Golden Thread Anyone ever change their mind?

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Location
New Jersey
I find what is written in these threads absolutely fascinating, thought provoking, insightful, and sometimes just plain enjoyable. Much of what is written here seems to be designed to convince readers that such and such a perspective is more accurate and posters marshal facts and figures to prove their point. I wonder though, just how many readers here have ever really had their minds changed by what they have read here or perhaps in books recommended by writers.

I must admit that the most sagacious writers here, the ones who adduce the most logical arguments, the most persuasive and cogent opinions happen to be those who agree with me, but on occasion, I have to admit that some writers have challenged by preconceived notions and have made me uncomfortably reassess my previously held convictions. For example, my assessment of Robert E. Lee as a commander. Having read Douglas Southall Freeman's biography of Lee early in my life I concluded he was the conjoined reincarnations of Washington, Julius Caesar, Alexander the Great, Frederick the Great with a bit of DNA from Charlemagne and Richard the Lion Hearted. I was surprised when I got to the end of the book to realize that the South had actually lost the war.

From much of what I have read here, and much, much more later reading, I have concluded that I may have been wrong and, perhaps in his gene pool, he really was a later amalgam of Pompey and Darius, perhaps a Vercingetorix and Leonidas, more of a tragic figure than a victorious commander.

So what I am asking here is, have any readers have ever been forced to reevaluate long held, cherished convictions based on what they have read here or in books recommended by other readers.?
 
Joined
Jul 12, 2007
Location
Aledo, IL
I can't say my mind was changed regarding a subject that, in my opinion, I have studied extensively. I daresay that those with opposing views will say the same, and that is fine. If two people with opposing views have studied their view sufficiently, then there is little chance it can be changed.....

I will say, however, that IF a person makes a POLITE, well-thought argument, I will most certainly have a BETTER respect and understanding for them and their opinion. I may not agree with them, but I can appreciate and understand their point of view....which is cool, too, because that is a good way for me to learn.....I hope the people I talk with can say the same about me....Sometimes, "agreeing to disagree" is a good way to learn.....
 

W. Richardson

Captain
Joined
Jun 29, 2011
Location
Mt. Gilead, North Carolina
Yes I have changed my mind a couple of times, nothing that was earth shattering. The last time I changed my mind was on why Lincoln believed there was a large Union sentiment in the South. I had believed he had simply misjudged, but evidence was presented to me were I later re-thought it and found that Lincoln based his decision on the 1860 election and the amount of votes garnered by the Constitutional Union Party..............

So yes on occasions minds have been changed.........but very, very rarely.

Respectfully,

William
 

Patrick H

Lt. Colonel
Joined
Mar 7, 2014
Yes, I have changed my mind, or at least been forced to re-evaluate my opinions on certain issues. My interest is in the "unpleasantries" which happened in Missouri during the war. I am interested in guerrilla warfare along the Kansas border and MOST PARTICULARLY in the same warfare that extended into the central Missouri counties. I have been reading apologists and demonizing authors on both sides of the conflict. When you launch into all this reading, you quickly realize that there are plenty of demonizers and apologists to go around several times! I have come to the conclusion that the soldiers in my particular area of interest must be evaluated as individuals. Without a doubt, some on either side were blood thirsty killers. Others were opportunists. Others were virtual pirates. But I have come to believe that many fighters on either side were trying to adhere to their personal principles. The problem, of course, is that their personal principles varied so widely. And in some cases the principles of their leaders varied even more.

If we, as would-be scholars of the conflict, are to come to our own conclusions, we must study material which conflicts with our pre-concieved notions, as well as material which supports those same notions. Then we must, somehow, try to find our own conclusions. It isn't easy, but it's essential. Sometimes, it is a REAL eye-opener, too.

I am giving some thought to a short essay which will illustrate my personal journey through all of this conflicting material. When it is ready, I will post it in a new thread.
 

Rob9641

Captain
Annual Winner
Joined
Jun 7, 2010
Location
Maryland
I started out my study of the Civil War thinking that Robert E. Lee was the consummate war commander, but while I still admire him as a tactician, I have come to believe he was not the strategic master I used to think he was.

My opinion of Stonewall Jackson has gone way down. I have come to realize there were different Jacksons and his success or lack of it depended on which Jackson showed up at the battle.

My opinion of U.S. Grant has gone up in some ways and down in others. I used to think he was more of a drunk than I think he was now. I have come to admire his guts on and off the battlefield (i.e. his standing up to the post-Lincoln government and insisting Lee and Longstreet not be brought up on treason charges, and the raw courage he showed in his last years when finishing his memoirs) but I regard less his common sense (his naiveté in some of his post-war business dealings with people who took advantage of him).

I used to think the Confederates lost at Gettysburg; I now think it was more like the Union won.

I have come to realize that the real important turning points in the war were not at Gettysburg, but at Antietam (the Emancipation Proclamation and the end of any serious consideration of the European powers coming into the war being paramount).

I used to think the Union freeing the slaves was a war aim far earlier in the war than it actually was. I also believe more that the slaves freed themselves than any army or government did.

I have come to realize that the Union's biggest concern was that the breaking up of the Union would result in the death of democracy, that the US would break up into petty dukedoms or worse and North America would look and act more like Europe. It was not only their biggest concern at the beginning of the war - the possibility downright terrified them.

I realize I don't know near as much as I'd like to about fascinating and complex people such as Jefferson Davis, Charles Sumner, George G. Meade, and about a dozen others.

I realize I don't have enough life left to learn all I'd like to learn.
 

1950lemans

First Sergeant
Joined
Jun 23, 2013
Location
Connecticut
I consider myself fortunate to have been interested in the CW for only about five years. Much of the historiography produced in the last 15 yrs. contains a wealth of new uncovered data and is mostly written by "more professional historians" (for want of a better phrase) with a more balanced view of the socio-economic-cultural angles of the whys and wherefores of why the war, what was it about, etc.
 
Joined
Sep 28, 2013
Location
Southwest Mississippi
There is also a GREAT difference between changing one's mind and LEARNING something.....I have learned a great deal here!! :smile:
Well said.

I've learned more on these forums in six months than I have in my lifetime.

Yeah I know that sounds dramatic, but having been born at ground zero of the Vicksburg Campaign, I literally grew up playing on the guns in the National Military Park. Having GG Grandfathers, Uncles & Cousins that served/died (for the CSA) in all theaters . . . does tend to put a more personal (biased) perspective on the War.

Have I changed my mind on anything ?

Yes indeed.

Primarily the character of some Generals on both sides.
 
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Eric Calistri

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
May 31, 2012
Location
Austin Texas
One major change in my views is I used to see the war as a series of large battles, major campaigns, ebb and flow and key turning points. Now I see it as more of slow, more or less steady grinding down of the Confederacy, through evolving policies and strategy, deprivation of assets, and mobilization of more and more resources.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Location
Hannover, Germany
Yes, indeed I have changed my mind or better my attitude towards some quite personal things. From reading the posts of some specially esteemed members here I got some different notions about things like duty and honour and respect. So it is not too much to say that while learning about the facts of the ACW and studying the different points of view as posted here, my view of life in general has changed.
 

diane

Retired User
Joined
Jan 23, 2010
Location
State of Jefferson
I've always been surprised at my ignorance - I've found out things here that could be found out nowhere else. Some of it is cultural, too. And I've found there's more in common with folks I thought very dissimilar! I've got no problem saying I'm wrong if somebody shows me I am - can be stubborn about it, though, if I'm convinced - but that's the whole thing. You have to be willing to learn and accept some things that maybe you don't like about your favorites. I grew up believing Lee all but walked on water then found out it was only because he knew where the rocks were! :laugh:
 

Pvt.Shattuck

Sergeant Major
Joined
Oct 8, 2011
Location
St Augustine, FL
When I came to this forum I had a very simplistic, black and white view of the war. The Yankees were obviously the good guys fighting to free the slaves and save America while the Rebels were a mass of ignorant racist rednecks led by wealthy aristocratic traitors.
I suspect this is still how many people in the North think about the War, if they think about it at all. Someone replied to one of my first posts with the phrase "Treasury of Virtue". I had no idea what that meant at the time. I have since gained a very different perspective on just how complex the issues and motivations were on both sides. I've learned how racist most Northerners were and that emancipation was a strategy rather than an objective. I wonder if there would ever have been abolition if nearly half the population in the North were slaves, as was true in the South. I've come to appreciate how important the War in the West was and how it is often neglected. I've come to see how the dramatic growth in the power and size of the central government which began as a war emergency had consequences which we see today. In this, the Southern emphasis on states rights was well taken.
There's lots more I'm sure that I'm not even aware of.
( I'm still not buying black Confederates, the Lost Cause, Lincoln was a tyrant, or tariffs caused the War) :nah disagree:
 

John Winn

Major
Joined
Mar 13, 2014
Location
State of Jefferson
I've only been a member for a short time and so far haven't had any strongly-held opinions changed but I can testify that in that short time I have learned quite a bit and been introduced to what I think will be good reading choices. As I imagine many do I have certain areas of interest that I have studied at length but also have gaps in my knowledge about things that perhaps don't interest me as much. I'm finding that this site is a good place to flesh out those gaps and widen my perspective.

I have found it interesting to read the informed opinions of many here also. It's a good resource and I'm glad I found it even though I'm late again for the party.
 
Joined
Aug 25, 2013
Location
Hannover, Germany
I've only been a member for a short time and so far haven't had any strongly-held opinions changed but I can testify that in that short time I have learned quite a bit and been introduced to what I think will be good reading choices. As I imagine many do I have certain areas of interest that I have studied at length but also have gaps in my knowledge about things that perhaps don't interest me as much. I'm finding that this site is a good place to flesh out those gaps and widen my perspective.

I have found it interesting to read the informed opinions of many here also. It's a good resource and I'm glad I found it even though I'm late again for the party.
Why late, John? To me it seens that the party is still in full swing! No no, its absolutely not time to go home yet. Stay with us and enjoy!
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
I've done and continue to do a lot of reading about the CW, but have learned a lot about the war I didn't know about, or things that somehow didn't register.

The main thing is about the Sumner/Brooks incident. I have a better appreciation of the motives and world view of someone like Preston Brooks, who I originally felt was very much the villain. Thanks dvrmte!
 

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