A Mistake Worth Making
Fri Jul 25 22:29:22 2008
“According to this method, which is called the “fog-of-war” technique by military historian, the object is to help the reader to find a rapport with Lee by providing a common bond of collective ignorance. It is, paradoxically, an effort to refine the clarity of our understanding of Lee by experiencing his own confusion. But this method, I think, is a mistake … there is an irretrievable artificiality which cannot be overcome. Moreover, we possess many advantages in retrospect that ought not be relinquished.” David Hackett Fischer, Historians’ Fallacies pp.212-3
Being IN a state of mind and UNDERSTANDING a state of mind are two different things. While I can agree with Fischer that Douglas Southall Freeman’s biography R. E. Lee cannot recreate Lee’s state of mind in a contemporary reader, the possibility that Freeman’s approach can help a contemporary reader to better understand Lee’s perspective is very appealing to me. It may not have been his intention but Fischer’s comments have motivated me to look for Freeman’s book on Lee. I thought his biography of Washington was excellent.