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The Coming Fury (The Centennial History of the Civil War #1)

4.28  ·  Rating Details ·  1,961 Ratings  ·  68 Reviews
Volume I of The Centennial History of the Civil War (3 Vols.).
Winner of the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award! A thrilling, page-turning piece of writing that describes the forces conspiring to tear apart the United States--with the disintegrating political processes and rising tempers finally erupting at Bull Run.
"...a major work by a major writer, a superb re-c
...more
Paperback
Published 2001 by Phoenix Press (first published 1961)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Josh Liller
I read this book on recomendation from a Civil War group here on GoodReads, after asking for a book about the time immediately before the war.

This book covers 1860 and 1861, from the Democratic Party convention in Charleston that tries (and fails) to nominate a candidate for the presidency through Bull Run, the battle that solidified the idea that the war would be neither short nor easy.

This book was written in the 1960s; this is actually the first part of the Centenial history of the war and Ca
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Chris
This volume details the build-up of tensions during 1860 and early 1861 that finally exploded into the Civil War in April. It also covers the early months of the war through the Battle of Bull Run in July of '61.

The opening scene tells the story of the contentious atmosphere of the Democratic National Convention in Charleston in April of 1860 that ended up without a nominee. Subsequently, the party split into separate factions, each holding a separate convention that nominated its own candidate
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Tom
Feb 09, 2016 Tom rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Dare one say that this treasured history of events leading to the Civil War now seems...well...dated? Catton taught most of us "of an age" about the great American catastrophe of the 19th Century and was a fine teacher, indeed. Still, compared with the work of Shelby Foote which has a more modern tone, Catton's work does seem a bit cliched and oddly worded. That tiny whine noted, Catton remains as superb a historian as he seemed so many decades ago. A fine piece of scholarship neatly presented.
Donna Davis
Brilliant!

I was in the first grade when this was published, and so naturally I missed it at the time. My attention was drawn to it as one of the few secondary sources to be referenced more than once in McPherson's historical writing. I tracked it down at my favorite used book store last summer and brought home the whole trilogy.

The first big, beefy hardcover book is almost entirely devoted to the events that led up to the American Civil War. Those of us living in the US are so accustomed to a
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Kathy Stone
Aug 11, 2014 Kathy Stone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: from-the-library
This is a great introduction to the issues that led to secession in 1861. Bruce Catton starts with the Democratic Convention in 1860 in Charleston, SC and end the the First Battle of Bull Run. It is interesting to note that the division of the Democratic party occurred from the beginning of the campaign season. The Republicans had not convened and the Democrats were not able to come to a consensus about who their own presidential nominee would be. The Southerners held their own convention and no ...more
Jim
Jun 01, 2017 Jim rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I remember this. This was the third book I read as a child and reread later on. Catton was the authority of his time, but time and how history is chronicled, perceived and tweaked by new material, has made his books out of touch with contemporary writers. That said; as I stated I read this early on and thought it was wonderful, while later on not so much. BUT. I do think that beginners of historical books should have a go. I do wish I had kept my copy if for no other reason to pass it on to my s ...more
Timothy Riley
The parallels between this time period and today are chilling. Catton writes about the turmoil following John Brown's raid on Harper's Ferry to the first battle of Manassas (Bull Run). It details the process in which Americans fought each other because of greed and a lack of understanding of the other side. To be sure, slavery was THE reason for the civil war. Some doubters or southern apologists will consistently mention States Rights as the cause, but THE state right the south was so upset abo ...more
Neil
I am going to start off by saying I chose to read this for a class as an 'assigned reading'; otherwise, I might have read it eventually, but who knows when?

Second, holy cow! that was a loooooong book! I had no idea it would take me so long to read it when I started. Two weeks to read it! [which is what happens when you read a book inbetween your textbook readings for class]

I put it as five stars not because I loved it, per se. I put it at five stars because it was still an amazing book. I wonder
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Kelly
May 30, 2014 Kelly rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Brian
well written, engaging and very informative, I'd recommend especially for political wonks as this is not really a breezy read but very detailed and specific about the events and times

learned alot about some incidents i knew relatively little about, such as the multiple democratic conventions, the long run-up to sumter attack with aborted attacks/threats/political maneuvering/conflicting and late orders, peaceful evacuation of texas

intriguing that catton seems to make douglas out as one of the be
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Victor Davis
This was exactly the book I was hoping it to be. For all the millions of pages of Civil War literature extant, there seems to be a shortage of well-known, scholarly writing about the events leading up to its outbreak. We are taught in school that "the South seceded" in December 1860, that Fort Sumter was fired upon the following April and that the first major battle happened in July. From a modern perspective, this seems ludicrous. Wars have been fought and finished in less time!

Bruce Catton exp
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Ari
Nov 25, 2012 Ari rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Rereading this after a few years. I'm still impressed how wonderfully the prose flows, how evocative the descriptions, and how sweeping the analysis.

Unusually among Civil War histories, Catton starts his narrative with the Democratic Party Convention of 1860: the Southern states walked out of the convention over slavery, splitting the party and -- implicitly -- committing themselves to walk out of the Union.

Opening Chapter 3, Catton describes how, in 1860, "every piece of the intricate machiner
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P.J. Sullivan
Jul 21, 2009 P.J. Sullivan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history
This one is about the complex legal issues that led to the Civil War and to the most momentous decision in U. S. history: how should President Lincoln respond to the secessions and the seizures of federal property in the South? It raises many interesting questions, not the least of which is, did he make the right decision? Was the bloodbath worth it? If Lincoln had known the consequences, would he have made the same decision? If he had let the South go, would it have brought peace? How long woul ...more
Paul Cane
Apr 04, 2013 Paul Cane rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"The Coming Fury" is book one in a series of three written for the centennial of the Civil War. It and its companion volumes, "The Terrible Swift Sword" and "Never Call Retreat" clearly served as source material for much of the popular literature and media produced about the Civil War since. The first volume provides a narrative of the events leading up to Fort Sumter, including the democratic and republican conventions, Lincoln's election and the secession of the Confederate states. Catton's na ...more
Kyle Brown
Mar 28, 2014 Kyle Brown rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
First book I've read of Mr. Catton's, although I've heard of him practically all my life. I can see why he was chosen to write the Centennial history of the War Between the States. His literary prose is well treated to the subject, but not without humor and all the while very capable of telling the story of the great coming calamity. And as any mark of a good historian, he doesn't sway the reader toward one side or the other but merely presents the facts as they lay and lets the characters prese ...more
Brian
Feb 02, 2017 Brian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
4.5 stars, if I could give half-stars.

Okay, so I have to admit: I never liked history very much. Growing up, it was always one of my least favorite subjects in school. But last year a friend of mine recommended the Yale Open Course class on the Civil War taught by David Blight. I gave it a go and found myself really interested in this part of history that I had always overlooked. Blight gives a shout-out to Catton in one of the lectures, and that's what led me to The Coming Fury, the first in a
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Jeremy Ross
Jun 29, 2012 Jeremy Ross rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition


An education to say the least. Written in early 60's so sometimes heavy reading, and having an old copy, the font was small. Funny I thought I was so dang smart and knew about the civil war! I don't know jack! Cool to hear perspective of dr catton and views/research of late 50's/ early 60's. Book ends at first major battle- first manassas/ bull run. A confederate victory that taught the north that this wasn't gonna be a one day drop the plow kick confederate ass then return. No, this overhauled
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Mary
Oct 25, 2016 Mary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton is a superb writer. The narrative style that he employs in this book brings to life the significant people and events in the 16 months from the political party conventions in April of 1860 (when Abraham Lincoln became the nominee of the Republican Party) through the first real battle of the Civil War, Bull Run/Manassas, in July of 1861. I'd always heard that Lincoln's election was the immediate precipitant of the war, but I wanted to know why, exactly. Through his extensive research ...more
Jeffrey
Jun 19, 2016 Jeffrey rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history-military
If you want to understand the roots of the Civil War (and be entertained in the process), read this book. It's as simple as that. Read it if you're interested in who Jefferson Davis and Abraham Lincoln were as people; how the Southern Democrats of 1860 sabotaged their own party to ensure they would lose the election; how the decision to start a bloody Civil War was the result of a buck passed down to the point where the final call was made by a local Charleston artillery commander; how Lincoln c ...more
Paul
Apr 15, 2011 Paul rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: civil-war
this is part 1 of 3 in series.

loved this book. very well paced and i appreciated the attention paid by catton to fort pickens in pensacola. the way he analyzed its fate relative to sumter was a nice touch. catton has a way of analyzing broadly, yet clearly, the political and regional mood swings throughout the south leading up to its complete secession that i think lays a solid foundation for anyone trying to get a handle on how and why the civil war happened. he actually makes reading about pol
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Patrick Skelly
Jan 27, 2015 Patrick Skelly rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The Coming Fury is an excellent history of the antebellum period. This is not a battle volume; rather it is an astute political analysis. Catton provides excellent insight into the psychology of the period, which i have not found in any other period history. After reading the book, I understand far better the emotions and motivations of the principal actors of the day. I can also trace clear lineage (or at a minimum, parallels) to today's partisan gridlock. The stock phrase is that history repea ...more
Mary
Jan 03, 2015 Mary rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I think I would have enjoyed this a lot more if I had been able to devote the time to it that it deserves. As it is, I had to read it in very piecemeal sections over three weeks, and by the end I just wasn't enjoying it as much anymore. However, when I did get a chance to read it, I loved the writing style, which makes you feel like you are reading a narrative rather than a dry piece of nonfiction. I also loved how Catton's stunningly detailed account allows readers to closely examine every fact ...more
Don Vandelinder
Mar 16, 2012 Don Vandelinder rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Unlike most books on the Civil War, this begins with the presidential conventions of 1860 and sets the political scene for the terrible war to come. We all know about the battles of the war but this explains the legal maneuvers behind the scenes.

The author uses an extensive list of sources. Along with the hard news items, he weaves in personal diary entries and letters to let the reader know the thoughts and fears of the people caught up in the events.

There are a few areas that get a bit long w
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Grindy Stone
Jan 28, 2013 Grindy Stone rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Most books on the Civil War, even the detailed, multi-volume ones, treat the North and South in the abstract, and give one or two chapters on the years leading up to the war before they're off and running with Fort Sumter and Bull Run. This masterpiece examines the behavior of key states as they made their choices to secede, and also highlights the role geography played in the run up to war. The war was fought over slavery beyond anything else, don't let anyone tell you otherwise, but the early ...more
Shellys♥ Journal
I loved this book. Despite having read about and studied the CW for a few years, I had never read a detailed account of the prewar activities - the presidential primaries and how this affected the coming war. Many, many little details included here and a throughly interesting read. Catton truly tells the story of it all. I love this series because he gives the details from both sides with a more neutral perspective than others writing the same material. I look forward to reading the next book in ...more
Jeff
Oct 27, 2011 Jeff rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton is in a league of his own where Civil War histories are concerned. I learned more in the first 100 pages than I've learned from any other author for a very long time.

Mr. Catton spends most of this volume (the first of a trilogy) bringing to light the events leading up to the war (the first volume ends with First Bull Run) and spends most of his efforts on explaining how we got from the election of 1860 to the fracturing of the Union to shells flying.

No disrespect to the many other C
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Amy
Jun 27, 2016 Amy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I'll openly admit there's no way I can be objective about Catton's Centennial Civil War trilogy. My mother bought it as it came out in the early to mid 1960s & I've read it numerous times. Yes, it's dated, but sheesh, it was written when it was written. It can't be other than dated. In The Coming Fury, Catton gave a fascinating account of the events, politics and atmosphere leading up to the war. We do know more now, but Catton's trilogy is a great place to start.
Dan
May 24, 2012 Dan rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
A simply outstanding history of the Civil War. There is a reason Catton's Trilogy is considered so authoritative and comprehensive. I would have liked to have had a bit more about the antebellum period and the lead-up to the war, but the focus of this work is really on the immediate build-up to the start of the war.
I highly recommend this to anyone interested in learning more about this bloody conflict and its immediate causes.
Thomas
Jul 31, 2012 Thomas rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Catton does an excellent job of creating uncertainty of a future which is our well-known past, and thereby creates a tension, a suspense, because we as readers do not know how this vehemence and vitriol will resolve itself. Like the actors of the time, we're made ignorant of the horrible consequences to come, but we can see the inevitability of violence, if not its intensity and vast encompassing malice.
Don Heiman
Jun 13, 2015 Don Heiman rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Bruce Catton's "The Coming Fury" published in 1961 is a centennial history of the beginning of the American Civil War. The book is exceptionally well written, captivating, and full of insight. It helped me better understand the interplay between slavery, state's rights, and cultural forces affected by technological change and democratic union versus self determination. It is a great read!
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4773
Catton was known as a narrative historian who specialized in popular histories that emphasized the colorful characters and vignettes of history, in addition to the simple dates, facts, and analysis. His works, although well-researched, were generally not presented in a rigorous academic style, supported by footnotes. In the long line of Civil War historians, Catton is arguably the most prolific an ...more
More about Bruce Catton...

Other Books in the Series

The Centennial History of the Civil War (3 books)
  • Terrible Swift Sword: The Centennial History of the Civil War Series, Volume 2
  • Never Call Retreat

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