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Re: [civilwarwest] Re: Sherman

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  • Kristin Scherrer
    I agree. l think it to be at times a waste of time to argue on what could have happened . What happened, happened, and frankly, we cannot change it. But it
    Message 1 of 81 , Nov 25, 2001
    • 0 Attachment

      I agree.  l think it to be at times a waste of time to argue on "what could have happened".  What happened, happened, and frankly, we cannot change it.  But it is terminally hard for a historian to stay in the "middle ground."  One author l have found that does do that very well is Wiley Sword.  He had relatives on both sides and really does call it down the middle.  One thing l truly belive is wrong with our school's history classes is that everything has to be politically correct.  Bull crap.  The experts of what happened are 6 feet under.  We cannot change history, we have to tell what happened and reason why it happened.

      Kristin

        dorisaw2001@... wrote:

      I just recently joined this group and came across your post. I
      enjoyed reading your comments concerning historians and their
      differing perspectives, which compels one to re-think certain aspects
      of a given topic. I agree that it is wrong to classify strictly on
      the strength of what we assume is an author's [historian's] bias
      towards a particular historical figure or campaign. But, I fear, we
      can only adjust our views. We cannot truly rise above them. For even
      as we attempt to answer the questions you posted, we undoubtedly are
      led by our personal interpretations. And such are based on
      conclusions we veered towards almost from the first moment we became
      interested in this topic.

      Is anyone with even a remote interest and marginal knowledge in this
      topic capable of answering your interesting points without personal
      bias? Is any historian, professionally or by avocation, capable of
      neutrality? I question anyone's ability to arbitrarily stay "middle
      of the road" when evaluating history and historical figures. No one
      who embraces the suject out of interest and focuses on the Civil War
      in partiuclar out of passion is 100% neutral and fair. Yet, I believe
      what we can and should practice to implement is an acceptance of
      different views to expand our own knowledge. We can try, for
      starters, by being less critical of others' opinions, even if we
      don't see it their way at all. Depending how far the pendulum swings
      to extremes, we are all capable of compromise. We may even learn
      someting new by being open-minded. It is only those who "think" they
      have all the answers and are harsh beyond measure with anyone who
      dares to challenge the conclusions at which they arrived that make it
      difficult to deal with.

      You will find such hardcore supporters of various men congregating at
      different message boards generally dedicated to one particular Union
      or Confederate general. I had my share of run-ins at the Grant
      Message Board, for instance, and a few years back. Now, I am a
      Sherman advocate, and one should figure that my opinions were not so
      different from those of the Grant supporters. But nothing could be
      further from the truth. They would not hear of anything that did not
      sit well with their own views. I am not talking of extreme
      differences in opinions either, but often miniscule corrections.
      There was no compromise to be found. A few days ago, I ventured to
      one such board after a 1 1/2 year hiatus, and just to peek out of
      mere curiosity. Little had changed. It was still a slug-fest (with
      advanced graphics:). Those slugging it out with new "intruders" had
      the same screen names and same attitudes and sadly the same nasty
      habits of shooting down anyone who begged to differ. It is not a good
      idea to invade a purist groups' stronghold.

      In point 1, the question was asked "Am I Sherman's advocate? His
      assailant? Or am I simply reporting what I found, although it
      challenges the established orthodoxy? (Please scroll back to Dr.
      Simpson's post for the entire text). I would answer it: You reported
      simply what you found. Yet, even as I am typing this, I believe
      others who read it, come to a different conclusion.

      In point 2, you speak of the various reportings of Grant's "Yazoo
      bender." It was singled out as one incident in many such that haunted
      Grant and no doubt not always justified as different historians wrote
      different versions. As to your "reporting" you admit to challenge all
      previously recorded descriptions about Grant and you base it on your
      personal findings. And as you so ably bring up all the things you
      uncovered about a possible conspiracy to discredit Grant you ask, "By
      even bringing this up, am I presenting myself as Grant's advocate or
      assailant?" May I say that in my view the answer to point 2 is: You
      are acting as Grant's advocate. And why am I thinking that? Perhaps
      because I know of the books you wrote on Grant and feel satisfied in
      my believe that you, beyond a doubt, are one of Grant's greatest
      supporters. Does that influence your objectivity? You bet! But I find
      no problems with it, for it is human and clearly your perfect right
      to feel that way. You are a wonderful writer and able historian, but
      would you think wrongly of me if I were to categorically state that
      you are biased towards Grant? To be sure, in my view, it does not
      detract from you, not in the least. It is your perfect right, but,
      again, to underscore my earliest points in this post, anyone who
      claims neutrality is not truly honest. And when we become a supporter
      (as I am of Sherman) we, perhaps inadvertently even, become these
      men's advocates.

      As to point 3, I feel the strongest point you made here is that you
      bring in the George H. Thomas situation at Nashville. In bringing
      into focus the behind the scenes wrangling about Grant's problems
      with the Washington hierarchy and Grant just "moving in time to
      forestall this discussion from being translated into action" you
      parallel what Grant wished to do to Thomas. The latter moved "just in
      time to forestall discussions of his removal to be translated into
      action... in fact, it had gone a step further." Am I right, or am I
      wrong? My answer here is: It is the wrong question to ask. At least
      if one wishes to stay "middle of the road." Otherwise, I would say
      you had become Lincoln's assailant because he became dangerous to
      Grant, whom you favor.

      I liked your answer concerning Sherman's blunders--which were legion.
      You wrote, "No, some author may not highlight Sherman's shortcomings
      as others might, but that doesn't make them apologists. How true! Yet
      it makes the different authors human by showing their feelings toward
      one man by either ignoring or buttressing his "shortcomings."

      I don't believe that by saying that everyone is biased it constitutes
      a "cop-out." The level of bias is the problem. I am rather inclined
      to think that those claiming neutraliy are the true "cop-outs."

      Isn't it factual, too, that so many of the subjects we maul over
      again and again reveal little news. It has been written about
      extensively, then re-written a few more times to the point where it
      almost becomes revisionist history. Some topics, such as the great
      commanders Grant, Lee, Sherman, Stonewall and their campaigns, I
      believe, leave little today to write about. From the massive
      collection of literature of these topics, we must all pick and
      choose, or else read our way through it, research individually, and
      finally arrive at our own conclusions. It's just that wonderful
      challenge only offered by "history" that permits us to differ from
      the historian's view expressed in a book a few paces down the isle.
      That leaves the matter fresh and new and never dull.














      --- In civilwarwest@y..., brooksdsimpson@y... wrote:
      >
      > > > The second reason Sherman was mentioned is that a double
      standard
      > > > exists.  On the strength of Grant's and Sherman's memoirs, the
      > > > writings of their supporters, and the judgments of those
      > > > historians "friendly" to the two of them, Thomas has been, in
      my
      > > > opinion, unfairly disparaged.
      >
      > These types of sources are best separated into separate
      categories. 
      > It's clear that memoirs are a combination of recollection and
      > personal brief, and some are more skillful than others in
      addressing
      > that balance.  One of the skills of Grant's book is his ability to
      > lead the reader to share his perspective of events without mounting
      > overt arguments.
      >
      > As for the writings of supporters, that seems too broad a
      > classification.  It's hard to tell, for example whether one would
      > classify James H. Wilson as a supporter or opponent of either Grant
      > or Thomas based on published writings.  Clearly Wilson had some
      > scores to settle with Grant, and those areas are evident; it's also
      > clear that in private Wilson was a very bitter man (Hamlin Garland
      > noted as much).  One could argue that Van Horne's a Thomas
      supporter,
      > too.  We probably need to refine our notion of bias to something
      > other than the criteria I too often see: if it agrees with my bias,
      > it's objective; if it challenges my bias, it's biased, too. 
      > Besides, "bias" can all too easily become the equivalent
      > of "political correctness," a easy way to dismiss something with
      > which one disagrees. 
      >
      > As for scholars, historians, biographers, etc., I think the comment
      > once again falls victim to the common assumption that people who
      > write about other people or events have some preset agenda to
      > boost "A" and denigrate "B".  This assumption is widely held by
      > people who have done little or no actual writing and publishing; it
      > also becomes a convenient shorthand to assail work with which one
      > disagrees.  Now, I've written on Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman.  So
      > tell me how to interpret the following points about the Vicksburg
      > campaign in light of this "advocacy/opposition" dichotomy:
      >
      > 1.  In the past people argued that Sherman. while harboring deep
      > reservations about Grant's Vicksburg plan, loyally supported it. 
      > This has some truth to it.  So does the fact that Sherman shared
      his
      > reservations with his brother, Senator John Sherman, in a series of
      > letters which gave the senator material with which to cast doubt on
      > Grant's plan and disassociate Sherman from it in a classic CYA
      > operation.  In pointing that out, am I Sherman's advocate?  His
      > assailant?  Or am I simply reporting what I found, although it
      > challenges the established orthodoxy?
      >
      > 2.  People have usually read John A. Rawlins' famed letter of June
      6,
      > 1863, on the subject of Grant's drinking in light of the
      famed "Yazoo
      > bender."  A more careful reading of the letter in conjunction with
      > the other available evidence offers a far different version of
      events
      > than that usually reported in narratives.  Far from going off on a
      > toot during a lull in operations, it appears that an ailing Grant
      > took a drink, maybe two, just as he was about to embark on a
      critical
      > inspection tour accompanied by a representative of the War
      Department
      > whose job it was to report on Grant's private habits.  Does this
      make
      > me an advocate?  An assailant?  I don't deny that the incident took
      > place; I do challenge most (okay, virtually all) descriptions of
      it. 
      > Moreover, unlike other scholars, I noted that Rawlins mentioned
      that
      > Grant had took a pledge to abstain sometime the previous March. 
      > Hmmm.  There were rumors that circulated that Grant was drinking at
      > this time: McClernand sent Grant's famed nemesis, William Kountz,
      to
      > Washington armed with such stories in an attempt to discredit
      Grant. 
      > Did something happen?  Possibly.  What?  The record is very thin on
      > that score.  By even bringing this up, am I presenting myself as
      > Grant's advocate or assailant?  Or are those categories meaningless
      > in explaining what I concluded and presented?  You decide.
      >
      > 3.  There's a lot of talk that Lincoln stood behind Grant at this
      > time.  I uncovered ample evidence that Grant was in rather hot
      water
      > at Washington, and that even Elihu B. Washburne had passed along to
      > administration officials (namely Secretary of the Treasury Salmon
      P.
      > Chase) information that Grant was in deep trouble.  There were
      > proposals circulating to depose Grant, to replace him with Ben
      Butler
      > (!), and to transfer part of Grant's army to Rosecrans (Chase's
      > preference).  And most readers familiar with the campaign recall
      the
      > missions of Charles Dana and Lorenzo Thomas.  It looks as if Grant
      > got moving just in time to forestall this discussion from being
      > translated into action (much like Thomas at Nashville [vbg]).  In
      > describing these behind the scenes struggles and casting doubt on
      > assertions that Lincoln's support for Grant was unqualified, am I
      > acting as Lincoln's advocate?  Assailant?  Or, again, are not these
      > the wrong questions to ask?                
      >
      > > >  Sherman's blunders--which are legion-
      > > > - are consistently overlooked by these sources.  Wouldn't you
      > agree?
      >
      > No.  Some authors may not highlight Sherman's shortcomings as
      others
      > might, but that doesn't make them apologists.
      >
      > > That said, how does a "balanced" treatment of any subject run?  I
      > > think it has to be in the minds of the readers, and even then,
      may
      > > well be based on how in-depth your understanding of the subject
      is.
      >
      > Agreed.  And Dave's point raises another: there's the matter of the
      > critic's bias as well.  To say everyone's biased is a cop-out.
      >
      > People who engage in historical research with a genuine desire to
      > find out what happened, to understand what happened, and to tell
      > readers what happened as best as they can figure out, letting the
      > chips fall where they may, tend to produce much better history than
      > those who see themselves as advocates or assailants. Critics who
      try
      > to unravel the fabric of the narrative by picking at a few strings
      > may miss the fact that the writer in question has already
      considered
      > the available evidence and has made decisions, preferring to
      > construct a narrative rather than a tedious legal brief; only a
      > handful of those critics ever try their hand at writing extended
      > narratives themselves, and those who do often find themselves
      > subjected to exactly the same treatment they accorded others.



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    • Kristin Scherrer
      I agree. l think it to be at times a waste of time to argue on what could have happened . What happened, happened, and frankly, we cannot change it. But it
      Message 81 of 81 , Nov 25, 2001
      • 0 Attachment

        I agree.  l think it to be at times a waste of time to argue on "what could have happened".  What happened, happened, and frankly, we cannot change it.  But it is terminally hard for a historian to stay in the "middle ground."  One author l have found that does do that very well is Wiley Sword.  He had relatives on both sides and really does call it down the middle.  One thing l truly belive is wrong with our school's history classes is that everything has to be politically correct.  Bull crap.  The experts of what happened are 6 feet under.  We cannot change history, we have to tell what happened and reason why it happened.

        Kristin

          dorisaw2001@... wrote:

        I just recently joined this group and came across your post. I
        enjoyed reading your comments concerning historians and their
        differing perspectives, which compels one to re-think certain aspects
        of a given topic. I agree that it is wrong to classify strictly on
        the strength of what we assume is an author's [historian's] bias
        towards a particular historical figure or campaign. But, I fear, we
        can only adjust our views. We cannot truly rise above them. For even
        as we attempt to answer the questions you posted, we undoubtedly are
        led by our personal interpretations. And such are based on
        conclusions we veered towards almost from the first moment we became
        interested in this topic.

        Is anyone with even a remote interest and marginal knowledge in this
        topic capable of answering your interesting points without personal
        bias? Is any historian, professionally or by avocation, capable of
        neutrality? I question anyone's ability to arbitrarily stay "middle
        of the road" when evaluating history and historical figures. No one
        who embraces the suject out of interest and focuses on the Civil War
        in partiuclar out of passion is 100% neutral and fair. Yet, I believe
        what we can and should practice to implement is an acceptance of
        different views to expand our own knowledge. We can try, for
        starters, by being less critical of others' opinions, even if we
        don't see it their way at all. Depending how far the pendulum swings
        to extremes, we are all capable of compromise. We may even learn
        someting new by being open-minded. It is only those who "think" they
        have all the answers and are harsh beyond measure with anyone who
        dares to challenge the conclusions at which they arrived that make it
        difficult to deal with.

        You will find such hardcore supporters of various men congregating at
        different message boards generally dedicated to one particular Union
        or Confederate general. I had my share of run-ins at the Grant
        Message Board, for instance, and a few years back. Now, I am a
        Sherman advocate, and one should figure that my opinions were not so
        different from those of the Grant supporters. But nothing could be
        further from the truth. They would not hear of anything that did not
        sit well with their own views. I am not talking of extreme
        differences in opinions either, but often miniscule corrections.
        There was no compromise to be found. A few days ago, I ventured to
        one such board after a 1 1/2 year hiatus, and just to peek out of
        mere curiosity. Little had changed. It was still a slug-fest (with
        advanced graphics:). Those slugging it out with new "intruders" had
        the same screen names and same attitudes and sadly the same nasty
        habits of shooting down anyone who begged to differ. It is not a good
        idea to invade a purist groups' stronghold.

        In point 1, the question was asked "Am I Sherman's advocate? His
        assailant? Or am I simply reporting what I found, although it
        challenges the established orthodoxy? (Please scroll back to Dr.
        Simpson's post for the entire text). I would answer it: You reported
        simply what you found. Yet, even as I am typing this, I believe
        others who read it, come to a different conclusion.

        In point 2, you speak of the various reportings of Grant's "Yazoo
        bender." It was singled out as one incident in many such that haunted
        Grant and no doubt not always justified as different historians wrote
        different versions. As to your "reporting" you admit to challenge all
        previously recorded descriptions about Grant and you base it on your
        personal findings. And as you so ably bring up all the things you
        uncovered about a possible conspiracy to discredit Grant you ask, "By
        even bringing this up, am I presenting myself as Grant's advocate or
        assailant?" May I say that in my view the answer to point 2 is: You
        are acting as Grant's advocate. And why am I thinking that? Perhaps
        because I know of the books you wrote on Grant and feel satisfied in
        my believe that you, beyond a doubt, are one of Grant's greatest
        supporters. Does that influence your objectivity? You bet! But I find
        no problems with it, for it is human and clearly your perfect right
        to feel that way. You are a wonderful writer and able historian, but
        would you think wrongly of me if I were to categorically state that
        you are biased towards Grant? To be sure, in my view, it does not
        detract from you, not in the least. It is your perfect right, but,
        again, to underscore my earliest points in this post, anyone who
        claims neutrality is not truly honest. And when we become a supporter
        (as I am of Sherman) we, perhaps inadvertently even, become these
        men's advocates.

        As to point 3, I feel the strongest point you made here is that you
        bring in the George H. Thomas situation at Nashville. In bringing
        into focus the behind the scenes wrangling about Grant's problems
        with the Washington hierarchy and Grant just "moving in time to
        forestall this discussion from being translated into action" you
        parallel what Grant wished to do to Thomas. The latter moved "just in
        time to forestall discussions of his removal to be translated into
        action... in fact, it had gone a step further." Am I right, or am I
        wrong? My answer here is: It is the wrong question to ask. At least
        if one wishes to stay "middle of the road." Otherwise, I would say
        you had become Lincoln's assailant because he became dangerous to
        Grant, whom you favor.

        I liked your answer concerning Sherman's blunders--which were legion.
        You wrote, "No, some author may not highlight Sherman's shortcomings
        as others might, but that doesn't make them apologists. How true! Yet
        it makes the different authors human by showing their feelings toward
        one man by either ignoring or buttressing his "shortcomings."

        I don't believe that by saying that everyone is biased it constitutes
        a "cop-out." The level of bias is the problem. I am rather inclined
        to think that those claiming neutraliy are the true "cop-outs."

        Isn't it factual, too, that so many of the subjects we maul over
        again and again reveal little news. It has been written about
        extensively, then re-written a few more times to the point where it
        almost becomes revisionist history. Some topics, such as the great
        commanders Grant, Lee, Sherman, Stonewall and their campaigns, I
        believe, leave little today to write about. From the massive
        collection of literature of these topics, we must all pick and
        choose, or else read our way through it, research individually, and
        finally arrive at our own conclusions. It's just that wonderful
        challenge only offered by "history" that permits us to differ from
        the historian's view expressed in a book a few paces down the isle.
        That leaves the matter fresh and new and never dull.














        --- In civilwarwest@y..., brooksdsimpson@y... wrote:
        >
        > > > The second reason Sherman was mentioned is that a double
        standard
        > > > exists.  On the strength of Grant's and Sherman's memoirs, the
        > > > writings of their supporters, and the judgments of those
        > > > historians "friendly" to the two of them, Thomas has been, in
        my
        > > > opinion, unfairly disparaged.
        >
        > These types of sources are best separated into separate
        categories. 
        > It's clear that memoirs are a combination of recollection and
        > personal brief, and some are more skillful than others in
        addressing
        > that balance.  One of the skills of Grant's book is his ability to
        > lead the reader to share his perspective of events without mounting
        > overt arguments.
        >
        > As for the writings of supporters, that seems too broad a
        > classification.  It's hard to tell, for example whether one would
        > classify James H. Wilson as a supporter or opponent of either Grant
        > or Thomas based on published writings.  Clearly Wilson had some
        > scores to settle with Grant, and those areas are evident; it's also
        > clear that in private Wilson was a very bitter man (Hamlin Garland
        > noted as much).  One could argue that Van Horne's a Thomas
        supporter,
        > too.  We probably need to refine our notion of bias to something
        > other than the criteria I too often see: if it agrees with my bias,
        > it's objective; if it challenges my bias, it's biased, too. 
        > Besides, "bias" can all too easily become the equivalent
        > of "political correctness," a easy way to dismiss something with
        > which one disagrees. 
        >
        > As for scholars, historians, biographers, etc., I think the comment
        > once again falls victim to the common assumption that people who
        > write about other people or events have some preset agenda to
        > boost "A" and denigrate "B".  This assumption is widely held by
        > people who have done little or no actual writing and publishing; it
        > also becomes a convenient shorthand to assail work with which one
        > disagrees.  Now, I've written on Lincoln, Grant, and Sherman.  So
        > tell me how to interpret the following points about the Vicksburg
        > campaign in light of this "advocacy/opposition" dichotomy:
        >
        > 1.  In the past people argued that Sherman. while harboring deep
        > reservations about Grant's Vicksburg plan, loyally supported it. 
        > This has some truth to it.  So does the fact that Sherman shared
        his
        > reservations with his brother, Senator John Sherman, in a series of
        > letters which gave the senator material with which to cast doubt on
        > Grant's plan and disassociate Sherman from it in a classic CYA
        > operation.  In pointing that out, am I Sherman's advocate?  His
        > assailant?  Or am I simply reporting what I found, although it
        > challenges the established orthodoxy?
        >
        > 2.  People have usually read John A. Rawlins' famed letter of June
        6,
        > 1863, on the subject of Grant's drinking in light of the
        famed "Yazoo
        > bender."  A more careful reading of the letter in conjunction with
        > the other available evidence offers a far different version of
        events
        > than that usually reported in narratives.  Far from going off on a
        > toot during a lull in operations, it appears that an ailing Grant
        > took a drink, maybe two, just as he was about to embark on a
        critical
        > inspection tour accompanied by a representative of the War
        Department
        > whose job it was to report on Grant's private habits.  Does this
        make
        > me an advocate?  An assailant?  I don't deny that the incident took
        > place; I do challenge most (okay, virtually all) descriptions of
        it. 
        > Moreover, unlike other scholars, I noted that Rawlins mentioned
        that
        > Grant had took a pledge to abstain sometime the previous March. 
        > Hmmm.  There were rumors that circulated that Grant was drinking at
        > this time: McClernand sent Grant's famed nemesis, William Kountz,
        to
        > Washington armed with such stories in an attempt to discredit
        Grant. 
        > Did something happen?  Possibly.  What?  The record is very thin on
        > that score.  By even bringing this up, am I presenting myself as
        > Grant's advocate or assailant?  Or are those categories meaningless
        > in explaining what I concluded and presented?  You decide.
        >
        > 3.  There's a lot of talk that Lincoln stood behind Grant at this
        > time.  I uncovered ample evidence that Grant was in rather hot
        water
        > at Washington, and that even Elihu B. Washburne had passed along to
        > administration officials (namely Secretary of the Treasury Salmon
        P.
        > Chase) information that Grant was in deep trouble.  There were
        > proposals circulating to depose Grant, to replace him with Ben
        Butler
        > (!), and to transfer part of Grant's army to Rosecrans (Chase's
        > preference).  And most readers familiar with the campaign recall
        the
        > missions of Charles Dana and Lorenzo Thomas.  It looks as if Grant
        > got moving just in time to forestall this discussion from being
        > translated into action (much like Thomas at Nashville [vbg]).  In
        > describing these behind the scenes struggles and casting doubt on
        > assertions that Lincoln's support for Grant was unqualified, am I
        > acting as Lincoln's advocate?  Assailant?  Or, again, are not these
        > the wrong questions to ask?                
        >
        > > >  Sherman's blunders--which are legion-
        > > > - are consistently overlooked by these sources.  Wouldn't you
        > agree?
        >
        > No.  Some authors may not highlight Sherman's shortcomings as
        others
        > might, but that doesn't make them apologists.
        >
        > > That said, how does a "balanced" treatment of any subject run?  I
        > > think it has to be in the minds of the readers, and even then,
        may
        > > well be based on how in-depth your understanding of the subject
        is.
        >
        > Agreed.  And Dave's point raises another: there's the matter of the
        > critic's bias as well.  To say everyone's biased is a cop-out.
        >
        > People who engage in historical research with a genuine desire to
        > find out what happened, to understand what happened, and to tell
        > readers what happened as best as they can figure out, letting the
        > chips fall where they may, tend to produce much better history than
        > those who see themselves as advocates or assailants. Critics who
        try
        > to unravel the fabric of the narrative by picking at a few strings
        > may miss the fact that the writer in question has already
        considered
        > the available evidence and has made decisions, preferring to
        > construct a narrative rather than a tedious legal brief; only a
        > handful of those critics ever try their hand at writing extended
        > narratives themselves, and those who do often find themselves
        > subjected to exactly the same treatment they accorded others.



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