24 June 2006 by Published in: General musings 11 comments

The most recent issue of Blue & Gray magazine featured a re-interpretation of Brig. Gen. Elon J. Farnsworth’s charge and death on July 3, 1863 after the repulse of Pickett’s Charge at the Battle of Gettysburg. The author, a licensed battlefield guide, has been working on this theory for years, and I’ve been waiting to see and read an elaboration of it for a long time. So, so far as that goes, I was very pleased to finally see the theory spelled out in black and white.

Now, this is a topic that I know a little bit about. Although it’s been nearly ten years since I’ve worked on it in any detail, my first book dealt with Farnsworth’s Charge and death in some depth. I had to familiarize myself with the sources, and I’ve retained an interest in the topic over the years. Also, once my book was published, some new/additional sources have surfaced, such as the only known account of the charge by William Wells of the 1st Vermont, who was later awarded a Medal of Honor for his role in the charge. A few months ago, I purchased a previously unknown letter about Farnsworth’s Charge by Capt. William Graham, the maternal nephew of Maj. Gen. George G. Meade that provides important details that nobody had ever seen or used in any other account of the charge. I intend to make use of it in a new project that J. D. Petruzzi and I are working on, and which I will elaborate upon here soon. It will be the first time that this letter has ever been used.

I wish I could count the number of times that I’ve been asked about this theory and about the merits of it. I’ve tried hard to stay out of the fray, in part because I’ve had some personal issues with the proponent of the theory over the years. I would often say, when asked, “my mother taught me that if I didn’t have anything nice to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all, and my silence should tell you everything that you need to know.”

Having finally seen the actual theory and read it in detail, J. D. and I came to the conclusion that we could no longer remain silent about it. We feel that the public is being misled, and we cannot permit that to happen. Consequently, we have spent most of the last week composing a refutation of the theory–the proponent of the theory seeks to move these events nearly a half mile from where they actually occurred, and also hopes to re-interpret the idea of who actually killed Farnsworth and when during the charge he fell. We’ve pretty much finished it, and the folks we’ve asked to read it have told us that the evidence that we have adduced–not the least of which is a newly-discovered 1890 map prepared by the War Department–completely refutes the theory.

We will be submitting it to Blue & Gray this upcoming week. We hope that the whole thing will be published, but it’s nearly 5,000 words in length, and neither of us would be surprised if it’s edited substantially. If it is, we will find an appropriate forum for it, even if it means publishing it on this website in its full text.

I really wish I could understand the reasons why people feel that they need to concoct new intrepretations of events the way this particular person has done. If there were room for doubt, I could, perhaps understand. However, the evidence in this particular instance is nearly overwhelming, and I can’t help but wonder what the motivations are for the proponent under such circumstances. This theory’s been kicking around for a number of years, and most of the knowledgeable licensed battlefield guides reject it for the reasons I’ve stated here. So, too, do most of the National Park Service historians.

We will keep everyone posted.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Sun 25th Jun 2006 at 9:43 am

    Interesting. Perhaps it was only written for the purpose to get his name out there?

    Look how well the Da Vinci Code has done, regardless of facts showing it’s untrue.

  2. Sun 25th Jun 2006 at 9:58 am

    I think it’s entirely possible that this person felt a real need to try to make a name with this, but I don’t think that we will ever know.

    Eric

  3. Mike Peters
    Sun 25th Jun 2006 at 12:21 pm

    Eric wrote:

    I really wish I could understand the reasons why people feel that they need to concoct new intrepretations of events the way this particular person has done.

    Eric:

    In this case, it seems that the umpire wants to be more important than the game. From what I’ve read, the LBG in question should try alternative fiction.

    Mike

  4. Sun 25th Jun 2006 at 12:31 pm

    I don’t know about 5,000 words but B&G appears to be pretty good about publishing lengthy ‘rebuttals’. I like that they are willing to devote alot of space to reasoned debate.

  5. Chuck
    Mon 26th Jun 2006 at 11:40 am

    It’s unfortunate that Blue & Gray Magazine gave this theory so much publicity.
    Especially since they had covered the historically correct version of Farnsworth’s Charge in an earlier issue.
    I’m also troubled by B&G’s presentation. It’s fine to debate new theories, but since the author is credited at the head of the article as a Gettysburg Lic. Battlefield Guide the magazine is misleading the public by making it seem this is the new official version. In my view, it should have explicitly stated at the head that the following article is a theory not agreed to by most historians or the NPS.

  6. Mon 26th Jun 2006 at 2:06 pm

    I agree. When I read the Custer piece, I had no idea it was such a controversial topic. It would be nice to see more editorial oversight that would include sidebar disclaimers or even better be cognizant of the controversy beforehand and include a counterpoint sidebar from another author in the same issue. B&G has done that periodically…the instance that comes immediately to mind is Robertson and Schiller debating Bermuda Hundred. IIRC, Keith Poulter used to insert editorial comments with some of the very early issues of N&S.

  7. Mon 26th Jun 2006 at 5:07 pm

    The LBH issue just arrived. They printed two highly laudatory letters to the editor (from Bud Hall and a guide named Newton) about the Custer piece and Dave Roth proclaimed that he didn’t receive a single negative letter reaction to the Custer article. The magazine seems to have invested itself fully.

  8. Mon 26th Jun 2006 at 6:39 pm

    Drew,

    I saw Bud’s letter and was shocked by it.

    I need to have a talk with that boy.

    Eric

  9. Harold Pearman
    Mon 26th Jun 2006 at 6:57 pm

    Maybe we should contact Blue & Gray to encourage them to publish your rebuttal in full context with no editing. Looking forward to reading your response as we will have the heavyweight championship face-off of Civil War Cavalry. I know you are an authority on the subject and B & G says Bud is likewise. It should be interesting.

  10. Phil
    Tue 27th Jun 2006 at 10:52 am

    Admitting ignorance…what is “LBH”?

  11. Tue 27th Jun 2006 at 11:56 am

    sorry, Little Big Horn

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