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

4.47 of 5 stars 4.47  ·  rating details  ·  902 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Shelby Foote's monumental 3-part chronicle of the Civil War was hailed by Walker Percy as "an unparalleled achievement, an American Iliad, a unique work uniting the scholarship of the historian & the high readability of the 1st-class novelist."
Drawn from Foote's acclaimed & massive The Civil War: A Narrative--the central chapter of the central volume, & theref
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
Battle of Gettysburg Books
3rd out of 67 books — 42 voters
Band of Brothers by Stephen E. AmbroseBlack Hawk Down by Mark BowdenLone Survivor by Marcus LuttrellUnbroken by Laura HillenbrandFlags of Our Fathers by James D. Bradley
Best Non-fiction War Books
121st out of 821 books — 1,019 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 1,429)
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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.
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
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
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
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
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
Steven Peterson
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
Jan 10, 2008 Pattie rated it 5 of 5 stars
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.
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
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
William French
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
Drew Zagorski
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
Josh Luft
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
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
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
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 5 of 5 stars
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
Seth Augenstein
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.
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
This is what I would expect from Shelby Foote. It was a comprehensive and engaging account of Gettysburg. Really good.
Wes F
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
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
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.
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
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
Hard to imagine this amount of detail being presented more fluidly. Even so, it gets a little bogged down on occasion.
Monte Lamb
Shelby Foote is a master story-teller. If you want to learn about the Gettysburg Campaign, this is an excellent place to begin. The book reads like a novel with plenty of detail without over-burdening the reader with too much insignificant detailed information that interferes with the story. The author writes so well and covers the actions of the main characters so thoroughly, you can easily understand how and why the battle developed the way it did.
I read this book after reading "The Killer Angels." I needed an nonfiction account of the Battle of Gettysburg. Stars in Their Courses was a great read. I liked Foote's style and have decided to read his 3 volume set on the Civil War. My only disappointment was the brevity of the account of the 20th Maine. I think it gets only one sentence! Nevertheless, Foote focuses on the key figures and his analysis of Lee's decision making was worth the read.
Ron Wallace
Feb 25, 2008 Ron Wallace rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Lovers of literature and history especially
Recommended to Ron by: Chris Wall
Shelves: top-shelf
Just finished this highly intelligent presentation of the Battle of Gettysburg by Shelby Foote and was truly impressed by the unique approach and scholarly deliverence of the work. This is how American History should be presented in the classroom; then perhaps we would have the fools who appear so intellectually challenged showing up on Jay Leno's Jaywalking. Gripping work well written and absorbing style and language.
I've read several reviews that equate this book to a novel. That is very accurate, which makes it an accessible book to anyone... whether they are just learning about the battle of Gettysburg or are well versed about it. Shelby Foote wrote with a unique and charming style; bringing the historical figures to life as well as the sobering reality of the Gettysburg Campaign. I would recommend this book to anyone.
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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
More about Shelby Foote...
The Civil War, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville The Civil War: A Narrative The Civil War, Vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox Shiloh

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