…I decided to delete everything here dealing with the Gallagher issue after sleeping (often fitfully) on the whole thing.
Like many controversial issues I get involved in, I will admit things got pretty quickly out of hand. And I’ll admit my blame in that. I’ve always been a debater and quick to defend myself. Not many people know, but back in my senior year in High School in 1983, I was named the #2 rank in debate in the United States. That after 3 years of also being nationally ranked. Probably shoulda been a lawyer, maybe, but my penchant for expressing myself about things I’m passionate about has definitely been one of the things I bring to my writing.
Anyway, I’ll only speak for myself in this latest issue. Did I say some stupid things I’d rather take back? You betcha. I fear that even relationships among us bloggers, writers, historians, students, and readers have been irreparably harmed, and no one – not me, Eric, Gallagher, or anyone else ever wants that to happen.
I deservedly had some of my own comments thrown back in my face. If you are going to withstand criticism, and take part in debate, you have to be able to tolerate that and deal with it. David Woodbury recently commented to me, and rightly so, that some of my very own recent comments mirrored that which I find so distasteful about Gallagher’s. Thank you, Dave – you were quite right.
The silver lining in this whole recent mess (there’s always a silver lining, ain’t there!) is that all of this proves there’s passion in the world of the American Civil War. Thank you, God, for that. If there weren’t it would mean it were dying on the vine like some claim. There’s still passion. It’s our passion that motivates us to read, study, learn, and write in the first place. Whoever says that interest in the details of this great conflict need only consider what took place the last few days. Just a few words by one historian can ignite a firestorm of comments of all types.
I also realize that at the same time, Professor Gallagher deserves the utmost respect through the process, which is no less than I’d want for myself. I’ve said some things in the heat of that passion that I really don’t think I’d want directed at me if I were in his shoes. We should give him the benefit of the doubt that surely he didn’t mean to hurt anyone by what he said – he was expressing his opinion like we all do every day. I don’t agree with that opinion – in fact, I find them to be possibly injurious to the genre – but he should be personally respected and nothing less.
Beyond just the few dozen or so of us that participated in this discussion, I’m quite certain that there are hundreds, if not thousands, of our readers who watched this whole thing take place among us with utter dismay. Let’s admit – most of our readers don’t give a hoot about what just took place. They come to our blogs, our websites, and read our writing hoping to learn something. I hope I didn’t lose too many of mine, and if anything I said offended you personally, I truly apologize. Chalk it up to defensive passion.
We all deserve respect. Eric deserves respect for the passion he displayed, as does everyone who supported us and hammered us. Respect is a two-way street.
We two, with our publisher, just submitted our response letter to Civil War Times. As I said, it’s respectful to all parties, and reflects how this debate should have proceeded, I think. Gallagher should be given the chance to respond to it – rather than be subjected to the admitted shots I took at him. The former is how dignified debate takes place, the latter… well… that’s how wars start, ain’t it?
So I’ve cleansed this blog of everything on this subject up to now. So I apologize to those folks and their blogs that now have several dead links. But since our response letter reflects how we really feel, and how we recognize such debate should respectfully proceed (and because I’m Boss around here!) I blew them away. I’d rather be judged by the content of that letter than some less judicious comments I’ve made along the way.
And if nothing else, I can blame my temper on the end of the Sopranos. I still haven’t gotten over that one 🙂