GDG- I love Shelby Foote - but

Matt Diestel agatematt at
Sun Jan 22 07:34:45 CST 2012

> Esteemed GDG Member Dennis Lawrence Contributes:
>  One could go on, but this is a start.
> Hello,
>    Foote  also referred to the war as when his ancestors stood up to
> Lincoln.
>  And when he listed the positives that came out of the war, he gave two:
> everyone agreed that it was better that the union was preserved, and
> everyone agreed that both sides  fought bravely.
> Notably missing is   - everyone agreed that  the end of slavery was a good
> thing?
> Burns was all about setting up differences, and Barbara Fileds  and Shelby
> Foote were suitable foils.  One a  black female northern academic, and the
> other an aging white novelist with deep familial  roots in Mississippi.
> Take Care
> Dennis
>      In evaluating Shelby Foote and the part he has played in the general
> population's interest and understanding of the Civil War --- largely
> through his writings and appearance (one hour of  on screen time in the 11
> hour film) in Ken Burns' documentary "The Civil War"--- several  factors
> need to be taken in to consideration.

      First, Foote was a novelist and not a historian. This is a fact he
was always quick to point out. That is one of the reasons why his landmark
--- and massive --- work is called "The Civil War: A Narrative" and not
"The Civil War: A History." Indeed, Foote on numerous occasions --- most
famously during the three-hour C-SPAN "In-Depth" interview --- related that
in writing the narrative he did not do any primary source research but
relied entirely on published works in which he basically, summed up other
author's relaying of historical events, interpretations and opinions with
his own take on the subject in his own writing style (One which was
distinctive as was his speech pattern.)
    Second: Foote, was born in 1916, in Greenville, Miss.---  and while
growing up lived in various places in the South --- came to maturity in an
era when many a Confederate veteran was still alive and UCV reunions were
annual celebrations. And along with those veterans, Foote came to knowmany
of  the civilians who had been adults or had grown up during the war and
the Reconstruction Period that followed.
    Although, never specifically stated by Foote, but certainly implied, it
is only logical to assume that much of the foundation of his outlook on the
era in general --- and the war in particular --- was laid through those
contacts. After all, as a child he lived for a good while in Vicksburg ---
a city that never celebrated the Fourth of July --- the date the city
surrendered to the besieging army led by Grant in 1863 --- until 1944 and
the midst of World War II.
     Third: While a narrative writer and novelist, Foote nevertheless
managed to sum up the importance of the Civil War in terms as well --- if
not far more direct and succinct --- as  any historian when noting that the
Civil War is "central to our lives" as Americans.
     That is something, perhaps, at least we can all agree upon.
        With regards,

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