Tuesday, June 28, 2005
I was saddened to read that historian Shelby Foote passed away earlier today. He's probably best known as the curmudgeon with the southern drawl who stole the show in Ken Burns' documentary on the Civil War. But he got there in the first place because he was a first-rate historian, and a first-rate writer. His three-volume, 3,000-page history of the Civil War is still the standard, and it's the standard not only because of its meticulous research, but because of the poetic way that Foote could wield words. Even when recounting the horrors of bloodshed, Foote could write exquisitely. He was a character. He was a wonderful writer. And he was fair. His heroes were Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson for his military leadership and Abraham Lincoln for his statesmanship and his heart. I'd like to think that their differences are resolved, and that they can all toast one another (lemonade for Jackson, a mint julep for Foote) in heaven.