26 January 2010

The South To Posterity

. . . or, My Granddaughter Discovers Freeman.

Sometimes, a kind Providence presents us with a unique opportunity to capture a classic and useful photograph--one that will no doubt be discussed in my family for generations to come! My fifteen month old granddaughter was in my basement office Monday evening and, as is her want, headed for some stray books lying on the floor near my desk. She went straight for my copy of Douglas Southall Freeman's The South to Posterity. No, she cannot read yet, despite being the brightest fifteen month old in Virginia--a purely unbiased and objective view, of course. Even so, I could not resist snapping this photograph--a true classic, for sure (Click to enlarge). Ain't she a darlin'?! As she is representative of my posterity; and with the oh-so-predictable, clich├ęd, disparaging, condescending commentary in recent days about Confederate history, Lee-Jackson Day, etc, I thought this "Kodak moment" (though I took this with a Canon), presented an opportunity to comment on both Freeman's and Lee's lasting legacy, as well as Confederate history.

In the 1998 edition of Freeman's classic, Gary Gallagher writes the following in his introduction quoting historian T. Harry Williams:

"Long before his life had ended, Douglas Freeman had become a name and a legend. To him was accorded the rare honor of being accepted, while still alive, as a great historian, as the authority in his field and of having his works acclaimed as classics that would endure permanently."

Gallagher continues:

"The passage of four [now five] decades has witnessed little diminishment of Freeman's reputation . . . Freeman has had a more enduring impact on Confederate military literature than any other historian. He remains the most widely known figure in the field."

Gallagher adds some comments about the attempt of revisionist historians regarding Lee:

"It is a measure of Freeman's stature that historians who seek to revise his interpretation sometimes devote almost as much attention to the biographer as to the general. Thomas L. Connelly and Alan T. Nolan, authors of pointedly revisionist critiques of Lee as a man and soldier, illustrate this phenomenon. Each sets up Freeman as a towering figure whose work on Lee and his army shaped everything that followed . . . noted Connelly, 'there was little question that Freeman had established his predominance as the ranking Lee scholar.'" (Emphasis mine.)

And Gallagher added this commentary on Freeman's perspective regarding Confederate history:

"What would History's verdict be in judging the Confederate people? That there was logic in secession, concludes Freeman, that the South fought hard and bravely and fairly, that it coped with defeat steadily, and that it produced leaders worthy of admiration. In short, History would record a three-word entry summarazing the Confederate people's experience: 'Character is Confirmed.'" (Emphasis mine.)

A confirmation lacking in many of Lee's--as well as Freeman's--critics.


msimons said...

That is a fine looking Granddaughter. Your truely blessed.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thank you sir - we think so!

Lawrence Underwood said...

What and wonderful photograph! It is a treasure. And, yes, it speaks volumes.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks Lawrence.

Chaps said...

You have, I'm sure, already prepared her papers for the UDC.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

We're working on it.


Anonymous said...

Fine and all, but I would hope there is more positive affirmation to be said about the South than "character is confirmed".

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...


You "would hope?" I have no idea what your comment is supposed to mean.