310 A BICENTENNIAL HISTORY OF MISSISSIPPI SHELBY FOOTE Highly respected novelist and Civil War historian Shelby Dade Foote, Jr., was born into a prominent Delta family in Greenville on November 17, 1916. While Foote’s family name carried great meaning in the region, much of his relatives’ wealth had been lost by the time of his birth, leaving his parents struggling to work their way back up the social and financial hierarchy. During the first years of his life, Foote moved with his parents to Jackson and Vicksburg, then to Pensacola, Florida, and Mobile, Alabama, as his father was promoted to various positions for his job in the meat-packing industry. However, when Foote was only five years old, his father died of septicemia, and he and his mother Lillian moved back to Greenville, where Foote spent perhaps the most formative years of his life. During his teenage years, Foote befriended brothers Walker, LeRoy, and Phinizy Percy, who had moved to Greenville to live with their father’s cousin, William Alexander Percy. Foote developed a lifelong personal and intellectual connection with the Percy boys, as they influenced one another’s writings and scholarly pursuits. After attending Greenville High School, where he edited the student newspaper The Pica, Foote followed the Percy men in enrolling at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. There he contributed writings to the award-winning Carolina Magazine. While Foote greatly advanced as a scholar during his tenure at UNC Chapel Hill, he developed a reputation for frequently skipping class to explore the library and other areas of campus. In 1937, Foote moved home to Greenville to work in the construction business and for the Delta Democrat Times, a local news outlet. In the early 1940s, Foote joined the Mississippi National Guard, for which he was stationed in a number of different regions of the United States, as well as Europe. After being discharged from the Army, Foote returned to America to work for the Associated Press in New York City. In 1945, he spent a brief time in the United States Marine Corps during World War II but never experienced combat. Following the war, Foote moved back to his native Greenville to work for a local radio station. His first novel, Tournament, which he started writing before the war, was published in 1949. His second book, Follow Me Down, was published in 1950. By 1954, Foote had published three more novels: Love in a Dry Season, Shiloh, and Jordan County. All of his novels contain themes deeply rooted in his experiences and interpretations of his home state of Mississippi. In 1954, Random House publishing company called upon Foote to write a history of the Civil War. The project, originally meant to be a single-volume book, became a three-volume work—entitled The Civil War: A Narrative—that took Foote twenty years to complete. The first volume, Fort Sumter to Perryville, was published in 1958. The second, Fredericksburg to Meridian, was published in 1963, and finally, the third, Red River to Appomattox, was published in 1974. In addition to outlining the details of the war, Foote recorded the history using a distinct narrative style, which set his work apart from other historical works. Foote once said about the study of history, “Narrative history is the kind that comes closest to telling the truth. You can never get to the truth, but that’s your goal.” For the next several decades, Foote continued writing novels, as well as articles, for popular and scholarly magazines. Foote’s publications went largely unrecognized by the general public until he appeared in the famous Ken Burns documentary series The Civil War, which quickly propelled his career notoriety in the late 1980s and early 1990s. The University of North Carolina granted him an honorary degree in 1994. That same year, Foote was chosen for the American Academy of Arts and Letters. During the late 1990s, Foote collaborated on and appeared in several video projects, including the Ken Burns documentary Baseball and various television and news programs. Foote passed away in Memphis, Tennessee, on June 27, 2005, at the age of eighty-eight. Republican Party, an exclusively northern political party, vowed to prohibit the expansion of slavery into newly acquired western lands. When Abraham Lincoln and the Republicans were victorious in the 1860 national elections, the South faced a serious dilemma. Should southern states remain in the Union and work out their differences through the political system, or should they secede? If they seceded, should each state secede individually, or should they leave as an organized, collective unit? Almost without exception, Delta planters supported slavery and its expansion westward. With that said, they did not rush to embrace secession following Lincoln’s victory. The plantation aristocracy of the Delta worried any swift move toward secession would lead to war and, eventually, economic and social ruin. Planters like James Lusk Alcorn of Coahoma County and J. Shall Yerger of Washington County knew they had a great deal to lose if rash action led to military action and probably the loss of lucrative northern and East Coast markets for their cotton crops. Alcorn eloquently insisted separating from the United States meant the Delta would face the might of northern military force that could put an end to slavery. Yerger urged a convention of southern states to unite the region in common cause. When Mississippi called a statewide convention in January 1861 to debate secession, by and large, the Delta delegates rejected immediate separation from the United States. Fiery secessionist sentiment took hold across the state, however, and drowned out the more PHOTO COURTESY OF THE WILLIAM ALEXANDER PERCY MEMORIAL LIBRARY