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Publisher's Summary

In July 1883, just a few days after the 20th anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, a group of editors at the Century magazine engaged in a lively argument: Which Civil War battle was the bloodiest battle of them all? One claimed it was Chickamauga, another Cold Harbor. The argument inspired a brainstorm: Why not let the magazine’s 125,000 readers in on the conversation by offering “a series of papers on some of the great battles of the war, to be written by officers in command on both sides.”

The articles would be written by generals, Union and Confederate alike, who had commanded the engagements two decades earlier—“or, if he were not living,” by “the person most entitled to speak for him or in his place.” The pieces would present both sides of each major battle and would be fair and free of politics. Now, in commemoration of the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, the most enduring entries from the classic four-volume series Battles and Leaders of the Civil War have been edited and merged into one definitive volume. Here are the best of the immortal first-person accounts of the Civil War originally published in the pages of the Century magazine more than a hundred years ago.

Hearts Touched by Fire offers stunning accounts of the war’s great battles written by the men who planned, fought, and witnessed them, from leaders such as General Ulysses S. Grant, General George McClellan, and Confederate captain Clement Sulivane to men of lesser rank. This collection also features new year-by-year introductions by esteemed historians, including James M. McPherson, Craig L. Symonds, and James I. Robertson, Jr., who cast wise modern eyes on the cataclysm that changed America and that would go down as the bloodiest conflict in our nation’s history.

No one interested in our country’s past will want to be without this collection of the most popular and influential first-person Civil War memoirs ever published.

©2011 Harold Holzer; Compilation 2011 by Random House, Inc.; 1861 part introduction 2011 by Craig L. Symonds; 1862 part introduction 2011 by Stephen Sears; 1863 part introduction 2011 by James M. McPherson; 1864 part introduction 2011 by Joan Waugh; 1865 part introduction 2011 by James I. Robertson (P)2011 Blackstone Audio, Inc.

Critic Reviews

“There are few more essential books for Civil War buffs and professional historians alike. A welcome, valuable addition to the vast library devoted to the conflict." ( Kirkus Reviews, starred review)

What listeners say about Hearts Touched by Fire

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    3 out of 5 stars
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    3 out of 5 stars

A good audiobook with one big flaw

I am a history lover and have read many books and listened to a number of audiobooks about the Civil War.

The chapters cover some excellent material although I would have liked to hear more personal stories from regular participants and more casual observers.

The biggest problem with this audiobook however is that their is virtually NO introduction to the chapters. In many cases the listener is left wondering exactly who is saying what and in what context.If you miss the 1st 10 seconds of a chapter you are pretty much left wondering what the chapter is about and/or having to rewind to see if that was even mentioned.

It would also be helpful if the Audible app had descriptive chapter names rather than just chapter numbers like 1..2..3..which by the way do not match the narration's chapter numbers..

I would still recommend the audiobook but I personally think it needs to be redone with an introduction for each chapter clearly explaining the basic who/what/where/when..

It seems obvious that there was originally a hardcover book with additional illustration and references that the publisher failed to include/address with the audio version unfortunately.

Aside from all this the material is well sourced and is valuable for those with an interest in the war and US history.

10 people found this helpful

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A Mixed Bag

Would you try another book from Harold Holzer and/or the narrators?

Being a compilation, this book is an uneven compilation at best. Some of the stories are excellent, well written first hand accounts of the major battles of the civil war while others are very tedious and dry stories that read like trooop reports and after action reviews.

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The war as seen by the men who were there.

Any additional comments?

The anthology nature of the work screams for better navigation and descriptions. I don't necessarily want to listen to it in order since the chapters can stand on their own. I would like to be able to jump around and listen to the chapters that interest me and skip the ones that don't.

3 people found this helpful

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Great personal histories

If you could sum up Hearts Touched by Fire in three words, what would they be?

Emotional, riveting, interesting.

Who was your favorite character and why?

I have been following Robert E. Lee's history a little more. Although he/or his writings are not in this book, it was interesting to hear other people's versions of him and his actions.

What does the narrators bring to the story that you wouldn’t experience if you just read the book?

Most of the readers voices are very enjoyable although there is one of them I don't enjoy as much. I am not familiar with his name either.

Did you have an extreme reaction to this book? Did it make you laugh or cry?

There are several places in the book that are touching, but for the most part it is basic history covered.

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The Civil Wars of the Civil War

The Civil Wars of the Civil War.

Shortly after the end of the civil war, the Century Magazine commissioned several of the participants to write articles on the major engagements of the war. It endeavored to avoid "political" questions and instead focused on the movement of men and materiel.

That collection of articles became the immensely important "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War" of which "Hearts Touched by Fire" is a well-edited collection.

Anyone with a cursory knowledge of the war won't find much new here and reading first person accounts is, while valuable, invariably limited. Nevertheless, it's interesting to read what axes people still had to grind 15-20+ years after the war. In many chapters you get petty quibbling over dates of promotion, seniority, and the late exact intent of written orders (who knew there was a major difference between "possible" and "practicable"?)

These little asides make for interesting flavor but rarely add to the understanding of a particular battle. The benefit of having on the ground participants as authors is that you often get benign explanations for events that in other tellings take on symbolic significance. In one example a besieged Confederate fort's commander responds to the charge that his guns "fell silent" as a result of the union naval onslaught. Rather he says, no guns fell silent, he gave specific orders on when to fire (to preserve ammo) and his crews obeyed.

Overall, more useful as a desk reference than a work you go through in an extended reading session.