Friday, June 10, 2011
"Any understanding of this nation has to be based and I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War. I believed that firmly. It defined us. The Revolution did what it did. Our involvement with the European wars, beginning with the First World War, did that it did. But the Civil War defined us what we are, and it opened to us what we became, good and bad things. And it is very necessary, if you are going to understand the American character in the twentieth century, to learn about this enormous catastrophe of the nineteenth century. It was the crossroads of our being, and it was a hell of a crossroads." —Shelby Foote, 1990
"The world will little note nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here." —Abraham Lincoln at Gettysburg, 1863
Shelby Foote died in 2005, 15 years after Ken Burns' 1990 epic documentary "The Civil War" aired. Mr. Foote was an historian with a life-long interest in the Civil War. His own writings on the subject are monumental.
I am a lover of history. I know some of you are as well. I, too, have gotten sucked in by the Civil War, mostly, I think, because of it's many facets and complexities. I am one who likes to try to unravel complexities. But, more than that, I really believe the Civil War was exactly the turning point for our country that Mr. Foote says it was.
The Civil War had to happen, of course. I think many Americans today don't think much about it's lessons anymore.
I can't believe Burns' documentary was 21 years ago! And I am saddened to learn Mr. Foote has died. Many people don't recognize the name, but know him when they see his picture.