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Civil War Volumes 1-3 Box Set Paperback – Box set, November 12, 1986
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A 3-volume, softcover set of books by Shelby Foote dealing with the Civil War. Volume I is titled "Fort Sumter to Perryville." Volume II is titled "Fredericksburg to Meridian." Volume III is titled "Red River to Appomattox."
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No doubt about it, Shelby Foote's masterpiece trilogy would be resting beside my palm leaf makeshift bed as I sleep and I would turn those pages until they whithered away.
The reason I used the above quote is the reading has been so "sweet" and has hooked me into the ACW. I will go on to read dozens of more books on people, places, battles, politics. The "sorrow" lies in the fact that the journey has come to an end.
I'm an avid reader, so it took me about 2 months to finish the approximate 3000 pages. I look forward to reading it again in a few years, when I want a little refresher. I suspect that a work like this will probably take most people several months, if not years to finish. In any case, it's well worth it.
The amount of detail is perfect. The major engagements get full treatment, down to brigade and in some cases regimental levels. But no stone is left unturned. Minor skirmishes and rear guard activity are also noted. The west, the east, the naval battles. The focus is primarily military, however, there is a nice dose of political, social, biographical and cultural topics. Tons of anecdotes and "I did not know that" type information. There is also a good balance of tactical vs. down in the ditch accounts.
Very good maps. Just as the details of troop movements start to get a bit hazey, you turn the page to find a perfect map. I would have like to seen just a few more, but there are plenty and all well done.
There are a few comments from other reviewers about Foote's allegiance to the South and leaving out atrocities and such. This is hogwash. I knew very little of the ACW before reading these volumes and I feel that his treatment was very fair to both sides. A poor leader is critized, whether he wore blue or gray/butternut. Just as a good leader is praised. Grierson's raid during Vicksburg gets as many high marks as any of Forrest's.
Many others have noted all the highlights, much more articulated than I ever could, so I'll refer you to those reviews. Simply put, this book is a must read to begin or expand your knowledge of the ACW. It took 20 years for Foote to finish, and literally every word was well thought out. It ranks in many "top 100" lists for best nonfiction of the 1900's.
I want to reiterate that the handful of complaints regarding lack of footnotes and a few incorrect facts are the worst sort of nit-picking.
The idea that this is a historical novel is ludicrous. This is solid history written with the skill of a fine novelist.
So who is this for? If you really want to know about the war, even make it a hobby, this is essential for you. You should read this first because it will give you the full scope in a consistent, coherent, and highly enjoyable fashion. This background will prove invaluable when you read other shorter books or books on narrower topics, like individual battles or persons.
Like many here, I also recommend Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era (Oxford History of the United States). This is a good book for the casual reader or second book after (or maybe before) Foote. It focuses heavily on social, economic, and political issues at the expense of military events making it a good compliment. It also tackles some of the debates that continue to exercise historians and is simply a great read.