Past is Prologue

Clint Schemmer writes about history, heritage preservation and the American Civil War.  On Facebook: Past is Prologue  On Twitter: @prologuepast  ContactEmail Clint or call 540/374-5424.

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Robert K. Krick on R.E. Lee and Revisionism

MORE: Read more news from Fredericksburg

Historians Robert K. Krick–of Fredericksburg–and Carol Reardon lead the conferance’s second panel on “Lee and the Army of Northern Virginia.”

Krick, retired chief historian of Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park, mounts a vigorous defense of Confederate memoirs as valuable historical sources, decrying modern writers who appear to distrust them all as unreliable and tainted by “Lost Cause” mythology.

One ”inane strain” of such criticim, he says, holds that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee wasn’t really so popular among his troops and Southern citizens at the time.

Hogwash, Krick says — but far more eloquently, and at greater length.

He offers a maxim about the writing of history that he calls Hamlin’s Razor (a riff on Occam’s Razor): “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or sloth.”

Virtually unexamined is the question of whether Lee deserved the adulation, he says.

Tens of thousands of his troops certainly felt so, Krick says, citing example after example.

“It cannot be disputed by anyone except … the most determinedly obtuse,” he says.

The wholesale tendency to dismiss Confederate accounts is inexcusable, Krick says.

He said he is tired of modern writers’ carping about the Lost Cause and Confederate memoirists’ historical errors.

“Most of them were trying to tell the truth,” he says.

As for Lee, Krick says, ”against long, long odds, crafted some of the greatest campaigns in world history.”

Turning the Union army back from the doors of Richmond in 1862 was incredible, he says.

“Lee stood the war squarely on its ear that summer,” Krick says.

Under his command, his army showed “movement and daring like never before,” he says.

His victory at  Chancellorsville is “simply incomparable,” Krick says.