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Posted By: Dave Gaddy on: 06/08/2010 11:11:55 EDT
Subject: RE: Every Confederate plot in the North was fated to fail

Message Detail:
Well put, Chris. You express some of the frustration we confront in (what some wags refer to as) mining low-grade ore. (Or as I have often remarked, amateur historians -- like amateur star-gazers -- do it for love of the pursuit. Academic historians -- professional historians -- don't, because they'd starve to death. An amateur star-gazer may be rewarded with some heavenly object named for him or her; I'm not sure what "Civil War nuts" gain other than the satisfaction of restoring a name and a life from the obscurity of musty old records.) I can think off-hand of several nicely done web sites that represent the very point you make -- family members determined to ferret out and record the shadowy records of their ancestors.

I've often wondered, especially in the case of the South, if the absence of any authority to release men of their oath of secrecy could be the reason so many chose not to record details of their service, while others (too few) had no moral dilemma and wrote their recollections (often too long afterward for accurate retention in their memories).

With modern technology, we do have a benefit those first generation veterans and later generations lacked, and that is the ability to command "instant availability" to information and dedicated service organizations that didn't exist just a few decades ago. Thanks to such sources, we doubtless know more today about details of material culture -- uniforms, flags, equipment, weapons, than was the case in the past. And we also have a better idea of what was wrong in past records and what is still unclear and continues to drive us.

Pushed by Walt and brought about by Mark and others, this site is an example of what has been and is being pulled together to correct, expand, and record one principal aspect of "Our War" and offer a place for related activities that can later branch off into sites of their own. "Special interest groups" continue to grow in Yahoo and elsewhere. Rare books appear under Google Books and search engines, such as Google are at our fingertips. The NPS "Soldiers and Sailor Site" gives us a "quick and dirty" method to instantly see if, from among some 6 million compiled military service records in the National Archives, "our man" is listed (and not infrequently we find he isn't, notwithstanding valid contemporary information about him and his service). We can cross-check unit rosters, get thumb-nail unit histories ... or switch to "Google" for Internet-wide data. We can go into census records to flesh out the personal info; we can locate web data pertinent to the search.

The paradox is that, with all of these modern resources we may still not find our "needle in the haystack" ... maybe because there is no needle there. Maybe we have to try another haystack, maybe we haven't asked the right question. So off we go. Come with us. In the quest you'll learn the names of people "in the know," maybe become close friends without ever meeting!

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