Liberal history?… I wonder…

Posted on October 27, 2008 by


Considering the recent exchange over this post in Richard Williams’ blog, I wonder…

If working beyond James I. Robertson’s traditionalist approach to the Stonewall Brigade, if an historian dug a little deeper, what might the reaction be if the results of the study proved less than favorable/honorable? What if, for example, someone started examining the motivations of the soldiers in the brigade, focusing specifically on the desertion rate. I think most of us are aware of the brigade and the iconic place that it holds in the annals of the history of the Confederacy, so certainly, questioning this must result in some consequences. Worse yet, if the study not only questioned the reputation, but blemished it, what would happen?

Since such a study would bring the brigade (and possibly the commanding officers) under scrutiny, would the study be considered “liberal history” or, at the very least, a study spurned by the “liberal-minded” within the halls of the academy? Would the “bad thing” be the actual act of bringing the men of the brigade into question, since the brigade holds a high place in Confederate history? Would it be criticized because of the record of the historian who does “the deed?” What if the historian was new to the field and this was his/her first major work? I have no doubt that some would see it as “revisionist history” just for bringing the brigade into question (after all, it would be seen by some as yet another attack on an important part of Confederate history), but would it also be considered among the products of the liberal institution? If so, how and why?