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The Civil War: A Narrative: Volume 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville (1958)

von Shelby Foote

Weitere Autoren: Siehe Abschnitt Weitere Autoren.

Reihen: The Civil War: A Narrative (Original publication, Vol. 1)

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2,295246,651 (4.49)66
History. Nonfiction. HTML:

Here begins one of the most remarkable works of history ever fashioned. All the great battles are here, of course, from Bull Run through Shiloh, the Seven Days Battles, and Antietam, but so are the smaller ones: Ball's Bluff, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge, Island Ten, New Orleans, and Monitor versus Merrimac.

The word "narrative" is the key to this extraordinary book's incandescence and its truth. The story is told entirely from the point of view of the people involved in it. One learns not only what was happening on all fronts but also how the author discovered it during his years of exhaustive research.

This first volume in Shelby Foote's comprehensive history is a must-listen for anyone interested in one of the bloodiest wars in America's history.

.
… (mehr)
  1. 00
    The Civil War Dictionary von Mark Boatner (wildbill)
    wildbill: excellent reference work
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Three volumes, more than one thousand pages, one million five hundred thousand words, twenty years in the making. Not history in the usual sense (i.e., written by historians, for historians), nor a novel. It is a narrative, well-told. One of the essays in the accompanying booklet sums it up well: A flawed masterpiece.
It’s very much a “Battles and Leaders” account, notable for doing justice to other theaters besides Virginia.
Underlying this is a repeated juxtaposition of Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln—this is what first drew me into the book. Before deciding to purchase, I borrowed volume one from the library. By the time I finished the prelude, with its parallel portraits of Davis and Lincoln as war clouds gathered, I knew I wanted my own set. It took a little searching to find out which editions were available; I chose the three-volume Modern Library set with the booklet of essays edited by Jon Meacham. Then I did something I rarely do when I own a printed book (a “real” book): I bought the e-reader version as well, so that I could keep moving forward even while traveling.
Foote’s fascination with contrasting Davis and Lincoln runs like a figured bass counterpoint beneath the long narrative, but it betrays him. The final section, “Lucifer in Starlight,” gives the impression that, in the end, Davis, unrepentant to the last, won simply by surviving nearly a quarter of a century longer than his opponent. It’s reminiscent of Satan in Milton’s Paradise Lost, who steals the spotlight in that book.
After the promising opening to volume one, the book settles into what it advertises itself to be, nothing more: a narrative of a war. But what a narrative! Foote is good at describing the tactical set-ups of each battle he treats. As part of his thorough preparation, he toured each site, often on the anniversary of the fight, with one of the knowledgeable National Park Service guides to lead him. Foote’s skill as a novelist makes him sensitive to landscape and weather, enabling him to sense what the combatants experienced and help the reader see it, too. Even more, he evokes what neither he nor the reader can experience: the hellish fury of booming cannons, clattering muskets, the shriek of the rebel yell, and the moans of the wounded and dying.
Foote’s insistence on covering all the theaters of the war—and from both sides as well—presented him with the challenge of juggling the narrative back and forth and deciding just how much to include of what the two presidents were facing in their respective capitals. Overall, I feel he met this well. A reader less familiar with the names and faces of all the generals might have trouble keeping them straight. However, I still have the multivolume Photographic History of the Civil War that I received as a Christmas present in 1957, the year it was reprinted, which I pored over as a child by the hour. So I was okay. Foote draws these characters with the skill of a novelist. His debt to Homer, who taught him a thing or two about keeping several narrative balls in the air, is also evident in his love of fixed circumlocutions to refer, leitmotif-like, to his characters. To my taste, he overdoes this; he could have omitted a few references to the one-legged Kentucky-born Texan and simply written “Hood.”
The passage of time between commencing and finishing this epic makes itself felt in changes of opinion from one book to the next. In volume one, Foote’s treatment of T. J. Jackson is ambivalent, down to the original application of the nickname “Stonewall” (it was not a compliment). By the time we reach Jackson’s death in volume two, a victim of friendly fire, the tone of Foote’s prose is hagiographic.
Such changes in tone might also be due to passing from documentary sources to secondary. As part of his preparation, Foote read all 128 volumes of War of the Rebellion; he may have been the only one of his generation to do so. This set collects dispatches, orders, and other documents of the time. As such, Foote assigned higher value to it than to the glut of memoirs through which Grant, Johnston, Longstreet, and others refought and reinterpreted the war in subsequent decades. But he supplemented this reading with secondary works. For instance, Strode’s three-volume paean to Jefferson Davis appeared in step with how far Foote was. Its influence may help explain Foote’s treatment of Davis.
One other change in volumes two and three, compared to volume one, is a tendency to write in circles. For instance, the narrative thrice refers to Jubal Early’s troops passing Jackson’s grave. Nor was it illuminating to read after any of a number of battles that it was not the Cannae one general or another had hoped for. It was revealing to read the essay by Bob Loomis, Foote’s editor at Random House, in the accompanying booklet. After the first volume, Loomis decided to dispense with the usual copy-editing, simply marking the manuscript for style. Quite a compliment to an author, but the set would be stronger if Loomis had decided otherwise.
Yet the judgment that this is a “flawed masterpiece” doesn’t rest on such stylistic quibbles. Instead, it’s a reflection of the stance Foote takes. Clearly, he strove to take an even-handed approach; Foote is by no means an apologist for the Southern side. Yet his reluctance to appear to be taking sides means he makes no comment on Davis’s claims that the Confederacy was fighting for honor and liberty. I can believe that Davis was blind to the irony that this “liberty” meant the freedom to enslave millions of fellow humans in perpetuity. But surely Foote sees this. Or does he?
This is even more striking when it comes to one of Foote’s heroes, Nathan Bedford Forrest, whom he famously called one of two geniuses produced by the war (the other was Lincoln). From these pages, the reader has no inkling of Forrest’s post-war infamy with the Ku Klux Klan.
Yet Foote did find room for many anecdotes that his vast reading turned up, to this reader’s delight. My favorite was Breckinridge’s reaction to the bottle of bourbon Sherman produced from his saddlebacks to open the negotiations for the surrender of the Army of Tennessee.
Aside from these vignettes, there was something else new to me. Before reading these volumes, I knew that while some Southern leaders, such as Alexander Stephens, openly admitted they went to war to preserve the institution of slavery, most were less straight-forward, referring to their “way of life” or, closer to the mark, “our Southern system of labor.” Like Jefferson Davis, they cloaked themselves in “honor” and “liberty.”
What I learned, however, was that as the war ground on, one Confederate general, Patrick Cleburne, proposed emancipating the slaves and arming them. That proposal went nowhere, nor did Cleburne’s career after that. Telling was Howell Cobb’s remark: “If slaves will make good soldiers our whole theory of slavery is wrong.”
Foote’s narrative shows there was ample skill and incompetence, nobility, and venality on both sides, although it’s clear that, on balance, the South had a higher proportion of good generals. And the men they led, the common soldiers, punched above their weight. But for what? Like Foote, I descend from men who fought for the Confederacy. Whenever I consider how many sons and grandsons my great (x 3) grandfather lost, I wonder why they fought. Foote quotes one farmer in western North Carolina who summed it up in 1863: “A rich man’s war and a poor man’s fight.” ( )
  HenrySt123 | Nov 20, 2023 |
With this opening volume of a highly detailed three-volume history of the Civil War, Shelby Foote does a meticulous job of documenting every important event (and a few unimportant ones) of the war. And yet, he does justice to every person - well known and obscure alike - to pain a picture of a country torn asunder and how it came to that failure of policy. There is no more complete telling of the scope of the war and I look forward to continuing to Vol 2.

In addition, the narration on the audio edition by Grover Gardner is spot on. ( )
  csayban | Oct 19, 2023 |
This is a classic series written by a fine novelist who is sensitive to relating a good story accurately. It makes for great reading such as Will Durant, Arnold Toynbee, or Robert Grant has done for their respective histories.

Which American President created a system for slaves to be judged by a jury of all black jurors? Jefferson Davis

The U.S. Constitution provided for population counting to be 3/5ths of a person for slaves. How did the Confederate Constitution describe African-Americas, in contrast? Slaves.
  gmicksmith | Jan 5, 2023 |
More people know author and historian Shelby Foote from his appearance in the Ken Burns documentary The Civil War than from Foote's own writing. Foote's book The Civil War A Narrative takes up three volumes. This review only addresses the first volume, Fort Sumter to Perryville, it alone is 840 pages long including indexes. This work was published in 1958. Shelby Foote was as good a writer of narrative as he was a speaker and storyteller. When he writes about the personalities, backgrounds and conflicts of these historical figures he demonstrates a great command of knowledge and writing skill. Though he came from the South Foote wrote an even handed narrative, presenting both sides of the conflict. I knew a lot more about Jefferson Davis and many of the Generals on both sides when I finished reading this volume. Foote even gave me some new insights on Abraham Lincoln. If there is a weakness in these works it comes when this author describes the actually battles, movements of armies and geography of the events. I found the maps provided with the text to be less helpful than many I've seen. That however was easily overcome by keeping my copy of Mark Boatner's Civil War Dictionary at my side while I read Foote. Boatner's maps and descriptions of maneuvers and battles are better but as a narrator Shelby Foote is a master. I am looking forward to taking on the next two volumes. It may take awhile. ( )
  MMc009 | Jan 30, 2022 |
Shelby Foote is a very gifted writer whose every sentence is a work of art. In this narrative history of the first couple of years of the Civil War, he is also irreproachably fair. He neither demonizes nor beatifies anyone, but he does lean toward treating everyone with respect (with the passing exception of some who committed atrocities against noncombatants).

From the first time I heard of him in my preteen years, General McClellan's raison d'etre seemed to be to fill the role of the hapless Washington Generals for the Harlem Globetrotters (in the form of President Lincoln) to dunk on. Canonical example: "If McClellan isn't using the army, I should like to borrow it." As described by Foote, McClellan was much more than a target for Lincoln's witticisms. He was an intelligent fighter, a leader who loved, and was loved by, his troops.

Foote uses without explanation some terminology with which I was not familiar: of the military, of the construction of ships, of American geography, etc. This may have been an issue for his readers 60 years ago, but not for us now, thanks to the Internet. The Internet also provides us with plenty of illustrations, making up for the lack thereof in the book.

A book on a bloody war of brother against brother might seem like a bad choice for reading in the depressing age of pandemic. But Foote writes with such grace that, oddly enough, the reader is rewarded with a renewed appreciation for humanity. ( )
  cpg | Dec 20, 2020 |
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Shelby FooteHauptautoralle Ausgabenberechnet
Gardner, GroverErzählerCo-Autoreinige Ausgabenbestätigt
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It was a Monday in Washington, January 21: Jefferson Davis rose from his seat in the Senate.
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The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth--not a different truth: the same truth--only they reach, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.
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THE CIVIL WAR : A NARRATIVE has been published in 3 volumes, but has also been subdivided differently to be published in 9 volumes and even 14 volumes. Consequently, there are different works numbered "volume 1". This volume 1, FORT SUMTER TO PERRYVILLE, is for the series as subdivided into 3 volumes.
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History. Nonfiction. HTML:

Here begins one of the most remarkable works of history ever fashioned. All the great battles are here, of course, from Bull Run through Shiloh, the Seven Days Battles, and Antietam, but so are the smaller ones: Ball's Bluff, Fort Donelson, Pea Ridge, Island Ten, New Orleans, and Monitor versus Merrimac.

The word "narrative" is the key to this extraordinary book's incandescence and its truth. The story is told entirely from the point of view of the people involved in it. One learns not only what was happening on all fronts but also how the author discovered it during his years of exhaustive research.

This first volume in Shelby Foote's comprehensive history is a must-listen for anyone interested in one of the bloodiest wars in America's history.

.

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