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A narrative history of the American Civil War, which covers not only the battles and the troop movements but also the social background that brought on the war and led, in the end, to the South's defeat. A narrative history of the American Civil War, which covers not only the battles and the troop movements but also the social background that brought on the war and led, in the end, to the South's defeat.


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A narrative history of the American Civil War, which covers not only the battles and the troop movements but also the social background that brought on the war and led, in the end, to the South's defeat. A narrative history of the American Civil War, which covers not only the battles and the troop movements but also the social background that brought on the war and led, in the end, to the South's defeat.

30 review for The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox

  1. 5 out of 5

    Richard

    Shelby Foote writes, in the afterward section of this, the third volume of his monumental history of the Civil War, how relieved he was to finally finish this labor of love after researching and writing for twenty years. A literary effort begun to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War ended long after, in his description, the centennial enthusiasm had dried up. True, a centennial celebration itself fizzles out, otherwise we, or rather our descendants, would never eventually get re-excited Shelby Foote writes, in the afterward section of this, the third volume of his monumental history of the Civil War, how relieved he was to finally finish this labor of love after researching and writing for twenty years. A literary effort begun to commemorate the centennial of the Civil War ended long after, in his description, the centennial enthusiasm had dried up. True, a centennial celebration itself fizzles out, otherwise we, or rather our descendants, would never eventually get re-excited about a bi- and a tri- and on and on .. centennial. I'm not sure Foote is implying with this statement that Civil War enthusiasm waned after the mid-1960's, but if it took a dip, it was only temporary. Thanks to Foote and others, including Ken Burns, the American Civil War continues to fascinate generations of readers. It isn't necessary to read the three volumes of Shelby Foote's "The Civil War" in order, but my experience from doing so imparted the feeling that I had been exposed to the whole grand majestic scope of this struggle. Foote is all-inclusive in his choice of the war's significant struggles. His motive is revealed literally on the last page of prose (page 1065) in which he states that his writing aim was to provide a "more fitting balance" than many histories provide, by showing the patient reader how the actions outside the state of Virginia, vaguely labeled as in "the West", had no less importance to the war's outcome than the well-known battles such as Gettysburg and Chancellorsville. Foote shows how these geographically wide pieces fit into the 1864 puzzle in his first chapter, aptly titled "Another Grand Design". In the spring of that year, another recently-appointed Union commanding general, Ulysses Grant, launched a multi-pronged attack designed to hit the Confederate forces in numerous locations ranging West-to-East from Arkansas to Virginia. The greatest Union concentration of forces, personally accompanied by Grant, was the Army of the Potomac, which had had three years of up-and-down morale as various of Grant's predecessors tried to crack the nut of opposition to Robert E. Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. All of these various conflicts occurring on land and water are narrated by Foote, who never loses the magic touch of making you feel the gravity of the struggle between blue-and butternut-clad armies, while making the reading experience compelling. As we know in retrospect, the time period covered in this third volume parallels the long, painful series of events leading to the Confederate downfall. Not that anyone knew for sure what the outcome would be, or when it would occur, as Grant started his spring, 1864 invasion. He may have been the national hero of Donelson, Shiloh and Vicksburg in the Western theater, but he was up against the best general in the Civil War now. With Grant, Lee continued his pattern of keeping his forces from being smashed by larger Union armies, while always inflicting heavier casualties against his opponent. Grant found himself being set up on numerous occasions for a smashing blow from Lee which would force him to withdraw from the field; he countered these sometimes surprising threats by "sidling" his army eastward across Virginia in a campaign we now know as "The Forty Days", as violent, bloody clashes occurred from The Wilderness, to Spotsylvania and Cold Harbor. Foote graphically describes the "concentrated terror" of one terrible day, when the struggle at the "Bloody Angle" at Spotsylvania involved fighting by both sides across a parapet at literally arms' length, a "waking nightmare" going on for sixteen hours, a defense as much as it was an attack by either side, where neither victory nor defeat mattered, and fighting continued on and on, under the influence of pure adrenalin, and "Slaughter became an end in itself" (p. 221). This one day resulted in 3000 Confederate soldiers captured, killed or wounded compared with 6820 of their enemy. And this day followed numerous others already involving many thousands of casualties on each side, to be followed by many more. Lee would somehow be able to block Grant again and again, in order to protect Richmond, the Confederate Capital. The cost of constant attrition of his forces during the spring, summer and fall of that year would find the two armies facing each other outside Richmond, at Petersburg. By November, Lee knew he was on the verge of calamity because his forces were spread very thin, and there were no more reinforcements to be had. Grant would continue to plan for the breakthrough that would send Lee's forces reeling from their intrenched positions, and it was provided by one of his most aggressive generals, Phil Sheridan, whose thrust at Five Forks on April 1st, 1865 tarnished the reputation of George Picket and began the unravelling of Lee's defenses. One of the Civil War's most dramatic chapters occurred while the Confederate government abandoned Richmond, beginning its itinerant railroad journey to avoid being captured, while Lee evacuated his army westward in the long-shot attempt to get the survivors of his forces to meet with General Johnston's army in North Carolina. Foote shows how Lee and his exhausted army never considered giving up trying to keep the fight going until Grant's relentless pushing of his forces finally boxed in the Confederates at Appomattox Courthouse. There were other Confederate forces still in the field, but Foote makes it clear how Lee's April 9th surrender gave really no alternative to the holdouts, forcing Richard Taylor to surrender his army of the Department of Alabama, Mississippi and East Louisiana to Federal General Canby, and Johnston to surrender his army of the Department of North and South Carolina and Georgia to William T. Sherman. Meanwhile, President Jefferson Davis was pursuing the hope of some kind of Confederate government-on-the-run survival, moving from town to town with his cabinet, on the Danville and Richmond Railroad, as cabinet members gradually gave up the cause and bugged out of Davis' retinue. Foote, a Southerner sensitive to the not-so sympathetic treatment given to Davis' memory by historians, documents the treatment and mistreatment received by the forever unrepentant leader from his capture in Georgia, to his long, harsh imprisonment and beyond. The war bestowed two legacies to Americans. Regarding the first, Foote notes the struggles Abraham Lincoln had in uniting what remained of the remainder of the United States in order to militarily recover the section that had departed, living to see this goal fulfilled, but not living long enough to observe how his returning veterans realized that a nation emerged from the crucible of strife. He writes: "They knew now they had a nation, for they had seen it; they had been there, they had touched it, climbed its mountains, crossed its rivers ....their comrades lay buried in its soil, along with many thousands of their own arms and legs." (p. 1042). The second legacy directly affected the southern veterans, who would also be part of the new nation but would claim membership in a new country south of the Mason-Dixon line; as their claim to nationhood through secession was denied, they claimed unity through pride in enduring a terrible war, the end of which was marked by a villification of their former leaders as instruments of Lucifer, and which was followed by the societal disruptions of Reconstruction and its aftermath. As Foote states: "Not secession but the war itself, and above all the memories recurrent through the peace that followed - such as it was - created a Solid South, more firmly united in defeat than it had been during the brief span when it claimed independence." (p. 1042). Why bother studying History, especially the Civil War? Because, otherwise, it is impossible to understand the difference, to paraphrase Shelby Foote, between "the United States are" and "the United States is" (p. 1042).

  2. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    I want to do this... Because I just finished this... And it makes me feel like this... But then my elation is tempered and I'm humbled when I remember this ... First off, an apology in advance. I'm not going to give this series of books the analysis it deserves. I realize this is a generalized, low-effort review but I'm afraid that that's the way most of them are going to be from now on, as I have to put my mental exert I want to do this... Because I just finished this... And it makes me feel like this... But then my elation is tempered and I'm humbled when I remember this ... First off, an apology in advance. I'm not going to give this series of books the analysis it deserves. I realize this is a generalized, low-effort review but I'm afraid that that's the way most of them are going to be from now on, as I have to put my mental exertions elsewhere. The upshot is: if you want a gripping, highly readable, comprehensive overarching view of the war, this is the place to go. Is it the only place to go? No. But these books finally put the whole war into perspective for me, and now I can proceed to more specialized or focused treatments of particular aspects of the conflict and know where those events place into the larger picture. I don't know the actual number hours I spent on Shelby Foote's magnum opus of the American Civil War. It was somewhere between 180 hours on the low end and 240 hours on the high. Scaling and descending this Mount Everest of publishing -- which took Foote two decades to complete -- entailed a traversal of three brick-thick volumes of 3,000 pages and 1.2 million words. I kept at it relentlessly, every day, for weeks, reading the physical books, the PDFs when I was at the computer, and the Grover Gardner superbly narrated unabridged audiobooks on Playaway MP3 devices from the public library when doing other things -- just to keep the narrative threads going and the momentum chugging. It's a credit to author Foote that, as exhausting as this exercise was, I was never bored and never reluctant to plunge right back in again and resume the tale. The canvas was just too rich and vast, dramatic, horrifying, deeply moving and heart-wrenching. There is a place for the Dunes and the Lord of the Rings and the Game of Thrones franchises of the world of lit, with their epic labyrinthine stories of violence and quests and wars and politics. But here, in these bristling and vivid pages, we have all those kinds of things in real life: a vast saga of inconceivable suffering and terror, bravery and fear, irony and incongruity. In so many cases, the stories of the Civil War are often stranger than fiction. It's the story of the kings, the rooks, the knights and the pawns, but also of the pieces that have no place on the battlefield, who have been dragged into the fray anyway in this template of future total wars. This third volume covers the titanic events of 1864-1865, with the undermanned and under-provisioned Confederacy still pulling unexpected tricks from its sleeve and the Federal North finally gaining painfully won victories from its grinding attrition warfare -- the kind of wins where you lose more men than the foe you supposedly beat. Grant finally takes charge of the Union effort to bring to it the strategic uniformity it has so far lacked and to goad his martinet underlings to work in concert to pull it off. The most fruitful of Grant's command allies was, of course, the fascinating William Tecumseh Sherman, the complicated, effusive and ruthless exponent of total warfare. I'd previously seen documentaries and read several books on the war, but have only now come to feel the Shakespearean tragic dimension that Foote brings to his comprehensive treatment. For the first time, too, I have a solid chronological grasp and moving map of the whole war in my inner mental library that I can access when placing events in context. As good as it is, there are some minor quibbles in this volume. One is Foote's Southern-apologist-bent dismissal of the seriousness of the Fort Pillow massacre -- a war crime still hotly debated among Civil War buffs. I chose to take his interpretation with a grain of salt and move on. Another is his insertion of a soldier's diary entry stating: "I am killed," that apparently has never had a verified source provenance. It's quite likely that Foote conjured some of his novel-writing skills for the sake of drama and brevity: to distill the essence into such cobbled bits of poetic license. Civil War buffs of the anal retentive variety (and there are quite a few of those out there) will be more outraged at such things than I am. These are the kind of guys who serve hardtack at Civil War reenactments and complain that the crackers aren't hard enough to break their teeth or don't have the right number of surface indentations on them. They can't see the Nathan Bedford Forrest for the trees, if you will. (Sorry, just had to.) What really struck me, too, while reading these volumes was the stubborn vehemence and faith-based intransigence of the Southern cause and its adherents. So many of the things they said and did in the face of contradictory facts have the same delusional qualities as the stuff peddled by today's elites and their Republican political minions, fomenting strife and tearing the common civil fabric with their political "Southern Strategy" of the last several decades -- basically stirring up the same kind of partisan nonsense and divisional hatreds that the country had once successfully buried. And now we have half the country at each other's necks again. Divide and conquer and follow the money, folks. History repeats, as we know, and it helps to understand the particulars, the context and the continuum. What one feels, ultimately, after reading these behemoth books is an overwhelming sense of the sheer suffering this war caused. A sense, I say, because to put it any other way would be presumptuous and even insulting. Reading about these things in the comfort of your own home is a world away from what these men and women went through. It's a testament to these books, I think, to say that I'd love to dive right into them again in a heartbeat and spend another 200 hours with them. If you're lucky enough to obtain them and have the time to do so, these volumes will provide one of the most rewarding reading experiences of your lifetime. -- kr/eg 2019 Credits: **Civil War graveyard photo was taken at Cave Hill Cemetery, Louisville, KY (my hometown) and is attributed to TripAdvisor and credited as required. **Old soldiers photo is attributed to Associated Press and used on a fair-use comment/educational basis.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    Great sense of achievement after finally completing this series - Volume 1 took me most of February, Volume 2 April and now Volume 3 June. I now feel somewhat of an expert on the US Civil War from knowing almost nothing before I read Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson which set off my interest in the subject and started me on this series. It is a big commitment as all three books were 800+ pages and this one was over 1,000 but it is definitely worth the effort Great sense of achievement after finally completing this series - Volume 1 took me most of February, Volume 2 April and now Volume 3 June. I now feel somewhat of an expert on the US Civil War from knowing almost nothing before I read Rebel Yell: The Violence, Passion, and Redemption of Stonewall Jackson which set off my interest in the subject and started me on this series. It is a big commitment as all three books were 800+ pages and this one was over 1,000 but it is definitely worth the effort. I don't think you can properly understand America today without knowing this part of their history. My only criticism is that the books are so thorough that although the parts about the main characters such as Lincoln, Grant, Sherman for the North and Davis, Lee, Jackson for the South are absolutely fascinating, the myriad of other characters make it quite a long slog at times. But for that I would give the whole series 5 stars. Highly recommended. Next stop - Ron Chernow's book on Ulysses S Grant - Grant

  4. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    I have spend most of the last three weeks reading the 1,100-odd pages of Shelby Foote's The Civil War Volume III: Red River to Appomattox. I had mislaid the book for several years and was so delighted when I found it behind other books on a shelf that I began reading it at once. Unlike most of the other major histories of the Civil War, Foote's 3-volume series is written from he point of view of the Confederacy. I do not mean to imply that his history is biased. Rather, it covers the same ground I have spend most of the last three weeks reading the 1,100-odd pages of Shelby Foote's The Civil War Volume III: Red River to Appomattox. I had mislaid the book for several years and was so delighted when I found it behind other books on a shelf that I began reading it at once. Unlike most of the other major histories of the Civil War, Foote's 3-volume series is written from he point of view of the Confederacy. I do not mean to imply that his history is biased. Rather, it covers the same ground from a different viewpoint that most Northern versions do not and cannot have. On the last page of this volume, he writes:Perhaps in closing I might add that, although nowhere along the line have I had a “thesis” to argue or maintain -- partly no doubt because I never saw one yet that could not be “proved,” at least to the satisfaction of the writer who advanced it -- I did have one thing I wanted to do, and that was to restore a balance I found lacking in nearly all the histories composed within a hundred years of Sumter. In all too many of those works, long and short, foreign and domestic, the notion prevailed that the War was fought in Virginia, while elsewhere -- in an admittedly large but also rather empty region known vaguely as “the West” -- a sort of running skirmish wobbled back and forth, presumably in a way for its participants, faceless men with unfamiliar names, to pass the time while waiting for the issue to be settled in the East.Foote was true to his plan, and his history takes us from Sumter to Palmito Ranch, the last battle of the War, near Brownsville, Texas. This is a great history -- and a very long one. But it is told well by a master historian.

  5. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    The last in Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy, this one covers spring of 1864 through the end of the war. Foote's trilogy is a good reference for those who are looking for a thorough, sequential narration of the events of the Civil War. The series does not step back and analyze the events, so you don't really ever get a sense of the bigger picture or what the pivotal moments of the conflict were. These 3 volumes are a play-by-play, mostly of the battles, but also cover some of the politics in bot The last in Shelby Foote's Civil War trilogy, this one covers spring of 1864 through the end of the war. Foote's trilogy is a good reference for those who are looking for a thorough, sequential narration of the events of the Civil War. The series does not step back and analyze the events, so you don't really ever get a sense of the bigger picture or what the pivotal moments of the conflict were. These 3 volumes are a play-by-play, mostly of the battles, but also cover some of the politics in both Washington and Richmond. I found it valuable in that it helped me gain an understanding of the overall flow of the war and how the events unfolded.

  6. 4 out of 5

    Matt Brady

    towards the end of this massive trilogy foote shows a bit more of a sensitivity towards certain issues that he was maybe more ignorant of when he started. in the course of writing this series, foote lived through the civil rights era in the south, and i think it shows, particular in his comments about the awful failures of reconstruction. or maybe im just searching for things to validate why i enjoyed this series so much, which i did, despite foote's flaws and obvious sympathies for the confeder towards the end of this massive trilogy foote shows a bit more of a sensitivity towards certain issues that he was maybe more ignorant of when he started. in the course of writing this series, foote lived through the civil rights era in the south, and i think it shows, particular in his comments about the awful failures of reconstruction. or maybe im just searching for things to validate why i enjoyed this series so much, which i did, despite foote's flaws and obvious sympathies for the confederate cause. i think it is very much worth reading. i doubt you'll find a better, more detailed narrative of the war from beginning to end, and as long a you keep a critical eye towards the author's biases i think there's a lot of value to a work like this.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Alex

    Shelby Foote's Narrative is sometimes called the "American Illiad," and that name fits well for a war saga that is nearly endless, seamlessly blends history and mythology, glows from the page with epic and overblown language. Foote also shares Homer's focus on particular 'hero' characters and their duels, though unlike Hector and Achilles these champions are presidents and commanding officers rather than superhuman warriors. I didn't realize until near the end of this final segment, when the fin Shelby Foote's Narrative is sometimes called the "American Illiad," and that name fits well for a war saga that is nearly endless, seamlessly blends history and mythology, glows from the page with epic and overblown language. Foote also shares Homer's focus on particular 'hero' characters and their duels, though unlike Hector and Achilles these champions are presidents and commanding officers rather than superhuman warriors. I didn't realize until near the end of this final segment, when the final chapter about Jefferson Davis titled "Lucifer in Starlight" gave away the game, that it's also America's "Paradise Lost," an explanation and apologia for the rebellion itself and for its chieftain, whose reputation has not been as thoroughly resurrected and burnished as those of the Confederacy's mere military leaders and soldiers. For myself, I couldn't help but laugh at the martyr treatment Davis received through his imprisonment and brief but humiliating shackeling and separation from his family. Perhaps if the "cruel" Union commander had also had him whipped and sold his children down the river . . . Shelby Foote is no "Lost Causer," freely admitting that the South lost fair-and-square and at least gently mocking those who see it otherwise. Nor does he deny the centrality of slavery to the causes of the war, even as he generally whitewashes this chapter of American history whose public understanding he shaped in the middle and late 20th Century. He does, however, by omission and commission, seek to exonerate some of the Confederacy's most evil men, such as Henry Wirz, the commandant of the nightmarish Andersonville prison, Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the most talented military leaders in US history but also the mass murderer (exonerated unconvincingly by Foote) of surrendering United States Colored Troops and the founder (ignored by Foote) of the Ku Klux Klan. In fact, the Klan doesn't exist in Foote's telling of the fall of Reconstruction, which he blames squarely on President Grant's supposedly weak and corrupt administration (Ron Chernow's new book Grant addresses this historical 'conventional wisdom' from the perspective of an actual historian) and not at all on Southern white supremacist terrorism. Foote loves the soldiers and the men who led them, militarily and politically, on both sides of the divide between "The United States of America" and "The South." The same talent for storytelling and anecdote that makes his part in Ken Burns' documentary so rich, and which might oddly enough be a bit Lincolnian, shines through. His writing, which often matches sentences and paragraphs, is endearing though tedious, and gives an air of the 19th Century with its famously convoluted and pompous language. But Foote's drive is to exonerate the white south, and particularly those of its leaders who found temporary success at statecraft or on the battlefield, and that rankles the modern eye with its fuller appreciation for the horrors of slavery that the Confederacy's successes prolonged and its leaders grew rich from. As the title makes clear, this is narrative rather than documented history. There's no reason to read it if you haven't read the first two sections, and no reason to read them at all unless you're deeply interested in how white southerners see the war. But as an oral history put in writing, Shelby's Narrative is a monument to how white southerners (those not wallowing in Lost Causism or open white supremacy) tend to remember the war.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Christopher

    Amazing! Stupendous! Incredibly enjoyable! Shelby Foote finishes his mammoth three volume narrative of the American Civil War with amazing erudition and, at times, passionate prose. Despite it being longer in length than his two predecessors, Foote manages to balance his switching from fast battle narrative to slow detail-bogged passages better than the first two volumes. He also has some of the best and most moving chronicles out of all the volumes in this one volume. Of particular note are the Amazing! Stupendous! Incredibly enjoyable! Shelby Foote finishes his mammoth three volume narrative of the American Civil War with amazing erudition and, at times, passionate prose. Despite it being longer in length than his two predecessors, Foote manages to balance his switching from fast battle narrative to slow detail-bogged passages better than the first two volumes. He also has some of the best and most moving chronicles out of all the volumes in this one volume. Of particular note are the fight in the bloody angle at the battle of Spotsylvania, a full account of Lincoln's last day and final moments, and a few pages at the end describing the feelings that some of the soldiers had at the ending of the war (just before he ends the book about what Jefferson Davis did after the war) which is easily recognizable to any fan of Ken Burn's documentary of the Civil War. As with the other volumes though, this should not be read if you do not have the longevity and endurance necessary to read it and without having read the previous two volumes first. But, if you do, then you will have gained a greater appreciation for what Mr. Foote calls THE central event in American history, if not in world history.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    In finishing this book, I have completed one of the great reading experiences of my life to date. As in the previous two volumes, Shelby Foote's ability to render a general yet hugely informative history of the Civil War is simply astounding. On a par with his skills as a general historian, he brings to bear all of his skills as a fine novelist in presenting the narrative of the war. In a volume exceeding a thousand pages, he is able to bring the reader to tears, to take the reader's breath, to In finishing this book, I have completed one of the great reading experiences of my life to date. As in the previous two volumes, Shelby Foote's ability to render a general yet hugely informative history of the Civil War is simply astounding. On a par with his skills as a general historian, he brings to bear all of his skills as a fine novelist in presenting the narrative of the war. In a volume exceeding a thousand pages, he is able to bring the reader to tears, to take the reader's breath, to provide passages of such eloquence that one must re-read them again and again. One comes away from finishing this last volume of the trilogy with a sense of accomplishment, of having had the privilege to read one of the great works of American literature. The trilogy is very much more than a history book. From the dip pen of Shelby Foote, history becomes literature. This is not an easy thing for an author to accomplish, particularly on this scale. Shelby Foote has accomplished it and the reader, at the conclusion of this third volume, can take pride in having been there with him for each and every word.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Kevan Dale

    What an experience it’s been to read this complete narrative—very much a high point in my love of in-depth history. The real payoff of Foote’s outstanding portrayal and presentation of the American Civil War comes in this final volume, for all that I adore the two previous books. Having lived with the primary players—Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee, Davis, Longstreet, etc.—throughout the explosive first years of the war, painted so vividly by Foote’s eye for the telling details of character, by his What an experience it’s been to read this complete narrative—very much a high point in my love of in-depth history. The real payoff of Foote’s outstanding portrayal and presentation of the American Civil War comes in this final volume, for all that I adore the two previous books. Having lived with the primary players—Lincoln, Grant, Sherman, Lee, Davis, Longstreet, etc.—throughout the explosive first years of the war, painted so vividly by Foote’s eye for the telling details of character, by his exacting tracing of the tides of battle, by the clear-eyed examination of the political and personal burdens borne by these leaders, the culmination of the war rings with the thrill, drama, and pathos worthy of such decisive human events. While history, it’s said, is biography, Foote places the lives of these individuals—and the lives of those who fought the battles, bore the horrors of slavery, tore up the railways and cut the telegraph wires, steered public opinion and political will, mourned the dead—in a context that underscores his understanding of the Civil War as the pivotal event in the story of America. The beauty of Foote’s writing left startling impressions with me, so deftly did he bring the sweep of the war to life. Dawn breaking over a crossroads as an army pushes through the end of a long night march. The chaos of a naval bombardment. Richmond smoldering. The terror of those in front of Sherman’s army. I thrilled at the nuanced, strained minuet in the parlor of the McLean house in Appomattox Court House; I wept in Ford’s Theatre.   A magnificent historical narrative.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Pedro

    What a great conclusion to this narrative. Shelby Foote did such a great job keeping the narration balanced on both sides, and engaging. The combination of the three books is rather lengthy, and had I spent the time to review the maps at the same time, I probably would have enjoyed it even more. Even as it was being narrated, I found the ending of this pivotal war to be bittersweet, and I genuinely felt sorry for the south. I loved this quote from Ulysses S. Grant at the surrender of Robert E. Le What a great conclusion to this narrative. Shelby Foote did such a great job keeping the narration balanced on both sides, and engaging. The combination of the three books is rather lengthy, and had I spent the time to review the maps at the same time, I probably would have enjoyed it even more. Even as it was being narrated, I found the ending of this pivotal war to be bittersweet, and I genuinely felt sorry for the south. I loved this quote from Ulysses S. Grant at the surrender of Robert E. Lee's army, "I felt like anything rather than rejoicing at the downfall of a foe who had fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought." The ingenuity displayed by the South was remarkable, but the sheer power and numbers of the North was ultimately their undoing. It's fascinating that such a significant event in America's history barely took more than four years.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Steve Scott

    I listened to portions of the audiobook and read portions of the book. This was the third and final book in Foote's classic trilogy. While reading it I perused some reviews of his work that were laudatory of his ability to provide an entertaining narrative. He's been criticized for the accuracy of his history, however. And both criticisms seem to be true to some extent. At one point in this volume he credits the death of Leonidas Polk to a colorful and skilled German born artillerist and Medal of I listened to portions of the audiobook and read portions of the book. This was the third and final book in Foote's classic trilogy. While reading it I perused some reviews of his work that were laudatory of his ability to provide an entertaining narrative. He's been criticized for the accuracy of his history, however. And both criticisms seem to be true to some extent. At one point in this volume he credits the death of Leonidas Polk to a colorful and skilled German born artillerist and Medal of Honor winner Hubert Dilger. This is disputed, and others claim the fatal shot was fired by an Indiana battery commanded by Captain Peter Simonsen. Dilger is the more dashing and picturesque character, but the argument seems to be on the side of the Hoosier. Simonsen, incidentally, was killed two days after Polk. In any case, throughout all three books, while he seems impartial in doling out criticisms of generals and politicians both North and South, he lets a bias creep in. He lionizes Nathan Bedford Forrest (who was undeniably capable on the battlefield), but skirts around the Fort Pillow massacre and his post war involvement in the KKK. As I mentioned in a review of Volume II he fails to mention the execution of wounded black soldiers at Olustee. We never hear about the abuses Pennsylvania civilians and free blacks (and the latter's re-enslavement) by Lee's men during the Gettysburg campaign. He doesn't address prison conditions (briefly mentioning the commandant of Andersonville was unjustly hanged), and he seems to try and give the impression that Jefferson Davis was, in the end, just a simple patriot. Ultimately I came away from it thinking that perhaps Foote was a "Lost Cause" advocate and an apologist for the South. I am totally opposed to such a world view. But for all that, this sweeping and engaging narrative brought me up to speed on the Civil War, giving me an appreciation of its scope, complexity, and destructiveness. I totally recommend this series. But don't stop with it. No other war in history has been written about as much as this one. You'd do yourself a disservice if you just read Foote. You'd do yourself a disservice if you didn't read him at all.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Fred

    This last volume of Shelby Foote's narrative history of the Civil War is massive. As well written as it is, as colorful and as moving, I can not imagine anyone being able to absorb everything even in this last volume. It starts with the little known "Red River" Campaign and continues to Appomattox. But, in truth, there are 100+ pages after Lee's surrender, as he chronicles each surrender the confederate made (there were at least four) and the capture of CSA President Jefferson Davis. Foote's com This last volume of Shelby Foote's narrative history of the Civil War is massive. As well written as it is, as colorful and as moving, I can not imagine anyone being able to absorb everything even in this last volume. It starts with the little known "Red River" Campaign and continues to Appomattox. But, in truth, there are 100+ pages after Lee's surrender, as he chronicles each surrender the confederate made (there were at least four) and the capture of CSA President Jefferson Davis. Foote's compelling motivation seems to have been to "tell the story" as clearly as possible to give dignity to those who lived it. His book is free of footnotes, references to other works or editorial comments. He is content to let the characters speak for themselves. Still, it is as accurate as a telling of the war could be. He takes us back to that world of handwritten notes, horses and companies turning the flank. It is a world of well known generals and little known soldiers, of self righteous politicians and freed slaves. Foote tells it all: land battles big and small, naval battles, political battles, personal battles. Anything that happened seems to have been fit to include. Looking back over 40 years it is interesting the choices he makes. Lincoln's assassination is told clearly but matter of factly. There is no biography of Booth. Yet there is a whole section about a renegade CSA naval ship that traveled the globe destroying whale ships and avoiding capture -- all after Lee's surrender. Jefferson Davis bookends the whole three volume wok. He is the opening character in volume one and he is the last word some 2500 pages later in volume three. The book is an achievement, a narrative so complex it is astounding to see Foote handle it. I admit the battle scenes were confusing as I kept getting the officers mixed up. And I would say that the more you know about the war the more you will enjoy this valuable narrative.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Matt Peterson

    It took just over 2 years off and on to get through Shelby Foote's Civil War and for the most part the experience was very enjoyable. As a battle by battle, engagement by engagement, raid by raid recount of the Civil War from beginning to end it holds up and I give it a 5/5. Well written, and easy to follow. The audio narration was solid as well. The task can be daunting but Foote does a good job of pulling together the entire war in all theaters. The book is not without flaws though. Criticisms It took just over 2 years off and on to get through Shelby Foote's Civil War and for the most part the experience was very enjoyable. As a battle by battle, engagement by engagement, raid by raid recount of the Civil War from beginning to end it holds up and I give it a 5/5. Well written, and easy to follow. The audio narration was solid as well. The task can be daunting but Foote does a good job of pulling together the entire war in all theaters. The book is not without flaws though. Criticisms against Foote are well documented by people who know a lot more about this stuff than I do. I personally thought that Foote over romanticized the South and the Southern leaders at points throughout all 3 volumes. Also, if you want the whole story of the war, you are in for a ton of reading and might be better served by something like Battle Cry of Freedom. I think the payoff is there and if you can look past Foote's perspective I think it's worth your time.

  15. 4 out of 5

    carl theaker

    Have often returned to a chapter or two for reference, re-piqued interest from a TV show, or say when we biked around the Vicksburg battle field one summer. The interviews with Shelby Foote in Ken Burns' Civil War series were fascinating. Inspired, a girlfriend, who was from Mississippi, gave me a volume for each of the next holidays, birthday's etc. These books read like novels, hard to stop once you get going, even though yeah we know how it ends. Can't endorse this series enough. I'll read the Have often returned to a chapter or two for reference, re-piqued interest from a TV show, or say when we biked around the Vicksburg battle field one summer. The interviews with Shelby Foote in Ken Burns' Civil War series were fascinating. Inspired, a girlfriend, who was from Mississippi, gave me a volume for each of the next holidays, birthday's etc. These books read like novels, hard to stop once you get going, even though yeah we know how it ends. Can't endorse this series enough. I'll read them again when I have the time.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Chungsoo Lee

    In the beginning of the audio book for this Volume III, Ken Burns provides a wonderful intro. He refers to the futility of war and the dark era that followed in which the wealthy freely wheeling their power to the detriment of American people and economy and how the African-Americans continued to struggle for their freedom in the subsequent Jim Crow era. Shelby Foote does not go there. After more than 1,200 hours of narration (superbly done by Grover Gardner) it becomes clear that the American C In the beginning of the audio book for this Volume III, Ken Burns provides a wonderful intro. He refers to the futility of war and the dark era that followed in which the wealthy freely wheeling their power to the detriment of American people and economy and how the African-Americans continued to struggle for their freedom in the subsequent Jim Crow era. Shelby Foote does not go there. After more than 1,200 hours of narration (superbly done by Grover Gardner) it becomes clear that the American Civil War was not waged to free the slaves but to squash the rebellion in the South, asserting the States rights to hold slaves. Throughout the 4 years of war--waged unnecessarily and unexpectedly too long, as all wars are--the dominant reason for the war was to save the Union (for the North) and to preserve the States' sovereignty and (ultimate) independence (for the South). The political justification and rhetoric remains still the same: We go to war (Iraq and else) to preserve the US sovereignty; or we oppose Obama Care to assert the States' sovereignty. Nothing has changed. The American Civil War is a tragedy, particularly because it divided families, friends, and the old comrades. Lincoln's wife's family members, for example, fought for the Confederate Army. Both the "bluecoat" and the "butternut" generals, leading the armies against the other, were all West Point graduates, including Ulysses Grant and Robert Lee. There was no reason to fight. But they did--bitterly--once a blood was shed at Fort Sumter, South Carolina, in April 1861. As the casualty rose, the stronger the resolve became from each side against the other. Had they known the cost in advance (well over 1 million total casualties, including death due to illness, in more than ten thousand military engagements), they would not have began the War. But once it began, it had to be fought to the bitter end. "You fight to win, and you win by killing," one captain said to his disbelieving family members. And the needless destructions that Sherman's and Sheridan's armies brought to the South--in order to deprive the South the chance to ever rise up again in arms, only to be rebuilt later in the Reconstruction ear. It would not be too much of an exaggeration to say that the American Civil War was fought in two rivers: Mississippi and Rappahannock. The siege and capture of Vicksburg tilted the war agains the South for inevitable defeat. The skirmish on and around Rappahannock between the Army of the Potomac and that of the Northern Virginia defined the stalemate that lasted for the much of the duration of the War. The War could have had a different outcome, had Robert Lee's daring campaign to bring the War to the Northern soil, Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, succeeded. Due to a blunder in communication, the cavalry unit that Lee counted on arrived a day late, causing the battle to tip in favor of the lukewarm Northern general George Meade. Another prior blunder costed the South dearly, when the aggressive and cunning "old fox" General Lee lead the proud Army of the Northern Virginia to attack the Army of Potomac with the aim of reaching Washington, DC. This time too a careless captain or messenger roled his cigar with the paper on which Lee's strategy and military instructions were written, which in turn was accidentally discarded and ended up in the hands of a Northern soldier. Knowing the enemy's plan in advance, it was easy for George McLellan to out do Robert Lee, not withstanding the superior force and resources McLellan had. Such was the bitter luck of the South; but such incidental things often determine the outcome of wars. Just as the War was shaped by incidental factors, Lincoln's second term election too was determined by the unpredictable battle results from the fields. Lincoln owes his second term presidency to Sheridan's victory in the Shenandoah Valley. Without it, Lincoln would have been soundly defeated (by his former General McCellan, who, beloved by soldiers, was fired by Lincoln) for prolonging the war so long. (A good part of the delay was due to Lincoln's military interference with his General and McClellan's and (later) George Meade's inaptitude for sound military ventures). Lincoln almost did not go to participate in the memorial event at the Gettysburg cemetery on November 19, 1863. He was only a secondary speaker to the main orator of the day, Edward Everett, who delivered a resounding 2 hour oration. Lincoln's speech was so short in contrast that the photographer did not even have enough time to set up his tripod to take a picture of him delivering the now famous speech. Drawing from a supporter's letter he read a day before, Lincoln wrote down a few words on a scratch paper on his train ride to Gettysburg. But in a short 272 word speech he elevated the war to the lofty height of the ideal: that the war was waged for the people's government, just the way the Constitution that begins, "We the people...," would have us believe. Lincoln had the uncanny ability to elevate the struggle to a new height. In his address to the Congress, he presented the war in his eloquent words as a struggle for abolition of slavery solidly grounded on the lofty universal and moral principles of humanity. He knew that only the language of moral height and conviction could justify the war and mobilize the support for the prolonging war. The celebrated Emancipation Proclamation (January 1863) aims at creating military advantage for the North and not as much at liberating the slaves in the South. It proclaims freedom only for those slaves who would rise up against their owners in the South to join the federal army. Until the 14th Amendment was ratified in July 1868, reaffirming the full citizenship regardless of race and guaranteeing the due process of law for all citizens, nothing codified the freedom of the slaves nationally or otherwise. Even after the 14th Amendment, the struggle of the Negros continued, as it still does. If Robert Lee was a military fox in the South, Lincoln was his counter part in politics in the North. For example, he out maneuvered a group of Senators who wanted to sack his Secretary of State, William H. Seward, unbeknownst to Lincoln, for prolonging the war. The way Lincoln out did them should be written in the manual of political art for generations of politicians to emulate. But Lincoln should be remembered as one of the greatest in American history for his patience, the patience exercised through the long and difficult years of the war and through his wife's erratic mood swings. His untimely death on April 15, 1865, a few days after Lee's surrender on April 9, memorialized him to eternity but also undercut the Reconstruction of the South, ushering in the era of the rampant corruption of American politics and businesses, the era of to what Mark Twain called "the Gilded Age." But it was Lincoln's spirit of tolerance and compassion, conveyed to General Grant during a brief meeting held only a few days or weeks prior to the assassination, that went a long way to a peaceful surrender. There were some great soldiers in the South: Stonewall Jackson, Albert Sidney Johnston, and others. They were gallant men who did not fear death. They fought because they were soldiers and nothing else. Ulysses Grant, though a great general, was lousy as President. Robert Lee and Jefferson Davis (the first and only Confederate President) embodied the southern chivalry and gallantry. Sheridan who brought a victory for Lincoln to win his second term applied his great military skills after the War to killing the Indians, proudly declaring: "The only good Indians are dead Indians." As Shelby Foote notes, the only tangible benefit the nation reaped from the War was the sense of the indivisible one nation. The soldiers had the taste of the lands, rivers, and mountains all over the South. The sons of Ohio, for example, died in battle and were buried in Tennessee; and vice versa. But was it all worth it? Is war the mother of all things, as Heraclitus said? War is futile. It is nothing but administration, a matter of obtaining and allocating resources and of achieving the end in the most efficient way. But we must remember, as Levinas reminds us, that there were alters before there were wars.

  17. 5 out of 5

    H.R.R. Gorman

    Ok, if you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to go back and read Part I and Part II of this review series. It explains part of why this is going to be really screwed up. Finally, this volume seems to show a more Union-sympathetic version of the Civil War. By the end of Part II, the writing is on the wall and the hopes of the Confederacy are doomed to reliance upon foreign intervention, which Lincoln effectively stymies by forcing the war to publicly seem about slavery (openly – it was, in real Ok, if you haven’t read it yet, I encourage you to go back and read Part I and Part II of this review series. It explains part of why this is going to be really screwed up. Finally, this volume seems to show a more Union-sympathetic version of the Civil War. By the end of Part II, the writing is on the wall and the hopes of the Confederacy are doomed to reliance upon foreign intervention, which Lincoln effectively stymies by forcing the war to publicly seem about slavery (openly – it was, in reality, always about slavery). As a result, the painful, bloody slog through the Wilderness, Cold Harbor, and all the way to Appomattox came off like uselessly forced bloodshed by a government that should have known it was over. When Lee surrendered his army, his men were passing out from starvation. He didn’t have enough soldiers left to reopen lines of supply, and all he could do was watch as the unconscious men he was leaving behind were taken as prisoner. That being said, the cost to the Union was incredibly high, and the victories forced by Grant were often paid for in blood that he felt he could waste. Something about Grant’s lack of concern for his soldiers bugs me still. We’re not going to talk about Sherman because my hatred of that man will probably follow me to my grave and there’s nothing to convince me otherwise. There’s no point of me reviewing that part of the book. As well, the version of Lincoln seen in the previous books – sad, self-righteous, and scheming – finally seems to mellow. When he finally realized he is terrible at military strategy and decides to stop meddling in affairs of war, his focus turns to his talents: political organization, scheming (some of them – such as fixing an election in Kentucky – still seem brazenly immoral), and writing. He is eloquent, magnanimous, and a good choice for president in this short span of history. His death, which is expounded upon in the last chapter, is truly shown as an unpardonable evil and a grave misfortune for everyone. Simultaneously, the rabid Confederate sympathies of Jefferson Davis seem absolutely mad by the end of Volume III. Though he started out, in my not-so-impartial opinion, a better leader than his counterpart, as his “Cause” floundered, so did he. Though we may now remember Robert E. Lee as the most prominent Southern figure due to his astounding victories and, by all accounts, sheer genius, it seems Jefferson Davis was the better symbol of this period of terrible loss and quick change. He never gave up, not really, and his loss of honor and descent into poverty mirrored the government he’d tried to create.

  18. 4 out of 5

    William Guerrant

    That Shelby Foote could produce 3,000 pages of prose of this quality is one of the greatest achievements of American literature, let alone narrative history.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Steve Rust

    Foote is a genius. I and actually sad that this trilogy is finished. I feel like a close friend is moving away. Thanks S.F. for the time.

  20. 4 out of 5

    Logan Grant

    “Chaplain, do you think we shall be able to forget anything in heaven? I would like to forget those three years.” -Lt. George H. Wood, dying from a gunshot wound, 1865 The Civil War had by no means been a pleasant affair so far, but by 1864 the combat had escalated into a much grislier conflict. Innovations in armaments and tactics (particularly defensive tactics) had made engagements more deadly. Higher stakes and longer odds incited riskier maneuvers that claimed a greater cost in human life. Ab “Chaplain, do you think we shall be able to forget anything in heaven? I would like to forget those three years.” -Lt. George H. Wood, dying from a gunshot wound, 1865 The Civil War had by no means been a pleasant affair so far, but by 1864 the combat had escalated into a much grislier conflict. Innovations in armaments and tactics (particularly defensive tactics) had made engagements more deadly. Higher stakes and longer odds incited riskier maneuvers that claimed a greater cost in human life. Above all, the war was no longer a contest of maneuvers as George McClellan and others had envisioned. The concept of the war as a gentlemanly competition to move the enemy into a disadvantaged position and thereby compel him to surrender as bloodlessly as possible had no place in the mind of Ulysses Grant, who was now in charge of all Union armies. That isn’t to say that Grant simply didn’t care about losing soldiers. In his mind, the longer the conflict lasted, the more people who would end up suffering and dying. A swift conclusion to the war, even if very costly, would ultimately save lives. For his part, Robert E. Lee was nearly always fighting at a substantial disadvantage in soldiers and supplies but never seemed to hesitate to risk men and material to score a victory against what he saw as Union invaders. In the final volume of his massive narrative of the Civil War, Shelby Foote’s exemplary writing skills were as good as ever. They certainly needed to be, because the mental fatigue I suffered from having already read so many descriptions of military organizations and field movements caused the words to eventually just float from the page through my eyes and right out the back of my head without leaving a trace in my memory. The large battles were still vivid and engaging, but they were often crowded by numerous skirmishes that became a blur. It could have been my fatigue, but I noticed a great deal more skirmishes recounted in this volume than in others. Foote’s anecdotes and pacing had pulled me through in previous books but I seemed to end up trudging through lot of the less significant events in this one. That said, I do not think it was in any way a failure on Foote’s part to compose a thrilling narrative, or due to less than compelling events. I think I just had a lot more details than I could handle as a reader. People who have a special appreciation for military histories will love the thorough recounting of how units were organized, how they moved, where they were from, and all the rest. I have simply discovered where my threshold for such detail is. My mental fatigue notwithstanding, reading such a detailed military was beneficial for its own sake by providing greater awareness of how wars are actually fought. I take for granted that wars aren’t actually fought on paper and governed by rational consideration. I myself have often summarized the Civil War as a materially, logistically, and morally doomed rebellion that was justified by a regional answer to a nationally unresolved question. Because I am most interested in political, economic, and cultural issues I tend to subordinate other issues to them in terms of importance. When I do that (in this case), I neglect that the Civil War was ultimately resolved by warfare and so was above all a military issue. By breaking the war into its pieces and examining how they unfolded, I see how often the political, economic, and cultural forces didn’t determine the military outcome, but rather military outcomes determined political, economic, and cultural conditions. What I had previously noticed as Foote’s sympathetic approach to the Confederacy came across with more of a sheen in this volume. Throughout reading the series, I had a sense that the Confederacy was getting way more attention than the Union but was not treated any more critically. I set out at the beginning of this book to try to identify discrete examples. Aside from the usual omissions and one aggressive attempt at whitewashing, the primary disparity between Footes’s treatment of the Union and the Confederacy was in the depth with which he went into their successes. Whenever Confederate soldiers had a shining moment of courage or effectiveness, Foote would slow down and really build it up. On the other hand, several Union victories were disposed of brusquely by comparison. I don’t have an example that I can remember- and there are exceptions- but generally speaking, the Confederates were the stars of the show. The only substantial criticism that I have for the entire almost-3,000-page series is Foote’s treatment of the Fort Pillow Massacre. For those that don’t know, the massacre followed the Battle of Fort Pillow during which Confederate soldiers led by Nathan Bedford Forrest killed Union soldiers who were surrendering or had surrendered. The estimated fatality rate was exponentially higher among black soldiers than white. Foote’s attention to the matter was almost exclusively devoted to mitigating factors (although a fair disagreement could be had as to whether they could even be called ‘mitigating’) and trying to keep the stain off of Forrest, who Foote clearly favors. What truly astounded me was how Foote seemed to view Union “exploitation” of the massacre as propaganda by the vengeful Unionists as cynical. Another part of his perspective that I took issue with, but wouldn’t go so far as to criticize, was Foote’s lionizing of Jefferson Davis. Even accepting the rose-colored view of Davis’s actions during the War that Foote presents (Foote also presents a rosy portrait of Lincoln), I think the contrast between how Robert E. Lee and Jefferson Davis behaved after the Civil War is revealing. Lee, who gave everything he had to keeping the Confederacy’s hopes alive against overwhelming odds for so long, cannot be said to have believed in The Cause any less than Davis, who did the same as President of the Confederacy. When all was finally lost, however, Lee acknowledged defeat, accepted the end of the Confederacy, and encouraged others to do the same. Davis appears to have come to see himself as the living embodiment of The Cause and so resolved to conduct himself as such. As long as he was alive, he defiantly defended The Cause and (particularly) all of his actions as President. Davis made several public addresses which paid some superficial fealty to nationalism and reunification, but then would make completely contradictory allusions to the Confederacy’s return in the same speeches (on one occasion, with the very next sentence). Neither Lee nor Davis could have failed to see and mourn the devastation the War had brought to the South and its people (at least those people that they cared about). At the end of the War, Lee was by far more beloved than Davis by most Southerners. His admonition for soldiers to lay down their arms and comply with the terms of reunification was put into action by his own example. In my opinion, Davis’s mantle of the living embodiment of the Lost Cause was more about his ego than his devotion to the South. As he was spending his time writing his two-volume defense of his administration (that also set out to settle a few scores with his political enemies), the people of the South were suffering under harsh Reconstruction policies and Davis appeared to do nothing to help them. It would be one thing if, like Lee, he had simply dropped the fight and moved on with his life. Jefferson Davis never totally dropped the fight, and he never moved on with his life. He was fighting for a memory of the Confederacy in which he was a martyr, instead of fighting for the people who had made up the Confederacy. Foote must understand something about Davis that I fail to grasp, because I don’t see very much worth lionizing. In the Bibliographic Note after the narrative, Foote explains that he had no thesis or agenda that he was trying to advance. The only objective he had in writing his series was to tell what happened and not to neglect the significance of the campaigns and battles that took place west of Virginia. Foote’s books began being published in the 1970’s and, according to Foote, too many Civil War histories by then had placed too much importance on the battles between the Union Army of the Potomac and the Confederate Army of Northern Virginia. Foote states explicitly that he believes that the capture of Vicksburg was as important or more than Gettysburg in bringing about the defeat of the Confederacy. What Foote doesn’t have to explain, is that he approached his task with a reverence and compassion for every soldier that fought for either side. I think he tried to honor them above all, and that was an approach I can always respect.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Scott Umphrey

    I believe that Shelby Foote's three volume history of the civil war is the most masterfully written American history book ever. I believe that Shelby Foote's three volume history of the civil war is the most masterfully written American history book ever.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Ross

    Reread and rating changed from 3 to 4. More appreciated the 2nd time through. Another must read for all interested in American history. This trilogy is really the definitive history of the civil war presented in a very readable style. It has been criticized for omitting mention of some of the atrocities committed by both southern and northern troops, but this is not an important omission. Finally finishing once again (3rd time) the thousands of pages of this definitive history of our civil war. Reread and rating changed from 3 to 4. More appreciated the 2nd time through. Another must read for all interested in American history. This trilogy is really the definitive history of the civil war presented in a very readable style. It has been criticized for omitting mention of some of the atrocities committed by both southern and northern troops, but this is not an important omission. Finally finishing once again (3rd time) the thousands of pages of this definitive history of our civil war. So very well written. So sad for Americans to read. Volume III begins with Grant's move to the East to become the general in chief, the man to win the war. By chance this week the NATO forces ended combat roles in Afghanistan and the news clips pointed out the great sacrifice of 2,200 American dead during the course of 13 years of war. As a contrast, Grant marched south with his army to give General Lee serious battle. At Cold Harbor Virginia Grant attacked and in in 8 minutes 8,000 Americans were dead, Almost all of them Union soldiers. That is what serious war is about. At this point the course of the war changed for good. Before Grant marched south to fight Lee, six Federal generals had done the same, been whipped, and then retreated back north. It was assumed that Grant, having been whipped, would do the same and now retreat to the north. Instead Grant moved his army to the left to outflank Lee and attack again. Retreat by the North was over and the end of the war had begun. The South could not afford the losses in these battles and the North could afford them. It was now a war of siege and attrition that only the North could win. As it became apparent in the South that the war was lost there were some cries for peace with the Union and acceptance of the end of slavery. Claims that the war was not about slavery. This was immediately repudiated by the great major of Southerners saying "of course the war was about slavery, what other property do you think we were trying to preserve!" So the war continued. As it becomes more obvious that the South cannot possibly win, Jefferson Davis issues proclamations bordering on lunacy about how the Confederacy will now triumph. Quite reminiscent of Hitler in his bunker at the end. Davis truly hated the North and it is not clear why. It is hard to believe that he thought slavery a sacred moral right of the South, but perhaps so. Davis would never mention slavery per se, but simply the rights of the South. Finally at the end we have the always painful details of the Lincoln death bed in the shabby house across the street from Ford's theater. So tragic for our history. I have read this again 6/16 and now rate it 5 stars versus 4 stars at my first read. The entire trilogy is a masterpiece of historical writing. I really did not fully appreciate it the first time through.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Peter Smith

    The blurb on the cover of these books describes the series as an American Iliad which doesn't at all to me seem like an overstatement because I can't think of any other group of American books, fiction or non-fiction, that encompasses the scope of this series. The facts of the Civil War are pretty well documented throughout the 3000 pages or so that Foote has written but it's a testament to his writing ability that these books are such a compelling read. I found myself tearing up when he was des The blurb on the cover of these books describes the series as an American Iliad which doesn't at all to me seem like an overstatement because I can't think of any other group of American books, fiction or non-fiction, that encompasses the scope of this series. The facts of the Civil War are pretty well documented throughout the 3000 pages or so that Foote has written but it's a testament to his writing ability that these books are such a compelling read. I found myself tearing up when he was describing Lincoln's deathbed. Hell, I got a little misty reading about Jefferson Davis' death. Here's a great quote from the third book that gives you an idea how great, and darkly funny, Foote is as a writer: "Westward to the Mississippi and north to the Ohio, Confederates did what they could to offset the loss of Atlanta by harassing the supply lines that sustained its Federal occupation. John Morgan was not one of these, for two sufficient reasons. One was that his command had by no means recovered from its unauthorized early-summer excursion into Kentucky, which had cost him half of his 'terrible men,' along with at least a great a portion of what remained of a reputation already diminished by the collapse of his Ohio raid the year before. The other was that he was dead" Foote treats both sides fairly while acknowledging the weaknesses of both. If I had to find one fault about these books is that maybe Foote is leading the narrative here just a little bit. Certain figures seem to be constantly lauded (Lincoln, Lee, Grant, Sherman, Bedford Forrest) while others (politicians, most other Union generals) can't seem to do anything right. Not being an expert, I can't say that his opinions of these people aren't well-founded, but it just struck me as a possibility. I can't recommend these books enough. I would think that every American should read these books just to get an idea how close we were to splitting into two very different countries and, even with the ridiculous partisan battles that go on these days, how lucky we are that we are united.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Ralph Wark

    Just an amazing read, the trilogy taking almost as long a s the war itself to read...... I love this trilogy, all 3200 or so pages of it. My favorite part? No, not the intensive detail (Gettysburg takes as long to read as the battle did to fight), the personable style, with frequent uses of words like "practicable"), or the kind attention he gives to both sides. I love the fact that you feel what the people were feeling, This makes other histories seem like syllables. You know the events, but you Just an amazing read, the trilogy taking almost as long a s the war itself to read...... I love this trilogy, all 3200 or so pages of it. My favorite part? No, not the intensive detail (Gettysburg takes as long to read as the battle did to fight), the personable style, with frequent uses of words like "practicable"), or the kind attention he gives to both sides. I love the fact that you feel what the people were feeling, This makes other histories seem like syllables. You know the events, but you find out why they happened. Yes the Emancipation Proclamation did not free a single slave, but by making the war about slavery it kept Europe from recognizing the Confederacy. It goes into the prelude to war, why people did what they did, and what kind of people they were. Some admirable ( Lincoln, Lee, Davis) some not (Secretary Stanton, Mr. Toombs), non perfect, all fascinating. I found respect for James Longstreet, was ambivalent to Stone wall Jackson, and thought Gen. McClellan a good organizer and a bad general. What I loved about the books was that you knew what it was like to be there, you get the whole story of Lincoln's assassination, and the event we we told was the surrender at Appomatox took weeks to come about, with great deal of pursuit. There are so many personal details, you can perhaps understand some of the losses, men who die before they get to see their new child, or just before they marry, I think I understand what drove the war and how tragic it was. There is so much to this book that once you finish the surrender at Appomatox, there is the equivalent of a regular length book left to read. An example I love, first heard when I visited the Manassas battle site: A farmer named McLean had a farm that ended up in the middle of the battle, and he decided this way of life was not for hike, so he moved to a quite backwater near the Appomatox river. His house was selected as the site of the surrender negotiations, thus poor Mr. McLean was part orthopedist major engagement of the war and one of the last events. I love this stuff........

  25. 5 out of 5

    Afsi

    Disappointed with the clear bias for The Confederacy through out all three volumes, but especially in this last one! Superlative adjectives describing Lee, Jackson, Beauregard, Bedford Forest and others became hard to take in volume 3. He doesn’t even mention the deliberate massacre of black union troops by Confederate armies. Shelby Foote was a Southerner and his allegiances come through loud and clear. Also way too many details for each instance of Confederate victory while mocking and minimiz Disappointed with the clear bias for The Confederacy through out all three volumes, but especially in this last one! Superlative adjectives describing Lee, Jackson, Beauregard, Bedford Forest and others became hard to take in volume 3. He doesn’t even mention the deliberate massacre of black union troops by Confederate armies. Shelby Foote was a Southerner and his allegiances come through loud and clear. Also way too many details for each instance of Confederate victory while mocking and minimizing union generals like Grant, Sheridan, Sherman snd their successful strategies that ultimately destroyed the Confederacy. He glossed over Vicksburg, considered a brilliant battle won by Grant and the Union! The Civil war was hideous as are all wars, Mr. Foote does a good job of describing the horror. He clearly did an enormous amount of research and is a good writer, but I found some of the battles told in a bewildering amount of detail that lost the full picture. I read Ron Chernow’s excellent biography of Grant and found that book a much more balanced and clear retelling of many of the same incidents and battles. The Union suffered from a lack of competent military leadership on the early years of the war, but once Grant and Sherman emerge as leaders of the union armies, Confederacy’s days were over! And they knew it. I learned a lot about the Civil War from these 3 volumes but found some of the narrative painful and difficult to read. I ultimately came away disappointed with a retelling that is so clearly guided by the author’s personal awe and respect for Confederate generals. These people were slave holders and traitors to this country and prolonged a bloody terrible war to protect their rights to own other human beings! What could be a more despicable cause!!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Steven Peterson

    This represents the finale of Shelby Foote’s wonderfully written three volume history of the Civil War. Throughout the three volume work, Foote maintains accessibility to the general reader with a number of techniques. One of which has been the repetition of certain nicknames that he attaches to players, from the Creole (depicting P. G. T. Beauregard to Old Peter (for James Longstreet). What begins as affectation ends up becoming rather endearing! This volume concludes the three volume history, c This represents the finale of Shelby Foote’s wonderfully written three volume history of the Civil War. Throughout the three volume work, Foote maintains accessibility to the general reader with a number of techniques. One of which has been the repetition of certain nicknames that he attaches to players, from the Creole (depicting P. G. T. Beauregard to Old Peter (for James Longstreet). What begins as affectation ends up becoming rather endearing! This volume concludes the three volume history, covering the period from Spring 1864 through the close of the war. It begins with the debacle of the Red River Campaign, badly handled by Union General Nathaniel Banks. It concludes, of course, with the Civil War’s end, at Appomattox Court House and in other regions of the Confederacy as army after army finally surrendered. In between, a number of key events are described and analyzed. Among these: the sanguinary advance by Grant in the East, from the Wilderness to Petersburg; the march toward Atlanta and, then, the March to the Sea by Sherman’s horde; Hood’s foolhardy gamble, ending with the wreck of his army at Nashville; the last gasp at an offense by Sterling Price in the Trans-Mississippi; Early’s depredations in the Shenandoah Valley and his threat to Washington D. C.; Sheridan’s efforts after that, in which his forces essentially destroyed the army under Early’s command. More lugubrious still, the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. Thus concludes Foote’s literate venture into Civil War history.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Ed

    This 3 volume set is truly a marvel. Foote tells the story of the civil war, not just the battles but everything the country was going through. Though Foote is a southerner and obviously has affection for the confederate soldier, he presents the facts in a fair way showing both the flaws and the genius of soldiers and leaders on both sides. Although well over 2800 pages the trilogy is eminently readable. Upon finishing I felt like I was leaving an old friend. Foote is a master story teller. His This 3 volume set is truly a marvel. Foote tells the story of the civil war, not just the battles but everything the country was going through. Though Foote is a southerner and obviously has affection for the confederate soldier, he presents the facts in a fair way showing both the flaws and the genius of soldiers and leaders on both sides. Although well over 2800 pages the trilogy is eminently readable. Upon finishing I felt like I was leaving an old friend. Foote is a master story teller. His research is exhaustive and his maps and and descriptions make following the action very easy. If you really want to learn what happened during the civil war, I highly recommend the three volumes of The Civil War:. A Narrative

  28. 5 out of 5

    Bob

    The final volume of Foote's remarkably comprehensive, day-by-day history of America's Civil War. I continue learning facts and stories I never heard before, and the key roles of players I only knew peripherally, but the essence of Foote's trilogy is in the trenches with the troops as the battles are fought and the country pours more of its blood into the earth. The final section of this book deals with the post-war years of, primarily, the southern leaders, including particularly Jefferson Davis The final volume of Foote's remarkably comprehensive, day-by-day history of America's Civil War. I continue learning facts and stories I never heard before, and the key roles of players I only knew peripherally, but the essence of Foote's trilogy is in the trenches with the troops as the battles are fought and the country pours more of its blood into the earth. The final section of this book deals with the post-war years of, primarily, the southern leaders, including particularly Jefferson Davis; this is the first time in the trilogy that I felt Foote's southern perspective evident, as he seems clearly to favor the notion that the architects of secession did not commit treason or other criminal activity in advocating and taking up arms against the United States in order to protect their right to continue slavery. This is the very subject that has drawn such strong emotions in the present day on both sides, in public debates over reparations, in the matter of monuments to these men in the southern states and in the U.S. Capitol - in other words, in America's ongoing conflict over the war that supposedly ended 155 years ago. Great, sad history.

  29. 4 out of 5

    booklady

    When you finish a trilogy like this you feel a sense of accomplishment. I can't even begin to imagine how Mr. Foote must have felt in completing this work, three thick volumes telling the story of one of the most crucial times in our nation's history. The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox concludes an epic but does not satiate my passionate interest in the Civil War itself. It is to the author's great credit that he has told this monumental story not as a series of dry historical battles When you finish a trilogy like this you feel a sense of accomplishment. I can't even begin to imagine how Mr. Foote must have felt in completing this work, three thick volumes telling the story of one of the most crucial times in our nation's history. The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox concludes an epic but does not satiate my passionate interest in the Civil War itself. It is to the author's great credit that he has told this monumental story not as a series of dry historical battles and campaigns, but rather toured our bleeding nation, North and South, for those pivotal years describing events as they unfolded with compassionate reserve, fascinating insight, and a gallant dash of panache thrown in for good measure. The War Between the States was carnage on a scale we can scarcely imagine today, but it would compound the travesty to dismiss it as such without understanding the people who lived and died it, what they believed and the ideals they fought for. Mr. Foote gives us their voices. Highly recommended!

  30. 5 out of 5

    Rob

    I reserve 5 star ratings for the best. I never expected to rate this volume this high. Foote never provided citations in any of his Civil War histories, but the narrative makes up for his lack of footnotes. Foote's recounting of the battle of Franklin and his comments about the end of the war and how the men who fought it knew they were ending something special, a brotherhood, both North and South, that was hard to explain to those who had not fought, was beautifully written. I reserve 5 star ratings for the best. I never expected to rate this volume this high. Foote never provided citations in any of his Civil War histories, but the narrative makes up for his lack of footnotes. Foote's recounting of the battle of Franklin and his comments about the end of the war and how the men who fought it knew they were ending something special, a brotherhood, both North and South, that was hard to explain to those who had not fought, was beautifully written.

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