Question of the Week: 1/17-1/23/2022

Thinking about memory and legacy this week…

Do you think Civil War leaders would be pleased or disturbed (or some other feeling) with how they have been remembered through the decades?

11 Responses to Question of the Week: 1/17-1/23/2022

  1. If Ambrose Burnside was not particularly concerned about losing 12,500 men at Fredericksburg (and he wanted to lead a second attack), I doubt he would care what anyone has thought of him during these past 159 years.

  2. For those who did not survive the war, reputation could go either way. Everett Peabody is an example of someone who was given proper credit in the decades following the war. David Ireland is an example of someone who probably was not given proper credit after the war.

  3. I think its human nature to want to explain your side of things, your point of view, and set the record straight for actions you took. We do not always know what a commander could see or knew at any given time. While its easy to criticize, I think its important to dig a little deeper when we can and give the benefit of doubt. So thats a long way of saying I think Civil War generals would largely be upset at how things are often simplified and would want to share their perspective.

  4. Well, with maybe a few exceptions, it seems that anyone and everyone of note pertaining to the Civil War has been BOTH praised and trashed over time. I think of George Custer as such an example. If they want to be remembered in a positive light, they could no doubt find such praise somewhere at some point since the War. The reverse of that is no doubt true as well. Those who tend to be viewed positively overall still have some detractors out there. Think of terms like “Grant the Butcher” here. And, anybody who picked a side will often view someone from the other side less favorably than they do their own. So, who knows?

  5. In this Age of the Internet, more diaries, letters, journal entries and newspaper reports become accessible every day, presenting evidence which must be compared and balanced against existing conclusions. As historians and researchers we must follow the facts where they lead and be ready to discuss and debate “new conclusions” based on those same facts. Even Agenda-driven assertions must be tested using facts, logic and reason: claims, once proven, must be incorporated into the Civil War narrative; those claims remaining unproven must be labelled as such, and more evidence sought to prove them correct or incorrect. In this way, we give Civil War Veterans and Leaders their due regard.

  6. Longstreet said this himself: “I do not fear the verdict of history on Gettysburg. Time sets all things right. Error lives but a day-truth is eternal.”

    Therefore, I think Longstreet would be a very happy man today, because in my opinion he has been exonerated for being blamed for the loss at Gettysburg.

  7. I think a lot of it would depend on their personalities. Some of the self-promoters would probably be thrilled with the good press! I think the more reserved temperaments would feel uncomfortable or even embarrassed.

  8. I think some of them may have been more concerned about how Ulysses S. Grant described them in his memoirs.

  9. I would suspect that William T Sherman would have conflicting feelings as to how his life and actions have been portrayed over the years since the conflict ended. At one turn, “Uncle Billy” would likely be amused at the sheer volume of works on his life and times. Then I would expect that given his distrust of the press of the times, any negative writings would be railed against as “Fake News”!

  10. i think they would be generally pleased with the scholarship in the recent decade.

    The gent in your banner above — penning his memoirs while suffering from advanced throat cancer — would likely have no problem with Ron Chernow’s even-handed appraisal in GRANT … similarly, i imagine R.E. Lee would have no beef with Guelzo’s recent bio of the Confederate battle captain … like Chernow’s GRANT, Guelzo’s interpretation shows a complex, talented, but imperfect 19th man who had to make momentous moral decisions in terrible circumstances.

    Although i found Guelzo’s question to himself — “How do i write a biography about a traitor?” a bit odd … i guess that’s the required sop these days to the sermonizers who require the word traitor to be used in anything written about Lee … thankfully Professor Guelzo moves on quickly and let’s the reader make their own judgements.

    great question by the way … i thought it might have generated more responses.

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