Shelby Foote and Fredericksburg, Virginia

As many of you are aware, Shelby Foote, the writer and historian, recently passed away. Over the course of twenty years, he wrote the three-volume 1.2 million-word The Civil War: A Narrative, which is considered one of the definitive works about the American Civil War. He gained national recognition after being featured in Ken Burns’ documentary The Civil War.

Paula S. Felder originally started to write an article for The Free Lance-Star (Fredericksburg.com) about Shelby Foote’s connections to the Fredericksburg (VA) area, but it ended up being a little more than she expected.

Excerpt from the article:

Sure enough, Shelby Foote, a Mississippi native, was the great-great-great-great-grandson of Fielding Lewis Sr. (1725-1781), proprietor of Kenmore and brother-in-law of George Washington. And Fredericksburg was the beginning site of his Lewis line.

But what started out to be a brief column on Foote’s connection with Fredericksburg-area history turned me onto a path of discovery linking me up to my own Mississippi origins.

I was quite surprised to discover the Footes and Dades and other families from the Fredericksburg area among Mississippi’s early population. The state had been patched together in 1817 from parts of the Mississippi Territory created in 1798, some of it by treaties wresting land from the Indians, and 26 miles of coastline acquired from Spanish Florida together with the Natchez area.

I really like these kinds of articles, because too many people get caught up in numbers and place-names. They don’t look at the big picture of why and how somebody was in a certain place at a certain time, nor do they look at how relationships between families carried through for generations, and how it influenced areas and formed the basis for many communities.

It’s one thing to say “such and such was born here. In 1830, they moved here, and had this child“, and it’s another to say “They were part of the generation who departed from their 18th-century world, attracted to the opportunities in Mississippi being opened by treaty. With their close-knit ties, the Dades and Footes and assorted relatives created a community in Noxubee County.

No, I’m not on some kind of celebrity streak, it just so happened some interesting stories about celebrities and genealogy turned up recently.

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