Although he was an accomplished novelist, Foote was best known for his three-volume “The Civil War: A Narrative,” composed of: “Fort Sumter to Perryville,” Volume 1, 1958; “Fredericksburg to Meridian,” Volume 2, 1963; and “Red River to Appomattox,” Volume 3, 1974. The monumental project – consisting of 2,934 pages, and a million and a half words – took Foote some 20 years to complete, and has been called a “remarkable achievement, prodigiously researched, vigorous, detailed, absorbing.” Critics note that Foote’s is one of the most comprehensive military histories of the Civil War, and express admiration for the author’s balanced and objective view of the conflict, in spite of his Mississippi roots. Foote became a mini-celebrity as a commentator on Ken Burns’ “The Civil War,” which aired on Public Broadcasting Service in 1990.
Other nonfiction works by Foote include “Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863,” 1994; “The Beleaguered City: The Vicksburg Campaign, December 1862-July 1863,” 1995; and “The Correspondence of Shelby Foote and Walker Percy,” 1997.
Noted as showing a serious craftsman at work, Foote’s novels include “Tournament,” 1949; “Follow Me Down,” 1950; “Love in a Dry Season,” 1951; “Shiloh,” 1952; “Jordan County: A Landscape in Narrative,” 1954; “September September,” 1978; and “Ride Out,” 1996. Most of his novels are located in his microcosm, the delta country around Lake Jordan in Mississippi.
During his prestigious career, Foote garnered several honors including: Guggenheim fellowships, 1955, 1956, 1957; a Ford Foundation grant, 1963; and the Dos Passos Prize for Literature, 1988. He also received honorary doctorate of literature degrees from a host of colleges and universities including the University of the South, 1981; Notre Dame University, 1994; Loyola University, 1999; and the College of William and Mary, 1999. He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Society of American Historians and Fellowship of Southern Writers.
He passed away June 27, 2005.