James A. Garfield wanted to advance his political career… a brief stint commanding Ohio volunteers followed by an undistinguished term as a Congressman stalled the upstart’s career.
Concluding military service essential to future political ascension…. Garfield used favors of his mentor (and distant cousin) Salmon P. Chase to reenter military service, this time as a General. The Lincoln administration needed an appropriate duty station for the young Ohioan’s “talents.”
Eccentric, brilliant, but irascible… William S. Rosecrans was on Secretary of War Edwin Stanton’s last nerve. Stubborn to a fault, Rosecrans refused to bow to the Administration’s unreasonable timetables. The popular Rosecrans needed to go, but Stanton needed just cause. The cagey Garfield seemed the perfect plant- Rosecrans needed a new Chief-of-Staff- Stanton needed an ally close to the troublesome Commander. The drama was set….
Frank P. Varney, General Grant and the Rewriting of History, California, Savas and Beatty, 2013
A critical examination of Grant’s memoirs and their effects on the historical record.
Professor Frank Varney’s first book is a bold effort to right historical wrongs…. and the wrongs were perpetrated by none other than US Grant. Varney proposes a three volume examination of the inconsistencies, mistakes, and outright lies found in Grant’s widely utilized memoirs. Volume one takes Grant (and his historical defenders) to task for ruining the reputation of Major General William S. Rosecrans. Varney carefully dissects both the historical record and the secondary sources which were deeply influenced by Grant’s account.
“The well of data about Rosecrans has been so tainted that many historians… are simply not motivated to look beyond the traditionally relied-upon sources- the writings of Grant prominent among them.” Varney sums up how Grant’s memoirs have affected Civil War historiography. Researchers simply assume Grant was right- they fail to verify with lesser known primary sources; what source could be more valuable than the man credited as the Union victor? Varney’s research is extensive and provides key insights to the Grant/Rosecrans feud. At the Battles of Iuka and Corinth, Grant was miles from the fighting- his battle reports change over time- and his memoir bears little resemblance to the Official Records. Historians like Steven Woodworth and T. Harry Williams have been complicit in propagating Grant’s distorted account and Varney cites key examples of his peers failing to carry-out the most basic research methodology.
Far from a redemptive piece about Rosecrans… Varney acknowledges the flaws in the man. But, the evidence of tampering and distortion are too extensive to be ignored by the historical community. Rosecrans had his flaws, but Grant’s accounts of the war have forever tarnished a General with widely accepted military skill. Grant didn’t care for his subordinate and Varney skillfully shows how he took credit for victories, exaggerated his own actions, and distorted (even lied) about the performance of others. Rosecrans was the victim of a concerted effort led by Grant- and historians have failed to give a balanced account of this chapter in Civil War history. Hopefully, Professor Varney’s future volumes will be as detailed and insightful as this first edition.
The recent Grant renaissance should be reconsidered.
Historians, politicians, and neo-secessionists who argue that the Civil War… was caused by the Federal government’s manipulation of tariffs are at best terribly deluded, at worst, they are scurrilous ideologues with a shameful political agenda.
A brief history lesson for Tom DiLorenzo, Governor Greg Abbott, President Donald Trump, the Freedom Caucus, Ron and Rand Paul, and any other woefully misguided students of history:
- Article 1, Section 8 of the Federal Constitution- The Congress shall have Power To lay and collect Taxes, Duties, Imposts and Excises, to pay the Debts and provide for the common Defence and general Welfare of the United States……… Really, this should explain it, but secessionists were never concerned with Constitutional restraint.
- The first tariff in our history was signed into law by George Washington on July 4, 1789.
- The Walker Tariff of 1845 slashed duties in place since the Whig’s controlled Congress- A southern coalition pushed for the reduction
- Tariffs were reduced again in 1852 and 1857. The 1857 tariff was only 18%- the lowest since the 18th century.
- The Morrill Tariff of 1861 was not passed until Southerners had already resigned from Congress. During the secession crisis, Southern Senators had blocked the increase. When in place, it raised the duty from 18-36%.
The Civil War was caused by slavery- not tariffs.
Donald Trump continues to display a disturbing ignorance of American history… A recent interview with a friendly reporter on Sirius Radio gave President Trump the opportunity to question the necessity of the Civil War.
Confederates in the attic
“People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”
Look how far we’ve fallen
Slavery, Mr. President– The Rebellious states started the war, Lincoln finished it…. It would be no surprise if Trump’s understanding of Civil War history came from an academic huckster like Tom DiLorenzo. Clearly, Trump is pandering to his ultra-right wing, states rights base.
A time for action…running the gauntlet
David Glasgow Farragut had guts…and it showed in his decision to push past the forts protecting New Orleans. For seven full days, the Union navy had shelled Forts Jackson and St. Philip. Some ships were shaken to pieces by the repeated concussions, well over 15,000 shells were fired. Farragut had enough by April 24, 1862, ordering his ships to steam past the forts at 2a.m. Aggressive action was lacking in the Union war effort through most of 1862. Farragut’s decision was precisely the type Lincoln had been waiting for.
Confederate defenses approaching New Orleans
Farragut’s fleet took damage… but the Confederates had no answer for the boldness of the move. Once past the forts, Farragut’s ships easily defeated a makeshift fleet sent to meet them at the mouth of the harbor. A desperate attempt to set Farragut’s flagship on fire was also stymied and the city was his for the taking. At noon on April 25, 1862, Farragut climbed onto the levee of New Orleans. Four days later, 10,000 Union troops occupied the city.
Forget heroics, it just takes guts