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Publisher's Summary

Terrible Swift Sword (Vol. 2): The dismissal of George McClellan and the rise of Ulysses S. Grant.

©1963 Bruce Catton (P)1989 Recorded Books, LLC

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The Civil War gets under way (Shelby Foote)

Where does Terrible Swift Sword rank among all the audiobooks you???ve listened to so far?

Catton is a master story teller. This book is right up there with all of the Civil War books. The best is Stillness at Appomattox which I wish Audible would get. I think I heard it a number of years ago from Books on Tape. Of course, Shelby Foote is more thorough, but the military maneuvers in Foote's books are just too compliacated for me. Catton also loses me in some military strategy but he returns to the politial scene often enough. Catton writes extremely well, and if you want more of the same read the Army of the Potomac series, which as I mentioned in passing, Audible should get hold of if they are available. I''ll admit that I am a Civil War buff and have dragged my wife to several battlefields despite her protestations. On a recent car trip I tried to stop at Spottsyvania but was overruled. If you can't get to some of the battlefields listen to audible with these type of books.

What other book might you compare Terrible Swift Sword to and why?

Of course it is part of the series with The Coming Fury and Never Call Retreat, and if you liked one you will like the other, though The Coming Fury doesn't have the battle drama, because it is an introduction to the Civil War. Shelby Foote's trilogy is also outstanding and is available on audio, though more lengthy. I also bought Battle Cry of Freedom but didn't have a chance to listen to it yet. I am sure that I will enjoy it. In short, Bruce Catton is a master story teller of the Civil War, so get started and enjoy.

What does Nelson Runger bring to the story that you wouldn???t experience if you just read the book?

Nelson Runger and Kate Reading are the best narrators that I have ever heard. I love the way Nelson Runger intones his reading. I loved his First American (Franklin) reading and heard him on Books on Tape on Eisenhower and an abridged version of Adams. I wish Audible could get him on The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich. Every word of his is a delectable morsel. I hope to get his other books on American histroy and biography. Sometimes, I feel a little saturated with American history, but I just can't enough of Runger. I am even going to listen to another Benjamin Franklin biography. Some of you may think he is too slow, but I love his slow intonation which has a little surprise and sarcasm mixed in. Could anyone persuade him to read The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire? I could then turn into an ancient history scholar at the drop of a hat.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

I am always chuckling at the machinations of the Civil War generals, though Shelby Foote is a downright humorist when it comes to this. Of course, I am glad to fight the Civil War in my armchair at the distance of 150 years. Looking back, it is easy to see the mistakes of Maclellan, Burnside and Hooker, but imagine the thousands of lives over which these men were responsible for. As of today I have fought the Civil War about 50 times and can never get tired of the drama, issues, and importance of that conflict. Catton manages to bring it alive for the 50th time for me. Deep down I have to cry for the 600,000 boys who lost their lives both North and South. I wish the slavery question could have been resolved in the times of Franklin and Washington. But alas!

13 of 13 people found this review helpful

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  • Bryan
  • Monument, CO, United States
  • 07-12-11

No Better History of the Civil War

I have enjoyed Bruce Catton's trilogy of the Civil War since it came out in the 1960's. I still have the dog-eared paperbacks (priced $1.25 so you know how old they are) and am always tempted to pick them up and re-read this shining historian.

This is the middle of the three covering the major battles and strategies following the opening battle of Bull Run, which is detailed in "The Coming Fury". Mr. Catton covers all the different theaters of the war - including the stratgies of both North and South in dealing with the one major power of the time - Great Britain.

Mr. Catton is a master of narrative and story. We all know how this issue was resolved in the end, but the details and personalities of some of the players who have faded into the mists of our collective memory come alive in his expert hands. The growing influence of George McClellan and his ultimate hold on the Army of the Potomac, the battle-tested drinker U.S. Grant, the almost ubiquitous Benjamin Butler - all these major and minor characters come to life in this wonderful history.

This is America's defining moment of the 19th Century and Bruce Catton describes the hardships and heartaches and heroism that our country experienced in this cataclysm.

This isn't some boring history of "just the facts". This is a great read, a wonderful story, and a master of history. I can't recommend it highly enough.

11 of 11 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great Story and great reader

I was soooo happy when Audible finally got all 3 of the Bruce Catton series. No one book can cover an entire epoch but Catton does a great job in capturing the personalities of the Civil War. Make sure you also listen to "The Coming Fury" and "Never Call Retreat" to complete the set. Nelson Runger is my favorite reader for historical works and he does a great job with the entire 60+ hours of material. You can also listen to Shelby Foote's version for another take on this important American event.

6 of 6 people found this review helpful

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  • John
  • Delacour, AB, Canada
  • 03-07-12

excellent audiobook!

Would you consider the audio edition of Terrible Swift Sword to be better than the print version?

Its nice to hear Catton's poetic style of narrative,and his descripitiveness is not lost at all in the reading.Bruce Catton knows a lot of things that other people don't know,and the things that everyone knows are mainly due to these books.

What was one of the most memorable moments of Terrible Swift Sword?

Always like the way Catton leads you up to the fight.

What about Nelson Runger’s performance did you like?

Well read and not monotone,as though Nelson Runger was learning and enjoying the book.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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It's Catton!


This is from his over all military history of the Civil War. His OTHER trilogy was about t Union eStern army. the Army of The Potomac.

My Dad was deeply effected even as a boy when Union Veterans who were neighbors would tell of the war as they sat and rocked on a porch next door to the house where Dad's family lived. There eager reverence for comrades AND enemy soldiers lot Dad's eyes and ignited a devotion to Civil War history.

Bruce Catton had the same good fortune. In lectures my father gave and in Catton's writing that eager devotion to the people of America and their stories was evident.

Catton wrote with strict adherence to principles of reporting. Facts. And both he and Dad ALSO had a warm feeling for the individual soldiers and their families. The combination of Journalism ethic and Human carding makes for electrifying,,, and trust worthy,,, reading and listening.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful

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Fuitless Battles, Many Dead, Emancipaiton or Not

Terrible Swift Sword: The Centennial History of the Civil War, Vol. 2, by Bruce Catton, Narrated by Nelson Runger. This compilation is a mid-1960s, deep and rewarding dive into the pre, contemporary and post-civil war political milieu. In this, the second part of the three-book series, Mr. Catton provides an understanding of the early Civil War, the war’s objectified purpose, its initial skirmishes and battles, and the war’s effect upon American society.

This book provides a lot of information on the weak and infrequently purposeful personalities that conducted the Civil War. In addition, the manner in which the story is told; ever so easily captures your attention and keeps you - considering - what was this war really about?

Terrible Swift Sword teaches: Men, who participate in this world, have a duty to partake. Partaking is assessing and then letting go into action. Those are the men with the purposeful personalities, i.e. A. Lincoln and R. E. Lee. Then there are those who fail to assess and fail to go out and only procrastinate, i.e. such as self-proclaimed genius general G. B. McClellan. One of the truly great fools of all time.

As a result, you can read the trials and tribulations of our 150 years ago politicians and military commanders and get a broad understanding of how the generals conceived of, prepared for and managed their battles, and the politicians the affairs of state. What you learn you can apply to today’s happenings and understand the incompetence and callowness of today’s leaders by thinking back to our past leaders acts and undertakings. Yet, again, you can learn of true competence and strong courageous leadership as well.

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Great Narrative History -Production not so Good

This is the second volume of the three volume civil war narrative history. Catton's work is outstanding. The technical production feels like the editors stopped at the rough cut. the long silent gaps and pauses between sections and some chapters and parts are distracting and verging toward annoying, diminishing the overall enjoyment.

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audio problems take away from otherwise great book

This work is fantastic, but there were random periods throughout that were very hard to make out at all. As if a pillow had been placed over the microphone, the narration was quieted and muffled to the point that it was nearly impossible to follow.

Later the sound would correct and be fine for a while before the issues would return.

I loved this work, and the narrator was fantastic, but Audible has no business selling this recording with the issues mentioned above.

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  • Grant
  • Torrance, CA, United States
  • 09-15-15

A great history lesson

The author does a pretty good job keeping all the various skirmishes separate even when they are happen simultaneously. It is good to see them as individual events but also how they impact the whole war. I look forward to book 3.