Discussion Five Myths


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JPK Huson 1863

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You know, when I first joined here it was always disheartening to see accounts discredited because apparently there wasn't enough documentation or documentation for some reason doubted. Tha's all these men had- their words. How DO they document and source each account? They're telling us what happened. I'm not taking about the mythical bullet that caused a pregnancy. One was the fairly famous story of a Confederate soldier going out of his way to give water to Union wounded. It's a very believable story anyway- I must have 20 like it found in various diaries, letters and those post war books so many wrote. BUT unless it was correctly, academically sourced it didn't happen.

I don't know. DO we get to question how valid are the words of those who were there? Sure Chamberlain wrote in somewhat lyrical prose and we see it as romanticizing events. It doesn't mean none of it occurred, it means a guy who got on a horse and went to war left us a hopeful word picture of what our future could be.
 

Joshism

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when I first joined here it was always disheartening to see accounts discredited because apparently there wasn't enough documentation or documentation for some reason doubted.
A responsible first historian doesn't automatically take every first-person account as gospel truth.

How DO they document and source each account?
I think it depends on the source. A diary or letter home might be a little sanitized, but the memory is fresh. Official reports are usually pretty good, but sometimes self-serving. A memoir written decades later is less reliable. Newspaper accounts from the 1860s don't seem reliable.

For any given wartime event, the goal is to find a collaborating source. Both to support that the event happened, but also to see it from a different perspective. The first observer may have indedd recounted a real event, but misinterpreted what they saw.

Sure Chamberlain wrote in somewhat lyrical prose and we see it as romanticizing events.
The problem with Chamberlain's account of Appomattox seems to be that he kept retelling the story with the details changing. Probably faulty human memory over time more than anything.

Isn't anyone who writes about anything in "lyrical prose" guilty of "romanticizing (or dramatizing) events"?
 

unionblue

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You know, when I first joined here it was always disheartening to see accounts discredited because apparently there wasn't enough documentation or documentation for some reason doubted. Tha's all these men had- their words. How DO they document and source each account? They're telling us what happened. I'm not taking about the mythical bullet that caused a pregnancy. One was the fairly famous story of a Confederate soldier going out of his way to give water to Union wounded. It's a very believable story anyway- I must have 20 like it found in various diaries, letters and those post war books so many wrote. BUT unless it was correctly, academically sourced it didn't happen.

I don't know. DO we get to question how valid are the words of those who were there? Sure Chamberlain wrote in somewhat lyrical prose and we see it as romanticizing events. It doesn't mean none of it occurred, it means a guy who got on a horse and went to war left us a hopeful word picture of what our future could be.
A responsible first historian doesn't automatically take every first-person account as gospel truth.



I think it depends on the source. A diary or letter home might be a little sanitized, but the memory is fresh. Official reports are usually pretty good, but sometimes self-serving. A memoir written decades later is less reliable. Newspaper accounts from the 1860s don't seem reliable.

For any given wartime event, the goal is to find a collaborating source. Both to support that the event happened, but also to see it from a different perspective. The first observer may have indedd recounted a real event, but misinterpreted what they saw.



The problem with Chamberlain's account of Appomattox seems to be that he kept retelling the story with the details changing. Probably faulty human memory over time more than anything.

Isn't anyone who writes about anything in "lyrical prose" guilty of "romanticizing (or dramatizing) events"?
What's that line from the John Wayne movie, Cowboys?

"If it ain't true, it ought 'ta be."
 

USS ALASKA

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The Civil War was the first "modern" war.
Indeed sir. This 'myth' has come up on numerous threads on this board. I would submit that everyone in every conflict has fought with the most 'modern' methods they are capable of. We need to define what 'modern' truly means...and tomorrow, that definition will change again...
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USS ALASKA
 
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No, the myth is The World Turned Upside Down being played. There is no period account of it being played and no mention of it being played until decades afterward. It's actually searchable on Google at a number of sites that discuss the legend of the song being played at the surrender.

Yeah, that part is like BS too. What they actually played is unknown, though likely some British marching tune.
 

JPK Huson 1863

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Isn't anyone who writes about anything in "lyrical prose" guilty of "romanticizing (or dramatizing) events"?

It's a great question but surely how we perceive anything is subjective based on who each person is? I mean, sheer personality can be the filter and Chamberlain ( for instance ) was nothing if not a romantic. That doesn't mean he made stuff up, he's faithfully recording his impressions. We're all guilty of it if you think about it.

Look at other men's accounts of the surrender for instance. I've read dozens ( like everyone else here ). There are fairly dispassionate accounts, quite a few accounts reflecting only relief, some angry- you can see truth in all of them, you know?
 

ArcticState

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4. The Civil War was the first "modern" war.

Definition of "modern" notwithstanding, the obvious answer is the Crimean War but the ACW did have attributes, particularly naval, that could classify it (with some difficulty) as more modern than previous conflicts.
 

rpkennedy

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All first-hand accounts have to be taken with a grain of salt without corroboration but the best rule of thumb is the further away from the event that they are written, the more skeptical the reader has to be. Humans are fallible and our memory changes how we see events.

The biggest red flags for me in regards to the Chamberlain quote is that it was a change from previous stories that he told and that the new story appeared almost 40 years after the event. Historians would need a lot of corroboration from closer to the event to believe his later version of events.

Ryan
 

diane

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I've wondered about the Chamberlain-Gordon exchange for a long time and haven't really settled on my own answer. But...I do know Chamberlain saw George Washington leading his troops at Gettysburg! That I actually believe because others at Little Round Top saw something similar. But Chamberlain's story about that ghostly encounter became more elaborate as time went on - but I believe Chamberlain did indeed remember it that way. Gordon, for his part, was inclined to let a good story stand in the vein of what above posters have said - if it ain't true, it oughta be! It made them both look quite good, and they were both susceptible to a bit of vanity. Other surrenders might have been equally chivalrous, but they weren't. Forrest, for example, or the courtly Johnston, Richard Taylor - none of them did this. But then their armies weren't the AoP or the ANV - legendary in their own time.
 

rpkennedy

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I've wondered about the Chamberlain-Gordon exchange for a long time and haven't really settled on my own answer. But...I do know Chamberlain saw George Washington leading his troops at Gettysburg! That I actually believe because others at Little Round Top saw something similar. But Chamberlain's story about that ghostly encounter became more elaborate as time went on - but I believe Chamberlain did indeed remember it that way. Gordon, for his part, was inclined to let a good story stand in the vein of what above posters have said - if it ain't true, it oughta be! It made them both look quite good, and they were both susceptible to a bit of vanity. Other surrenders might have been equally chivalrous, but they weren't. Forrest, for example, or the courtly Johnston, Richard Taylor - none of them did this. But then their armies weren't the AoP or the ANV - legendary in their own time.
As time went on, John Gordon's stories became more elaborate and, frankly, fanciful. But, as they say, never let the truth get in the way of a good story.

Ryan
 

Rick Richter

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Well theres always the possibility that J L Chamberlain was just a low down lying Yankee if one wishes to discount his account:bounce:

However the only way one can possibly know what was in his mind or his intention of doing so, is Chamberlain himself, why his account should matter IMO
Both Chamberlain and Gordon were energetic self-promoters after the war, and not hesitant to embellish. #5 is problematic at best.
 

diane

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Well there's a wild Civil War story I don't think I've ever heard before.
:D You're going to love it! There's a couple of threads around here about it - George Washington at Little Round Top. The Mainers thought their goose was cooked then - lo! The sainted apparition of the Founder was spied leading the charge against the rebels. Chamberlain saw that...and as time when on he remembered he saw more...but he wasn't the only one. Some of the regular men of his brigade also saw something ranging from a silver shape to ol' George himself, tri-corner hat and all!
 

Cavalry Charger

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:D You're going to love it! There's a couple of threads around here about it - George Washington at Little Round Top. The Mainers thought their goose was cooked then - lo! The sainted apparition of the Founder was spied leading the charge against the rebels. Chamberlain saw that...and as time when on he remembered he saw more...but he wasn't the only one. Some of the regular men of his brigade also saw something ranging from a silver shape to ol' George himself, tri-corner hat and all!
I was hoping someone would hop on by and relate that story for @Joshism

I guess a salute at surrender isn't so fancifcul now (in comparison!)
 
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