The Last Full Measure

The Last Full Measure

Audio Other(Other - Abridged, 4 cassettes, 6 hrs.)

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In the Pulitzer prize–winning classic The Killer Angels, Michael Shaara created the finest Civil War novel of our time. In the bestselling Gods and Generals, Shaara’s son, Jeff, brilliantly sustained his father’s vision, telling the epic story of the events culminating in the Battle of Gettysburg. Now, Jeff Shaara brings this legendary father-son trilogy to its stunning conclusion in a novel that brings to life the final two years of the Civil War.
As The Last Full Measure opens, Gettysburg is past and the war advances to its third brutal year. On the Union side, the gulf between the politicians in Washington and the generals in the field yawns ever wider. Never has the cumbersome Union Army so desperately needed a decisive, hard-nosed leader. It is at this critical moment that Lincoln places Ulysses S. Grant in command—and turns the tide of war.
For Robert E. Lee, Gettysburg was an unspeakable disaster—compounded by the shattering loss of the fiery Stonewall Jackson two months before. Lee knows better than anyone that the South cannot survive a war of attrition. But with the total devotion of his generals—Longstreet, Hill, Stuart—and his unswerving faith in God, Lee is determined to fight to the bitter end.
Here too is Joshua Chamberlain, the college professor who emerged as the Union hero of Gettysburg—and who will rise to become one of the greatest figures of the Civil War.
Battle by staggering battle, Shaara dramatizes the escalating confrontation between Lee and Grant—complicated, heroic, deeply troubled men. From the costly Battle of the Wilderness to the agonizing siege of Petersburg to Lee’s epoch-making surrender at Appomattox, Shaara portrays the riveting conclusion of the Civil War through the minds and hearts of the individuals who gave their last full measure.
Full of human passion and the spellbinding truth of history, The Last Full Measure is the fitting capstone to a magnificent literary trilogy.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780375403095
Publisher: Random House Audio Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/19/1998
Edition description: Abridged, 4 cassettes, 6 hrs.
Product dimensions: 4.14(w) x 7.08(h) x 1.18(d)

About the Author

Jeff Shaara is the New York Times bestselling author of A Chain of Thunder, A Blaze of Glory, The Final Storm, No Less Than Victory, The Steel Wave, The Rising Tide, To the Last Man, The Glorious Cause, Rise to Rebellion, and Gone for Soldiers, as well as Gods and Generals and The Last Full Measure—two novels that complete the Civil War trilogy that began with his father’s Pulitzer Prize–winning classic, The Killer Angels. Shaara was born into a family of Italian immigrants in New Brunswick, New Jersey. He grew up in Tallahassee, Florida, and graduated from Florida State University. He lives in Gettysburg.


Kalispell, Montana

Date of Birth:

February 21, 1952

Place of Birth:

New Brunswick, New Jersey


B.S. in Criminology, Florida State University, 1974

Read an Excerpt

By July 1863 the Civil War has been fought over the farmlands and seacoasts of the South for better than two years, and is already one of the bloodiest wars in human history. It is a war that most believed would be decided by one quick fight, one great show of strength by the power of the North. The first major battle, called Bull Run in the North, Manassas in the South, is witnessed by a carefree audience of Washington's elite. Their brightly decorated carriages carry men in fine suits and society matrons in colorful dresses. They perch on a hillside, enjoying their picnics, anticipating a great show with bands playing merrily while the young men in blue march in glorious parade and sweep aside the ragged band of rebels. What they see is the first great horror, the stunning reality that this is in fact a war, and that men will die. What they still cannot understand is how far this will go, and how many men will die.

In the North, President Lincoln maintains a fragile grip on forces pulling the government in all directions. On one extreme is the pacifist movement, those who believe that the South has made its point, and so, to avoid bloodshed, Washington must simply let them go, that nothing so inconsequential as the Constitution is as important as the loss of life. On the other extreme are the radical abolitionists, who demand the South be brought down entirely, punished for its way of life, its culture, and that anyone who supports the southern cause should be purged from the land. There is also a great middle ground, men of reason and intellect, who now understand that there is more to this war than the inflammatory issue of slavery, or the argument over the sovereign rights of the individual states. As men continue to volunteer, larger and larger numbers of troops take to the fields, and other causes emerge, each man fighting for his own reason. Some fight for honor and duty, some for money and glory, but nearly all are driven by an amazing courage, and will carry their muskets across the deadly space because they feel it is the right thing to do.

From the North come farmers and fishermen, lumberjacks and shopkeepers, old veterans and young idealists. Some are barely Americans at all, expatriates and immigrants from Europe, led by officers who do not speak English. Some are freedmen, Negroes who volunteer to fight for the preservation of the limited freedoms they have been given, and to spread that freedom into the South.

In the South they are also farmers and fishermen, as well as ranchers, laborers, aristocrats, and young men seeking adventure. They are inspired first by the political rhetoric, the fire-breathing oratory of the radical secessionists. They are told that Lincoln is in league with the devil, and that his election ensures that the South will be held down, oppressed by the powerful interests in the North, that their very way of life is under siege. When the sound of the big guns echo across Charleston harbor, when the first flashes of smoke and fire swallow Fort Sumter, Lincoln orders an army to go south, to put down the rebellion by force. With the invasion comes a new inspiration, and in the South, even men of reason are drawn into the fight, men who were not seduced by mindless rhetoric, who have shunned the self-serving motives of the politicians. There is outrage, and no matter the issues or the politics, many take up arms in response to what they see as the threat to their homes. Even the men who understand and promote the inevitable failure of slavery cannot stand by while their land is invaded. The issue is not to be decided after all by talk or rhetoric, but by the gun.

On both sides are the career soldiers, West Pointers, men with experience from the Mexican War, or the Indian wars of the 1850s. In the North the officers are infected and abused by the disease of politics, and promotion is not always granted by performance or ability. The Federal armies endure a parade of inept or unlucky commanders who cannot fight the rebels until they first master the fight with Washington. Few succeed.

In the South, Jefferson Davis maintains an iron hand, controlling even the smallest details of governing the Confederacy. It is not an effective system, and as in the North, men of political influence are awarded positions of great authority, men who have no business leading soldiers into combat. In mid-1862, through an act of fate, or as he would interpret it, an act of God, Robert Edward Lee is given command of the Army of Northern Virginia. What follows in the East is a clear pattern, a series of great and bloody fights in which the South prevails and the North is beaten back. If the pattern continues, the war will end and the Confederacy will triumph. Many of the fights are won by Lee, or by his generals—the Shenandoah Valley, Second Manassas. Many of the fights are simply lost by the blunders of Federal commanders, the most horrifying example at Fredericksburg. Most, like the catastrophic Federal defeat at Chancellorsville or the tactical stalemate at Antietam, are a combination of both.

By 1863 two monumental events provide an insight into what lies ahead. The first is the success of the Federal blockade of southern seaports, which prevents the South from receiving critical supplies from allies abroad, and also prevents the export of raw materials, notably cotton and tobacco, which provide the currency necessary to pay for the war effort. The result is understood on both sides. Without outside help, the Confederacy will slowly starve.

The second is the great bloody fight at Gettysburg. While a tragic defeat for Lee's army, there is a greater significance to the way that defeat occurs. Until now, the war has been fought mostly from the old traditions, the Napoleonic method, the massed frontal assault against fortified positions. It has been apparent from the beginning of the war that the new weaponry has made such attacks dangerous and costly, but old ways die slowly, and commanders on both sides have been reluctant to change. After Gettysburg, the changes become a matter of survival. If the commanders do not yet understand, the men in the field do, and the use of the shovels becomes as important as the use of muskets. The new methods—strong fortifications, trench warfare—are clear signs to all that the war has changed, that there will be no quick and decisive fight to end all fights.

As the Civil War enters its third year, the bloody reports continue to fill the newspapers, and the bodies of young men continue to fill the cemeteries. To the eager patriots, the idealists and adventurers who joined the fight at the beginning, there is a new reality, in which honor and glory are becoming hollow words. The great causes are slowly pushed aside, and men now fight with the grim determination to take this fight to its end; after so much destruction and horrible loss, the senses are dulled, the unspeakable sights no longer shock. All the energy is forward, toward those men across that deadly space who have simply become the enemy.

Robert Edward Lee

Born in 1807, he graduates West Point in 1829, second in his class. Though he is the son of "Light-Horse" Harry Lee, a great hero of the American Revolution, late in his father's life Lee must endure the burden of his father's business and personal failures more than the aura of heroism. Lee is devoutly religious, believing with absolute clarity that the events of his life are determined by the will of God. On his return from West Point, his mother dies in his arms. The haunting sadness of her death stays hard inside him for the rest of his life, and places him more firmly than ever into the hands of his God.

He marries the aristocratic Mary Anne Randolph Custis, whose father is the grandson of Martha Washington, and whose home is the grand mansion of Arlington, overlooking the Potomac River. The Lees have seven children, and Lee suffers the guilt of a career that rarely brings him home to watch his children grow, a source of great regret for him, and simmering bitterness in his wife Mary.

Lee is a brilliant engineer, and his army career moves him to a variety of posts where his expertise and skill contribute much to the construction of the military installations and forts along the Atlantic coast. He goes to St. Louis and confronts a crisis for the port there by rerouting the flow of the Mississippi River. In 1846 he is sent to Mexico,and his reputation lands him on the staff of General-in-Chief Winfield Scott. Lee performs with efficiency and heroism, both as an engineer, a scout, and a staff officer, and leaves Mexico a lieutenant colonel.

He accepts command of the cadet corps at West Point in 1851, considered by many as the great reward for good service, the respectable job in which to spend the autumn of his career. But though his family is now close, he misses the action of Mexico, finds himself stifled by administrative duties. In 1855 he stuns all who know him by seizing an opportunity to return to the field, volunteering to go to Texas, to command a new regiment of cavalry. But even that command is mundane and frustrating, and there is for him nothing in the duty that recalls the vitality and adventure of the fighting in Mexico. Throughout the 1850s Lee settles into a deep gloom, resigns himself that no duty will be as fulfilling as life under fire and that his career will carry him into old age in bored obscurity.

As the conflict over Lincoln's election boils over in the South, his command in Texas begins to collapse, and he is recalled to Washington in early 1861, where he receives the startling request to command Lincoln's new volunteer army, with a promotion to Major General. He shocks Washington and deeply disappoints Winfield Scott by declining the appointment. Lee chooses the only course left to an officer and a man of honor and resigns from his thirty-year career. He believes that even though Virginia has not yet joined the secessionist states, by organizing an army to invade the South, Lincoln has united his opponents and the southern states, which must eventually include Virginia. Lee will not take up arms against his home.

In late April 1861 he accepts the governor's invitation to command the Virginia Militia, a defensive force assembled to defend the state. When Jefferson Davis moves the Confederate government to Richmond, the Virginia forces, as well as those of the other ten secessionist states, are absorbed into the Confederate army. Lee is invited to serve as military consultant to Davis, another stifling job with little actual authority. In July 1861, during the first great battle of the war, Lee sits alone in his office, while most of official Richmond travels to Manassas, to the excitement of the front lines.

In June 1862, while accompanied by Davis near the fighting on the Virginia peninsula, commander Joe Johnston is wounded in action and Davis offers command of the Army of Northern Virginia to Lee. Lee accepts, understands that he is, after all, a soldier, and justifies the decision with the fact that his theater of war is still Virginia. Defending his home takes on a more poignant significance when Lee's grand estate at Arlington is occupied and ransacked by Federal troops.

Lee reorganizes the army, removes many of the inept political generals, and begins to understand the enormous value of his two best commanders, James Longstreet and Thomas Jackson, who at Manassas was given the nickname "Stonewall." Using the greatest talents of both men, Lee leads the Army of Northern Virginia through a series of momentous victories against a Federal army that is weighed down by its own failures, and by its continuing struggle to find an effective commander. Much of Lee's war is fought in northern Virginia, and the land is suffering under the strain of feeding the army. The burden of war and of the Federal blockade spreads through the entire Confederacy and inspires Lee and Davis to consider a bold and decisive strategy.

In September 1862, Lee moves his army north, hoping to gather support and new recruits from the neutral state of Maryland. The advance results in the battle of Sharpsburg—known as Antietam in the North—and though Lee does not admit defeat, the outrageous carnage and loss of life force him to order a retreat back into Virginia. But his army is not pursued by the Federal forces, and with new commanders now confronting him, Lee begins a great tactical chess game, and accomplishes the greatest victories of the war.

In December 1862, at Fredericksburg, Virginia, his army maintains the defensive and completely crushes poorly planned Federal assaults. In May 1863, at Chancellorsville, Lee is outnumbered nearly three to one, and only by the utter audacity of Stonewall Jackson does the huge Federal army retire from the field with great loss. But the battle is costly for Lee as well. Jackson is accidentally shot by his own men, and dies after a weeklong struggle with pneumonia.

Lee and Davis continue to believe that a move northward is essential, that with weakened confidence and inept commanders, the Federal army need only be pushed into one great battle that will likely end the war. In June 1863, Lee's army marches into Pennsylvania. He believes that a great fight might not even be necessary, that just the threat of spilling blood on northern soil will put great pressure on Washington, and the war might be brought to an end by the voice of the northern people. The invasion of the North will serve another purpose: to take the fight into fertile farmlands where Lee might feed his increasingly desperate army.

Some in Lee's army question the strategy, raising the moral question of how to justify an invasion versus defending their homes. Others question the military judgment of moving into unfamiliar territory, against an enemy that has never been inspired by fighting on its own ground. There are other factors that Lee must confront. Though he is personally devastated by the death of Jackson, Jackson's loss means more to his army than Lee fully understands.

As the invasion moves north, Lee is left blind by his cavalry, under the flamboyant command of Jeb Stuart. Stuart fails to provide Lee with critical information about the enemy and is cut off from Lee beyond the march of the Federal army, an army that is moving to confront Lee with uncharacteristic speed. The Federal Army of the Potomac has yet another new commander, George Gordon Meade, and if Lee knows Meade to be a careful man, cautious in his new command, he also knows that there are many other Federal officers now rising to the top, men who are not political pawns but in fact hard and effective fighters.

What People are Saying About This

From the Publisher

"Riveting . . . Vivid . . . Brilliantly depicted. . . . THE LAST FULL MEASURE IS MORE THAN ANOTHER HISTORICAL NOVEL. It is rooted in history, but its strength is the element of humanity flowing through its characters. . . . The book is compelling, easy to read, well researched and written, and thought-provoking. . . . In short, it is everything that a reader could ask for."
—Chicago Tribune

"A WORTHY COMPANION TO ITS TWO PREDECESSORS . . . These characters come alive as complex, heroic, and flawed men. . . . You are with [Robert E.] Lee, a deeply religious man, as he first begins to wonder if the Confederate cause will prevail. . . . You ride with [Ulysses S.] Grant to see the mounds of Union dead at Cold Harbor, and you share his sickening realization that thousands are dead because of his miscalculation. . . . You are at [Joshua] Chamberlain's bedside as he fights to recover from nearly mortal wounds. . . . Each book is masterful in its own way and taken together, they are unmatched in the body of Civil War literature."
—The Baltimore Sun

"AN AMBITIOUS WORK . . . [Shaara] writes with considerable sensitivity and skill, setting vivid scenes and adding drama and suspense to a familiar tale."
—The Seattle Times

"Exhaustively researched, infused with a profound understanding of the great issues of a nation and the small quirks of the human heart and ego, The Last Full Measure is fiction that brings history brilliantly to life."

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The Last Full Measure 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 71 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
What a throughly enjoyable experience this book is! I turned to The Last Full Measure to complete the cycle of Civil War reading I began with The Killer Angels, by Jeff's father, and to fill in my knowledge of what, to me, was a lesser known part of the Civil War...the last part. Not only did I fill in that knowledge, I got to know ( and know more about ) Ulysses S. Grant, Joshua Chamberlain and Robert E. Lee with some degree of intimacy, and a fair-sized cast of other notable characters who were colorful and interesting, to say the least. Shaara's writing can be surprisingly emotional, yet is still economical and clear. The use of a few key maps ( so disappointingly left out of some works that would greatly benefit them )really help to describe the battle action more clearly and vividly. But the book is not merely a collection of battles, and, in fact, leaves out a number of major and important battles in some theatres that do not take anything away from the greatness of this book. I am absolutely going to get Shaara's Mexican War book, Gone for Soldiers, soon. I want to stay close to these characters and this writer and enjoy the considerable skill that has been passed on to him.
Father_of_5_Boys More than 1 year ago
I read this book after reading Killer Angels and then Gods & Generals. I don't think it was good as either of those, but it was still good. (Let's just pray they don't try to make a movie out of it.) I highly recommend Gods & Generals, Killer Angels, & Last Full Measure to anybody, but especially to those that might not know a lot about the Civil War and don't know where to start. These books are a lot easier to read than some of the hard core history books, and they give you some insight into the personalities and struggles of the guys in the field. They keep you aware that wars are fought by real people with feelings and emotions and they aren't just abstract movements of pawns in a big game of chess.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
One of the best novels of the Civil War I have read, Better than G&G. Should have made a movie of this one instead. Even better is Shaara's Rise to Rebellion.
StuffedMango More than 1 year ago
By the time you reach this last book in the The Killer Angels trilogy, it is difficult to not feel like you know the commanders personally. We are privy to conversations between Gen. Grant and President Lincoln. We are once again privileged to charge into battle with the soldiers of blue and gray...and to follow them to the end of the war. While artistic license may have been taken in a few places to help the flow of the story in the books, it nevertheless remains an incredible introduction to the Civil War for anyone. In fact, it propels a true learner to find out more, to discover the facts for themselves. Don't miss this last book. Again, it is a must read!
Ben_Olin More than 1 year ago
The Last Full Measure is a great compilation of Civil War stories that bring the characters to life and give the reader a small sense of what it must have been like to be at some of these battles. The pain, frusteration, and uncertainty of the commanders and soldiers alike are brought to light for the reader to glimpse the chaos of war, especially when communications were so much slower than they are today. It is a fiction book, so don't take every quote or thought as absolutely true, but it does give a good representation of the events.
Jamie Eggleston More than 1 year ago
I love history, and the civil war is my favorite time. It's unbelievable the scale of destruction we can inflict on each other. This is a recommended book.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A great read, and a fitting conclusion to this thrilling and touching civil war trilogy.
Sarum More than 1 year ago
"The Last Full Measure" is one of my all time favorite books. I finished it and said, "Wow". It is a lot deeper than "Gods and Generals" or "The Killer Angels", but is a great conclusion to the Trilogy. It is a moving and heartbreaking finale, a great conclusion for both sides to the war that has destroyed them.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Phenomanal end to the series. Truly a great read for people that enjoy the civil war
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I truly enjoyed this book - very informatiave, flows well. Had already read Killer Angels and Gods & Generals. This one is a fitting closure to the trilogy. Learned more by reading these 3 books than in all the US history classes I took in high school & college. In fact, I did not remember much about the Civil War, but now, I will not forget. I also recommend 1865 by Jay Winik & just for fun, tackle Gone With The Wind, if you have the time.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I was happily surprised by The Last Full Measure. I am generally skeptical about sequals/prequals, but Mr. Shara did an outstanding job of completing the saga begun by his father. All of the characters come across with all their human successes and failures. I was particularly impressed by the way he handled General Lee's physical weaknesses, which lent a more human aspect of Lee's nature, rather than the indestructable icon he became after the war.
Guest More than 1 year ago
The Last Full Measure is an amazing accomplishment. I enjoyed both Gods and Generals and the Killer Angels, and The Last Full Measure is certainly on par with them, if it does not exceed them. The feelings are more raw and real, now that the war is coming to a close. I am fascinated by Chamberlain and this book reinforced that. Before reading these books I had almost no understanding of the Civil War, or the people in it. Now it was all brought alive to me by two men: Michael and Jeff Shaara.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really enjoyed this book a lot. I am a big fan of Joshua Chamberlain. It's pretty cool to write in the mind of other people.
Guest More than 1 year ago
You can tell a lot of research went into this book. Two weeks after I read this book I visited Gettysburg for the second time and I understood the battle more. This is one book that should be referred to in schools when teaching of the battle of Gettysburg. Both father and son wrote classics!!!
Mdshrk1 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The Last Full Measure is the sequel to The Killer Angels which I have not read. However, this novel is capable of standing alone. It covers the last two years of the Civil War. Shaara has obviously done his research, and while no one can know for sure, tells credible tales from the perspective of many of the major generals of the conflict. Even though I knew the outcome, the book drew me along compellingly.
jpsnow on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The focus is on Lee, Grant, and Chamberlain. You will feel as if you were there, and the way it closes out the war makes it the best of the series.
bigmoose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I am finally getting around to finishing the Shaara's Civil War trilogy, albeit slightly out of sequence. Two down, one to go. This one was once again a thoroughly enjoyable reading experience and exactly as expected -- Jeff follows the Shaara methodology and gets us into the heads of Grant, Lee and Chamberlain (and other participating soldiers) to understand this terrible story of war and destruction, courage and bloody death. A most terrible period in U.S. history! Reading The Last Full Measure was just what historical fiction should feel like, and few can do it like the Shaaras.
JohnNebauer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Doesn't have quite the sense of drama as his father's 'Killer Angels', perhaps because the Gettysburg campaign featured dramatic crescendo, whereas the Wilderness campaign, the Petersburg siege and the campaign to Appomattox featured the relentless grinding down of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia. Jeff Shaara tries to faithfully reproduce his father's writing style, and it largely works, at least in the characters' dialogue. Some phrases (for example 'He tried not to think on that') seemed a bit overdone. Still, a good read, and gives a good overview of the American Civil War in the eastern theatre.
Jthierer on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
The conclusion to the father-son trilogy does not disappoint. "The Last Full Measure" follows the characters from the aftermath of Gettysburg through the end of their lives. The reader feels the desperation and hopelessness of the Confederate Army as it runs out of food and men, as well as the determination of Grant and Chamberlain. Overall, this book is a fitting capstone for the trilogy as it carries on the tradition of putting the reader on the battlefield in a way that's clear and meaningful.
Mooose on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago this is indicative of his work he is nowhere near the writer his father was.
loafhunter13 on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Concluding the Civil War trilogy that began with his father Michael's Pulitzer-winning The Killer Angels, Shaara (Gods and Generals) chronicles Lee's retreat from Gettysburg and his valiant efforts to defend northern Virginia from Grant's superior, better-supplied forces. Seen alternately through the eyes of Lee, Grant, and Maine abolitionist Colonel Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, the narrative begins with the successful Union ambush at Bristow Station in October 1863. It then details Lee's 18-month cat-and-mouse game as he outmaneuvers Grant, despite overwhelming odds and terrible deprivation, concludes with Lee's surrender at Appomattox. Impressively researched, this deeply affecting work can't be faulted for inaccuracy or lack of detail. But the occasionally coarse grain of Shaara's characterizations is a problem. Haunted by Stonewall Jackson's ghost, 56-year-old Lee frequently appears to be a semi-senile neurotic. Grant, more concerned about his supply of cigars than battle losses, comes across as a dolt. Some repetition can grind the progression of the story to a halt and differences in writing style between father and son are noticeable. Still for all its faults it is one of the best historical fiction novel series and family of writers in that genre out there.
Joles on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Jeff doesn't write with the same enthusiasm or storytelling ability as his father but nonetheless he writes a good book. Not the best book of the set but enjoyable regardless.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago