13 March 2009

Watching The Truth Revealed

We often hear how Southerners promoted "Lost Cause mythology" after the war in defending their history (which all Nations involved in war do to one extent or another). But how often do we hear those same critics discuss "Holy Cause mythology" and how many Northerners embellished Lincoln's record and glorified his persona in defense of their history. The correct answer would be "not very often"; though we're beginning to see it more.

Case in point: a watch that belonged to the 16th President was in the hands of a watchmaker when Fort Sumter was fired upon. The watchmaker marked the historic event by secretly inscribing something on the inside of the watch. After Lincoln was assassinated, he told family and friends that he had inscribed the following words:

"The first gun is fired. Slavery is dead. Thank God we have a president who at least will try."

Recently, the watchmaker's descendant had the watch opened to see if this was truth or legend and it was then revealed that the watchmaker had actually written the following:

"Jonathan Dillon April 13-1861. Fort Sumpter [sic] was attacked by the rebels on the above date thank God we have a government." He added 'Washington' and his name again."

No reference whatsoever to the watch's owner (Lincoln). No reference whatsoever to what Lincoln ostensibly went to war over - slavery. Only thankfulness for the "government" or, by reference, "the Union", which is what Lincoln actually fought for. Also, by mentioning "Washington" was the watchmaker tying the cause to the "untarnished greatness" of our Nation's first president? The evidence suggests the watchmaker had embellished the story after the war was over which, I believe, illustrates that many Northerners wanted to change the focus from "saving the Union" to "freeing the slaves."

Story here.

22 comments:

Pam Walter said...

I think we all re-invent history, in our personal lives as well as on a larger scale. We are all very adept at deceiving ourselves. www.satisfiedsole.com

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

You are, in a general sense, correct Pam. My point here is that some focus on just one aspect of "reinvention" when it comes to the WBTS.

Best,
RGW

brboyd said...

Lets celebrate the fact that Lincoln was a Republican. No one seems to mention that.

James F. Epperson said...

My problem with your complaint is that I had never hear of this watch story until it made the news recently, and I am fairly well-read on the history of "The Late Unpleasantness." Moreover, whatever legends and fantasies have crept into ACW history on any and all sides, *nothing* compares to the combination of propaganda, mythologizing (sp?), and distortion for political effect that characterize the "Lost Cause."

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

We'll agree to disagree James. I would be quick to point out, however, that in regards to Lee, he was no myth. Admiration for him was universal and was not a product of any Lost Cause efforts:

http://oldvirginiablog.blogspot.com/2008/12/dont-forget-to-remember-truth.html

Arthur B. Breedlove said...

"Moreover, whatever legends and fantasies have crept into ACW history on any and all sides, *nothing* compares to the combination of propaganda, mythologizing (sp?), and distortion for political effect that characterize the "Lost Cause."

I have to say that is rich. You have really outdone yourself with that little gem. All this time I thought nothing could match the propaganda machine of the Lincoln cult. The high school indoctrination that EVERY student in America receives and the character assassinations of M.E. Bradford and Thomas Dilorenzo,and other Lincoln detractors. The gazillion or so glowing "scholarly" works on Lincoln. To say nothing of the legions of politicians(both Dems and Rep)who try to emulate his mantle because of said propaganda. Pale...pale I say!, in comparison to the well oiled propaganda machine of the "Lost Cause" mythologizers!lol

James F. Epperson said...

"I would be quick to point out, however, that in regards to Lee, he was no myth. Admiration for him was universal and was not a product of any Lost Cause efforts:"

Absolutely; that is part of the problem with the Lost Cause: They overdid something that really didn't need doing.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Arthur:

So true. The blindness on the part of those who promote some of the myths surrounding President Lincoln is quite instructive.

James:

I'll take that as a nod to Lee's greatness and leave it at that.

James F. Epperson said...

The difference is that whatever hagiography has gone on with respect to Lincoln was not an organized effort, whereas the development of the Lost Cause was. And DiLorenzo's quack work deserves every bit of criticism it gets:

http://www.jfepperson.org/dilorenz.htm

Border Ruffian said...

JF Epperson-
"...whatever legends and fantasies have crept into ACW history on any and all sides, *nothing* compares to the combination of propaganda, mythologizing (sp?), and distortion for political effect that characterize the 'Lost Cause.'"
===============================

-Wow!...Now that one's unreal...


Some Holy Cause Mythology-

General Nathaniel Lyon -a Radical in military uniform- is touted as the one who "saved Missouri for the Union."

What you are not told is how in part that was accomplished- he indiscriminately killed and wounded over 150 Southern civilians.

"...rather than concede to the State of Missouri for one single instant the right to dictate to my government in any matter, however unimportant, I would see...every man, woman and child in the State, dead and buried."

-Gen. Nathaniel Lyon to Missouri Governor Claiborne Jackson, 11 June 1861

*

John Brown, Abolitionist...and Murderer

In the North this person is still praised as a "hero" with statues and "John Brown Days" proclaimed in his honor.

His gruesome murders at Pottawatomie remind me of the Charles Manson killings.

In the South we don't have any special days set aside for Quantrill or Bloody Bill Anderson.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"whatever hagiography has gone on with respect to Lincoln was not an organized effort, whereas the development of the Lost Cause was."

You're delusional James. By the way, is Lerone Bettett, Jr. also a quack when it comes to Lincoln?

James F. Epperson said...

I'm delusional only when I get way too deep into the bourbon, and since it is Lent, I'm not doing that. Can you cite me an instance of two Lincoln scholars collaborating on publishing an account they know to be false, in order to achieve a political end? This happened in the Lost Cause.

As for Bennett, yes, he is also a quack. Not as bad as DiLorenzo, but still a quack.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you James. Try hard cider, its better for you and you want hallucinate.

No, you go first. Cite them. The Lincolns scholars don't need to collaborate, they've all been force-fed the template and to question it risks their publishing options and tenure. Don't question the priests.

And for those readers who like to go right to the source, you can watch an excellent interview with Dr. DiLorenzo as he discusses his book here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nbFty9nZUac

(Copy and paste the URL into your browser)

Arthur B. Breedlove said...

"The difference is that whatever hagiography has gone on with respect to Lincoln was not an organized effort, whereas the development of the Lost Cause was."

I'm not even going to dignify that with a response. I think that fair- minded people can draw their own conclusions from that one.

You seem to want to cherry pick my assertions while ignoring the larger point. My point about Dilorenzo and other others was the PERSONAL attacks and character assassinations that followed, NOT the merits of the individual works. Although I disagree with your critique of his works.

Arthur B. Breedlove said...

"Absolutely; that is part of the problem with the Lost Cause: They overdid something that really didn't need doing."

Lets say for the sake of argument you are correct.
The problem with the Lincoln myth is it has no basis in fact. Which is the greater sin, to over embellish or to invent from scratch?lol

James F. Epperson said...

"And for those readers who like to go right to the source, you can watch an excellent interview with Dr. DiLorenzo as he discusses his book here:" [snipped]

I am shocked, *shocked* that DiLorenzo would have good things to say about his own book!

Your problem is very simple: You want the mainstream of Lincoln scholarship to conclude X about him. Instead, they tend to conclude Y. You have not been able to influence the mainstream of Lincoln scholarship to your views (neither have DiLorenzo or Bennett), so you rail about conspiracies. It sounds almost paranoid on your part. You might consider admitting that your view of Lincoln is in error.

Did Lincoln make mistakes? Absolutely (on another blog we are discussing some of them).

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

"Your problem is very simple: You want the mainstream of Lincoln scholarship to conclude X about him."

I couldn't care less what "the mainstream" think of Lincoln. I expect most of those in academia to walk in lockstep. I just believe a little balance is in order.

"I am shocked, *shocked* that DiLorenzo would have good things to say about his own book!"

Yes, and I am shocked that academics would attack his work, since it exposes *their* bias.

James F. Epperson said...

Is it "bias" to come to different conclusions than you do? Or simply someone reaching an honestly different conclusion? But we can't admit that, can we, because if the other guy's conclusion is honestly arrived at, it might (shock!) be correct and accurate...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

I think in *most* cases in Academia, yes, it most certainly is bias. There's a herd mentality with a very liberal bias and certain interpretations of our history fit the template. Its dangerous - from a career perspective - to stray too far from liberal orthodoxy.

James F. Epperson said...

One last comment, and then I'll let the matter rest.

(In honor of the basketball tournament about to start.)

You know what you sound like? You sound like someone whose team just lost, and instead of admitting that the other guys played better, you are screaming about the referees. "We were robbed by the refs!" "It's bias! It's bias! Lincoln was really a toad, but no one will say so because of bias!"

You all need to face up to the possibility that Lincoln, while maybe not everything Carl Sandberg said, is pretty close to what David Donald, William Lee Miller, and Allen Guelzo (among others) say.

Border Ruffian said...

RGW-
"There's a herd mentality with a very liberal bias and certain interpretations of our history fit the template. Its dangerous - from a career perspective - to stray too far from liberal orthodoxy."
===================

It's amazing how their 'analysis' (spin) always runs in the exact same direction.

Their interpretations are very predictable...like a tired old plotline.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Uh-huh, right James. The bias is there. Frankly I could not care less whether you or other academics want to admit it.

Thanks for everyone's participation.
Comments are now closed.