Yesterday, I got a call from JD, asking me if I had received a letter in yesterday’s mail accusing us of plagiarism of our work on the charge of the 1st Delaware Cavalry at Westminster, Maryland on June 29, 1863. Specifically, we were accused of plagiarising an unpublished manuscript on these events written by correspondent, submitted to the Carroll County, Maryland Historical Society, but never published by them. Neither JD nor I had ever even heard of the manuscript, let alone seeing it. In short, we’ve been accused of stealing from a manuscript we’ve never seen.
Neat trick, eh? I’ve often wished that I was good at mind-reading; I know my wife wishes I was a mind-reader when it comes to her.
However, it’s never been one of my talents, and try as I might, I am utterly unable to read long distance by osmosis–and take verbatim–pieces of a manuscript that I not only have never seen, but had never even heard of prior to reading this individual’s letter. The basis for the claim was our using the moniker “the John Burns of Westminster” to describe civilian Francis Shriver, who joined the 1st Delaware Cavalry in fighting Fitz Lee’s Virginians, and because we made use of several unpublished manuscript sources.
Well, a descendant of Shriver wrote a book about his family’s role in the Civil War that was published by Heritage Books of Westminster, Maryland, and we got that particular moniker from Shriver book. As for the unpublished manuscript sources, well, let’s see….there is a copy of one of them in the archives of the Gettysburg National Military Park, which is where we discovered it. I found another by doing a Google search and then having a friend go to the Winterthur Museum and Gardens in Delaware to go get the manuscript material for me, and the final material came from another published source.
So, here’s the deal: we got all of our sources from fair and legitimate sources. Neither JD nor I have ever even heard of this manuscript, let alone having seen it. It is, therefore, entirely impossible for us to have plagiarized something we’ve never even seen. Needless to say, receiving this letter really pissed us both off. We combined forces to draft a response that is firm, professional, but quite insistent that we did absolutely NOTHING wrong.
We’ve both come to the conclusion that this guy–who claims to have spent forty years researching these events–is really pissed that we stole his thunder by publishing a well-respected account of the episode and beat him to the punch. All I can say is that it’s not our fault that the Carroll County Historical Society elected not to publish his manuscript–and there must be a reason for that–and that he’s angry that someone else is getting the credit for conducting good scholarship and writing a good account that made its way into print. So, instead of accepting that he might have had something to do with his own failure, it must, therefore, be our fault and we must have plagiarized a manuscript we never saw to do so.
Needless to say, this really pisses me off. I guess it’s the price of doing this sort of work, doing it well, and stealing someone else’s thunder in the process.
I’m sorry you feel that way, but it’s not my fault. Get over it.Scridb filter