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Publisher's Summary

The New York Times hailed this trilogy as “one of the greatest historical accomplishments of our time”. With stunning detail and insights, America’s foremost Civil War historian recreates the war from its opening months to its final, bloody end. Each volume delivers a complete listening experience. The Coming Fury (Volume 1) covers the split Democratic Convention in the spring of 1860 to the first battle of Bull Run.

©1961 Bruce Catton (P)1989 Recorded Books, LLC

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  • Bryan
  • Monument, CO, United States
  • 07-19-11

History As It Should Be

This is the first volume in Bruce Catton's centennial history of the Civil War. This book is a triumph of skill and storytelling. Mr. Catton is a master of weaving together the threads of this defining moment in history--the time that took this country from "the United States are" to "the United States is"--and keeping you so entertained you don't even realize you are being educated and informed.

Starting with the Democrat Party Convention in Charleston in 1860 to the first Battle of Bull Run, this is a story which has wide scope and huge importance even for the America of today. The details of the political conventions (and there ended up being at least 4 of them for major parties), the explosion of emotion as the 7 original Cotton States secede from the Union even before the "Black Republican": Abraham Lincoln is inaugurated. The tense standoffs at forts all over the South - but the spark lights at Charleston Harbor with Fort Sumter. The scramble as the rest of the southern states leave the Union, while Lincoln works to keep the border states at least technically in the Union.

Mr. Catton serves up all the big personalities - Davis, Lee, Lincoln - as well as the ones who have faded far into the shadows of history. And since this was written half a century ago, the political correctness that has made today's exercises in history seem pale or idiotic don't apply. This is an important story, told with grace and skill by someone who has absolute control over his facts and his ability to weave them together.

Can't recommend this more highly

30 of 30 people found this review helpful

  • Overall

Great story, great narrator

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 "Terrible Swift Sword" 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.

18 of 18 people found this review helpful

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  • C.
  • CHARLOTTE, NC, United States
  • 01-11-12

Awesome Start to the Trilogy

Any additional comments?

I wanted to learn more about the Civil War, specifically around the causes (ie. was the Civil War all about slavery, where does States' rights come into play??) This really gives great insight to the state of the Union prior to the Civil War. You'll see the growing tension that leads up to Bull Run. The reading by Nelson Runger was great as well. It brought some authenticity to the book.

7 of 7 people found this review helpful

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Forgot That Catton Was This Terrific

Like most amateur students of the American Civil War—I hate the term “buff”—I got my start with the works of Bruce Catton. As a kid, I pored over the daguerreotypes, paintings, maps and drawings in the massive illustrated coffee table history he wrote for American Heritage. As a young adult, I read his multivolume histories of the war, the Army of the Potomac and the biography of Ulysses Grant, the last two volumes of which Catton wrote after the death of Lloyd Lewis, who began the project.

It was a great introduction; Catton’s style is approachable and engaging in the manner of much history written between the 1930’s and the mid-1960’s: popular without being reductive or simplistic, (apparently) unburdened by schools of theory or political agendas, with a fine sense of narrative flow and character development. In other words, history written by people who knew they were telling a good story. That’s how I remember Catton and that’s how I found him now. He makes for enjoyable reading on the page and even more enjoyable listening through the earphones.

A friend whose judgment in literary matters I respected once suggested that Catton’s style ran, “a little purple” in spots; a tad too flamboyant. I dunno. The second time around, I’m finding a hard realism in his treatment of, for example, the fate of elegant, romantic Elmer Ellsworth, that driller of a “patent leather” militia regiment who met, “the end he would have chosen for himself. He died while the day was still bright…his name and his uniform still bright” and whose body lay in state in the White House. “It was a springtime of symbols. Ellsworth meant little alive, much in his coffin, symbolizing a national state of mind, a certain attitude toward the war that would quickly pass and would never return.”

That doesn’t look too purple from here. Perhaps what my friend objected to was the aspect of Catton’s style that I like best: a man who knows a great deal about a subject he loves, musing on that subject in a familiar, personable yet also somehow authoritative manner. And his musings, obviously the fruit of much reflection, are still worth hearing:

“The vast cotton fields of the Gulf states were the base for a great world textile industry. The mills of England and France were built on them. The entire Southern area whose ways were being made more and more out of date by the economic revolution that was taking place was itself an integral factor in the growth and progress of that revolution.”

There, in three sentences, is the essence of the southern dilemma, the tangle of ironies that doomed an ever more insular society to fight to preserve what manifestly could not be preserved.

Nelson Runger conveys it all perfectly. Not too serious or portentous, not too folksy and familiar, always giving the right pitch to the tragic and amusing—yes, there are those, too—incidents in the book.

Having been made some 28 years ago, the recording itself is a little creaky in spots. Room tones shift and levels rise and fall. But that doesn’t bother me here as much as it does with fiction or poetry. The only real fly in this otherwise grade A ointment is the way it's organized—or rather, disorganized. The unidentified “chapter” breaks in no way coincide with book, chapter and section breaks in the book, making it hard to go back and re-listen to a particular passage.

4 of 4 people found this review helpful

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Remember, it's from 1961

This Civil War history was written in a narrative format and is therefore very interesting to listen to. I occasionally bristled at what seemed to be the author's insensitive treatment of the issue of slavery itself, but this book was written in 1961 - considering the era, Catton's understanding of race relations was probably a bit ahead of its time, except among those who were considered radical a half century ago.

The narrator himself was okay - easy enough to listen to, but I couldn't give him a top rating after hearing his slight but inexplicable mispronunciation of the word "Allegheny".

Overall, I highly recommend Catton's history to any who want to know more about the Civil War and its causes.

9 of 10 people found this review helpful

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America is Torn Apart and the Civil War begins.

This first volume of Bruce Catton's epic Centennial History of the Civil War begins with the Democratic Party Presidential nominating convention of 1860 and ends with the First Battle of Bull Run. This is a terrific book that fifty years after it was published is still one of the best narrative histories of the Civil War. It is an excellent three volume series. Bruce Catton was a skilled and knowledgeable author who put the listener right in the middle of the momentous events that marked the beginning of the Civil War. Catton does not limit himself to the political and military history of the war. Social and economic history combine to tell the story of the people as well as the momentous events and leaders of the times. Catton began his career as a journalist and brings to his writing of history an immediacy that makes the events and the people involved in them come alive for the listener. I enjoyed listening to the narrator, Nelson Runger. He is pleasantly soft-spoken and keeps a steady pace..
Beginning the book with the Democratic Convention introduces the listener to the passions that tore the country apart. The speeches of the fire-eaters and the Douglas men from the North tell the story of why the Civil War started in their own words. I have seen Catton cited by other history writers for his excellent use of descriptive language. He did a lot of writing about the Civil War and he knew the subject well. I think that this series is comparable to the Shelby Foote The Civil War: A Narrative. Foote focuses more on military history and is more detailed. I would recommend this book and the other two books in the series which are available here at audible.

3 of 3 people found this review helpful

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  • Denyse
  • Hopewell, NJ, United States
  • 11-20-16

Freeing the Slaves Was Not the First Idea

What did you love best about The Coming Fury?

I learned more about the complicated underpinnings of the beginnings of the Civil War and the reasons for 13th and 14th Amendments to our constitution. That there were other candidates for the Presidency in 1860 and their perspectives is not well known. That free and enslaved Blacks had a role and aspirations and took actions to gain their freedom is lifted up. The considerable economic importance of the free labor to the US and world economies is another part of our history that is documented. I graduated from Middlebury College, where Bruce Catton was a tough and widely respected history professor. I hadn't taken his courses, but experiencing this history in this way was important and addative to my understanding of American History. Having just visited the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, this text put several of the important exhibits on the C1 and 2 Levels in bold relief. I recommend the Coming Fury and will now proceed with Catton's other two volumes on the Civil War.

What was one of the most memorable moments of The Coming Fury?

Republican and Democratic politics (and the behind the scenes players) leading up to the Civil War was provided in good detail and contrasted with the 2016 Presidential election.

What about Nelson Runger’s performance did you like?

The narration is highly engaging. I was sorry to come end and desired more.

Was there a moment in the book that particularly moved you?

The descriptions of the early battles and the loss of life was moving. The fact that conscripts had three month commissions and very little training, but so much passion -- on both sides was moving as well. The young men did not know what they were getting into. Neither did our nation.

Any additional comments?

Bruce Catton is an excellent historian and should be widely read.

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Entertains! It's FUN and great reporting too!

Reading this book (and the others in this series Mr Catton wrote) captured my mind and heart when I was a young student.

Catton should me that unknown characters who are not "great figures" play key important and exciting parts in our history! The "big names" would be of no importance without the base of "little guys" they stand upon.

The local town leader who knows how to organize people, the man out in the rural country who learned to be a convincing orator, etc. These people were the ones who formed Lincoln, Davis and Generals like Grant and Lee.

And Bruce Catton wrote about the "little guy" as well as the huge names of history with vibrant eagerness that brings them all to life.

READING his books is exciting. HEARING Nelson Runger read them in audio books will drive Cattons work deep into the banks of knowledge in your brain to stay!

This first book in Cattons trilogy on the Civil War truly should be enjoyed by every student in America. Each of us will love and respect our country to a greater depth for experiencing "The Coming Fury."

2 of 2 people found this review helpful

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Nice balance to Foote

Any additional comments?

Most of us met Shelby Foote as a narrator for the Burns PBS Civil War documentary. Myself, the Audible version of Foote's Civil War is an old friend I come back to again and again. Catton's books were a memory, maybe with Camelot or doo-wop sound track.<br/><br/>The two complement so well that I am guessing Foote planned it that way.<br/><br/>Catton goes into greater depth here, setting a narrative, political frame and asking, telling us just how we ended up shooting for four years and terrible battles that can almost overflow memory.<br/><br/>As a rule, Catton will emphasize strategy with quotes and description - he has a dialog after Sharpsburg/Antietam that may out-Shelby Mr Foote.<br/><br/>I think I will now audit and re-audit Catton and Foote, if only because we may yet again be running out of compromises.

9 of 12 people found this review helpful

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Demonstration Why History Should Be Studied

The Coming Fury: The Centennial History of the Civil War, Volume 1 (of 3), by Bruce Catton, Narrated By Nelson Runger. A1960s, deep and rewarding dive into the pre, contemporary and post-civil war political milieu. In this, the first part of the three-book series, Mr. Catton provides an understanding of the political scene occurring at the time of the Civil War that can easily be comprehended, and then applied to today’s party-political shenanigans.

The Coming Fury, starts with a discussion of the turmoil at the 1860 Democratic and Republican presidential nominating conventions. It then goes on to talk about President Buchanan's final days in office, the simmering of the antagonism in the U.S. between slave permitting and slave prohibited states, and their populations. We examine Abraham Lincoln’s initial days in office, including both his naivete and his inner cunning, and go on to study the first exchanges of war between the North and the South. We study the battles from Fort Summer to the first Battle of Bull Run (Manassas). Does it read well? My answer is that once you pick the book up you will find it difficult to put it aside until you read all it has to offer.

As a result, you can read the trials and tribulations of our 150 years ago politicians and get a broad understanding of how politicians work. 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 political competence and strong courageous leadership as well. In this book, The Coming Fury, though, we only get a display of ineffectual politicians; and a strong hint that in the second of the series, Terrible Swift Sword, we will learn more of the shrewd and the successful. This series is so good, I’m going to read all three.

There are two superior ossuaries on the civil war. This three-book series and Shelby Foote’s comparative three book tombs, on the Civil War. Here you learn more of the politics. In Mr. Foote’s magnificent study, you learn of the war and its battles. Read either, read both. In either or both cases, your will be entertained, engrossed in thoughtful historical learning, and better able to understand politics and strife. In either case, the writers demonstrate brilliance unleashed; telling a tale of an epidemic of atrocities. Herodotus initiated humanity into the benefit of studying history. These two men, Catton and Foote, are the penultimate writers of the history of the U.S. Civil War.

1 of 1 people found this review helpful