Golden Thread Does Anyone ever really 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.?
 

kevikens

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Jun 7, 2013
Location
New Jersey
My experience as a high school student in the '50's in Pennsylvania and as a college student in western NY and my early teaching in Northern Delaware and Southern NJ was pretty much the same. The Northerners wore white hats and liked the poor colored folk and wanted to free the slaves from the Southerners who wore black hats and despised the colored folk. Lincoln, the consummate good guy, fought the war to free the slaves. I don't think I was exposed to the Lost Cause, moon and magnolias view until I saw Gone with wind in its 1969 re-release and never in an academic setting.
The only thing that struck me as strange about this was why few of us Northerners seemed to want to live anywhere near those poor colored folks at the moment. I do recall getting some students from the nearby military base from the South and they did have a very different idea about the War Between the States. But my experience was not that the war was taught as a Crusade so much, but rather how insipid and dull the instruction was. Imagine that, the Civil war as boring.
I must admit it took me a few years and a lot of reading and study on my own to realize I had been sold a bill of goods and had better not foist onto my students the foolishness foisted on me. For the two persons who said that they wished they had had me as their teacher, thanks, and I hope the ones I actually did teach share that sentiment.
 

dvrmte

Major
Joined
Sep 3, 2009
Location
South Carolina
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!

Now you have to tell me what I had to do with changing your mind. I thought it was the book you were reading. The letter from Andrew Jackson's mother giving him advice should've been the clincher, that was my intent in posting it.
 

18thVirginia

Major
Joined
Sep 8, 2012
I think to understand the history, unless you lived it in person, you have to keep an open mind and be willing to accept different interpretations as they are presented to have a more fully formed picture of what happened.
That being said, yep...I've changed my mind a few times.

Reading this forum made me think back on my Texas history teacher, who was sort of the J. Frank Dobie of tales about the things the KKKers did and said when they approached the freedmen in the early post war years, and realize that he knew way more stories than an ordinary individual would who'd just read history books.

He didn't particularly offer Lost Cause history, but had an affinity for certain personalities, mostly Texas Rangers.
 
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Mark F. Jenkins

Colonel
Member of the Year
Joined
Mar 31, 2012
Location
Central Ohio
I don't know that it's so vitally important to attempt to change someone's mind as it is to try get them to see things from a different point of view, at least temporarily. They may still not agree with you, but they may gain some understanding as to why you hold the opinions that you do, and vice versa. (I think it's perfectly natural to get itchy when someone makes a statement that directly contravenes something that you know, or at least think you know. In a perfect world we'd all be paragons of scholarly detachment, but we're not there yet, if ever...)

One thing that's been remarked upon elsewhere (I think it was Andy Hall that first mentioned it, at least in my reading here) is that this site is a tremendous "crowd-sourcing" resource. Very many of us, perhaps all of us, have some hyper-specific information about the war that most others don't know about, or have tools or abilities to bring out aspects of the war that we haven't seen before. Some of the 3-D renderings of warships I've only read about, for instance, or those deep-dive studies of the details of a photograph-- even when the photo is a familiar one, I've yet to see one come up where someone doesn't point out a detail I'd never noticed before, no matter how often I've seen it. It's also a terrific medium of sharing information and links to elsewhere on the Web.

I will credit this site specifically for encouraging me to become a donor to the Civil War Trust. Talking to some people on here who have been deeply involved with the Trust's operations has definitely affected me, in a very positive way.
 
Joined
Oct 3, 2005
Now you have to tell me what I had to do with changing your mind. I thought it was the book you were reading. The letter from Andrew Jackson's mother giving him advice should've been the clincher, that was my intent in posting it.

Puleo's book was very good. I recommend it. But in the thread discussing it, you talked about Preston Brooks' view of himself, his sense of right and wrong, and of appropriate conduct. It's not the way I wish to conduct myself, and by my view of the world, his actions are morally wrong. But the point isn't my morality, its understanding why other people do things.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
When I think back to 1991, when I first became involved with Civil War history, I just shake my head.

At that time, I firmly believed that the war was not about slavery, that it was about states rights, about differences in views of government, and how all the South wanted was to 'be left alone.'

This site forced me to reconsider, to research, to evaluate, to ask questions, over and over again, until I found sources, documents, books, etc., that led me to my present views and opinions on the late war.

I have also been forced to admit mistakes, to apologize and to reconsider some dearly held beliefs.

I'm with John Hartwell on this one. If you don't learn from history, if you don't confront it and change with what it teaches you when you know you were wrong, you're dead from the neck up.

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
It's funny- not sure it's because I'm a comparative beginner that I have my mind changed almost weekly on something, pretty sure it's not through some lack of conviction on my part, either. Have an idea there's not a ton of ego rattling around this peanut head, possibly is helpful with letting go of preconceived notions. There are a few items no one could change my mind on, but that would be because they remain the best answers I've processed.

Still, it's an odd notion to me, that anyone at all hasn't had their mind changed on anything- nothing- just doesn't seem possible to be here without some shift somewhere.
 

unionblue

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Member of the Year
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Ocala, FL (as of December, 2015).
It's funny- not sure it's because I'm a comparative beginner that I have my mind changed almost weekly on something, pretty sure it's not through some lack of conviction on my part, either. Have an idea there's not a ton of ego rattling around this peanut head, possibly is helpful with letting go of preconceived notions. There are a few items no one could change my mind on, but that would be because they remain the best answers I've processed.

Still, it's an odd notion to me, that anyone at all hasn't had their mind changed on anything- nothing- just doesn't seem possible to be here without some shift somewhere.

JPK Huson,

Change is the only constant. :smile:

Sincerely,
Unionblue
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
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.?
Commenters here -- and sources they've recommended -- have certainly put quite a few dents in the pedestal I had Ulysses Grant standing on!

Moreover, I've been made aware of whole aspects of the war that I hadn't much considered, or in some cases, wasn't even aware of -- for example, the huge proportion of immigrants in the Union army; the fact that blacks served in the Navy before they did the Army; the Auschwitz-like conditions of the Andersonville prison; and much, much more.

One of the best things about the site for me is that I'm constantly hearing about articles, books, etc., that others here have really enjoyed or learned a lot from. Given the overwhelming amount of Civil War material out there, it helps to have this kind of assistance in selecting where to turn my sights.
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
Over the years, McClellan has grown on me a little.
Yes, yes, yes! It was here on CWT that I was first introduced to the idea that perhaps Lincoln was as much at fault as McClellan for the failure of McClellan's peninsula campaign. (Actually, it was an article that someone here linked to -- an article I probably never would have come across otherwise.)
 

KansasFreestater

1st Lieutenant
It's funny, I thought I'd take a break from Civil War books and read a different book for a change the other day that was not Civil War related. I read about a chapter before going on Amazon and getting Larry Daniels book on the Battle of Stone's River. I couldn't help it! I'm an addict at this point.
LOL! Similar thing happened to me the other day. While picking my son up from the library, the "New Fiction" shelf called my name, and I thought, okay, I should take a break from all this Civil War history reading I've been immersed in. How about some fiction? I'll treat myself to one novel, I thought. In the "old days" -- i.e., before I got hooked on the Civil War four months ago -- I always liked thrillers. There was a new John Lescroart, a new Joel Rosenberg (two of my favorite authors!), but what did I end up bringing home, and now I can hardly pull my nose out of it? A book by an author I'd never heard of ... a Civil War novel! Couldn't help myself!
 

JPK Huson 1863

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
Feb 14, 2012
Location
Central Pennsylvania
Yes, it's impossible to be here without preconceived notions packing up and fleeing into the night- if one is intent on learning and not setting up camp as one thing or another. Even then, there are too many knock-down, drag out scholars on various subjects to last very long as some self-appointed champion of nonsense. Fun to watch sometimes- pretty happy not be one of them.

You know TS Elliot's ' Little Gidding '? " And the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time. " Frequently think of that when feeling like an idjit on some position- have gone round and round on something or someone, ended up deciding door number one was correct after all.

Oh dear, yes but McClellan too, Kansas? All I ever have to do if I find myself leaning towards Little Mac is go read one of his letters to his wife when he's pouting about something- cures me in a big hurry.
 
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ole

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Retired Moderator
Joined
Feb 20, 2005
Location
Near Kankakee
Like many in this thread I'm not sure my mind was changed more than just opened. Before I joined this forum 3 years ago, I thought I had a decent knowledge of the Civil War. I had always had an interest in history and before that my main interest was WW2. But back in early 2011 I got on Ancestry.com and started learning about my family and finding relatives I never knew I had that fought in the Civil War. That really opened the flood gates for me.

In 3 years, I have found over 30 relatives that fought in the Civil War on both sides, read around 20 Civil War related books and been to Chickamauga, Vicksburg and Shiloh in the last year. Also witnessed my first reenactment in February. I can't really think of a specific Civil War related person, event or battle that I have changed my mind on. Because honestly, any of my opinions prior to 3 years ago, don't really even count as valid to me anymore. It's funny, I thought I'd take a break from Civil War books and read a different book for a change the other day that was not Civil War related. I read about a chapter before going on Amazon and getting Larry Daniels book on the Battle of Stone's River. I couldn't help it! I'm an addict at this point.
It happens to all of us, Rick.
 

Rebel from Finland

First Sergeant
Joined
Nov 24, 2010
Location
Tampere Finland
This site has made me change opinions many many times.. First, when very young, I was taught something like "Lincoln started the war to free the slaves" :D Before entering this forum my understanding had changes to almost opposite direction, the greedy bad north wanted to subjugate south, just because they (northerners) were mean a-holes.

Nowadays my understanding of this great war has moved to much more neutral zone. Both sides were not as unified as I had thought, there are almost as many reasons to fight as there were people at that time.. One thing that has not changed, but much deepened, is my respect for those soldiers, both sides. Carnage after carnage, and so few broke the ranks. Its unbelievable. Still, my heritage as a Finn, citizen of a small country that has gone through many wars against much greater enemy, makes me lean toward south. Less with everything, except slaves, and what a fight they put up! I see north´s action still as an invasion, can´t help it.

Most of all, nowadays I can allow myself to change opinion. Let my knowledge to evolve, that wasn´t the case at all in the beginning, is it the age or other things in life, i don´t know. I´m just greatful of it!

This war has it all, good documentation first of all. High officers leading in front of their men. Last one that was fought with something else than only industrial capacity, times when personal example and courage could still make some difference.
 
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