Henry S. Foote (1804-1880) was something of a loose cannon throughout his long political career, which extended from the 1830s until his death. He was all over the political landscape, most often as a Democrat, but also as a Whig, a member of the American (Know-Nothing) Party, and finally as a Republican. As a US Senator and governor of Mississippi before the Civil War, he was a staunch unionist, but in 1861as a resident of Tennessee, he strongly supported secession and served in the Confederate congress. His hatred of Jefferson Davis led him to become a fringe figure in that body, and he went north and attempted to broker a peace deal between the two sides, only to be expelled twice from the North, ending up first in England and then in Canada. A strong supporter of slavery, after the war he endorsed civil rights, including the right to vote, for the freed blacks. In addition, Foote was hot-tempered and unpredictable, and he was frequently involved in fist fights with his personal and political enemies - hence the title of this book - as well as duels, and he once pulled a pistol on Thomas Hart Benton on the floor of the US Senate. Above all, Foote was a promoter of himself, always seeking to take positions which would advance his political career.
Perhaps because there are few personal papers, Foote has not been the subject of a biography, but he has found a worthy biographer in Ben Wynne. The book of necessity focuses on Foote's political career, but Wynne does not ignore the personal side of his life where sources are available. Solidly researched, thoughtful, and well-written, this biography at long last gives Foote his due, and I highly recommend it to anyone interested in the political history of the Civil War era.