Pilgrims, Plymouth, Jamestown and a seemingly odd connection with the Civil War

Posted on November 25, 2008 by


O.K., this may seem wayyyy off topic, but it really isn’t. In one of the comments made in response to yesterday’s post, I made a remark that was based on something I saw in 2006 as an official release (General Order #5, to be exact) from the (then) top official of the S.C.V. The remark referred (I’m paraphrasing, but I have the e-mail somewhere in my archive) to Plymouth colonists as “sour-faced pilgrims”.

Clearly, in making such a remark about the colonists of Plymouth, I (and many others, I’m sure) can see where such a remark originated… certainly it reflects resentment for the place that Plymouth (as an invention of “Northern historical memory”) holds in the American consciousness as THE source for historical meaning behind Thanksgiving. Ultimately, yes, Virginia may well have been the site of the first Thanksgiving for English settlers in North America, but Plymouth has been given the credit. That’s fine, it’s just a matter of clearing away the mythology by re-educating the public about the facts behind history… that’s not revisionist, it’s just setting the record straight, right?

Speaking of which, in another comment, someone else responded to a remark I made about the mythology that surrounds Paul Revere’s famous ride. The comment shows that New Englanders (at least in the experience of the person making the comment) don’t appear to be insulted by the debunking of mythology behind Revere’s ride. In fact, some appear to be participating in setting the historical record straight. Even though they do this, I would bet they still have just as much interest in their New England roots and a love for “place.” The old myth holds a special place in New England “memory,” but it is recognized as MYTH.

So then, in the cases of mythology behind the Plymouth-Jamestown controversy and the mythology behind Paul Revere’s ride, previous “popular memory,” which in retrospect proves to be real revisionist history, is being set straight. Really, that’s great! We’re actually making headway in getting to real factual history.  

Alright then, all of this clearing away the cobwebs and setting the record straight stuff, it’s not entirely different from clearing away the mythology generated as a residue of the Lost Cause remembrance movements, right? If not, what’s the difference? Considering the Rev War is over 225 years outside our memory, is the problem with Civil War memory that we are separated from the Civil War by only (almost) 150 years?