GDG- Shelby's Foote in His Mouth
joadx1 at netscape.net
joadx1 at netscape.net
Sat Jan 21 23:12:11 CST 2012
You see, I knew there was a lot more to it. :>)
Very nice piece of documentation. Particularly nice catch on Garry Wills. I didn't know this.
I can add one little bitsy piece that is directly relevant to Gettysburg. Foote gave an invited speech at Gettysburg in which he insisted that the confederate soldiers buried there should be honored exactly as the Union soldiers were. As Mr. Mackey documents, this represents a severe misunderstanding of what the Gettysburg address was all about. Maybe Foote needs to read the confederate constitution.
From: atmackeyjr <atmackeyjr at aol.com>
To: gettysburg <gettysburg at arthes.com>
Sent: Sat, Jan 21, 2012 8:57 pm
Subject: Re: GDG- Shelby's Foote in His Mouth
Esteemed GDG Member Contributes:
All from the Burns series:
1. "When he had to choose between the nation and Virginia there was never any
doubt about what his choice would be. He went with his state. He said 'I can't
draw my sword against my native state' or as he often said, 'my country.'"
I have not found a single instance of Lee referring to Virginia as his
"country." Not only did he NOT often say Viginia was "my country," but he never
said it, as far as I can determine.
2. "Southerners would have told you they were fighting for self-government. They
believed the gathering of power in Washington was against them. When they
entered into that Federation they certainly would never have entered into it if
they hadn't believed it would be possible to get out. And when the time came
that thy wanted to get out they thought they had every right."
This is baloney. If you read the ratification debates, it's clear they knew they
were going into a nation they couldn't leave at a whim. Look at Patrick Henry's
speeches. He said very clearly that once they ratified the Constitution there
was no way out, and not a single person contradicted him. I have not seen a
single instance of someone during the secession conventions making the claim
that their state wouldn't have ratified the Constitution if they couldn't secede
whenever they wanted. Disunion was a hated concept in the south through most of
the antebellum era. See Elizabeth Varon's book, Disunion.
3. The story of Forrest, having been shot by a musket (.58 caliber, remember),
riding along and then picking up a Union soldier (with one hand) and holding
that soldier behind him as a shield is unbelievable. That soldier couldn't get
away even though he was being held with one hand? He couldn't punch, claw, or
scratch? And a wounded Forrest picking up a 140-150 lb. soldier with one hand
and maneuvering him to the back of his saddle? I want to see the primary source
evidence for that one. Until I do, I will maintain it didn't happen.
4. His claiming that when you saw a dead soldier with their clothes in disarray
it was from the soldiers themselves searching for where they were wounded. Yeah,
right. They pulled out their pockets because the bullet might have fallen into
their pockets, right? They were robbed.
5. "The answer a southerner would give you as to why are you fighting, if you
were a northerner, he would say, 'I'm fighting because you're down here.' He was
being invaded and he fought as he thought to defend his home."
Slavery was a driving factor, even for many nonslaveholding white southerners in
the confederate states. This is borne out by James McPherson's For Cause &
Comrades, Chandra Manning's What This Cruel War Was Over, and Aaron
Sheehan-Dean's Why Confederates Fought. That doesn't preclude additional
motives, such as protecting a home against invaders. But his de-emphasis of
slavery as a motivating factor is pure lost cause. "Some of the boys [Union
soldiers] asked them [confederate soldiers] what they were fighting for, and
they answered, 'You Yanks want us to marry our daughters to the n----rs.' "
[Chauncey Cook to parents, May 10, 1864, quoted in James M. McPherson, _For
Cause & Comrades: Why Men Fought in the Civil War, p. 109] Joe Glathaar's book
on the Army of Northern Virginia tells us that 40% of the ANV was made up of
soldiers from slaveowning families.
6. His claim that it was the Civil War that caused Americans to no longer refer
to the United States as "the United States are" and rather refer to the United
States as "the United States is" ("It made us an 'is'.") is more poppycock. That
was part of the normal evolution of American English away from British English.
British English, even today, refers to collective nouns in the plural. For
example, a Brit would say, "The team are getting ready to play." American
English evolved away from that by referring to collective nouns in the singular.
For example, "The team is getting ready to play." "United States" is another
collective noun, referred to in the plural in British English and in the
singular in American English.
"A similar search comparing the frequency of the phrases 'United States are' and
'United States is' reveals that, contrary to Foote's assertion that the former
was the preferred usage in the decades before the war, the two phrases were
actually used about equally through the first few decades of the Republic. That
began to change in the 1840s, when 'United States is' (shown in red) began
gradually to pull away from 'United States are' (in blue) in printed usage. By
the beginning of the war (shown here as a green bar), 'United States is' was
solidly more common in usage--though not greatly so--than 'United States are' "
7. "Lincoln needed to unite the North and he did it in two ways. The Republic
must be preserved, not split into two. The other he gave them as a cause the
freedom of the slaves."
More lost cause nonsense. Lincoln knew the EP would be a very controversial
measure. "If anything, Northern public opinion remained loudly and frantically
hostile to the prospect of emancipation, much less emancipation by presidential
decree." [Allen C. Guelzo, Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation: The End of
Slavery in America, p. 6] Does that sound like something that would unite "the
North" to support the war? Not to me.
8. "Gettysburg was the price the South paid for having R. E. Lee. That was the
mistake he made, the mistake of all mistakes."
Again, more lost cause nonsense.
"I always thought the Yankees had something to do with it." George Pickett on
why the confederates lost at Gettysburg.
Not a Lee mistake, not the fault of his subordinates. The confederates were
outfought and Lee was outgeneraled.
9. "He felt that he had failed." [Lincoln at the Gettysburg Address]
Lincoln knew he hadn't failed. "Lincoln's text was polished, his delivery
emphatic, he was interrupted by applause five times. Read in a slow, clear way
to the farthest listeners, the speech would take about three minutes. It is
quite true that the audience did not take in all that happened in that short
time--we are still trying to weigh the consequences of that amazing performance.
But the myth that Lincoln was disappointed in the result--that he told the
unreliable Lamon that his speech, like a bad plow, 'won't scour'--has no basis.
He had done what he wanted to do, and Hay shared the pride his superior took in
an important occasion put to good use." [Garry Wills, Lincoln at Gettysburg: The
Words That Remade America, p. 36]
10. His claim that "the North fought that war with one arm tied behind its back"
and that "the South didn't have a chance" is, once again, you guessed it, lost
cause poppycock. The confederacy encompassed a huge area that had to be
conquered. They had the advantage of the defensive and interior lines. Their
armies, being smaller, were more maneuverable. They could win the war by not
losing. They didn't have to defeat the Union, they just had to keep from losing.
The confederacy had a very good shot at winning.
11. Nor is Shelby Foote persuasive when he suggests (perfectly consistent with
the film's spirit) that the war came 'because we failed to do the thing we
really have a genius for, which is compromise.' He says nothing about what might
have been compromised, but those who lived at the time, especially blacks, knew
very well what would have been the basis for any new sectional compromise.
Shelby Foote is an engaging battlefield guide, a master of the anecdote, and a
gifted and charming story teller, but he is not a good historian. He seems to
have little idea as to what gave meaning to this 'enormous catastrophe' other
than the valor of the combatants." [Leon F. Litwack, "Telling the Story: The
Historian, the Filmmaker, and the Civil War," in Robert Brent Toplin, ed., Ken
Burns's The Civil War: Historians Respond, p. 137]
12. Here's Shelby in another forum:
"The flag is a symbol my great grandfather fought under and in defense of. I am
for flying it anywhere anybody wants to fly it. I do know perfectly well what
pain it causes my black friends, but I think that pain is not necessary if they
would read the confederate constitution and knew what the confederacy really
stood for. This country has two grievous sins on its hands. One of them is
slavery - whether we'll ever be cured of it, I don't know. The other one is
emancipation - they told 4 million people, you're free, hit the road, and they
drifted back into a form of peonage that in some ways is worse than slavery.
These things have got to be understood before they're condemned. They're
condemned on the face of it because they take that flag to represent what those
yahoos represent as - in their protest against civil rights things. But the
people who knew what that flag really stood for should have stopped those yahoos
from using it as a symbol of what they stood for. But we d
idn't - and now you had this problem of the confederate flag being identified
as sort of a roughneck thing, which it is not."
So he thinks if African Americans read the confederate constitution they
wouldn't oppose display of the confederate battle flag. And emancipation of the
slaves was a sin. The slaves drifted into peonage with no agency among southern
whites whatsoever. Really, Shelby?
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