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Not just a mere Foote-note
© 2005 ^
| June 30, 2005
Posted on 07/05/2005 8:52:35 AM PDT by robowombat
Not just a mere Foote-note Thursday, June 30, 2005 To read Shelby Foote on the Civil War is akin to reading Mark Twain about life on the Mississippi, or reading Alfred, Lord Tennyson on the glories of old England.
Mr. Foote, who died Tuesday at age 88, chronicled the Civil War with a poetic and loving prose that will preserve that tragic conflict in the collective memory, in all its unfortunate but inspiring glory, as long as men speak the English tongue.
"Whether the South, fighting for such anachronisms as slavery and self-government, could sustain the conflict past the breaking point of northern determination, Davis did not know," wrote Mr. Foote of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
"Much of what his dead friend Albert Sidney Johnson had called 'the fair, broad, abounding land' had already fallen to the invaders. How much more would fall, or whether the rising blue tide could be stemmed, was dependent on the gray-clad men in the southern ranks and the spirit with which they followed their star-crossed battle flags. Just now that spirit was at its height. 'We may be annihilated,' the first soldier of them all had said, 'but we cannot be conquered.'"
From the commanding generals of both armies, down to the lowliest enlisted men, Mr. Foote captured their passions, their hardships, and the oddly surpassing nobility of their fighting. His metaphors were arresting, as when he described the tactical situation of Union Gen. George McClellan's army one day as "somewhat resembling that of a thick-bodied snake pursued by hornets."
A great American man of letters and a uniquely American character, Shelby Foote will be greatly missed. All Americans should love and serve their land's memory as he did.
© 2005 The Mobile Register © 2005 al.com All Rights Reserved.
TOPICS: Culture/Society; Miscellaneous; News/Current Events; Philosophy; US: Alabama; US: Mississippi
KEYWORDS: shelbyfoote; tribute
July 1, 2005
Historian, author Foote, 88, buried
By Woody Baird
The Associated Press
MEMPHIS Southern author Shelby Foote was buried Thursday under a huge magnolia near the graves of Civil War combatants whose exploits he chronicled in one of the best-known histories on the war.
Foote's three-volume history, The Civil War: A Narrative, runs 3,000 pages and took 20 years to complete. It was a main research resource for an 11-hour PBS documentary on the war that first aired in 1990 and made Foote a national celebrity.
Foote, a Mississippi native, died at a Memphis hospital Monday night at age 88.
Following a brief graveside service, Foote was buried on a tree-covered hill in Elmwood Cemetery, one of the South's most historic graveyards and the burial ground for more than 1,000 Civil War soldiers, including 22 generals.
"His wife told me he didn't want anything that even came close to a eulogy," said the Rev. John Sewell, pastor of St. John's Episcopal Church of Memphis. "He didn't want a lot of people standing around praying and talking about what a wonderful man he was."
Foote, a longtime Memphis resident, also wrote six novels, all set in the South. But it was the Civil War history for which he will be most remembered.
His soft, Southern drawl, passion for storytelling and gentlemanly manner made Foote an instant hit after documentary-maker Ken Burns picked him to be the featured historian on The Civil War.
Foote wrote the introduction to Elmwood's official history and picked the site for his grave years ago, said cemetery director Frances Catmur.
Elmwood opened in 1852, and among its more than 70,000 "inhabitants," as Foote called them, are senators, governors, business tycoons, yellow fever victims, rascals and ruffians.
Foote's grave is beside the family plot of former Confederate Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest, one of the war's most celebrated, and sometimes reviled, commanders.
Forrest was buried at Elmwood in 1877, but his remains were moved in 1904 to a city park that bears his name.
Though buried but a few feet from the grave of Capt. William Forrest, a brother of the infamous Confederate general, Foote was no apologist for the South or champion for the Southern cause in his novels or history.
"We're all glad secession didn't work," he once said in an interview.
The service for Foote drew several rangers from Shiloh National Military Park near the Tennessee River at the Tennessee-Mississippi line. Foote often visited Shiloh, the scene of some of the most vicious fighting of the war, and it as one of his favorite battlefields.
Stacy Allen, Shiloh's chief historian, said park flags were lowered to half-staff in Foote's honor.
"He had a deep place in his heart for Shiloh," Allen said, "and he wrote one of the most readable and emotional histories of the Civil War."
Foote is survived by his wife, Gwyn; daughter, Margaret Shelby Foote; and son, Huger Lee Foote.
My brother called him on his home phone a couple of times and asked him a couple of questions for a presentation. Mr. Foote didn't know my brother from Adam but was most gentlemanly and answered his questions in depth. A truly remarkable man.
posted on 07/05/2005 8:58:13 AM PDT
Foote's The Civil War: A Narrative is a truly a marvel -- over 3000 pages and not a dull one among them. I read the entire thing, covers to covers, in sequence, when I was laid up after back surgery a decade ago. I cannot remember enjoying a book as much as I enjoyed Shelby Foote's "book" (which in fact, is one, very long, single book, not a trilogy). Foote was a superb historian and a great writer. May he rest in peace.
posted on 07/05/2005 9:00:48 AM PDT
(Omnia relinquit servare Republicam)
In Shelby Foote's memory, I started re-reading "The Civil War." Those three volumes have a prominent place on my bookshelf, along with "Lee's Lieutenants" by Douglas Southall Freeman, and the series by Bruce Catton that ends with "A Stillness at Appomatox."
Often when reading these books, I say to myself, "I wish I could write like that..."
posted on 07/05/2005 7:00:16 PM PDT
(if I make it to heaven, let me hear a rebel yell...)
RIP Bump for a great historian and an even better writer. He will be missed.
Few ever had his dedication, and with the modern "instant gratification" publishing industry, will we ever see the writer given 20 years to devote to one story again? I doubt it.
posted on 07/05/2005 7:11:55 PM PDT
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