Tuesday, June 28, 2005

Shelby Foote dies.

I just saw this on memeorandum. The great historian Shelby Foote has died. He was 88 years old. I had no idea he was that old. I would have guessed him to be in his mid sixties. In one of the greatest documentaries ever filmed, The Civil War, by Ken Burns, Foote told two stories which I will never forget. He related a telephone conversation with the granddaughter of Nathan Bedford Forrest, Confederate General and founder of the KKK. As best I remember the conversation as related by Mr. Foote, it went something like this:
Foote: "I have always believed that the Civil War produced two bonafide heroes, your grandfather and Abraham Lincoln."

Forrrest's granddaughter: "Well, you know, Mr. Foote, my family never did think too much of Mr. Lincoln."
And the other story related by Shelby during the documentary is, in my mind, the best story of the thousands of stories to come out of that war. Foote said that;
When William Tecumseh Sherman died in New York, the aged General Joseph E. Johnston, commander of the army that faced Sherman through most of his march to Atlanta and then again during his march through South Carolina, insisted on traveling to New York city for his old foe's funeral.

Upon his arrival, when it was realized who he was, he was asked to be an honorary pallbearer and he immediately agreed. It was a cold day in February with an icy rain falling but Johnston stood with bare head. One of his aides said to him, "General, don't you think you had better put your hat on?" General Johnston replied, "I knew that man Sherman, and if he were in my place and I were in his place, he would not put on his hat."

General Johnston died 7 days later of pneumonia.
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Jeff Hess said...

Shalom Mark,

I recall both stories. Reading General Johnston's remark still brings a catch to my throat.



BAH said...

Thanks for the link and for a marvelous post of your own. I delighted in both anecdotes. May I suggest a small volume by Shelby Foote: "Stars In Their Courses -- The Gettsyburg Campaign." By the way, I, too, had no idea he was that old. Time didn't seem to age him.


Amy Allen said...

Sir,thank you v much for the link!
Amy Allen
Obiter Dictum Blog

Don H. said...

I believe Mr. Foote referred to Lincoln and Forrest as “geniuses”, not heroes.
Although heroes — and scoundrels — abounded in that war.