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The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 3: The Thing Gets Under Way

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 3: The Thing Gets Under Way

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post – Chapter 2         Next post – Chapter 4

Volume One: Chapter 3

  1. The West: Grant, Fort Henry
  2. Donelson – The Loss of Kentucky
  3. Gloom; Manassas Evacuation
  4. McC moves to the penisula

First Army/Navy cooperation occurs on a river?

  • From page 183: “In the lead were four ironclad gunboats, unlike any ever seen before on this or any river.”
  • From page 184: “The turtle-back steamers were not a navy project, the admirals left such harebrained notions to the army. For the most part, even the sailors aboard the boats were soldiers…Once the fleet was launched and manned, however, the navy saw its potential and was willing to furnish captains for its quarterdecks. Having made the offer, which was quickly accepted, the admirals did not hold back, but sent some of their most promising officers westward for service on the rivers.”

Initial victories by U.S. Grant (Hiram!)

  •  Grant takes Fort Henry and Fort Donelsom (with the help of navel river bombardment the first time, and with little bloodshed the second time)
  • The Confederate armies retreat out of Kentucky
  • From page 196: “The congressional appointment had identified him as Ulysses Simpson Grant, when in fact his given name was Hiram Ulysses, but rather than try to untangle the yards off red tape that stood in the way of correction – besides the risk of being nicknamed “Hug” – he let his true name go and took a new one: U. S. Grant.”

understanding Lincoln

  • Having just seen the movie Lincoln, this passage parallels the portrayal of the President as a man who has loyalties only to the cause of saving the Union and putting an end to slavery.
  • From page 247-248: “That was something else he never understood: Lincoln himself. Some might praise him for being flexible, while others called him slippery, when in truth they were both two words for just one thing. To  argue the point was to insist on a distinction that did not exist. Lincoln was out to win the war; and that was alone was out to do, for the president would keep his word to any man only so long as keeping it would help to win the war. If keeping it meant otherwise, he broke it. He kept no promise, anyhow, any longer than the conditions I under which it was given obtained. And if any one thing was clear in this time when treason had become a household word, it was that the conditions of three months ago no longer obtained. McCellan would have to go forward or go down.”
  • At this point, Lincoln unilaterally put forth General War Order No. 1, stating that a forward movement would be launched on February 22, much to McCellan’s chagrin.


The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 2: First Blood; New Conceptions

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 2: First Blood; New Conceptions

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Previous post: Chapter 1          Next post: Chapter 3

Volume One: Chapter 2

  1. Manassas – Southern Triumph
  2. Anderson. Fremont. McClellan
  3. Scott’s Anaconda; the Navy
  4. Diplomacy: the Buildup

Many early victories for the South, first taste of battle always difficult

From page 93: “Few of the romantic preconceptions as to brilliant maneuver and individual gallantry were realized. Fighting at close quarters because of the short-ranged Confederate flintlocks and muzzle-loading fowling pieces, a regiment would walk up to the firing line, deliver a volley, then reload and deliver another, continuing this until it dissolved and was replaced by another regiment, which repeated the process, melting away in the heat of that furnace and being in turn replaced. No fighting anywhere ever required greater courage, yet individual gallantry seemed strangely out of place. A plume in a man’s hat, for example, accomplished nothing except to make him a more conspicuous target. Nor did the rebel yell ring out on the banks of Wilson’s Creek. There was little cheering on either side; for a cheer seemed as oddly out of place as a plume. The men went about their deadly business of firing and reloading and melting away in a grim silence broken only by the rattling crash of musketry and the deep roar of guns, with the screams of the injured sometimes piercing the din. Far from resembling panoplied war, it was more like reciprocal murder.”

Confederate States had no Navy

  • Early on, three ports taken using mostly naval power
  • From page 120: “Some standard theories were going to have to be revised: the belief that one gun on land was equal to fou on water, for example. Steam had changed all that, removing the restrictions of wind and current and making possible such maneuvers as Du Pont’s expanding ellipse…Naval power was going to be a dominant factor in this war.”

Creation of the “loyal state of West Virginia”

Jeff Davis maintaining a policy of defense vs. aggression would pull in Europe on the side of the Confederacy

  • From page 134: “His critics would have had him strip the troops from threatened points and send the marching forthwith against the North, staking everything on one assault. To Davis, this not only seemed inconsistent with his repeated claim that the South was merely defending herself against aggression, it seemed unnecessarily risk. That was the war might be quickly won, as Beauregard had pointed out; but it also might be quickly lost that way. Davis preferred to watch and wait. He believed that time was with him and he planned accordingly, not yet by any means aware that what he was waiting for would require a miracle. At this state, in Davis’ mind at any rate, nothing seemed more likely, more inevitable, than foreign intervention; as had been shown by his first action in attempting to secure it.”
  • The capture of two Confederate enjoys from an English ship by a Union Naval officer almost succeeded in providing the necessary push, but cooler heads on both sides of the Atlantic prevailed.

Shelby Foote’s narrative is quite enjoyable

  • From the Bibliography of this first volume (yes, some of us do read such things), he cites himself a novelist who combines the job of a historian.
  • From page 815: “Accepting the historian’s standards without his paraphernalia, I have employed the novelist’s methods without his license. Instead of inventing characters and incidents, I searched the out – and having found them, I took them as they were. Nothing is included here, either within or outside quotation marks, without the authority of documentary evidence which I consider sound.”
The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan reviewed at SFSignal.com

The Mark of Athena by Rick Riordan reviewed at SFSignal.com

My review of Rick Riordan’s The Mark of Athena is up at the Hugo-award winning SFSignal.com.

An excerpt:

REVIEW SUMMARY: The third book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series joins Percy Jackson (son of Poseidon), Jason Grace (son of Jupiter) and other Greek and Roman demigods in a quest to save the world from the destructive awakening of Gaia, goddess of the Earth.

BRIEF SYNOPSIS: Seven teenage demigods of prophecy race to Rome to save one of their own and to thwart Gaia, one of the most powerful gods in mythology. Gaia sends giants and other mythological creatures against them. And the Roman demigods are threatening the Greek demigods camp. All while the teenage demigods act like…well…teenagers.

PROS: Full of Greek and Roman mythology; fast paced; suitable for kids, young adults and adults. And flying ships! And Riordan is from San Antonio!
CONS: Gotta wait for at least one more and maybe two in the series.
BOTTOM LINE: Rick Riordan gets my vote (and my family’s vote) to fill the void left by the end of the Harry Potter series. The books include well-researched Greek and Roman mythology, very ‘human’ demigods and gods, lots of humor and ‘save-the-world’ action.


Like most families of our generation, we read J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series as a team. At first my wife and I read the books to our kids, then with them; and, finally, as they got older, toward the end of the series, we all read them in round robin fashion, with our then teenage kids blasting through them first, with my wife and I (and others in our extended family) following close behind. This kind of family reading not only leads to joint experiences and discussions, but always opens the door for my son to ask me “What part are you at, Dad?” and then tease me with “Oh, you’ll love what happens next,” just enough to not spoil the plot (most of the time).

The Harry Potter series ended in 2007 with the seventh and final book, and somehow we discovered Percy Jackson as a more than able replacement. We don’t remember exactly how we found the series; it could have been through the author, Rick Riordan (a fellow San Antonio home-boy!) and his adult mysteries set in San Antonio. But it was more likely through our son’s love of mythology (he once helped a friend ace a test on the subject through what he learned and researched playing the Age of Mythology series of games!).

Riordan’s “young adult” series feature Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythologies, gods with senses of humor (and issues of their own) and demigods that are children of the gods and mortals. The demigods have issues fitting in with normal kids, discover that they are actually different, and still have questions about fitting in and problems like everyone else; they just have to deal with saving the world while fitting in.

The “Young Adult” genre label has good and bad connotations for potential readers; my interpretation of it for this series is no sex, no cursing, with mainly teenage protagonists. There’s lots of violence (fighting) of monsters and gods of all mythologies. As for our family reading group, my son is the youngest (now age 21) and my stepfather the oldest (and the last to get the books; sorry, John!) at 85 years young. The “YA” label is great for parents, but it unfairly tends to send adult readers in another direction; like comedians (a regular Bob Hope), great authors can still tell a riveting tale with nary an F-bomb to be dropped; see Joe R. Lansdale’s fantastic all the earth thrown to the sky for another example.

The Mark of Athena is the 3rd book in the Heroes of Olympus series, which is the next series after the Percy Jackson and the Olympians tetralogy. The Percy Jackson series focuses on Greek mythology, with Greek teenage demigods that train and school at Camp Half-blood. The series follows Percy (son of Poseidon), Annabeth (daughter of Athena) and others on several quests, some with the help of the Greek gods and some without, where in the end, they appear to save the world. The series is loosely based on the Greek War of the Titans (Titanomachy). But there is a prophecy at the end that portends of…the next series, of course.

“Seven half-bloods shall answer the call,
To storm or fire, the world must fall,
An oath to keep with a final breath,
And foes bear arms to the Doors of Death.”

Giving away more would spoil the series, but if interested, reviews can be found by clicking on The Lightning ThiefThe Sea of MonstersThe Titan’s CurseThe Battle of the Labyrinth and The Last Olympian. There is also the movie version of the first book out, with the second due in August of this year (with Nathan Fillion cast as Hermes?!?!).

Read the full review here.

The Civil War by Shelby Foote - V1.Chapter 1: Prologue-The Opponents

The Civil War by Shelby Foote – V1.Chapter 1: Prologue-The Opponents

As I’m reading Shelby Foote’s incredible The Civil War: A Narrative, these are my notes on the points I may have forgotten from before or new pieces I’ve learned. Any and all comments appreciated.

Next post: Chapter 2

Volume One: Chapter 1: Prologue

  1. Succession. Davis and Lincoln
  2. Sumter. Early Maneuvers
  3. Statistics North and South

Other states and even NYC talked about seceding from the Union;

  • From page 43: “…Lincoln was confronted with division even among the states that had stayed loyal. New Jersey was talking succession; so was California, which along with Oregon was considering the establishment of a new Pacific nation; so, even, was New York City, which beside being Southern in sentiment would have much to gain from independence.”
  • A new Pacific nation would certainly have mad getting the Union back together difficult. An interesting piece for an alternate history.

Interesting “adjustments” in the Confederate Constitution;

  • From page 42: “One important oversight was corrected, however. Where the founding fathers, living in a less pious age of reason, had omitted any reference to the Deity, the modern preamble invoked “the favor and guidance of Almighty God.” Nor were more practical considerations neglected. The President and Vice President were elected to a six-year term, neither of them eligible for reelection. Congress was forbidden to pass a protective tariff or to appropriate money for internal improvements. Cabinet officers were to be given seats on the floor of Congress. Each law must deal with only one subject, announced in its title, and the President had the right to veto separate items in appropriation bills. Instead of requiring a three-fourths majority, amendments could be ratified by two-thirds of the states. While the newer document expressly prohibited any revival of the slave trade, those chattels referred to in the old on as “persons” now became outright “slaved” and in all territory acquired by the Confederacy, slavery was to be “recognized and protested” by both the Federal and territorial governments.”

Fort Sumter somewhat backfired on Lincoln. The South attacked, and Lincoln used this as motive for putting out a call for 75,000 men. The border states did not join in the spirit of “uniting the North.”

  • From page 51: “Telegram after telegram arrived from governors of the previously neutral states, each one bristling with moral indignation at the enormity of the proclamation, rather as if it had been in fact an invitation to fratricide or incest.”
  • Virginia seceded with two days, Arkansas, North Carolina and Tennessee shortly after.

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