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The Civil War: A Narrative, Vol. II: Fredericksburg to Meridian Hardcover – Deckle Edge, October 12, 1963

4.8 out of 5 stars 147 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


"A stunning book, full of color, life, character and a new atmosphere of the Civil War, and at the same time a narrative of unflagging power. Eloquent proof that a historian should be a writer above all else. I predict that Foote's three volumes will be a turning point in the writing of Civil War history."

-- Burke Davis

"This first of a three-volume history of the Civil War is so good that the reader is apt to mistrust his instant and overpowering enthusiasm. If the subsequent works in the series are its equal, novelist Shelby Foote will have written one of the finest histories ever fashioned by an American."

-- Wirt Williams, Los Angeles Times

"The quality is high; the tone, cool and objective, yet lighted with excitements.... Foote's narrative style is first-rate, vivid, and refreshing. When the trilogy is completed it will most likely stand as the most thorough history of the-Civil War yet done."

-- Hudson Strode

"Here, for a certainty, is one of the great historical narratives of our century, a unique and brilliant achievement, one that must be firmly placed in the ranks of the masters ... a stirring and stupendous synthesis of history."

-- Van Allen Bradley, Chicago Daily News

"A great, hulking book ... great in quality as well as in size. Not only does the author achieve a wonderful breadth of coverage, he also recounts the events of the war with an impressive depth of understanding. His book is a major achievement in the literature of the Civil War: good research superbly written."

-- Richard B. Harwell, Chicago Sun Tribune

From the Inside Flap

The first volume of Shelby Foote's tremendous narrative of the Civil War was greeted enthusiastically by critics and readers alike (see back of jacket for comments). In this dramatic second volume the scope and power, the lively portrayal of exciting personalities, and the memorable re-creation of events have continued unmistakably. In addition, "Fredericksburg to Meridian" covers many of the greatest and bloodiest battles of history.
The authoritative narrative is dominated by the almost continual confrontation of great armies. For the fourth time, the Army of the Potomac (now under the command of Burnside) attempts to take Richmond, resulting in the blood-bath at Fredericksburg: Then Joe Hooker tries again, only to be repulsed at Chancellorsville as Stonewall Jackson turns his flank -- a bitter victory for the South, paid for by the death' of Lee's foremost lieutenant.
In the West, during the six-month standoff that followed the shock of Murfreesboro in the central theater, one of the most complex and determined sieges of the war has begun. Here Grant's seven relentless efforts against Vicksburg show Lincol that he has at last found his killer-genera the man who can "face the arithmetic."
With Vicksburg finally under siege, Lee again invades the North. The three-day conflict at Gettysburg receives book-length attention in a masterly treatment of a key great battle, not as legend has it but as it really was, before it became distorted by controversy and overblown by remembered glory.
Then begins the downhill fight -- the sudden glare of Chickamauga and the North's great day at Missionary Ridge, followed by the Florida fiasco and Sherman's meticulous destruction ofMeridian, which left that section of the South facing the aftermath even before the war was over.
Against this backdrop of smoke and battle, Lincoln and Davis try in their separate ways to hold their people together: Lincoln by letters and statements climaxing in the Gettysburg Address; and Davis by two long roundabout western trips in which he makes personal appeals to crowds along his way.
"Fredericksburg to Meridian" is full of the life of the times -- the elections of 1863, the resignations of Seward and Chase, the Conscription riots, the mounting opposition (on both sides) to the crushing war, and then the inescapable resolution that it must go on.
And as before, the whole sweeping story is told entirely through the lives and actions of the people involved, a matchless narrative which could be sustained so brilliantly only by one of our finest novelists.

This Book Is Bound with "Deckle Edge" Paper
You may have noticed that some of our books are identified as "deckle edge" in the title. Deckle edge books are bound with pages that are made to resemble handmade paper by applying a frayed texture to the edges. Deckle edge is an ornamental feature designed to set certain titles apart from books with machine-cut pages. See a larger image.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 1000 pages
  • Publisher: Random House (October 12, 1963)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0394419510
  • ISBN-13: 978-0394419510
  • Product Dimensions: 6.8 x 2.4 x 9.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.8 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (147 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #400,500 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
"The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 2, From Fredericksburg to Meridian" is Foote's second book in his magnum opus and considered by some sources to be the best. I began with Volume II because of my interest in 1863, Stones River, Gettysburg and Chickamauga, and all those subjects received a very detailed treatment. I remember perusing the book in the early 1980s and wanted to read it, but was intimidated by its size. After all, it was only one of three 2.5" thick books in the series. After watching (and re-watching) Foote's interviews in Ken Burns' "The Civil War", I became so fond of the man that I bought the whole set, both in print and in audio. The books have a permanent spot in my nearest bookshelf and the audio is in a permanent playlist on my iPhone.

Volume II begins with Jefferson Davis' 1863 trip around the Confederacy to rally his constituents, and takes us through the battles of Fredericksburg, Stones River, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Chickamauga, and Chattanooga. We lose Stonewall Jackson, see the rise of Nathan Bedford Forrest and Ulysses Grant, and witness the fall of Rosecrans and Bragg. It does not just focus on the well-known activities of the Army of the Potomac vs. the Army of N.VA, but interposes scenes from all theaters of the war as well, as the other branch of service (Navy). It's not just a military history, as we learn of such items as the infighting in both White Houses, international ramifications of the War, and the dysfunctional inflationary economies and riots in Southern cities like Richmond and Northern cities like New York.

Foote is a master storyteller and his riveting and personal accounts may make the reader forget they are reading non-fiction history.
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There can be no doubt that Sheby Foote is a learned man with a firm grasp of his subject. Sometimes the reading is fun, because he knows all the dish, about all of the insider stories, on all of the major players, and this gives a rich dimension to historical background, and puts a real human face on things. On the other hand, his gift for detail is almost annoying at times; he has has a tendency for run on paragraphs that had me heaving deep sighs now and again. And the role call of names! Well it was more distracting than a Russian novel. I just couldn't hope to keep up, and I don't think anyone who wasn't a passionate student of the civil war, could ever hope to, on the level that Foote, lays it it out in this Trilogy.

Yet I learned many interesting things about Lincoln, and saw battles from his unique perspective, and found his take to be rather absorbing, many times. And above all, I loved the way he took a more impartial view of the conflict, telling the facts, strengths, and aspirations of both sides. Too often, it is the victor's tale that is predominately told, and the loser's version is more or less a footnote. That is less the case in Foote's work, and since this was a war that was fought barely 150 years ago, I think it's important to understand what happened and why, from both perspectives. After all 500,000 men died in just 4 years time. That was a significant percentage of the population. And in so very many ways, the political climate of our times, and in some ways, even the social climate today, has never been more divided, just as it was back in the times, of the Civil War. There is a part of me that is troubled in knowing that this could happen again, so I seek to understand it. For me, Foote can be a part of this process of enlightenment.
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Format: Paperback
He has left us with a view of our Civil War, that was never captured before, and has not been since. This volume begins with the horrific carnage at Fredericksburg and the crises in Lincoln's cabinet in the aftermath. As in Vol. 1, Foote transitions smoothly from politics to battlefield, and from the war in the East to the campaigns in the West, and stays highly readable every page of the way.
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Format: Paperback
Shelby Foote's installment of his 3-volume history on the Civil War covers the period from Fredericksburg (December 1862) to Meridian (February-March 1864).

In between those times are covered such things as:

1. Major campaigns (Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Vicksburg, Stones River/Murfreesboro, Chickamauga, Chattanooga, etc.).
2. Lesser-known engagements (Helena, Grierson's Raid, Brandy Station, etc.).
3. Various political alliances forming against or for Presidents Lincoln and Davis.
4. Relationships between Northern and Southern generals.

The second volume is a smooth if not very long read. The narrative is engaging and helps the reader to understand basic elements of the Civil War. The title is a great introduction for someone who wishes to gain a foundational understanding of the war. For those who want a deeper knowledge, then I strongly suggest reading books on individual battles by several excellent authors (Gordon Rhea, Peter Cozzens, Stephen Sears, Mark Bradley, Harry Pfanz, Earl Hess, etc. - too many to completely list!).

One major complaint I have are the maps - not enough and lack detail in the individual battle maps. I realize this is not necessarily the author's fault.

Still, a good read and recommended for the person who wants a comprehensive, foundational knowledge of the Civil War.
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