The Historical/Hysterical Literacy of Political Figures

I’m curious about something.

Over the last month there had been a great deal of news coverage about several prominent political figures’ mangling of basic historical facts.  There’s no need to go into detail about it here.  There’s no need to go after specific individuals (and I’d appreciate those who comment not to use that opportunity to vent about their personal politics).  Rather, I want to pose a question (with a follow-up):

Does it really matter to you whether political figures have a sound understanding of history?  Why?

Play nice.

Cold Harbor Myths

Today is the 147th anniversary of the battle of Cold Harbor … specifically the day when a Union assault made by three infantry corps suffered a bloody repulse as well-protected Confederates cut down the attackers.  It was a decided defeat, but far from a decisive one.  And yet it sticks in people’s minds as emblematic of the generalship of Ulysses S. Grant.  After all, what better evidence is there that Grant was a butcher when the mindless frontal assault he ordered resulted in 7,000 men falling inside of thirty minutes, and then he left the wounded out there to die rather than to admit defeat and ask for a truce to take care of the wounded and bury the dead?  Oh, and then there are the self-fashioned dog tags, and the stories of men refusing to attack again, and so on, including the diary entry, “June 3. Cold Harbor. I was killed.”

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