Perhaps this reticence stems from her belief that historians can never know what happened in the past because individual recollections of it are not reliable."Even the best scholar," she writes, "could not tell the whole story.
Perhaps this reticence stems from her belief that historians can never know what happened in the past because individual recollections of it are not reliable."Even the best scholar," she writes, "could not tell the whole story.The selectivity of the soldiers' memories had made this impossible" (p. Reardon has chosen not to sift through the conflicting testimony about Pickett's Charge to come up with a plausible scenario for the events of July 3, 1863, based on a preponderance of the historical evidence.
National reconciliation is the underlying subject of chapters four and five.
In "Binding the Wounds of War," Reardon recounts the story of a small 1887 battlefield reunion between survivors of Pickett's Division and members of the Philadelphia Brigade.
Contending that by this date memory had thoroughly won out over historical accuracy, Reardon laments the fact that in popular opinion Virginia alone received credit for the glorious defeat that was Pickett's Charge.
As for public perceptions of the larger conflict, Reardon readily accepts the proposition that sectional strife had been completely buried by 1913, concurring with the observation of one attendee that "the celebration 'forged the last link in the reunion of the North and the South, and wiped out the last remnant of bitterness and hostile feeling'" (p. In her epilogue, Reardon ruefully observes that at Gettysburg today "the memory of Pickett's Charge is up for sale" (p. A tour of latter-day souvenir stands unsurprisingly verifies Reardon's general thesis: images of Virginians are available everywhere, but few North Carolinians are to be found.
Preoccupied during the 1880s with how posterity would recall their own actions, Reardon writes, northern veterans "rediscovered a serious interest in the tactical details of the Union defense" (p. Confederates, too, were interested in the details of the fighting, battling within their ranks about which regiments had earned glory on the field.
In chapters six and seven, Reardon examines the impassioned efforts of North Carolinians to set the historical record straight about their valiant participation in Pickett's Charge.
Where history cannot be pinned down, however, memory is somewhat easier to discern: after Gettysburg, the Union survivors savored their victory and the Confederates looked for an explanation for their defeat.
Reardon's second and third chapters describe newspaper and historical accounts of Pickett's Charge.
Often, though, Reardon is content to accept her evidence at face value and dig no further.
In her discussion of the 1887 Gettysburg reunion between Pickett's Division and the Philadelphia Brigade, for example, Reardon is quick to hear heartfelt reconciliation in the words of the veterans who met on the historic field.