The Contradictions of Shelby Foote

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Drew

Major
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Oct 22, 2012
I thought a lot of Confederate soldiers had deserted by March-April 1865. Many were called home by there wives, who believed the war was lost and wanted them home before they died for nothing.
There was certainly some of that, yes. There was also tremendous desertion in the Union Armies. By the winter of 1865, I doubt a lot of Confederate soldiers were getting much mail from home anyway. The wheels were coming off.
 

Drew

Major
Joined
Oct 22, 2012
The desertion rate shows conclusively the confederates absolutely did not fight to the last man. The letters from Georgia and South Carolina did much to increase that desertion among Lee's soldiers.
I did not say they "fought to the last man," but "about." It's a figure of speech. Yes, there was desertion, on both sides. The Union's is probably better documented.

We'll need evidence of cause and effect - your assertion that "letters from Georgia and South Carolina did much to increase that desertion among Lee's soldiers" ought to be demonstrated.
 
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Allie

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Dec 17, 2014
No one is going to look at this, Cash. It reminds me of a movie from the 80's in which Legal Beagles subpoena a document and the opposition delivers a tractor/trailer full of documents for them to sort through. Cute, but I'll not play. Make your case succinctly and it will be considered.
You asked for evidence, and now you're complaining that he gave you too much? Read one document if you don't feel the need to read all if them.
 
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huskerblitz

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Nebraska
In the PBS documentary The Civil War, I really like it when Shelby Foote states that "any understanding of this nation has to be based, I mean really based, on an understanding of the Civil War." But, later in the program, he makes another statement that, I believe, contradicts his own claim:

“The South never had a chance to win that war.”

I always thought he made this comment just to **** off some of his Southern neighbors. As I recall, this statement was prefaced by him saying that the North fought with one hand tied behind its back and , if things got really difficult, all the North would have done is bring the other hand out to crush the South. But I think the South had several chances to win the war. It had chances to gain foreign recognition and it had chances to win the war on the battlefield. And I don’t just mean winning at Gettysburg. The South had to convince the Northern civilian population that the war wasn’t worth fighting anymore. As far as the North fighting “one-handed,” I think there is some truth to that but the North eventually had to draft soldiers. I think the North also had to use Black soldiers: if not for the need of military manpower, I think certainly for the need to keep them out of the hands of the Confederacy.

The Confederacy had to hold on to what it had- the territory it claimed and its slave population. In the end, it lost both. But the South had a serious chance to win the war.
I'm having a hard time understanding why you think his two statements are contradictory? I watched that interview segment again and I really don't think one has a lot to do with the other. I agree with the rest of your statement for the most part, I'm just stumped on why it's a contradiction.

You can see the segment in the first 1:15

 
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JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Feb 14, 2012
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Thank you, Diane. That seems to be the crux of the matter.
When I first joined here, I'd assumed Diane was a prof on sabbatical from somewhere, killing time here. When it was discovered her dog outranked me in IQ points ( if you've been here awhile, you know that story ) was convinced of it further. Heritage wise, still qualifies- academia's a short cut compared to belonging here first.
 

ole

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Near Kankakee
When I first joined here, I'd assumed Diane was a prof on sabbatical from somewhere, killing time here. When it was discovered her dog outranked me in IQ points ( if you've been here awhile, you know that story ) was convinced of it further. Heritage wise, still qualifies- academia's a short cut compared to belonging here first.
I have yet to unearth something Diane doesn't know.
 

ole

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Lincoln might have been born in Kentucky, but he was raised in Indiana. And, as soon as he turned 21, he got the hell out of there.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

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Mar 31, 2012
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Central Ohio
And another important point Gallagher makes, which I think is a very good one, is that they key to victory in war is the civilian population. When the civilians decide the war just isn't worth fighting anymore, they will stop supporting the military. Once that happens, there's a good chance that side won't win the war. Perhaps this is what happened to the Confederacy.
I've been thinking more along the lines of the Union and the motivation of its civilian population.* I think that's the real story here. There were plenty of divergent opinions and lots of opportunities and reasons why the Unionists could have lost heart and given up.

* I include within this statement Southern unionists, including a large number of "contrabands"...
 

18thVirginia

Major
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Sep 8, 2012
When I read the words of Sam Houston and Sherman and Shelby Foote, I wonder if Foote's view is simply the perspective of someone from the West.
 
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Georgia Coast

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Lincoln might have been born in Kentucky, but he was raised in Indiana. And, as soon as he turned 21, he got the hell out of there.
Yeah yeah. I was born about 25 miles from the Lincoln birthplace and was gone by age 2. But since some of my ancestors came to KY with Daniel Boone, I consider myself a Kentuckian. And so is Abe...:D
 

RobertP

Major
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Nov 11, 2009
Location
Dallas
No one is going to look at this, Cash. It reminds me of a movie from the 80's in which Legal Beagles subpoena a document and the opposition delivers a tractor/trailer full of documents for them to sort through. Cute, but I'll not play. Make your case succinctly and it will be considered.
All I'll say is that every one of my direct ancestors (3) and their brothers (10) who served were either still in the CS army in April '65, or they were disabled or dead.
 
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Dave Wilma

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Aug 12, 2011
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Elliott Bay
Every historian will evaluate the evidence differently and Foote's opinions are well founded in the evidence. I think it's valid to state that the Confederacy had "a chance" to survive, but the odds were against survival. No chance? Always a topic for discussion.
 

cash

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
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Feb 20, 2005
Location
Right here.
It seems R. E. Lee didn't think the confederates were fighting almost to the last man.

"Late in February General Lee declared that the despair of the North Carolinians was destroying his army. He wrote Governor Vance: 'Desertings are becoming very frequent and there is reason to believe that they are occasioned to a considerable extent by letters written to the soldiers by their friends at home.' The diaries and letters of the men in the line around Richmond show that Lee had reason to be concerned. 'Deserters increase ... we had three more last night' is the February 21 entry in the diary of Samuel Hoey Walkup of the Forty-eighth North Carolina regiment." [John G. Barrett, Sherman's March Through the Carolinas, p. 118]

Lee wasn't the only one.

"It was not those soldiers who looked to heaven for comfort but those who took off for home themselves that occasioned six North Carolina regimental commanders to write Senator William Alexander Graham of the Confederate Congress:

" 'Numerous desertions are now occurring among the troops from our state. ... We believe that the spirit of discontent among our soldiers owes its birth and growth to the influences of those of our citizens at home, who by evil councils and by fears have een made to despair of the success of our cause and are constantly, while the soldiers are home on furlough and through the mails, instilling into them opinions which too often culminate in desertion. We are led to this conclusion by intercepted letters, addressed to those who deserted.' " [Ibid.]

Seems there was a home front after all, and it seems they had quite an impact on soldier desertions.
 
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