Myth, Fact, and The Murky Middle: The Barlow-Gordon Incident

Over at From the Fields of Gettysburg (I’ll be roaming those fields before long), D. Scott Hartwig’s offered a terrific series of well-researched posts on the reported encounter between Confederate general John B. Gordon and wounded Federal division commander General Francis Barlow at Gettysburg on July 1, after Gordon’s men had overrun Barlow’s position.  You can follow Scott’s investigative reporting here, here, and here.  I won’t spoil the story.

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5 thoughts on “Myth, Fact, and The Murky Middle: The Barlow-Gordon Incident

  1. Scott’s work is exceptionally thorough, and his series of posts on the matter are very well written. Not the first time I have been impressed by his scholarship.

  2. I have come to the conclusion that many (most?) of these compelling stories are based upon something that did happen, but have been embellished by time and fading memory into the romances they are now.

    • I tend to agree, but I also think of the two main folks who did stuff of this ilk, Gordon and Longstreet [actions and politics], that part of what they were doing was to reunify the country, to show that even during battle there was a bond, and now it is over, so lets, raise a cup and get on with life. I think that in Gordon’s case in particular, it was innocently done, and in good intent. Call it spin if you want, but it did not spin to one side or the other but to the middle.

  3. Agree with the point made above about the scholarship and critical research. This incident illustrates what inevitably happens when one is a known bloviator (such as Gordon or the over-hyped professor from Maine, who apparently conspired in the Appomattox surrender vignette). The proverbial baby flies out the window with the bathwater.

    • Of course, it’s not just the wartime actors “prevaricating through Georgia” (per Castel) who lead us astray, but the modern day writers picking and sorting through the stuff to suit their own views, agendas, preconceptions, literary conceits, etc. I happened to notice last night that Groom’s new Shiloh book recycles Lincoln’s supposed assertion “I can’t spare this man [USG]; he fights” — a tale tracing to Alex McClure that Brooks has shown to be dubious in several publications. But such horses can never be gotten back to the barn, so instead one must view absolutely everything with a grain of salt. CRS

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