Discussion Changing Perspectives

David H.

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Not sure where this post belongs, but the Gettysburg thread seems as good as any:

It occurs to me that over time, traditional opinions on certain Civil Wart subjects and people have changed - for example, Gettysburg is no longer considered the turning point of the war; the fall of Vicksburg is as important or more important. Also General Lee now comes in a for a fair amount of criticism regarding decisions at Gettysburg. And Longstreet is viewed more favorable by many - maybe as a result of "The Killer Angels"?

What other subjects or people have undergone a change in opinion over time? And what other ones may change moving forward?
 

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infomanpa

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It occurs to me that over time, traditional opinions on certain Civil Wart subjects and people have changed - for example, Gettysburg is no longer considered the turning point of the war; the fall of Vicksburg is as important or more important.
Yes, opinions change over the years. As to Gettysburg, I would say that it is premature to say that this battle "is no longer considered the turning point of the war." That may be the opinion of some, but that is not necessarily the consensus of historians.
 

GwilymT

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For a very long time the Lost Cause writers and sympathizers were successful in pushing the myth that slavery was not a major factor in secession and war. The perspective of academic historians has changed on this front and it is now only outliers or those with a political agenda who will state that slavery wasn’t central to the conflict.

As more and more of the Lost Cause mythology gives way, people like Longstreet (hated by the Lost Cause) and Grant are getting a fresh and fair look.
 

dhh712

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I'm glad to see that Sickles didn't succeed (under the test of time) in tearing down Meade's reputation. I don't remember too, too much about the whole affair, but I do recall from the books I had read that he had set out to discredit Meade. It seems that there is a general consensus now that Meade was a respectable general, and I seem to recall some having the opinion that he was a rather good one! (my own opinion from what I have read so far).
 

Irishtom29

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A lot of people, especially it seems those knowledgeable about the Western Theater, think the war had no turning point. A turning point implies there was something to turn and that previously the rebels had been winning the war. But they never were winning and from the beginning were losing battles and territory.

The rebels had a short reprieve when Bragg invaded Kentucky in 1862 and that was about the best they could do.
 
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Joshism

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The Western Theater has been slowly but steadily getting its due attention after a century of Virginia-centric views of the war.

The Southern states internal divisions are much better known today, in contrast to the old "all whites in the South were staunch Confederates" view.
 

Carronade

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Yes, opinions change over the years. As to Gettysburg, I would say that it is premature to say that this battle "is no longer considered the turning point of the war." That may be the opinion of some, but that is not necessarily the consensus of historians.
Funny thing, I would say just the opposite. Not trying to sound conceited, but I would say the popular view is that Gettysburg was the turning point, that the rebels were on the verge of winning until Lee was defeated, and that the serious students of history are the ones who realize it wasn't so.
 
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I agree - growing up it was all about Gettysburg and Bull Run and the Eastern Theatre; now much more attention on what happened in the West
I grew up in Pennsylvania. When we learned in school about the Civil War, it was all pretty much about Gettysburg. I think that we spent less than a week on the rest of the war. I don’t even remember discussing the Western Theatre in history class.
 

Henry Hunt

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A few figures that come to mind

Ewell: Harry and Donald Pfanz have done a good job setting the record straight about Ewell. The Lost Cause blamed both Ewell and Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg. However Longstreet was rehabilitated by Killer Angels/Gettysburg while unfortunately Ewell was not.

Grant: Smeared for decades recent works like Brooks D. Simpson's have given the general a positive appraisal.

McClellan: Largely hated by all corners due to his disagreements with Lincoln and his several victories over Lee. Ethan Rafuse's book on McClellan has brought the general into the proper context. Simpson as well has published a number of articles attempting to rehabilitate the general.

Bragg: Earl Hess' book has painted him in a more positive light. Hess particularly highlights the comparisons between his attack at Stones River and Chancellorsville.

Hood: Stephen M. Hood has done alot to help opinions of his ancestor with his new works. Historians such as Stephen Davis are following this trend.
 
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David H.

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I grew up in Pennsylvania. When we learned in school about the Civil War, it was all pretty much about Gettysburg. I think that we spent less than a week on the rest of the war. I don’t even remember discussing the Western Theatre in history class.
I grew up in New Jersey in the 50s and 60s and we covered Gettysburg and nothing else in school.
 

Dead Parrott

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A few figures that come to mind

Ewell: Harry and Donald Pfanz have done a good job setting the record straight about Ewell. The Lost Cause blamed both Ewell and Longstreet for the defeat at Gettysburg. However Longstreet was rehabilitated by Killer Angels/Gettysburg while unfortunately Ewell was not.

Grant: Smeared for decades recent works like Brooks D. Simpson's have given the general a positive appraisal.

McClellan: Largely hated by all corners due to his disagreements with Lincoln and his several victories over Lee. Ethan Rafuse's book on McClellan has brought the general into the proper context. Simpson as well has published a number of articles attempting to rehabilitate the general.

Bragg: Earl Hess' book has painted him in a more positive light. Hess particularly highlights the comparisons between his attack at Stones River and Chancellorsville.

Hood: Stephen M. Hood has done alot to help opinions of his ancestor with his new works. Historians such as Stephen Davis are following this trend.
Grant and McClellan have long deserved studious reassessment and myth-busting.

My opinion of Hood remains extremely poor (as least regarding army level command). I should look up the books you mentioned to consider a reassessment of my opinion. Thanks!

- K.
 

Henry Hunt

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My opinion of Hood remains extremely poor (as least regarding army level command). I should look up the books you mentioned to consider a reassessment of my opinion. Thanks!
Glad you found it helpful! Stephen Hood book is John Bell Hood: The Rise, Fall and Resurrection of a Confederate General. Stephen Davis' main work is Atlanta Will Fall: Sherman, Joe Johnston and the Yankee Heavy Battalions, he is also currently working on a book solely about Hood to be released in December. Additionally they both have lectures on cspan If your interested.
 

Cavalier

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I know nothing of the Western battles and armies but, being a fan of Hood, I would love to find out he wasn't as bad as has been generally perceived there. I am going to check into the above books. Thanks
 

Irishtom29

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I grew up in Pennsylvania. When we learned in school about the Civil War, it was all pretty much about Gettysburg. I think that we spent less than a week on the rest of the war. I don’t even remember discussing the Western Theatre in history class.
Well, there were a couple of lonely Pennsylvania regiments, the 78th and 79th, in the 14th Corps amongst all the Westerners. And there was even a New Jersey regiment, the 35th, in the Army of the Tennessee!
 

Saint Jude

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Glad to see the myth of "Hancock the Superb" gradually going by he board as historians begin to examine what he actually did in the battles he was in.
 


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