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Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863

4.46  ·  Rating Details  ·  1,070 Ratings  ·  65 Reviews
Historian/novelist Foote's masterly work has been culled from his critically acclaimed three-volume narrative of the Civil War.
Hardcover, 304 pages
Published June 28th 1994 by Modern Library (NY)
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The Killer Angels by Michael ShaaraGettysburg by Stephen W. SearsStars in Their Courses by Shelby FooteGettysburg by Allen C. GuelzoGettysburg--The Second Day by Harry W. Pfanz
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,733)
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Brian
Jan 07, 2015 Brian rated it it was amazing
Every bit as fantastic as the first time I read it when working my way through the full three volumes of Foote's masterpiece. More thoughts when I can do more than type on my phone.
Jan-Maat
This is an excerpt from Foote's three-volume history of the American Civil War. Since that is a book which I haven't read I can attest that this little volume that just deals with the battle of Gettysburg is free standing.

It is a good modern example of history as drama. The leading figures (naturally tending to be the officers) come across as heroes with moral virtues clearly on display. Livy would have approved. It's just the kind of thing to give to a child who is interested in history and enj
...more
Mmars
Mar 10, 2014 Mmars rated it really liked it
Shelby's focus is on the Confederates in this well-written account of the battle of Gettysburg, and Lee comes off as the root of many of their failures in the battle. Until the end, when the surviving grays cross the Potomac in the middle of the night, thereby embarrassing the Feds in what should have become a decisive victory, the Federals are given less attention. Meade's actions are portrayed, but Buford's defensive actions on the first day of battle are given inproportionate print.

There are
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Jessika
Jun 12, 2013 Jessika rated it really liked it
I have been going to Gettysburg with my family since I was a very little girl. In fact, I was just there on Labor Day a couple days ago. I have always loved it there. The history of the place, the battlefield and even just the town itself make it my favorite place to visit. I've always known tidbits about the battle here and there from the countless tours my dad has given us throughout the years, but I decided that since I suppose I AM old enough to really understand what happened and since I'm ...more
Mike
Dec 12, 2012 Mike rated it it was amazing
Reading Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1963, I could almost hear him speaking the words on the always mesmerizing PBS series "The Civil War" by Ken Burns. The language is so beautiful and evocative, bringing you almost into the hot, humid summer afternoon, listening to the cannonade as Pickett's charge is about to form up and march to destruction and into history. I have put off reading his massive 3 part history of the Civil War, so daunting in size. After this littl ...more
Steven Peterson
Oct 24, 2009 Steven Peterson rated it really liked it
First, this is not the best rendering of the battle at Gettysburg. For that, see Coddington or Trudeau or Sears or. . . . On the other hand, for those who want a literate, relatively brief introduction with the ability to understand something of the leading players at the battle, this is a good work.

Foote was a novelist, and his sensibility from that experience comes through. The way he turns phrases is exquisite. For instance, read the pages featuring Heth's advance toward Gettysburg and Bufor
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Duane
If any of you have watched Ken Burns mini-series "The Civil War", then you will be familiar with Shelby Foote as one of the contributors. He is remembered for his slow southern accent and his depth of knowledge of the Civil War. This book focuses on The Battle of Gettysburg, probably the best known and most studied of all Civil War battles. I, along with my two younger brothers, had the honor of spending three days touring the Gettysburg Battlefield site a few years back. We walked on Little Rou ...more
Pattie
Jan 10, 2008 Pattie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Anyone wanting to understand our history
Shelves: favorites
I re-read this book every year on the July 4 holiday, to remember what happened in Gettysburg during the first three days of July not that long ago.

I don't like war and get bored with scholarly histories, and yet Foote lays it all out with such beauty and economy of language that you can't help but be swept along.
Paul
Jul 10, 2010 Paul added it
While this book is a single chapter from the 3 volume Civil War narritive, it reads as a complete story of the great battle. Next year is the 150th anniversary of the beginning of the War. I read the book on the days (July 1-3) of the conflict. Foote tells the story from the South's perspective but does not hold back in judging Lee's tactics as imperfect. This was Meade's first battle as General of the Army of the Potomac and most of his defensive tactics went right. His major failure was to not ...more
Mitchell
Dec 16, 2015 Mitchell rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction-misc
This is a great account of the Battle of Gettysburg. It is written in a narrative style, that is at once educational and moving. I also found it easy to follow the 3 day battle, and while it is written in a narrative style, it was filled with rich detail and quotes that really bring the period to life. One really cannot go wrong with anything Shelby Foote has written. Highly recommended.
Jack Wolfe
Jun 06, 2016 Jack Wolfe rated it it was amazing
Can a sad book be a badass book? Gettysburg was awful, and Shelby Foote knows it. At no point does he romanticize the battle (though he does offer the firsthand testimony of more than a few Confederates crushin' on Robert E. Lee), and a great many of his pages are dedicated the agony that all war is finally ever about (screams after Pickett's charge were "strange and terrible, a sound that came from thousands of human throats, yet was not a commingling of shouts and yells but rather like a vast ...more
Tom
Sep 13, 2014 Tom rated it really liked it
My introduction to Shelby Foote was through his frequent appearances as an analyst and story-teller in Ken Burns' The Civil War. His sometimes poignant, other times amusing anecdotes, all told with his laid-back, somewhat bemused expression and touch of a Southern drawl really appealed to me.

That same voice, ear for dialogue, and eye for detail continues in this book. Foote brings all his powers as a novelist to bear here, and he tells the story very well. He doesn't get bogged down with pedant
...more
Drew Zagorski
May 12, 2014 Drew Zagorski rated it really liked it
Shelves: history
First I'll just state that the only reason I'd not rated this book a 5 star read is because I've read several books on Gettysburgh, and the Civil War, so there wasn't much new information here (Foote's three volume treatment of the war was phenomenal and I highly recommend it if you've not read that!). That said, I'm a huge fan of Shelby Foote's work. His way of story telling is such that it makes you feel as though you're sitting in his living room, and can almost hear his voice as you read. He ...more
Xerodog
Jun 21, 2016 Xerodog rated it really liked it
I enjoyed this account and got a lot from it having recently visited the town and battlefield. Foote obviously has great admiration for the soldiers involved, especially the Confederate officers. However, it did seem that his admiration of Lee was rather too generous. It was an earlier time, though, and the attitude of the participants seems rather like that of those in the early stages of the first world war when chivalry and derring-do seemed possible. The strength of this account is in the te ...more
Josh Luft
Aug 07, 2014 Josh Luft rated it liked it
In Stars in Their Courses, Shelby Foote brings you to Gettysburg, 1863, sweeping you back and forth between the Federal and Confederate sides, his prose gliding from brief bits of backstory to battle scenes, his knowledge of the material and frequent use of the present tense creating a you-are-there sensation with Foote the Virgil to your Dante. As the book is an excerpt from Volume 2 of his The Civil War: A Narrative, it can't help from coming across as in media res, a sampler. It's a fine samp ...more
Bruce Dunphy
Sep 23, 2015 Bruce Dunphy rated it it was amazing
I first came across Shelby Foote while watching Ken Burns' _Civil War_ TV series on PBS. His book is extremely detailed, and, storyteller that he is, it was so easy for me to picture the drama on the battle field. He brilliantly handles statistics and exhibits an intriguing literary style reminiscent of the novels of Robert Penn Warren and his friend Walker Percy. After reading this, you will see any History Channel documentary on Gettysburg and cringe at the inaccuracies--as if you had been the ...more
Paul
Jul 04, 2010 Paul rated it really liked it
By total chance, I happened to finish this the morning of the 4th of July. I very much enjoy Shelby Foote's prose; which is why, despite my amateur historian's disdain for a lack of citations, I decided to give this account of Gettysburg a whirl. It certainly lived up to my expectations, although I found myself going back over some passages because of his use of metaphors and other Southern story-telling ways. I anticipated the need after a long break from "literature" while reading works of soc ...more
Gerald Hickman
May 01, 2015 Gerald Hickman rated it really liked it
I enjoy this author's efforts. He is my favorite author on Civil War topics. I also like his mild southern accent. I usually have a hard time grasping the order and important areas of the Gettysburg battle for the 3 day struggle. This book added many new facts about the persons and the personalities at the Battle. But I am still occasionally lost about who did what and when. The Killer Angels did the best job for me to put the Battle at Gettysburg, PA and the generals, and the two armies in pers ...more
William French
Jul 14, 2015 William French rated it it was amazing
I saw Shelby Foote on In-Depth on C-Span a few years ago and was totally impressed. He must have been one of the leading intellectuals of the 20th century. Also, he was best friends with Walker Percy, the famous novelist. This book reads like a novel and is great history, similar to the writings of Barbara Tuchamn. The attention to telling detail is remarkable and is very elucidating about the characters of the men who determined the course of the battle. One wonder how Gen. Lee ever overcame th ...more
William
Aug 20, 2011 William rated it really liked it
This narrative history is Foote at his best. His scholarship makes the presentation of the Gettysburg battle impeccably accurate. One must appreciate, however, that despite his seeming even handedness he does show his bias towards the South at times. For example as in his three volume comprehensive history of the Civil War he does not describe or even credit the incredible valor and bravery of the 20th Regiment of Maine Volunteers under Chamberlain that charged downhill at the Rebels on Little R ...more
Ken
Sep 26, 2011 Ken rated it really liked it
I decided to read this book after a recent visit to the Gettysburg battlefield. Sheby Foote wrote in an elegant prose that reminded me of the way he spoke when he talked about the Civil War. I knew some of the basic details of Gettysburg but this smallish book (290 pages) put it in perspective and covers the before and after campaign and some of the political aspects. This book challenges the notion that Robert E. Lee was a military genius...he clearly didn't know what he was doing and probably ...more
Sal Prezioso
Mar 24, 2008 Sal Prezioso rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: History and Civil War buffs
First read the book, then listened to the audio book. Another book taken from Foote's famous trilogy. Being interested in the Battle of Gettysburg and now living here, it was something to add to my knowledge of the place and continue to really understand what happened here.

As Foote often does, he humanizes the hard facts, figures and tactics of the battle in his inimitable way. He has many insights and stories that fill in a lot of the things I never knew, but also added to my knowledge of the b
...more
Seth Augenstein
May 24, 2014 Seth Augenstein rated it it was amazing
Shelves: the-best
A history so full of juice - and blood and guts and humor and sadness - that it makes the past come alive. Walker Percy apparently described the entire trilogy as "an American Iliad," and I can't see a more fitting way of describing this apex of the whole thing.
JD
Aug 05, 2012 JD rated it really liked it
Shelves: non-fiction
This is my first, and probably overdue, foray into reading about the Civil War, and given that this is an excerpt from a larger work I found myself really struggling in the early chapters to keep track of who was who and also not understanding the importance of references to earlier battles. Once I had settled in I really began to enjoy myself. As many of the reviews note the style of writing is both informative and compelling. I did find myself yearning to be read an ebook version of this inste ...more
Daniel Farabaugh
Aug 25, 2014 Daniel Farabaugh rated it it was amazing
This is what I would expect from Shelby Foote. It was a comprehensive and engaging account of Gettysburg. Really good.
Wes F
Jan 04, 2015 Wes F rated it really liked it
A really great read that gives you the inside scoop on the critical Gettysburg Campaign that turned the fate of the US Civil War. At such a staggering cost, though, a cost that breaks your heart when you think about what it really was all fought over. Don't go spouting off about "states' rights," either, because "the right" of a state to enforce an evil/devil-inspired law of slavery & people ownership is not a right at all in any civil sense of the word. And surely not one that those who say ...more
Manray9
Jul 15, 2012 Manray9 rated it liked it
Shelves: civil-war
Excerpted from Foote's renowned multi-volume history of the Civil War, "Stars in Their Courses" gives a solid account of the Gettysburg Campaign. It is a shining example of history written as a novel -- one can learn and be entertained at the same time. Foote's research is good and he can certainly turn a phrase. For those new to Civil War history or without a firm background in the subject, "Stars in Their Courses" and its sister volume on the Vicksburg Campaign, "The Beleaguered City," are exc ...more
Sean Chick
Apr 30, 2014 Sean Chick rated it really liked it
For 1963, this work is admirable in its fair treatment of Longstreet, both his good and bad points. Meade is given the shaft and indeed, the Union is less present. This is ultimately the battle from the Confederate side (The Beleaguered City, by contrast, is more Union centered). Foote is at his best when describing combat, something few historians can manage.
William
Jan 30, 2014 William rated it liked it
While the book was a good account of the Gettysburg Campaign, I found it to be long winded and verbose. How many times and from how many different players do I need to read that the weather was hot and the skies were clear? And how do you essentially minimize the role of Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain?
Rebecca Gomez
Jun 21, 2008 Rebecca Gomez rated it it was amazing
This was the first of three books that I read on Gettysburg prior to my trip there a few weeks ago. It was a very engaging retelling of the battle's events. Sure, I had to reread a few passages to keep track of who was who but I've never minded that. I've read and enjoyed the Silmarillion after all. My one complaint, not enough wrap up of the lasting effects afterwards but that's not the book's fault. It's only an excerpt of a larger work that I'm just going to have to track down and read as wel ...more
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Shelby Dade Foote, Jr. was an American novelist and a noted historian of the American Civil War, writing a massive, three-volume history of the war entitled The Civil War: A Narrative. With geographic and cultural roots in the Mississippi Delta, Foote's life and writing paralleled the radical shift from the agrarian planter system of the Old South to the Civil Rights era of the New South. Foote wa ...more
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