This 3 volume set is must read for any CivilWar enthusiast! It is excellently written and covers not just the battles, but the political intrigue that was happening on both sides during the war. His coverage of the main players and what went on in their lives after the war is an excellent insight to the people and shows how they were changed by the war. His attention to detail cannot be compared to any other coverage of this crucial event in American history. Any student of history will love an appreciate his excellent work.
THE definitive Civil War journey
One part wit, one part intrigue, one part painstaking research, and two parts extraordinary writing ability combine to create a true masterpiece that is not likely to ever be matched. Shelby Foote has a tremendous ability to weave exhaustive amounts of information into the more human aspects of historical figures and relationships, making reading this series a captivating experience.
That being said--I would NOT advise delving into this 3,000-page series as a starting point for the casual historian. Try a more general, less detailed single volume first so you have a framework within which to plug the multitude of names and dates Foote gives you. Trying to go right into this can be overwhelming and may turn you off. It is very dense reading at times.
This series is an absolute must for anyone fascinated by the CivilWar or with American history in general.
NOTE: Invest in the hardcover version if you can afford to do so... With the amount of time it takes to read an 800+ book, they can get a good deal of wear and tear.
I am a native Memphian, and I had the honor of meeting Mr. Foote on several occasions. His famous three-volume narrative is most assuredly worth reading. Those interested in Foote's work and in The War Between the States might also enjoy his SHILOH, which is a work of historical fiction.
One note on THE CIVIL WAR: A NARRATIVE: This collection is exactly what its title describes--a narrative. Foote used what we call "secondary sources" to create these volumes. In other words, he relied on the research of others. Many of us take the harder path; we search out "primary sources"--first-hand documents, so to speak--read these documents, evaluate and interpret them, and write our history based upon them. This is a painstaking enterprise, and one that demands careful and conscientous work.
Actual participants, such as Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and Sam R. Watkins left us first-hand accounts of their Civil Ear experiences. Historian Mark Nesbitt's THROUGH BLOOD AND FIRE is an edition of some of Chamberlain's wartime letters. Watkins' famous COMPANY AYTCH is a personal recollection of his service as a Confederate "high private."
By all means, I recommend Foote's three-volume work. But take the time to explore first-hand accounts, too. James McDonough's SHILOH: IN HELL BEFORE NIGHT is based in quite a bit of primary source material, as is " 'My Dear Manly Son': The Death of Jefferson Davis, Jr., at Buntyn, Tennessee, 1878," available through The West Tennessee Historical Society Papers. This piece is entirely based on primary source material, other than a few passages taken from President Jefferson Davis' memoirs and Varina Davis' memoirs. The amount of work that went into this article is formidable. Although the style of writing is readable and somewhat narrative, the history is solidly based in primary source pieces.
There are many kinds of "history." Take a look at several sorts. You'll be glad you did.
A narrative history of the American CivilWar, which covers not only the battles and the troop movements but also the social background that brought on the war and led, in the end, to the South's defeat.