
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.
A must for all students of Civil War history. The audio version simply draws you in... I can't wait for vol. 2.
For an excellent, informative, and easy to read history of the American Civil War, this three-volume series can't be beat. I have read a lot about the War, visited battlefields, etc., but this narrative put things in perspective by connecting all the pieces chronologically. I know it's long, but well worth the effort. You do miss something in the audio version by not having the maps that are in the books, but I didn't find that to be a major issue.
"Brilliant But Not For The Faint Hearted"
I have just completed the marathon quest of listening to all three volumes of Shelby Foote's masterpiece narrative of the American Civil War (Approx 139 Hours). Coming to this trilogy, I thought I possessed a basic knowledge of the events of those four years which tore an infant nation apart and set brother against brother; quite literally in many cases. The Civil War trilogy has served to royally demonstrate to me just how much I did not know about this fascinating and bloody four years of American history. If you are an amateur historian wishing to really understand the polotics, characters, battles and progression of the war, this is the book for you. It isn't however, a book which could reasonably used as an introduction to the subject. There are many more concise accounts which can be read to see if you get the taste for more, at which time Shelby Foote's epic will be waiting.
This will also probably be an ideal information source for serious gamers of Civil War battles as every skirmish and major conflict is included in detail.
These comments relate to all 3 volumes of this work.
It appears almost like a tragic epic novel capturing the unimagined scope of the conflict, the carnage and destruction, the fine detail of the principal characters, and a wealth of comtemporary comment whether it be from reporters, soldiers, wives, family members or politicians to give some perpective to the undoubted horror. It is a wonderful history and geography lesson and it is beautifully written. It covers the defining event in the development of the United States and the importance of that is done full justice here. It is no turgid recitation of facts but a wonderfully constructed, evenly balanced and finely tuned account of the tragedy upon tragedy which led the the strengthening of the Union and which put in place the foundations of the modern day power house democracy.
Grover Gardner does full justice to the text in his low key, faultless rendition.
"Great book, fantastic narrator, inconsistent sound"
Fascinating book with a listenable narrator. Weak sound quality in parts though. Will definitely be listening to Volumes 2 & 3
"A commitment but well worth it."
This is a comprehensive account of the war based on primary sources, with lots of detail. The personalities shine through in the coverage, which is primarily concerned with military affairs and battles (although the socio-political backdrop is addressed more than some critics have said). I have given 5 stars overall for these three volumes that make up the whole. But only four for performance, as the narrator is often dreary and jaded and has a clipped accent like the character Hannibal Lector in the Silence of the Lambs. I must admit that I would be jaded after reading this amount of text aloud, so maybe the producers should have broken it up with alternating readers, one with a north-east Yankee accent and one with a southern accent. Or someone who sounds like Shelby Foote did, the author now deceased, who had a mild educated southern lilt (interviews with him are on You Tube). But overall, this book is magnificent and well balanced and accessible. And the audio version is fair, and well worth the effort. I came to some new conclusions about Lincoln, the South, and the United States. A note on the medium: It is hard to take it all in unless you concentrate, but often you don't do that when listening to a book. So you have to re-play parts over and over again if something takes your attention away (like a 13 year old daughter asking for a lift or a wife coming home while you are preparing supper - both of whom complained, fairly, about the narrator's drone). Or you can only listen while painting a room or at the gym or in the car on your own. Or you can buy the books, which, if they include maps, would also prevent you having to look out relevant maps on the internet - but must weigh a ton!
"Epic, deep and personal"
Quite simply an evocative journey through a disturbing conflict. Foote combines a large narrative scope with individual accounts, letters, memoirs and newspaper accounts to give the definitive Civil War book. Outstanding.
"Majesterial in scope"
I would recommend this to anyone interested in Military and Political History. The scope of the (three) books is huge in fitting with the events. Not yet an enormous list of chronological facts which would reduce the books to a very dry tome. There are lessons for the present day in this series.
Delivered with gravitas throughout but there was humour, sensitively handled.
I would dare tamper with any part of these books.
"This is a monumental treatise"
This most readable of histories is brought to life by Grover Gardeners reading. Mr Foote's work is telling and well told
"Overall a very good audiobook"
Normally great, in this work he sounds depressed, I think he looked at the length of the work in front of him and became discouraged
I was very unfamiliar with the American Civil War and this is a significant disadvantage to fully enjoying this excellent book. I found that the author (not unreasonably) expected the reader to know some general facts about the conflict. I sometimes forgot which General's were on which side of the conflict and who was advancing on which position and doing what.
This is more my fault than the authors and this three volume work is perhaps the finest of its kind
"Essential History - an absolute must listen"
Stunning scope and ambition of this written history project, is an incredible listen. Make sure you get all three parts. I think they add up to over 100 hours of listening. Stunning, moving historical work.
Simple a "Must listen".
Moving, enlightening, saddening. What a piece of historical narrative, so ambitious and expansive of its covering of the American Civil War.
Make sure you listen to all three volumes. It will take you months to get through it, but its just incredible work
For those with an interest in history and the period, I found this together with the two companion volumes terrific.
I think it is best to take this book with it's companion volumes together as a whole work. And in my opinion as a narrative history it stands apart.
Excellent throughout, captures both the all areas of the book very well.
Both, Shelby Foote's written work is brought to life by Grover Gardner's rendition.
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