In today’s mail I received a long apologetic letter from the fellow who had previously accused co-author Eric Wittenberg and I of using an unpublished manuscript without permission as a source for one of our recent magazine articles. I had posted some detail of the situation previously.
Eric and I didn’t have a clue what type of response we would receive from our accuser until now. I now have to hand it to this guy – he swallowed his pride, and realized that his accusations were completely unfounded and easily disproven. Here’s a few excerpts from his reply:
I thank you for the letter from you and Mr. Wittenberg dated February 2, 2007 which has more than adequately put to rest my concerns relative to the sources of your material used in the February 2007 Civil War Times article and your book… The action at Westminster has not been an incident that has attracted the attention of researchers up to this point. Therefore, I apologize for perhaps naturally overreacting to seeing such detail appear in the Civil War Times article…. Now that two cavalry authorities such as you and Mr. Wittenberg have made Westminster a “creditable” action in the Gettysburg Campaign, it will perhaps receive the long-overdue attention it deserves… In summation, I wish you and Mr. Wittenberg all the best with your book, and trust that all of our differences are behind us.
As I said, I honor and respect the guy for standing up and so quickly writing us back, admitting that he jumped the gun. As we had told him in our response to his accusations, if he had simply looked at the footnotes in our book (on which the CWT article was based) he would have seen that we used the original sources instead of someone else’s writing of the material.
The situation is a good lesson for all of us, and I admit I also take some learnin’ from it – temper your first reaction in such a case, and investigate all the evidence before going off the handle and accusing someone of, for instance, theft of your intellectual property. Accusations of theft and plagiarism in today’s writing world is very serious business – it can ruin the careers of writers and historians, and therefore should never be slung around flippantly. That was the reason why, knowing that we were innocent, Eric and I were so stern in our reply to this fellow.
In the end, it all worked out, we received the apology we deserved, and everyone takes away something positive from it. Although the journey can be difficult and upsetting, often the destination makes it all worth it and imparts a valuable lesson on many levels.