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407 of 415 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Work on Civil War
I became a "fan" of the Civil War, to the extent any person can become a fan of a war, after watching Ken Burns' excellent series on PBS. I then set out to learn more about the war, and read, over the course of a couple of years, the three volume masterpiece of Shelby Foote. I can state without reservation it was one of the most enriching reading experiences...
Published on July 19, 2000 by J. Mullin

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85 of 102 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Certainly, this is a
No doubt about it, if you really want to know about the Civil War, you can't ignore Shelby Foote's tome. I agree with several other reviewers, however, that this is "nuts and bolts" about each and every battle which will tickle the fancy of those interested in knowing them. But for all the gazillions of pages and (obviously) years of work Shelby Foote put into this...
Published on December 15, 2002 by David M. Sapadin


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407 of 415 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A Definitive Work on Civil War, July 19, 2000
By 
J. Mullin (Plantation, FL USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set (Paperback)
I became a "fan" of the Civil War, to the extent any person can become a fan of a war, after watching Ken Burns' excellent series on PBS. I then set out to learn more about the war, and read, over the course of a couple of years, the three volume masterpiece of Shelby Foote. I can state without reservation it was one of the most enriching reading experiences of my life.
In Foote's talented hands, the characters of the conflict, North and South, come alive. He doesn't ignore the war out west, and treats battles such as Vicksburg, Shiloh, New Orleans and countless others with precision and attention.
He has somewhat of a Southerner's slant, but he is not so opinionated as to ignore gallantry by the North, and he rightfully rips Confederates when it is called for. Lincoln comes off much more sympathetically then Jeff Davis in my opinion, and he recounts various blunders by Confederate generals including Ewell's failure to act at Gettysburg, the disappearance of JEB Stuart when Lee needed him most, Joe Johnston's hesitancy and Hood's uncontrolled aggression in Georgia, etc.
Some reviewers here at Amazon criticized his lack of footnotes and a few missed details (ie who got in the last word in a series of letters between Grant and Lee, etc.) Come on, anyone reviewing the bibliography knows that Foote has done his research, I would expect anyone writing a 2800 page chronicle of a 4 year war to get a fact wrong here and there. 135 years after the war, details still pop up in archives and newly discovered letters which make people question prior assumptions. This is no historical novel as some have suggested - he doesn't invent dialogue and guess about the personal lives of characters like the Shaara books - this is history. And if anyone wants a fuller understanding of characters such as Grant, well than read Grant's Autobiography, as I did, and get the complete picture.
Perhaps Foote's trilogy is not for everyone. He leaves out some statistical data favored by historians such as MacPherson, who spent much more time on the events leading up to the war and who attempted to put the conflict in more of a historical context, although quite frankly those are omissions I didn't miss at all. I think for most general readers, who are simply motivated by a desire to learn about the battles, the great personalities, and the heroic struggles of the North and the South fought on soil familiar to all of us, the Foote books are a striking success. I haven't found a better single source of the history of the war, including detailed battle plans, maps, personal histories, etc. Buy the books, and come back to them here and there while readling other material in between. This is not a reading assignment to tackle in a single season. You'll find Foote's writing to be polished, lively, informative but not overwhelming, like coming back to an old storyteller friend.
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206 of 209 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars worth every detail--compellingly readable--thanks, Shelby, November 29, 1999
Perhaps the greatest accolade I heard of Shelby Foote's involvement with the PBS mini-series "The Civil War" was the admiring comment that he seemed to have been there. I feel very much the same way about this epic 3-volume set. McPhearson's "Battle Cry of Freedom" may be the standard one-volume history of the Civil War, and a fine work it is, but it offers nowhere near the feeling of proximity to people and events as does this massive labor of love. Foote is so good at so many of the writer/historian's crafts that combine to make this trilogy essential Civil War reading. His skill at bringing a novelist's eye to this material has already been frequently noted. But he also has a wonderful way of giving a reader the feeling for the terrain on which battles were fought, for the ebb and flow of those battles, for the character of the men involved (and what characters! the proud, obstinante Jeff Davis, the rugged, unwashed Grant, the patrician Lee, the moody, tragic Lincoln--who would dare invent them? Yet Foote brings them, and dozens more, to breathing life). He conveys equally well the movement of troops as he does ideas--not to mention the sights, sounds, smells of the era, be they on the battlefield, in the army camp, or the White House. These are books that I will turn to again and again (I just got done re-reading volume 3), because, like no one else, Shelby Foote not only makes me feel like he was there, but that *I* was too.
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102 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A mammoth history of the Civil War, July 7, 2000
This review is from: Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set (Paperback)
I have just completed this almost 3000 page tome on the American Civil War. I am not American but have always found the Civil War fascinating. A while back I finally decided to purchase a book about the Civil War that would read well and also be informative. Well Foote's books certainly are that. It became an obsession with me to get home everday and read on.....it felt as if I was there. This is partly due to the fact that the books read like a novel (probably why it is called a narrative!). I have read critiscms of the book which state that Foote is pro-Confederate and that this is really a Confederate History....well this is nonsense. He handles both sides with equal deft care. His descriptions of the main battles...First Bull Run, Fredricksburg, Vicksburg, Gettysburg, Antietam, Chancellorsville are all excellent and not to mention the rest of the campaigns. My only critiscm if it can be called that is that his second and third book are far better than his first which tended to drag a little but this may be because things started to really heat up in the second and third book as did the War. Altogether an excellent book and kudos to the author. Now I have to find something else to fill the void.....?
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64 of 65 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Fine Boxed Set, April 29, 2011
By 
I first read Shelby Foote's masterful Civil War trilogy many years ago. If you are something of a Civil War buff, you will be familiar with this exceptional work. For newcomers, there are many compelling and glowing reviews to be found at earlier editions on the Amazon website. I recently spotted this new edition at a bookstore and they kindly let me open the shrink wrap and examine it. The production quality of the printing, binding and box assembly are first rate, and I would describe this as a worthy collector's edition. The first reviewer for this item left the impression that the font size is too small in comparison to other larger formats. My comparisons showed them to be fairly close in size. Any lengthy book has to find a balance between font size and overall bulk; I think this edition strikes a good balance in that regard. If you are not able to accomplish a hands on comparison as I did, you can approximate it by comparing the closeness in size between the various boxed set dimensions...not much difference. And, with this set, there is a markedly better quality of the printer's art. This would be a fine set to grace any collector's shelves.
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97 of 103 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The beginning point of Civil War study..., May 20, 2006
By 
Jay (Somewhere in Texas) - See all my reviews
If you have any serious interest in the Civil War, this is the place to start. With the possible exception of McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom", this is the best narrative of the Civil War ever written. Shelby Foote, the gray-bearded, southern-accented man who added so many insights to Ken Burn's "Civil War" presented on PBS, presents a comprehensive picture of politics, battles, strategy, personnel, and the utter devestation the war wreaked across the south. There are hundreds and hundreds of books that have been written about this tragic period in American history but few draw the reader into the events like this trilogy. Mr. Foote's research is daunting and evidence of a life poured into the study of this time period. His prose is concise and a joy to read. This is the gold standard that all Civil War books are judged by.
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48 of 50 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A monumental work., March 11, 2000
Shelby Foote's trilogy is the definitive work on the American Civil War, which was undoubtably the most pivotal event in our nation's history. It is beautifully written; reading all 2800 pages of Foote's work will not only provide you with a detailed knowledge of the Civil War but will also make you a better user of the English language. It brought the people, places, and events of the war to life for me in a way few other books have done.
Many have given the author bad marks for his lack of footnotes and for his pro-Southern leanings. Both of these criticisms are very overstated, however. His bibliographical notes contained all the information I needed to know regarding his sources and offered a refreshing change from those thick history books in which footnotes take up one of every three pages. And while Foote definitely sympathizes with the South, he remains objective and tells the story from both sides (he did not title his books "The War of Northern Aggression", after all). My own Civil War ancestors fought for the North and I'm glad the Union prevailed, but I also have a tough time rooting against the outnumbered and poorly supplied Confederate forces.
The comparisons of Foote's work with historian James McPherson's excellent and highly-recommended _Battle Cry of Freedom_ are misleading. The latter covers the entire Civil War era, not just the war itself. Events prior to the opening shots at Fort Sumter take up about one third of McPherson's book, compared with only fifty pages (of 2800) by Foote. And while McPherson spends about ten pages on the Battle of Gettysburg, Foote fills roughly 120 on the same topic. _Battle Cry_ is more of a scholarly and statistical work. It discusses topics such as the economic development of both the North and the South prior to 1860, the state of medicine during the mid-19th century, the changes in the federal tax system because of the war, and so on. It was never intended to be a substitute for Foote's masterpiece. In his extensive bibliography, McPherson gives Shelby Foote high marks as a historian and praises his three-volume work as the "most graphic epic" of the Civil War's military campaigns.
I've read alot of books about the American Civil War, but have yet to find anything as impressive as these three. They belong in the library of anyone with an interest in U.S. history.
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars It Really Is A Classic, July 22, 2005
By 
D. B. Rosett (Guadalajara, Mexico) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set (Paperback)
For me, it's just wonderful to read all the comments about this trilogy. To read a work of this length, you have to either have already had a passion for the subject and/or certainly acquired one through reading it, because, let's face it, to finish the whole thing is an affirmative act of persistence.

I'm a middle-aged man and what I got from reading the 3,000 pages was all too familiar. It's the saga of middle-aged men making the best decisions they can under the circumstances, and thousands and thousands of young men dying as a result.

The catalogue of battlefield skirmishes runs the whole gamut. You've got your well planned, badly executed maneuvers, your poorly planned, well executed movements, your unexpectedly solid and brave commanders, your imbecilic and cowardly commanders. You've got generals who won't budge until everything is "perfect." As in life, they don't last. You've got your "C" students from West Point who turn out to be such kick asses, they end up running the show.

You have armies groping in and around each other in forests, hill country and bad weather, in an age before there were few rapid communication technologies save the telegraph (and that was often cut). You also have armies blowing each other to pieces on open farmland, with obedient generals leading attacks into entrenched enemy positions.

All of this Shelby Foote captures with awesome, horrifying detail. But he doesn't stop there. Reading about the Lincoln and Davis administrations is like reading a primer on office politics, most of which both leaders apparently mastered quite well. You also get a sense of the enormous social changes that happened in the South and North, and the growing exhaustion and cynicism in both camps.

Most of all, as in life, you really get the sense of what a near thing the whole enterprise was. In the immediate moment, which Foote captures so well, it really does come down a lot of times to timing and luck, with aggressive movements always tempered by having some escape hatch, in order to fight another day. And as so often happens in our daily lives, skirmishes are usually inconclusive, with each side playing spin doctor.

So what I got ultimately from the experience of reading this epic was a massive national bleeding expertly reduced down to very human terms.
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40 of 41 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Live the Civil War... It's worth your time and effort, May 2, 2006
By 
M. Strong (Milwaukee, WI USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set (Paperback)
Even as an avid reader of US history, I'd read nothing about the Civil War before reading Foote's work. I was frankly intimidated by a topic that plenty of people spend their entire life studying. This spring, I finally tackled the Civil War and I jumped into the deep end by starting with Foote's 3-volume set. I couldn't be happier with my choice.

There is no doubt that this set requires quite a committment of time and energy, but the reward is huge. Foote's attention to detail and narrative style draw you into the Civil War in a way that would be otherwise impossible. You get to know the characters, you feel their frustration and elation along with them, you develop an appreciation of the scale and scope of the struggle for the soldiers and civilians in a terrible time for the United States.

The payoff is that you get to appreciate a few moments as if you were there: I cried when I read the Gettysburg Address, I felt the mutual esteem between Grant and Lee at Appomatox, I was dismayed by Lincoln's assassintation and its impact on the country, I was appalled by the treatment of Jefferson Davis after the war. You couldn't get this from a lesser or shorter account of the Civil War.

If you truly want to get a sense of the Civil War, look no further. This masterwork by Shelby Foote will put you into the War and you will never regret your investment.
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52 of 56 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Outstanding, July 1, 2006
By 
Thomas Reiter (Washington DC, DC United States) - See all my reviews
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Until reading this set, I didn't know much about the Civil War, and frankly didn't have much interest in it.

That said, these volumes do an outstanding job of recounting both the macro military/political issues and the anecdotes and detail which make history come alive. The author does a great job of using various quips and quotes from the soldiers and officers to illustrate broader points about morale of and conditions in both armies. For instance, at one point General Bragg called in a private who reported that the Union army was in retreat; after questioning the trooper, Bragg scoffed at his report, saying that private probably didn't even know what a retreat looked like. The private replied that he surely did know, because he had been under Bragg's command for the last two campaigns...Maybe serious Civil War buffs will have encountered all of these materials before, but I found that they really brought the books to life.

Both the battles and campaigns leading up to them receive detailed treatment, including many smaller battles and skirmishes. I am not really inclined toward one side or another, but generally found that the coverage of the two sides was about equal and objective, although the author certainly has favorite generals, while others, such as Thomas, get less favorable treatment than I've seen elsewhere. While this is primarily a military history, it also provided excellent coverage of the various political considerations and the close-run and momentous presidential election of 1864.

A fantastic set if you have lots of time on your hands. I actually listened to the book (unabridged) on audio book, and was disappointed when it finally ended.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A long, hard trip, but worth it, December 2, 1999
This trilogy represents something unique in Civil War writing - it is neither a simple history nor a piece of fiction. Rather, it is, as titled, a 'narrative history', in that it attempts to take the huge amount of historical detail, vast cast of characters and broad scope of space and time that comprise the American Civil War and turn that mass of disparate particulars into a compelling story. This is not always successful, especially when multiple events were occuring simulaneously and must be related in different chapters, but on the whole this trilogy did more for me than anything else I have ever read in terms of making the Civil War a comprehensible series of interrelated actions and reactions.
Be careful, though. You are looking at almost 2000 pages, and if you let Shelby Foote's voice get into your head as I did, it will take you a LOT longer to read it - though it may be a more interesting experience for all that.
This is one of those pieces of writing that deserves to be read and reread. It will be a permanant part of my library.
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Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set
Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set by Shelby Foote (Paperback - November 12, 1986)
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