Chamberlain/Gordon salute fiction?

JerryD

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Aug 23, 2021
A Ranger at Appomattox expressed some skepticism that Gordon's rearing of his horse and saluting Chamberlain ever occurred. He said no other participants ever mentioned it, and that Chamberlain was a prolific creator of his own myth after the war so anything in which he is the sole source is suspect. He also indicated that Gordon is on record actually denying it, before he realized the story was too good to be hindered by facts and decided to adopt it.

I have looked and looked for any evidence that Gordon denied returning the salute in such dramatic fashion, but have found nothing. Anyone here have any source for this?
 

Kurt G

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May 23, 2018
I am in the process of moving and have my books packed away , but I remember Chamberlain never mentioned the salute until some years after the event . There is a thread about this on CWT . I am also skeptical of it happening because , as I recall , no one else ever mentioned it despite all of the men present . I have never heard that Gordon actually denied it .
 

Pat Answer

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It could have happened; I would like to think that it or something similar happened… and I would uncritically accept that it did but for the fact that the accounts only surface much later, with both Gordon and Chamberlain writing for ‘reconciliationist’ audiences.
 

JerryD

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Aug 23, 2021
But General Gordon also wrote a description of the incident that affirms General Chamberlain's account.
The ranger acknowledged this, but basically said Gordon did so for political reasons, and also that the story made him look good and heroric. So after initially denying the story, he decided to adopt it. There is an old Irish saying, that you never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
 

Fairfield

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Dec 5, 2019
The ranger acknowledged this, but basically said Gordon did so for political reasons, and also that the story made him look good and heroric. So after initially denying the story, he decided to adopt it. There is an old Irish saying, that you never let the facts get in the way of a good story.
Perhaps. But both Generals Gordon and Chamberlain were actually on the scene--and are primary sources--but the Ranger wasn't. Irish sayings aside, the participants surely deserve equal credibility with the ranger.
 

JerryD

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Aug 23, 2021
Perhaps. But both Generals Gordon and Chamberlain were actually on the scene--and are primary sources--but the Ranger wasn't. Irish sayings aside, the participants surely deserve equal credibility with the ranger.
I never said I believed the ranger...I was trying to verify part of his story that Gordon had denied the salute from the rearing horse. As for the credibility of Gordon and Chamberlain, that is really fodder for another topic.
 
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Jun 7, 2021
I think you could make a good argument that Chamberlain was aware that honoring the enemy was not something he would be praised for by a lot of the Northern people. And did Gordon want to go around telling the great story of how he had bowed his horse and saluted a Yankee when he surrendered Lee's army? Feelings were pretty raw just then, and would be for some years to come. Especially after Lincoln's assassination, this story would not have been well received at all IMO.
Later, when reconciliation was no longer a dirty word, telling this could be done without harming anyone's reputation. Just saying - it doesn't seem unreasonable to me that this was not played up when it happened.
 
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Jun 7, 2021
I just did a quick scan of the newspapers from April 12 (the day of the ceremony) to April 14. After that, of course, all the news is about Lincoln's death. I can find no mention what ever of a parole ceremony or the stacking of arms by Lee's soldiers. We might feel this was an important historic moment, but the newspaper editors of the day seem to have moved on to the occupation of Richmond, the surrender of other towns and cities, and the movements of Sherman and Johnston. It is not just that Chamberlain and Gordon's salute isn't mentioned, the whole event is ignored. Much bigger things were happening.
 

Fairfield

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Dec 5, 2019
I never said I believed the ranger...I was trying to verify part of his story that Gordon had denied the salute from the rearing horse. As for the credibility of Gordon and Chamberlain, that is really fodder for another topic.
But I never said that you did. What I said was that the two generals should have equal credulity.
 
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