Foote on Burnside

Author Shelby Foote

As Shelby Foote worked on his massive three-volume narrative of The Civil War, he kept his friend, novelist Walker Percy, in the loop on his progress. On January 31, 1955, Foote offered a little insight into the time he’d spent researching Federal commander Ambrose Burnside. I pass it along here on the anniversary of the battle of Fredericksburg:

Work goes slow and well, particularly on little-known events, like Roanoke Island, whose neglect I cannot understand, now that I know how important they were. Loss of that island, for instance, lost the Confederacy the whole NC coast, both Pamlico and Albemarle Sounds and Norfolk to the north. Also it began the career of Ambrose Burnside—so perhaps it was a Southern gain after all, collectable at Fredericksburg. The whole thing is wonderfully human: poor damned forked-radish man, subject to all skyey influences. In that furnace (the War) they were shown up, every one, for what they were.

From The Correspondence of Shelby Foote & Walker Percy, Jay Tolson, ed. (New York: W.W Norton & Co., 1997), 98.

4 Responses to Foote on Burnside

  1. “In that furnace (the War) they were shown up, every one, for what they were.” Best line in the whole excerpt. He’s 100% right.

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