Having watched Burns' Civil War for the third time again this week, what is most captivating about the soldiers on both sides is their uncommon valor, their steadfast bravery in the face of the mini-ball, their dedication to their generals, their love of country, their display of honor, what remarkable traders they would have made. historian Shelby Foote strikes one as a very likable character, his ability to tell stories and his passion for the subject matter. one wonders if messrs. Burke or Jov might comment on the historian's works and recommend a reading or two.

Stefan Jovanovich writes: 

Mr. Foote was a delightful man, and he was - like all smart Southerners - truly gracious and charming. I don't share his enthusiasm for the valor of the soldiers because, having been a member of my generation's children's crusade, I think Mr. Foote underestimated how much the bravery was simply the ignorance of the young. Mr. Burns has it all wrong about the "love of country"; no one, other than the few "regulars" from the peacetime U.S. Army, fought for "their country". They fought for their state. The units' battle flags and banners do not even mention the United States or the Confederacy. The idea that soldiers were dedicated "to their generals" is close to laughable. All the stories about people in the lines shouting praise to Grant and Lee are highly suspect; they all come from staff officers' memoirs. What is indisputable is that the "common" (sic) soldiers had a deep regard for one another. The veterans' organization formed after the Civil War/War Between the States were not officers' organizations like the Society of the Cincinnati but fellowships of all veterans. The revolutionary American idea of "one man one vote" has its origins in those veterans' organizations; it was the first time that privates' ballots counted as much as colonels'.

Mr. Burns is a great movie maker; but that is and always will be a back-handed compliment where history is concerned. Movies ain't life, and documentaries never tell the truth when all the people in them are safely dead. What you get is the Chatauqua story of the past.


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