“Fought Like Hell”—Fighting Words
I have been a loyal subscriber to Civil War Times for 20 years. One of the elements that has always been central to your magazine is its neutrality. That is, it has not been biased for or against either party in the war. That policy has now been breached by the publication of your February 2009 issue. As a consequence of this change, I now must decide whether or not to cancel my two-decade subscription.
You breached your neutrality with the “presentation” of the article titled “Robert E. Lee and Slavery,” by Elizabeth Brown Pryor. Let me be very clear: I do not take exception to the facts of Ms. Pryor’s article or the publication of same. I do take violent exception to the graphic and marketing presentation of the piece.
For example, the headline on the cover of the magazine reads “LEE— Long Lost Letters Showed He Favored Slavery and Fought Like Hell to Keep It.” On that cover, the words “Civil War Times” are the standard 11⁄8inches tall, but the title “LEE” is 15⁄8 inches tall. Furthermore, the teaser “and fought like hell to keep it” implies that Lee’s singular motive in the war was the preservation of slavery, which is not substantiated by the facts presented in the article.
Near the end of her article, Ms. Pryor states a historical truism by saying: “Values change over time, and human beings are often slow to catch up. We have to understand Lee within the context of his standards, not our own.”
James R. Forcum
I enjoyed reading the Robert E. Lee and slavery article in your February issue. I found the article to be fair and well researched, and thought it was one of the best pieces to appear in the magazine for some time. I especially liked the list of resources at the end of the issue.
I realize that many people might be upset by the article, but I think it was important to feature the article in your magazine and to let Lee’s own words tell the story of his views on slavery.
Nice try, but changing the word “as” to “is” does indeed alter the meaning of Robert E. Lee’s quote on the cover. This kind of trickery is unbecoming of Civil War Times Magazine. I cannot help but wonder what other “sleight of sentence structure” was used by you and the author to offer a new racist Lee to the world.
Harpers Ferry, W.Va.
Editor’s Note: If we were really tricky, we would not have pointed out to readers that we made such a change. That’s how you know you can trust Civil War Times. For more reactions to the Lee article, see “Letter From Civil War Times” on P. 26.
When the Chips Hit Confederate Fans
I just finished reading Gary Gallagher’s column on Nathan Bedford Forrest. I don’t think I ever read such a mess before in my life. I don’t know who Gallagher is, nor do I care. I’d be surprised if he is from the South, though.
His ignorant comments regarding Civil War scholar Shelby Foote gave me a terrible case of the “What the hells?!” You can believe that Mr. Foote checked out both sides of the coin before making any comments about any Civil War character, Union or Confederate. His research was thorough, and his works prove that. He called it down the middle. Gallagher seems to have an agenda, but refers to this as his “scholarly work.”
I find great pleasure in reading and pondering the many stories and articles in Civil War Times. Mr. Gallagher’s articles lend themselves to challenging personal views of the period, with many twists and turns. Gallagher’s last column with regard to letting the “interpretive chips fall where they may” is demeaning and flouts defensive narcissism. The former charge is based on Mr. Gallagher’s rants at one dead writer (Shelby Foote), one dead soldier (Nathan Bedford Forrest), one dead Rebel vice president (Alexander H. Stephens) and various Lost Cause writers and devotees.
John P. Mullins
I greatly enjoyed Gary Gallagher’s column “Let the Chips Fall Where They Will.” I think it’s great when academic historians step back from their own work long enough to address the “peanut gallery” of critics who take issue with professional approaches to history.
Gallagher’s piece is just enough to say, and this is my interpretation of his words: “You know what? I’m doing what I love doing.” It’s not Confederate bashing or Southern bashing, but it is critical analysis of a complex time in our nation’s history…and it’s fascinating stuff. So let’s just move on.
Like Gallagher, I think a lot of us who study the Civil War do what we do because we know there is a lot more to the conflict than what can be found in traditional texts. More important, there is most definitely more to it than that which has been left to us as a part of the legacy that we know as “Civil War memory.” The sooner everybody realizes the war was not one-dimensional, the more time we can spend appreciating the work of historians in helping us to better understand a harrowing time in America’s fascinating past.
Robert H. Moore II
Editor’s note: Gary Gallagher, who teaches at the University of Virginia, is the author of several acclaimed books on the Confederacy.
Relic Hunter’s Code of Honor
In a news article on the Third Winchester site in the April issue, you state that the house on the property was destroyed by relic hunters. I consider myself a relic hunter, but I would never trespass or just plain destroy historical buildings.
The people who did this are criminals and should be called such. Associating relic-hunting with criminal activity is giving a bad name to a whole lot of people who care deeply about our history and laws and are supporters of your magazine.
Miníe-Proof Vest? Not Really
I enjoyed your “Ads of the Age” section in April’s issue, as always. I have in my collection an actual patented set of the bullet-proof vest you show.
Love the magazine!
I love your magazine and hate to nitpick, but I would be remiss (and a shame to my fellow members of the Genesee Valley Civil War Round Table) if I did not point out a mistake in the April issue.
In the article “The Wilderness Holds Onto Its Secrets” (P. 22), the authors attribute a monument to “Samuel” Wadsworth, millionaire general from New York. His name was actually James S. Wadsworth, Samuel being his middle name. I highly recommend a biography written by Wayne Mahood (a GVC WRT member), General Wads – worth: The Life and Times of Brevet Major General James S. Wadsworth.
She Ain’t No Swamp Angel?
I have been interested in the siege of Charleston for some time and was immediately drawn to the “Marsh Battery” photo that appears on the Contents page of your February 2009 issue. This image also appears in O.E. Hunt’s The Photo graphic History of the Civil War, captioned “After the 36th shot—the ‘Swamp Angel’ burst.”
All well and good, and who doesn’t like to see actual photographs of legendary things? But that gun is not the Swamp Angel. It does appear to be an 8-inch Parrott rifle, one in real need of maintenance. Please observe that the breech, and particularly the breech band, is intact, and one has to assume that the breech band would have shattered. See my photos taken at the gun’s present home in Trenton, N.J. Does the damage look anything like the gun in your picture?
What you showed is any old garden-variety dismounted 200-pounder Parrott rifle. General Quincy Gillmore did not stop shelling Charleston the day the Swamp Angel burst; he increased operations from the same swamp and didn’t let up for a year and a half. The big Parrots were notorious for blowing up, and yours is just another one of these. That is, if it’s blown up at all. If it were really the famous Swamp Angel, it would be lying in two separate, distinct pieces.
Originally published in the June 2009 issue of Civil War Times. To subscribe, click here.