29 May 2008

Gallagher's Missing Link

"Any historian who argues that the Confederate people demonstrated robust devotion to their slave-based republic, possessed feelings of national community, and sacrificed more than any other segment of white society in United States history runs the risk of being labeled a neo-Confederate. As a native of Los Angeles who grew up on a farm in southern Colorado, I can claim complete freedom from any pro-Confederate special pleading during my formative years. Moreover, not a single ancestor fought in the war, a fact I lamented as a boy reading books by Bruce Catton and Douglas Southall Freeman and wanting desperately to have some direct connection to the events that fascinated me. In reaching my conclusions, I have gone where the sources led me. My assertions and speculations certainly are open to challenge, but they emerged from an effort to understand the Confederate experience through the actions and words of the people who lived it." (Emphasis mine.)

~ Gary W. Gallagher writing in his 1997 assessment of the South's war effort: The Confederate War.

Why is that? I've read many criticisms of those who DO have a direct connection, and write about it. Why, then, would a respected historian admit to "desperately" wanting that connection. Hmmm . . . Some (and I'm not talking about Gallagher here) historians are so arrogant, lacking in humility, and so detest the values of the past that they're happy not to have any connection. Others who criticize those who do have a connection seem to actually be harboring envy and resentment. And then there are those who do have a connection to the past, feel guilty about it, and attempt to "redeem" themselves by beating up their dead ancestors; especially if they're Southerners.

"It is certainly desirable to be well descended, but the glory belongs to our ancestors." ~ Plutarch, 'Morals,' 100 A.D. Greek biographer & moralist (46 AD - 120 AD)


Michael Aubrecht said...

Great post Richard. BTW: I forgot the mention that I saw Mr. Gallagher on CSPAN BookTV last week and he critically mentioned your book (Stonewall Jackson The Black Mans Friend) as an example of Lost Cause publishing. On the other side, my editor at the FLS received an email from a reader just yesterday thanking me for reviewing the book and the associated DVD 'Still Standing' as they said both works had a huge impact on their life. So although Mr. Gallagher may not be a fan of yours, my readers (who buy and read the books that they comment on) are.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Michael. Yes, I heard about Professor Gallagher's remarks. I have to wonder if he actually read the book.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

PS: It would appear Professor Gallagher is guilty of the very thing he describes and criticizes in his quote I posted.

Anonymous said...

Sir, I had FOUR ancestors (all brothers named Beckham) that fought in Co H, 21st Georgia Infantry. They fought in your wonderful valley with Jackson in 1862 as well as the ANV. Two of them never made it back to northwest Georgia. One rests today in Lynchbuirg and the other in Charlottesville. I will be forever proud of their service and sacrifice to their country and to their people no matter the opinions of modern minds!

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you sir.