130 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect companion book to "Killer Angels"
The first Civil War book I ever read (not counting Stephen Crane's "Red Badge Of Courage" which I read back in the 10th grade), was Michael Shaara's "Killer Angels," an excellent book, moving and informative though somewhat discursive and lacking in as much battle detail as the reader may ultimately desire to know. That was by design as Shaara was...
Published on July 4, 2000 by Ned K. Wynn
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Just Buy The Civil War Volume 2 Instead
I am a huge fan of the Shelby Foote novels (I own the Civil War Trilogy), but this book doesn't cut it. In a nutshell, I saw there was another Shelby Foote, got really excited, and bought it. However there is no reason for this book. It is just taken straight from a chapter out of Volume 2 of the Trilogy, almost word for word. The chapter is excellent, but there are two...
Published 13 months ago by GDR
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130 of 138 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The perfect companion book to "Killer Angels",
The first Civil War book I ever read (not counting Stephen Crane's "Red Badge Of Courage" which I read back in the 10th grade), was Michael Shaara's "Killer Angels," an excellent book, moving and informative though somewhat discursive and lacking in as much battle detail as the reader may ultimately desire to know. That was by design as Shaara was seeking to show us the interior lives of the officers who fought at Gettysburg. In this sense "Killer Angels" is more like a novel than a history. "Stars In Their Courses" is a much more richly detailed - and not novelistic (though certainly not lacking in drama) - book, a book whose historical context is more fully exposed: each of the terrible interlocking events of those three days is exploded on the page so that we get a fuller appreciation of the totality of that battle, the "high-water mark of the Confederacy."
I encourage anyone who is interested in furthering their understanding of the Battle of Gettysburg, or of simply reading a great book about the turning point in America's most devastating war, to read this book. And make sure, while you're at it, to also read "Killer Angels." Side by side these book give a fascinating view of three bloody days in the fields and woods of Pennsylvania.
As an addendum, I would like to say that, while this book is more straightforward and less like a novel than KA, it is during the reading of Pickett's Charge from this book that both my wife and I broke down in tears.
56 of 58 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A great, concise narrative on the Civil War's biggest battle,
By A Customer
Mr. Foote is something of a folk hero to people
who love reading civil war history. Read this,
the central chapter of his magnificent three
volume narrative, and you'll understand why. In
one modestly sized book, Shelby Foote explains
more of how and what happened during the
three-day battle than many books five times its
size. There are scores of books detailing the
first day of the battle alone, but this little gem
will tell the reader all he or she really needs to
know about Gettsburg without going into every
tiny detail about who commanded this or that
regiment, or where every infantry company was
stationed. Typical of Foote's writing, it is not
florrid or long winded, it simply takes you where
you want to go. A must read
59 of 63 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Superb Account of the Gettysburg Campaign,
Shelby Foote's monumental, three volume history of the American Civil War is widely recognized as one of the great works of the twentieth century. However, its great length - roughly three thousand pages - is undoubtedly intimidating to many readers. Fortunately, this 1994 Modern Library edition, Stars in Their Courses, the Gettysburg Campaign, circumvents this difficulty.
Stars in Their Courses is the middle chapter in the middle volume of Shelby Foote's remarkable history. This extract offers an easy way for a reader new to Shelby Foote to become acquainted with his masterpiece.
The editors of the Modern Library series should be commended for selecting this particular chapter. It is hard to imagine a better introduction to the Gettysburg Campaign. Stars in Their Courses is not only great history, it is great literature. Shelby Foote is an outstanding writer, one that happens, fortunately for us, to write history. In reviewing Foote's acclaimed historical narrative, one critic said, "It seems to me unlikely that it ever will be superseded."
Remarkably, Stars in Their Courses is entirely self-contained. A reader not familiar with Shelby Foote's writing would not realize that this Modern Library edition was actually a single chapter drawn from a much larger work. The reader has no need to reference any other sources.
Stars in Their Courses would make an excellent gift for that friend or family member that enjoys good literature, but heretofore has not developed an enthusiasm for the Civil War. The Modern Library edition is attractively bound, and printed on acid-free paper.
Michael Shaara's Pulitzer Prize winning novel, The Killer Angels, would be a great companion gift to Stars in Their Courses. Shaara's focus is on specific participants in the three-day battle, especially Lee, Buford, Longstreet, Chamberlain, and Armistead. The Killer Angels was the basis for the epic movie, Gettysburg.
17 of 17 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Perfect Shelby Foote Sampler,
This is the perfect Shelby Foote sampler if the three volume, "The Civil War: A Narrative" seems either too daunting or you haven't the time.
It's the entire "Stars in Their Courses" Chapter and part of "Unvexed to the Sea" from "Fredericksburg to Meridian," the second volume of the trilogy.
Simply put, it's the best and most concise account of the Gettysburg campaign you're ever likely to find. Foote doesn't overwhelm the reader the details, but instead, and with careful literary design, catches the ebb and flow of a great battle as it opens and occurs.
If you've read the trilogy, then you probably don't need this, but it certainly is a lot easier to tote around than the rather ponderous size of the others. Also, if you're quite familiar with Gettysburg, then Foote may not be anything new, but I do think his mastery of the language eclipses most of what's out there (how historians drain the life out of such an exciting subject I'll never know).
If you enjoyed this, I heartily recommend you pick up "Stars in Their Courses" in the audio where Foote reads the book himself. You listen to his voice and I'd hazard a guess that it's like listening to Homer read the Iliad or the Odyssey. Foote's melodious voice is mesmerizing and becomes a performance in itself.
Foote deserves a 21 gun salute.
29 of 33 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Engaging One-Volume History of the Battle of Gettysburg,
You may remember Shelby Foote from his sonorous narration in Ken Burns's THE CIVIL WAR. He is also a respectable novelist and the author of an authoritative three-volume history of the Civil War from the point of view of the South.
STARS IN THEIR COURSES is an even-handed look at the three days' battle that some think was the decisive struggle of the long conflict. At least, it would have been had it not been for Lee's rapid, orderly retreat and Meade's disinclination to face him in battle again so soon. If the more decisive Grant were in charge at that early date, the war would have drawn to a quick conclusion.
As a big fan of Ted Turner's GETTYSBURG, I was surprised to see that the movie took at least as much from Foote as from Michael Shaara's THE KILLER ANGELS. Foote produces a more all-encompassing view of the battle than the film, which omits Ewell's actions on the Union right as well as the battle's immediate aftermath.
My only complaint about the Modern Library edition is that the maps scattered throughout the text bear no captions. The reader has to check the List of Maps in the back of the book to find out where (and when) he is on the battlefield. An index would also have been useful.
But these are mere peccadillos considering Foote's high level of scholarship and engaging prose style. This book is a keeper.
17 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Excellent Discourse,
By A Customer
" Stars in Their Courses" is part of Shelby Foote's monumental three part epic which in time became the penultimate historical narrative, "The Civil War." A prodigious and superb effort, Foote spent tewnty years compiling a literary masterwork that would later be hailed as "an American Illiad."
Setting the stage for what would become the sixty day mosaic known as the Gettysburg campaign, Foote explores the Southern decision to invade Pennsylvania. Advocated by none other than Lee himself, the great general's aura of invincibility proved irresistable and awe inspiring even to one not easily impressed, Jefferson Davis. Setting the moral tone for the ensuing conflict, Lee intoned to his soldiers: "It must be remembered that we make war only upon armed men...and that we cannot take vengeance for the wrongs our people have suffered without lowering ourselves in the eyes of all whose abhorrence has been excited by the atrocities of our enemies, and offending against Him to whom vengeance belongeth, without whose favor and support our efforts must all prove in vain."
Lee's four major engagements in the prior ten months against superior Union forces had yielded three stunning victories, and now, on the eve of battle, the Union's improbable appointment of Meade made the Pennsylvanian the fifth different commander to oppose Lee in as many tries. From the outset, however, Stuart's inexplicable reconnaissance delay deprived Lee of critical information regarding enemy position and troop strength, and he found himself in the unfamiliar position of waging battle at a time and location not of his own choosing.
The capstone of the three day conflict which culiminated with Pickett's ill-fated charge, was ordered by an intransigent Lee, executed by a reluctant Longstreet, and carried out by a multitude of fearless combatants in the wake of the greatest concentration of artillery ever amassed on the continent. Longsreet's reticence at the undertaking was shared by many of the commanders, with the notable exception of Pickett, who was "entirely sanguine of success in the charge." Commanding another flank of the attack was Pettigrew, perhaps the most intellectually accomplished of any man in the field. Fluent in most of the European languages and a scholar in Greek and Hebrew, he presided over a Southern peculiarity: Four of his regiments, despite a well-earned history of valor, and a four to one numerical advantage, abruptly defected in the midst of a Union assault as bold as it was unexpected.
The University Greys, made up entirely of students from the State University, were part of a Mississippi regiment that managed to nearly reach the Union line but paid the staggering price of a tabulated 100% loss. In all, the valorious efforts of 11,000 of Lee's finest men were repulsed, and Union forces were to witness the catastrophe of Fredericksburg in reverse.
"This has been my fight, and upon my shoulders rests the blame," Lee explained to a despondent Pickett. He continued, "Your men have done all that men can do." As he expressed the same sentiment to his troops up and down the line, they responded to the tableau of the great general, and expresed their near unanimous unabated support in kind. The momentous Gettysburg campaign had come to an end, and the two armies returned to their respective approximate starting positions. As was the Union custom, Meade did not pursue his advantage.
"Stars in Their Courses" provides a meticulous treatment of the details that comprised the events surrounding Gettysburg. Yet, such treatment is necessary, and in Foote's cabable hands, welcome.
15 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Great look at the Battle of Gettysburg!,
Stars In Their Courses is an excellent book covering the Gettysburg Campaign. Taken completely from Foote's Civil War Trilogy, the book presents a balanced view of the battle. Foote's writing is always easy to read and understand and at times brief in coverage. For a reader looking for great information I would suggest reading a book devoted to a particular day of fighting during the campaign as this book covers the basics and seldom dives into any hour-by-hour detail. For the advanced historian it may seem a bit too brief but for the novice Civil War reader it is an excellent book. Foote likes to present the battle from both sides of the army and explain Lee's and Meade's thoughts or strategies that help explain the how the battle and final outcome evolved. Shelby Foote is probably one of the best authors on the subject and I highly recommend this book to anyone who is looking to gain further knowledge and insight into the Battle of Gettysburg.
14 of 15 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A wonderful read, and a sincere search for truth,
Imagine, if you can, a book written by a modern historian that actually seeks the truth. Imagine a book written by a modern historian that is not slanted to promote his/her politics. Imagine a 20th century historian that does not even mention the sexuality (alternative or otherwise), of any historical figures in an entire book.
If you are looking for "the truth" at Gettysburg, "Stars In Their Courses" is for you. Shelby Foote is a fine author, and has written the book in a captivating manner that I highly esteem. Pick this book up and give it a try, one chapter should do the trick. You will have a good feeling afterward that you have learned something worthwhile about American History.
27 of 32 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Eloquently written accountof Battle of Gettysburg.,
This book is drawn from the second volume of Shelby Foote's "The Civil War: A Narrative History." It is described on the book jacket as "the central chapter of the central volume, and therefore the capstone of the arch..."
Written with the powerful and eloquent prose for which Shelby Foote is noted, "Stars In Their Courses" vividly describes the events of the first three days of July 1863, in what mant historians consider the "greatest battle in the history of the Western Hemisphere." The Battle of Gettysburg, in all its horror, fairly leaps from the pages of this book at the hands of Shelby Foote.
"Stars in Their Courses" is not only a wonderful preview of Foote's "The Civil War: A Narrative History," trilogy, but it also stands alone as one of the best accounts of the Battle of Gettysburg I have found. Highly recommended for any military history and Civil War enthusiast!
13 of 14 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fine addition to the account of Gettysburg,
This is taken from the three volume Civil War set that Mr. Foote has won wide acclaim for. Mr. Foote writes not only this work but all of his works in an elogant, easy to read prose that makes it a delight to read. He is accurate in detail, yet takes the time to give eye witness accounts to the carnage of Gettysburg. Having been to Gettysburg National Battlefield I must say it is very sobering to the thought of the destruction that happened during those three days of early July 1863. From the opening shots that started this battle to the end at Pickett's Charge, Mr. Foote gives the reader fascinating detail of the Generals who were in command down to the foot soldiers who fought and shed their blood. This is another fine addition to the works already written about Gettysburg. If you are impressed by this book, then by all means read his three volume set of the Civil War. You will not be dissapointed!
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Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign (UNABRIDGED) by Shelby Foote (Audio Cassette - October 25, 1994)
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