Foote paints glorious portraits in his trilogy. This one is of Sherman, mostly with Sherman’s words. One of Foote’s great talents is his ability to choose, compile, edit and synthesize quotes from his subjects into the flow of his narrative.
EXCERPT: Volume 1, Fort Sumter to Perryville, pages 58-59.
Christmas Eve of the year before, William Tecumseh Sherman, Superintendent of the Louisiana State Military Academy, was having supper in his quarters with the school’s professor…a Virginian named Boyd, when a servant entered with an Alexandria newspaper that told of the secession of South Carolina. Sherman was an Ohioan, a West Pointer and a former army officer, forty years old, red-bearded, tall and thin, with sunken temples and a fidgety manner. He had come South because he liked it, as well as for reasons of health, being twenty pounds underweight and possibly consumptive…Rapidly he read the story beneath the black headline announcing the dissolution of the Union…Finally he stopped pacing and stood in the front of his friend’s chair, shaking a bony finger in the Virginian’s face as if he had the whole fire-eating South there in the room…
“You people of the South don’t know what you are doing,” [Sherman] declared. “The country will be drenched in blood, and God only knows how it will end. It is folly, madness, a crime against civilization! You people speak so lightly of war; you don’t know what you’re talking about. War is a terrible thing…You mistake, too, the people of the North. They are a peaceable people but an earnest people, and they will fight, too. They are not going to let this country be destroyed without a mighty effort to save it…Besides, where are your men and appliances of war to contend against them? The North can make a steam engine, locomotive or railway car; hardly a yard of cloth or pair of shoes can you make. You are rushing into war with one of the most powerful, ingeniously mechanical and determined people on earth — right at your doors.” Then he delivered a prophecy. “You are bound to fail. Only in your spirit and determination are you prepared for war. In all else you are totally unprepared, with a bad cause to start with. At first you will make headway, but as your limited resources begin to fail, shut out from the markets of Europe as you will be, your cause will begin to wane. If your people but stop and think, they must see that in the end you will surely fail.”