Question of the Week: 2/24-3/1/2020

Sarah Bierle here sharing a question that’s been on her mind:

What’s your criterion for giving a historic person “hero status”? Give some Civil War examples to support your answers, please?

10 Responses to Question of the Week: 2/24-3/1/2020

  1. It would depend upon what this person did for mankind.There were some pretty rotten folks in history that deserve to be remembered as an example of who not to honor.

  2. I would say that a hero is a person that selflessly devotes themselves to a cause. There are different levels of hero too, measured by such things as degree of sacrifice, and degree of risk taken by said individual. Preservation can also be a factor. For example, life preservation or maybe even someone who buys and saves 100 acres of a battlefield. Obviously there are different degrees of preservation as well.
    Sure, in our eyes, as individuals, there are some pretty rotten folks who are considered heroes, but like the old adage goes, one mans freedom fighter is another mans terrorist. Certainly in the war between cats and dogs the most decorated cat, will not be seen in the same light by the dogs and vice versa.

    1. My biggest heroes from the war I’d have to say are the two of my great-great-great grandfathers who fought in it, Private Gabriel Ballard of he 143rd New York Infantry and Private Theodore VanNatta of the 15th New York Cavalry. Gabriel was with Sherman’s armies in 64’ and 65’ and Theodore fought in the Shenandoah in 64’ and was present for the fall of Petersburg and the ensuing Appomattox Campaign. Both men were just teenagers when they signed up, 19 and 18 respectively and Theodore was barely pubescent so it seems as he stood a whopping 5 foot 1 and 3/4 inches when he signed up and when he died in 1901 stood a more respectable 5 foot 6. I have no war time images of Theo but I’ve got to imagine he must have looked quite the child on his horse, a very brave child though I might add.

  3. of course a southern leader, Robert Edward Lee… The best military man of the Civil War. But war is a question about resources, and the North had much more resources than the South. The war lasted 4 years thanks a genius as Robert E. Lee.

  4. Bravery, compassion and intelligence to me are the most critical factors. Patrick Cleburne, Joseph E. Johnston and R. E. Lee come to mind.

  5. Maybe my definition of hero is a little simple, but I think a hero is anyone who saves the life of a fellow human at the risk of their own wellbeing. In a Civil War context, a hero could be the soldier who pulled his buddy out of the way of a coming cannonball, or a stretcher-bearer carrying a dying soldier behind the lines so he can be taken care of, or the commander who risks their career and reputation by making the call NOT to charge if it could spare the lives of his men. I can’t think of any specific examples, but the one that keeps popping in my head is “Gallant” Pelham who took on Federal forces at Fredericksburg with just two canon and held back the advance for a little while. He might not have saved the day as a whole, but he certainly risked his own life in an effort to save others. I think heroes can be the regular dudes. They don’t need stars on their collar or bars on their sleeves.

  6. A “hero” rises to the occasion. Period. ‘Hero’ status can also be subjective, as in what side someone lines up with as to whether that status is bestowed on someone. A lone machine gunner holding up a large force and keeping it pinned down is going to be viewed as a hero by his/her own kind regardless of who they fight for. Think John Basilone or Audie Murphy among American heroes, and any number of German, Japanese, Soviet, British, etc. fighters in WWII.

    As for the Civil War, lots of folks, male and female, deserve that moniker. No doubt there are lots of said ‘heroes’ we will never know for various reasons. One name that comes to me is George Thomas, for his service during the war.

  7. Andrew Johnson… hero to Unionist Tennessee. Benjamin Butler… hero of the Union and emancipation, for his tireless effort in defeating the Confederacy in his own special way.

    Really though… pretty much anyone involved in the Civil War was a hero of some support. Serving in some capacity alone is enough, I would think.

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