Selected by the Modern Library as one of the 100 best nonfiction books of all time
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 of Meridian, 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.
About Shelby Foote
Shelby Foote was born on November 7, 1916 in Greenville, Mississippi, and attended school there until he entered the University of North Carolina. During World War II he served as a captain of field artillery but never saw combat. After World War II he worked briefly for the Associated Press in their New York bureau. In 1953 he moved to Memphis, where he lived for the remainder of his life.
Foote was the author of six novels: Tournament, Follow Me Down, Love in a Dry Season, Shiloh, Jordan County, and September, September. He is best remembered for his 3-volume history The Civil War: A Narrative, which took twenty years to complete and resulted in his being a featured expert in Ken Burns' acclaimed Civil War documentary. Over the course of his writing career, Foote was also awarded three Guggenheim fellowships.
Shelby Foote died in 2005 at the age of 88.
"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