Fact Or Fiction?
Readers responded in force to our first-ever use of historical fiction: “Lee in the Wilderness,” an excerpt from Jeff Shaara’s The Last Full Measure that appeared in our June 1998 issue. Here is a sampling of those responses.
I thoroughly enjoyed the excerpt from Jeff Shaara’s The Last Full Measure. I met him a few years ago during a book signing, and I sensed not only his love of history, but also his love of the story behind the history. When I read The Killer Angels by Jeff’s father, Michael, suddenly I saw the Civil War not as masses of faceless soldiers in blue and gray, but distinct individuals with unique personalities.
Janet L. Bucklew
I applaud your decision to devote a few pages to this new Civil War novel. For many entering the field of study of Civil War history, it is daunting to go through the many fine tomes of battles and leaders, learning who was who and trying to keep the names and dates in some semblance of order. But students of the Civil War are a fairly literary ilk; I think they’ll be able to tell the difference between your usual fine articles and this equally fine piece of historical fiction.
Even though this is the first time you have published fiction, I sincerely hope it will not be the last. I use Civil War Times extensively in my seventh-grade reading classes. One of my reading course goals is for the students to be able to compare and contrast history writing and historical fiction. Now I can use Civil War Times even more.
I thoroughly enjoyed reading the excerpt of The Last Full Measure, but I do not think that any fictional material should be included in the magazine. It is only a matter of time before this fictionalized account is cited in some new writing as a reference of something “said” by one of the personalities in the book.
Jay M. Marrone
As an Army retiree and a Vietnam vet, I find the factual aspect of military history critical. A veteran will be tempted to tell a “war story” just a little better (fiction) than how it happened (fact). Civil War Times has been a non-fiction publication for 36 years and should stay the same. No room for fiction. Use the “Reviews” section for book excerpts.
Shame on you! Fiction in Civil War Times Illustrated is unthinkable. I doubt I shall renew my subscription.
William W. O’Donnell
Little Rock, Arkansas
More Than One Man
I would like to thank you for your travel article (“One Man’s Museum,” June 1998) on General Sweeny’s Museum. With all the information coming out on the war in the East, we sometimes feel like a voice in the wilderness.
I would like to make a few corrections. General Thomas W. Sweeny was not from Missouri. He was born in Cork, Ireland, before coming to the United States and living in New York state. He was stationed in Missouri for a good part of 1861. He was at the St. Louis Arsenal and was placed in charge of Federal troops and the volunteers that went to Springfield, Missouri. He fought and was wounded in the Battle of Wilson’s Creek on August 10. After a long and distinguished career, Sweeny retired as a brigadier general and died in Astoria, Long Island, New York, on April 10, 1892.
The museum is not a monument to General Sweeny, but rather to all men and women in the Trans-Mississippi who died fighting for their convictions, whether from the North or the South. They have been forgotten heroes until recently, as more books are shedding light on their sacrifices. Nor is it a one-man museum; I must do justice to my loyal and understanding wife, Karen. It really was her idea to build the museum in the first place. It was her desire to inform the schoolchildren in this area about the rich history that exists all around them; the schoolbooks they use many times forget that the war was out here, too.
Dr. Thomas Sweeney
Latest Last Full Measure
I was surprised to read that Jeff Shaara had titled his new book The Last Full Measure. Wasn’t that title copyrighted in 1993 by Richard Moe’s book The Last Full Measure: The Life and Death of the First Minnesota Volunteers, published by Henry Holt and Company?
Gustave F. Jacob
Rapid City, South Dakota
Editor’s Note: The phrase “the last full measure” is drawn from Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address and thus cannot be copyrighted. In this case, the mention of the 1st Minnesota sets Moe’s book apart from Shaara’s.
Regarding the letter titled “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell?” (June 1998), I would like to inform William Schweikert that no evidence exists (published or not) that intimates that Major General Patrick R. Cleburne was gay. Randy Shilts, in his book Conduct Unbecoming, took the commonly practiced act of sharing sleeping accommodations with fellow officers and men during the Civil War (particularly during winter campaigns) and gave it a late 20th-century spin. Susan Tarleton, Cleburne’s fiancée, is probably spinning in her grave at the mere mention of such an ill-founded accusation.
Little Rock, Arkansas
Patrick Cleburne was one of the most gifted of the Confederate generals. Let’s not start mixing up 20th-century politically correct nonsense with 19th-century history. I neither know nor care about his sexual preference.
Fuel For An Argument
The capture of the Ad-Vance (“Mouth of the South,” June 1998) when the steamer ran low of coal led to heated words and conflicting statements between Vance and the Confederate government. J.A. Willard, naval coal agent, reported on November 28, 1864, that “the extraordinary statement ventured upon by Gov. Vance, in his late annual message, that the loss of the Advance is attributable solely to the impressment of coal by the C.S. Government, has very little foundation in fact.” Flag officer R.F. Pinkney added a month later: “No coal was taken from the Advance, nor any belonging to her, for the Tallahassee, or any other vessel.”
Ormond Beach, Florida
June: “Reviews”–The review of Philip Katcher’s The Civil War Source Book faulted Katcher “for identifying Henry Wirz as commandant of Camp Sumter instead of Andersonville Prison.” Katcher was correct; Camp Sumter and Andersonville Prison were one and the same, and the official title was Camp Sumter.
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