As the great-grandson of a Confederate soldier, Foote told an interviewer from PBS that "This country has two grievous sins on its hands," one being the legacy of slavery. The other, he claims, is that the Northern government in general and Lincoln in particular basically issued the legislation to free slaves and stopped without doing anything to ensure that African-Americans would successfully integrate into free society. Lincoln, of course, was killed before he could implement Reconstruction as he planned it, leaving his successor, Andrew Johnson, and the Radical Republicans to carry out what would become a much more punitive course of action.
Foote claimed that the Southern character is rooted in the tragedy of the loss of what was called by Southerners the War Between the States, but usually known as the American Civil War; although in his acclaimed Civil War trilogy he worked hard to avoid mythologizing and glamourizing the South's lost cause, he does believe that it became a part of the Southern character. He explained this tendency to one interviewer by drawing a personal parallel, explaining that even in his own life, he always remembered the battles he lost, more so than those he won.
Foote believedthat the Southern character is inherently linked to the Confederate flag, and that the flag would not conjure up such negative feelings if people looked past the flag to what the Confederate Constitution actually stated/stood for. He also expressed dismay at the legacy of African-Americans, created partially, he believes, by the inadequate handling of Reconstruction and helping freed slaves assimilate into society.