Apology received

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a long apologetic letter from the fellow who had previously accused co-author Eric Wittenberg and I of using an unpublished manuscript without permission as a source for one of our recent magazine articles.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.

Published in: on February 12, 2007 at 12:28 pm  Comments (3)  

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3 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. JD:

    Very interesting conclusion to this matter. And I agree, this gentleman is due the respect you give him for not making excuses for his mistake. Your last paragraph and wise comments reminded me of Jackson’s response to a gentleman who had threatened him with prosecution over Jackson’s black Sunday school class. Years after the incident, Jackson’s accuser recalled the event:

    “I had commenced writing it, [apology] and when half written I heard a tap at my office door, when Major Jackson stepped in, saying, “Mr. Davidson, I am afraid I wounded your feelings this evening. I have called to apologize to you.” “No Major,” I replied, “no apology from you to me. I am now writing my apology to you.”
    He remained for more than half an hour conversing with me, and when he left he said in these words: “Mr. Davidson, these are the things that bring men together and make them know each other the better.”

  2. Thanks, Richard. We’re very happy with his reply and apology. He’s learned the most important lesson of all, but as I said we all can take away some good from this.

    J.D.

  3. I am glad that this has been resolved.

    Congratulations on taking the high road.


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