“The Civil War, a Narrative.” Foote


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22 Responses to “The Civil War, a Narrative.” Foote

  1. Fred says:

    An excellent series. I’ve given a couple of sets as gifts before.

  2. JP Billen says:

    Foote’s a fine military historian! And well spoken, his silky-voiced narration during Burns Civil War special stole the show. Does he recite his own works in audiobook format? I might have to look for an audio set for the long drives when I go out of state to see the grandkids.

  3. blue peacock says:

    I am interested in reading this.
    Does the Narrative by Shelby Foote cover the politics of the era and the political calculations that made war a choice? Or is it a chronicling of the military aspects of the war?

  4. Vegetius says:

    Damn, I was listening to Foote’s 3-hour C-Span interview earlier today.
    Takeaway: if we had been as great as we thought we were, we would never have fought that war.
    Also: Yankee puritanism and their cultural ignorance regarding both non-Anglo whites and non-white generally remains alive and well, only now twisted to serve the ends of anti-American globalists.

  5. turcopolier says:

    Blue Peacock
    It is very widely scoped and readable.

  6. Walter Lang says:

    Elora Danon
    You might learn some actual history. No, you would not.

  7. scott s. says:

    Foote was a novelist, and Burns perceptively saw the guy was a great story teller.

  8. turcopolier says:

    A leftist idiot wrote to ask if I have a financial interest in Foote’s masterpiece. I do not.

  9. Widowson says:

    I was a naive undergraduate spending my senior year in college in Tianjin, PRC back in 1993-1994. I had a 70-kilo luggage allotment through KAL and packed a year’s worth of supplies, including Foote’s 3-volume series on the Civil War (!) (Note: in the US we commonly don’t have to carry the errors of our packing ways; in Asia back then the opposite obtained). As luck would have it, I got Mono my first month there and was largely bed-ridden, but fortunately able to read all three volumes straight through. I frequently find myself returning to it more than you’d think!

  10. steve says:

    Has Foote been canceled yet?

  11. AndreL says:

    I read all three volumes in the months spent recovering from major surgery last year. It was on my ‘bucket list’ for a long time (the book, not the surgery). It provides great scope and detail in very readable fashion, even about obscure events and actions. It is one of the best accounts of Grant’s mindset written by another that I’ve read. What struck me in the end was the destructiveness, bloodiness and bloodied-minded-ness of this war in which my ancestors served (on the losing side). Those who loosely bandy about the idea of a new civil war should read this book.

  12. David Habakkuk says:

    jonst and TTG,
    Re the suggestion:
    ‘I think this civil war is still with us. The Cavaliers or Royalists generally felt that all members of a society should know their place. That one tenet serves as a thread running through the English Civil War, our Revolutionary War, our Civil War, Reconstruction, the Jim Crow and segregation eras, the civil rights era and our current divided condition.’
    This does make me think that a better sense of some of the complexities of the British seventeenth century might be of value to Americans.
    A useful starting point might be the complex career of Sir Thomas Fairfax, who led the ‘New Model Army’ to victory over Charles I at the decisive battle of Naseby on 14 June 1645.
    A decade and a half later, after the death of his key subordinate in that battle, Oliver Cromwell, who had in the meantime become ‘Lord Protector’, Fairfax would be instrumental in securing the (essentially peaceful) accession of the son of the man he had defeated.
    As a young man, Fairfax had learnt his soldiering in the wars of religion on the Continent, under the tutelage of Horace Vere, a leading commander of English volunteers in these, and a highly capable soldier, whose daughter Anne he married.
    In January 1649, after Cromwell and his associates had decided to try the ‘Charles Stuart, that man of blood’, Fairfax was placed at the head of the list of judges. He stayed away, but his wife turned up in the gallery. From her ‘Wikipedia’ entry:
    ‘When the court called the name of Fairfax, it is said that his wife, Anne Fairfax, said “he had more wit than to be there”. Later when the court said that they were acting for “all the good people of England”, she shouted “No, nor the hundredth part of them!”’
    (See https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anne_Fairfax )
    Doubtless she overstated her case on the numbers. But Anne Fairfax was not wrong in pointing to the fact that the kind of Puritan zealots who had risen to prominence in the ‘New Model’ combined an absolute conviction that they represented ‘the People’, with a belief that those of their fellow-countrymen who did not agree with them should ‘know their place.’
    This meant recognising that their were utterly and totally wrong, and so could not really be considered as belonging to the ‘good people of England.’ (How can you be ‘people’ if you are not ‘good’?)
    And then, of course, there was the question of the proper ‘place’ of Ireland, where the ‘Reformation’ had never taken hold.
    Not long after the execution of Charles, Fairfax having, once again, decided he did not want to be involved, Cromwell took over the task of suppressing the rebellion in that country, and made quite clear his view of the proper ‘place’ of towns who did not accept his suggestion they surrender.
    He justified his treatment of them, well remembered in Ireland to this day, as ‘a righteous judgment of God upon these barbarous wretches.’
    (For an interesting recent discussion, presenting both sides of the argument, see
    http://www.olivercromwell.org/wordpress/?page_id=1837 .)
    Also of interest, I think, are reflections on the heritage of another civil war, even more cataclysmic than the English and the American, and how it should be handled. Prior to his return to the Presidency in 2012, Vladimir Putin published a series of articles, in one of which, actually entitled ‘The Ethnicity Issue’, his argument led him to the following conclusion:
    ‘So subtle cultural therapy is what is recommended for Russia, a country where, for many, the civil war never really ended and where the past is highly politicised and seen as a collection of ideological quotes (often interpreted by different people in opposite ways). We need a cultural policy – pursued at every level from school teaching to historical documentation – to shape an understanding of history in which representatives from each ethnic group, as well as the descendants of the “Red Commissars” and “White Officers”, can be seen to have a place. They must see where they belong in that process and see themselves as heirs to the great Russian history – tragic and controversial as it is, but still “one for all.”’
    (See http://archive.premier.gov.ru/eng/events/news/17831/ )
    Both by inheritance, and also out observing the way politics have unfolded in my lifetime, I have come to think that, when people portray the conflicts which shaped the modern world as simple stories of struggles between the forces of ‘progress’ and those of ‘reaction’, the appropriate reaction is ‘caveat emptor.’
    One of the central things animating the ‘revolt of the deplorables’, on both sides of the Atlantic, is in my view the quite correct perception that people like Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, or indeed Tony Blair, do not see them as having a ‘place.’
    Precisely because of this, such people are actually making it more, rather than less, difficult to find ways of accommodating genuine, and inevitable, forms of ‘diversity’, without conflict.
    And also, as people with this mentality have often done before, they have already radically miscalculated the relative strength of the rival forces in the conflicts they are helping precipitate.
    And they show absolutely no sign of any willingness whatsoever to learn from their mistakes.

  13. David Habakkuk,
    Thanks for the info on the English Civil War. I share your view that reducing conflicts to a simplistic binary struggle between progress and reaction do not come close to telling the whole story. In that light, I would like to hear your thoughts on the Levellers, a short lived movement that I think still resonates today. They were Puritans who supported Cromwell to a point, but seemed to lack the worst aspects of the Puritans and Cromwell. They didn’t support Cromwell’s invasion of Ireland and sought reconciliation with the Royalists. In my experience, their ideas reappeared in the New England Congregationalists. In my hometown the Congregationalist, direct descendants of the Puritan town fathers, welcomed and happily assisted the arrival of us non-Anglo Saxon Catholics.
    I’ll cross post this comment in Colonel Lang’s post on the Civil War as you have done. I think it fits well there.

  14. hans says:

    All three volumes are available as audio books at Amazon / Audible and also as CDs. The reader is Grover Gardner and I commend his to you.

  15. Roy says:

    It is a fine trilogy. I suppose he gets slammed for sometimes erring on the side of dramatic narrative as opposed to historical preciseness and gets categorized by academia as a *insert sniff of distaste* popular historian. But he writes well. If you read him you will learn alot and he will not steer you wrong on the big issues. If you want to investigate every jot and tittle he provides you the guideposts to do so. Well worth a read.

  16. Babak Makkinejad says:

    David Habakkuk
    Two ways of thought are co-mingled; one ancient, one modern.
    The ancient one, the idea of the Wise Lord, the Lord of Light, waging a Cosmic fight to overcome his own essence of Darkness and Evil, hearkens back to the time of Zoroaster – 8600 years ago.
    The modern one and the more recent one is the belief in a sort of the Cult of Progress – that today has been better than yesterday and tomorrow would be better than today – if we only had the right sort of people holding the right sort of ideas.
    And like all those ideas that take over the minds of men, one must admit some Truth in both. Yet, like everything human, their uncritical adoption and enforcement, more often than not, produce unexpected disasters.
    Jorge Semprun wrote about this – on being on the right side of history and not – in his book: “What a beautiful Sunday”.
    A German puts you against the wall to execute you, you are on the right side of history since you are communist and he is a NAZI.
    A Russian puts you against the wall, and now you are on the wrong side of history, since he is – nominally a communist like you.

  17. Stephanie says:

    blue peacock,
    As Col. Lang notes, the book has a wide scope that includes the political as well as the military aspects of the conflict. It is stronger on the military side, however. Also bear in mind that the full title is “The Civil War: A Narrative.” It doesn’t mean that Foote is unreliable on facts, but don’t go in expecting footnotes or a complete accounting of Foote’s sources.
    Foote’s novel “Shiloh” is also well worth reading.

  18. Diana Croissant says:

    I know my background is very different from the backgrounds of most who post here.
    There seems to be a little bit of a prejudice against Pilgrims and Puritans and their Calvinist religion; or maybe I’m reading it wrong. I wonder why the Quakers aren’t mentioned, as they were even more anti-slavery.
    Can it be that many in the North fought the war, sent those many, many young men to die for the purpose of actually ridding the nation of slavery. The question of slavery had been on the minds of some of the men as they adopted the Declaration of Independence and as they wrote the Constitution. To get it passed, they were willing to put the question off for awhile. Reread and study the Declaration and the Constitution. Slavary simply can’t fit with the words and meaning of those words in those documents.
    Of course there were political and econonmic interests on people’s minds. But I still believe that many of the “common” people in the North did sincerely want to get rid of the practise of slavary in the nation as well as keeping the nation “one nation under God.”
    I love the lyrics of “The Battle Hymn of the Republic.” If you know the Bible, you recognize the book of Revelation in its lyrics.
    Calvinists were not really the same as the stereotypes about them that is taught in many history classes. You have some that are of the type that participated in the Salem witch trials. Nathaniel Hawthorne chaned his last name to add a “w” to distance himself from the hanging judge named Hathorne, who was his ancester. He was tormented by the words of the Second Comandment that mention “visiting the iniquity of the fathers unto the third and fourth generation.”
    We could not have remained one nation under God without getting rid of slavary. It’s sad that the lasting effects of suffering slavary for as long as we did has meant that we now are suffering the consequences now so many, many years later.
    The breakdown of the Black families–the absentee fathers is the result of all those years under slavary that Blacks could not count on strong families when any member of a family could be ripped from the family to be sold.
    It’s simply taking a long, long time for our country to come to some sort of healing over the “cancer” that we allowed in the beginning of the body politic.

  19. turcopolier says:

    Dianna Croisant
    They fought to reunify the country under Northern control, not to free the slaves. Did your ancestors fight? Mine did and for the Union Army, not the Abolition Army.

  20. Babak makkinejad says:

    Diana Croisant
    They could have avoided the war by offering to buy the slaves at 5 or 10 times the nominsl value and pay for that through issuing Federal Bonds, that is how the Greenbacks started their lives.
    But men prefer war to peace. That was all then as it is now.

  21. Mike46 says:

    Coincidentally, about 3 weeks ago my wife was looking for a DVD in the living room cabinet beneath the television. As we were searching thru our seldom ever watched collection, we ran across the Civil War PBS series. I promptly set it aside and said to Mary Ann: “I’m going to watch this again”. MA shook her head (History isn’t MA’s thing).
    As before, I particularly found Shelby Foote’s narrative enlightening and I wanted to see it again. I guess it’s because it’s not the ‘in thing’ these days.
    I’ve known several guys from the south, among them: (Jessie Jowers from Alabaster Alabama, Bill Sneed from Tennessee, and Les Elliott from Greenwood MS (one of my best friends) along with Bill Holden from Athens, Georgia (we broke down on the Florida Turnpike on the way home). And I’m proud to have known all of them. I also think of Bill Slingerland (the Native American kid from Michigan who went to see Jane Fonda in Olongapo and lost his clearance as a result).
    And there is the black kid I shared a room with for 2 weeks in Pensacola. One afternoon I heard an intense thunder crash. it was July. A few minutes later my roommate walked in, obviously shaken up and telling me he was nearly struck by lightning and ‘the Lord was sending him a message’.
    But that was long ago.
    Anyhow, thanks for the reminder.
    Footnote: I still haven’t watched it, but I’ll get right on it, I promise.
    Rod (Mike46)

  22. Stephanie says:

    Diana Croissant,
    Slavery not only fits in the Constitution but important segments of it were written with slavery in mind.
    Lincoln was frank about being willing to preserve slavery in some form if it would prevent war. He also thought it would be a good idea for free blacks to emigrate, a view he shared with R.E. Lee, who paid for former slaves to leave the country if they were interested in going. The Emancipation Proclamation was basically a gimmick to energize a flagging war effort.

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