Goodreads helps you keep track of books you want to read.
Start by marking “The Civil War, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville” as Want to Read:
The Civil War, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville
Enlarge cover
Rate this book
Clear rating
Open Preview

The Civil War, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville (The Civil War #1)

4.43  ·  Rating details ·  9,090 Ratings  ·  356 Reviews

This first volume of Shelby Foote’s classic narrative of the Civil War opens with Jefferson Davis’s farewell to the United States Senate and ends on the bloody battlefields of Antietam and Perryville, as the full, horrible scope of America’s great war becomes clear. Exhaustively researched and masterfully written, Foote’s epic account of the Civil War unfolds like a novel.

Kindle Edition, 1101 pages
Published (first published November 12th 1958)
More Details... edit details

Friend Reviews

To see what your friends thought of this book, please sign up.
This book is not yet featured on Listopia. Add this book to your favorite list »

Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
Rating details
Sort: Default
I am transforming myself into such a history enthusiast, wonderful! I never imagined some years back that I would read a 900-pages Civil War history (and it's just the first volume of its trilogy); to understand my amazement you have to remember that I am not American.

Shelby Foote’s excellent The Civil War, Vol. 1: Fort Sumter to Perryville had me enthralled all the way through the end. Reading this beautifully-written and absolutely epic history, you get a sweeping story that is comprehensivel
This first volume of a trilogy from the 50’s brings complex history and the personalities that play on its stage alive with a wonderful narrative approach rich in human stories. When he writes what a key figure is thinking or speaking, you have to take it with a grain of salt. But for me all historical accounts, even autobiography, also need salt given how much the human factors behind events comes down to individual interpretation. And seeing as how this was part of a labor of love (or obsessio ...more
Jan 02, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
When reading this, it's hard not to recall the words of a colleague of mine who, while acknowledging the undoubted quality of this series, referred to Shelby Foote as a Southern sympathizer. It may be a reflection of the times in which this book was written (mid-1950s), or perhaps a byproduct of humanity's identification with the underdog, but I think my colleague had the right of it, to an extent. Foote, by turns from Mississippi and North Carolina, owns up to a certain need to suppress those s ...more
I wanted a book that would take a year of my life to read, so 3,000 pages in three volumes, I thought this should fill the bill. Well into the second volume, I’ll be lucky if it lasts me the summer. Can’t put it down.
Feb 29, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It is amazing to me that this book was written more than half a century ago, when its author Shelby Foote was still a young man. Most histories of the Civil War that I know pretty much concentrate on the four-year duel between the Army of the Potomac under McClellan (et al. ad infinitum) and the Army of Northern Virginia under Lee. Admittedly, the Old Dominion State had more than its share of bloody battles; but it wasn't the whole shooting match, so to speak. Even while Lee and his opponent du ...more
William Ramsay
Sep 03, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
One of the advantages of growing old (or older) is that you develop a very long memory. 1961 marked the centennial year of the start of the Civil War and the bookstores were filled with works about the war and the people who fought it. I really got into the period and read many of the major works on the war (Carl Sandburg’s great bio of Lincoln, Allan Nevins’ six volume study of the war, and many of the more popular works such as those by Bruce Catton, etc.) The very best set of books I read in ...more
Dec 23, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I guess some guy called this the "American Iliad"...I have no idea what that means but it certainly sounds cool, and this book deserves to sound cool. I am by no means a scholar on the American Civil War (the Confederates hilariously liked to call it the 2nd American Revolution) but if I enjoy the other two volumes as much as I did this one then I don't see how it wouldn't render all of the other volumes written covering the extent of the war by so many different authors superfluous. I realize t ...more
Feb 08, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelby Foote would be considered by many Civil War readers to be the greatest writer on the subject. He considered himself to be a historian but not an academic, and his extremely detailed knowledge of the Civil War coupled with his straight-forward writing style have produced works which have fascinated readers for decades.

This book is part of a trilogy of books that Foote wrote over a period of about 20 years. He came about the project originally after publication of his novel "Shiloh" in the
Jun 18, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
I'd forgotten that I'd read this massive trilogy until I came across someone reading it yesterday. My grandfather had them and liked them, so I figured I'd try them out, and read them during my freshman and sophomore years in high school, I think. They were really interesting and very detailed portraits of all of the different personalities involved, especially the different generals involved on the Union side, and had some actually very funny anecdotes (my favorite one, though I can't remember ...more
Matt Brady
Aug 21, 2016 rated it really liked it
On the one hand Foote is pretty openly a confederate sympathizer, opening the book by talking about what a good and kind slavemaster Jefferson Davis was, portraying abolitionists as ruthless rabble rousing demagogues etc, but on the other hand I doubt you're going to find a better detailed description of the events of the civil war itself. I don't at all think this is an unenjoyable or non-informative read, just that it should probably be heavily supplemented with other works that maybe aren't s ...more
Avis Black
Mar 11, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I have an allergy to Shelby Foote. I care for neither his prose style nor his biased viewpoint.

Many years ago, Douglas Southall Freeman, the author of Lee's Lieutenants, told his friend Clifford Dowdey (another Civil War author), that he often suppressed his real opinions about the generals in his histories. Freeman explained this was because his sources were the children and grandchildren (many of them personal friends) of the men he wrote about in his books, and the real story of the Civil War
Colleen Browne
Aug 02, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, literature
I would like to have given this book 4 and a half stars although obviously that is not possible. I do not understand the misspellings in the book- was there no editor or some hidden reason for it? Still, I was drawn to Foote's writing. His appreciation and dedication to the history he was writing was obvious and his evenhandedness apparent. This book is very easy reading so I would recommend it even to those not normally drawn to history. I was a bit annoyed by the lack of footnotes which make a ...more
Extremely detailed narrative of the Civil War. Listening to the audio version of it and I really should be following more closely checking each battle out on the map as well, but I confess I'm not. I'm content with a rough visualization which may or may not be exact and probably isn't, even if this is my second or third time for reading up on some of these. Hope to return to again sometime.

Well worth it. On to Volume 2!
Ralph Wark
Sep 12, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I have heard a great deal of the fortuitous and highly effulgient writing of Mr. shelby Foote, esq., an author held in high esteem on both sides of the Mason Dixon line. Why, I was just saying to my lovely wife, Phyllis Belle........

OK, the prosaic prose and somewhat formal verbiage does affect you after 810 pages, I had a constant craving for hardback and hominy grits.

Oh, the story? The tales told of the first third of the war between the state's. Bloody magnificent. Not only are there 810 pag
Apr 10, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is classic writing by a powerful. balanced well researched author. I had read this book and the other three many years ago while in college. The three book volume is a Christmas gift from my wife Shari and I have just begun to re-read this great piece of work. Each volume is over 800 pages long, so I will be reading a volume - then taking a break with other reading - then returning to the series.

Originally started in 1954, it took over 20 years to complete was the research so exhaustive. To
Sep 08, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Chris by: David Hook
Shelves: civil-war
This volume is an account of the first year and a half of the Civil War, primarily focusing on the military engagements. It is in the narrative style, and rarely provides analysis. I found it enjoyable and informative, but also dry at times. Even though this is a thorough book that explains the events from a fairly high level, it can be difficult to follow. You definitely need to have a good understanding of the Civil War and be familiar with the names of commanders; otherwise it is easy to get ...more
Dec 28, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Been reading this book in parts for last year, as the "baseline" to my series of Civil War books. Reading this series will be the progress I'll keep coming back to after branching out to other books, topics and sub-topics. Foote's writing as a narrative is exactly what I prefer to history. And though you can tell his writing is based in research, it isn't overly academic and thrown in your face with notes and conclusions, etc. His note on bibliography at end of book is sufficient for what I'm lo ...more
Ben Vogel
Nov 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I first read this definitive 3 volume series when Ruth was a newborn in 2001. I fondly recall these books in my lap alongside my sleeping baby girl, woodstove heating our den cozily, while a heavy February snow quilted the word outside. Those were magical times, and I wondered if my impressions of these works were skewed favorably as a result.

Well, I just finished re-reading volume 1, and I enjoyed Mr Foote's eloquent prose every bit as much, though my house is now filled with three rambunctious
Mar 27, 2009 marked it as to-read  ·  review of another edition
Judging by the size of this book, the civil war is longer than I thought.
Lisa (Harmonybites)
Jan 25, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: <i>Serious</i> Civil War Buffs
Recommended to Lisa (Harmonybites) by: The Complete Idiot's Guide to the Ultimate Reading List
I've been reading a lot of popular histories lately and more and more have become disenchanted with the kind of history book that tells a reader that a man's "heart beat faster" or "pupils flared" when to say the least, the chances the historian pulled that detail out of a diary or letter are low. And if you are going to get away with such embellishments, your style better have the panache of a Truman Capote, a Tom Wolfe or Erik Larson. Shelby Foote does have style--he's a novelist rather than a ...more
Miles Mathews
Jun 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Quite simply, this book is superb! I have a printed edition on my bookshelf, which I have had for more than 20 years, but the time commitment required to complete the trilogy caused me to continually postpone the reading project. I recently purchased the audio edition, which worked well with my lengthy daily commute, and it transformed it into one of my favorite parts of the day!

Shelby Foote's narrative of the Civil War is comprehensive in its treatment of the Civil War's military and political
Nathan Sloan
Jan 24, 2017 rated it really liked it
I loved Shelby Foote in the Ken Burns Civil War series, and ever since I saw him there this series has been on my list. I am glad to have this first volume under my belt and look forward to the other two.

Shelby is a great storyteller, and the language used here is beautiful. I don't agree with other reviewers that he's a southern sympathizer. This is a narrative of what actually happened, not an analysis of why it happened. Also, in telling what happened from a day-to-day standpoint the issue o
Volume 1 of 3- I enjoyed this immensely, in particular the larger focus on the western theater of the war, and the southern aspects, which sometimes seem to get short shrift. Was pretty amazed at all the battles (naval) in particular that took place in the less well known western theater. This book is far more oriented toward the military battles and personalities and doesn’t touch a whole lot on the cultures of the time like abolition, slavery

The individual battles are pretty fascinating and al
Jimmie Aaron Kepler
I just completed volume one, The Civil War: A Narrative, Fort Sumter to Perryville". It was 810 pages in the version I have. I started reading the volume on June 6 and completed it on August 15. I expect to complete the other two volumes in the next 6 months.

Here is my review of volume one. The book covers the beginning of the war through December 1862. The late Shelby Foote writes with a down home, comfortable style that is like he is sitting beside you telling a story. Make no mistake, he is a
Sep 06, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: history, civil-war
Shelby Foote's three volume "The Civil War: A Narrative" is considered by some to be the Bible of the Civil War, and with good cause as the three volumes average 1,000 pages with few illustrations. I do wish that there were more illustrations and did use other references to help me follow along as I read. Although Foote, who passed away on 2005, is a native of Mississippi and admits that he may exhibit the "American normal sympathy for the underdog in a fight", he does a fairly good job of being ...more
Tom Stamper
Sep 21, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I've been reading this book slowly over the course of a few months and I think it digests better that way. I first attempted it back in the 1990s but was a bit overwhelmed at trying to remember which of the minor players belong to which side of the fight. I think I made it through 200 pages on that attempt. And frankly, the beginning is the best part as Shelby Foote introduces the setting. He also finds a natural ending in Part 1 with the Emancipation Proclamation.

There is plenty of Robert E. L
Nov 03, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is a very well written history of the war that makes very sad reading for any American. First because 600,000 Americans had to die over ending the despicable immorality of slavery. Second, for Northerners because the efforts of the Union Army were so ineffectual despite the huge advantage of more than twice the population, and much more importantly, 5-6 times the manufacturing capability. The reason for the poor showing was the South had a much more warlike culture with most of the regular ...more
Shawn Slattery
Shelby Foote is by no doubt the master of Civil War history. Upon picking up this book, you realize how much your teachers and other authors have let you down when they breeze by the topics of the war that tore this country asunder.

However, that epic scope can also be seen as the weakness in this book, as except for true military buffs, there is going to be a lot of slow reading for the average reader as Foote accounts in excruciating detail every battle in thr Civil War, because with a 3 volume
Jul 08, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I began volume one in July, it took approximately 40 listening hours to complete. Wonderfully written, filled with diary entries of mothers and sisters, journal posting of generals and letters home from foot soldiers. I listened while walking my dog in the deep woods near our home, imagining what the soldiers might have felt. The book made me feel the heat, mosquitos, hunger, fear and endless marching. I imagined a Southern soldier behind every tree, waiting to jump out and scream the "rebel yel ...more
Jan 17, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Volume 1 of Shelby Foote's epic narrative delivered as only he could have. I became interested in Shelby Foote from the PBS Ken Burns Civil War documentary that aired years ago. Foote's commentary throughout the series I found most entertaining and insightful. Years later I decided to purchase his boxed set of 3 volumes but like many things in ones life they sat there collecting dust before I decided maybe I should crack them.

I was not disappointed in the completion on this first volume only in
« previous 1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 next »
topics  posts  views  last activity   
The split in the country is still around 5 39 Nov 21, 2014 12:53PM  
  • Never Call Retreat
  • The Civil War: An Illustrated History
  • Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam
  • Chancellorsville 1863: The Souls of the Brave
  • The Life of Johnny Reb: The Common Soldier of the Confederacy
  • Gettysburg--The First Day
  • Co. Aytch: A Confederate Memoir of the Civil War
  • Lee's Lieutenants: A Study In Command (Volume I: Manassas to Malvern Hill)
  • Fighting for the Confederacy: The Personal Recollections of General Edward Porter Alexander
  • Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage
  • For Cause and Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War
  • The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command
  • Return to Bull Run: The Campaign and Battle of Second Manassas
  • The Battle of the Wilderness May 5-6, 1864
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...

Other Books in the Series

The Civil War (3 books)
  • The Civil War, Vol. 2: Fredericksburg to Meridian
  • The Civil War, Vol. 3: Red River to Appomattox
“The point I would make is that the novelist and the historian are seeking the same thing: the truth – not a different truth: the same truth – only they reach it, or try to reach it, by different routes. Whether the event took place in a world now gone to dust, preserved by documents and evaluated by scholarship, or in the imagination, preserved by memory and distilled by the creative process, they both want to tell us how it was: to re-create it, by their separate methods, and make it live again in the world around them.” 31 likes
“Not married until 33, Abraham Lincoln said, "A woman is the only thing I am afraid of that cannot hurt me.” 10 likes
More quotes…