You all know by now that the August Issue – aka the Civil War issue – has hit the web to great fanfare. Well, the September issue is set to go and is looking just incredible. Here’s a little teaser. What can the cancelled checks of Henry Clay Folger, the president of Standard Oil and avid collector of Shakespeare, tell us about the man and his times? Well…you can find out next month. How about the Atomic Energy Commission and nuclear testing in the 1950s? There might be more to the story than you think. But again, you’ll have to wait until next month. And you know what else? The issue will feature some great material on World War II, including a very powerful collection of letters written by a Navy aviator who fought at the Battle of Midway and a piece on WWII reenacting discussing issues such as ideological motivations and educational benefits. But like I said…next month.
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From time to time, as you all by now surely know, I ask some sort of little question on Twitter to get the ball rolling toward a conversation. Recently I asked the hypothetical: “Who would you rather have on your side, Grant or Lee…and why?” Kind of a silly question of course, since there are so many other factors to consider when it comes to victory and defeat, but my point was to get people talking about the military prowess of each commander.
The most interesting thing happened. The votes were unanimously cast for Ulysses S. Grant. This surprised me a little – the Twitter universes is a big place, and surely there have to be some Lee fans out there. But not this time.
A number of things could explain this. One, we are looking at these two men retrospectively and well, we know who won. So yes, we all like to pick a winner.
But I think there is more to it than that. Answers indicate that Lee was overrated both in his time and by subsequent generations…that he was too audacious and unnecessarily bled his army to defeat. Grant, on the other hand, masterfully used the resources that those before him did (or could) not. This suggests to me that myths surrounding both men have changed drastically over the last several decades.
Others suggested that northern leaning sentiment is slowly taking over the Internet – that perhaps a less technologically savvy older generation favors the Lee camp and thus doesn’t really use social media platforms to speak their minds. I’m not sure if I agree with this – I have seen plenty of web-based pro-Confederate groups who maintain active forums declaring the many virtues of their beloved Robert E. Lee.
At least one person figured that I might have driven the pro-Lee crew away and they just did not participate. After all, besides being a “Yankee metrosexual wearing purple sunglasses” I am also on record as favoring the Union cause…maybe I was just baiting them. (I wasn’t. I am also on record as stating that I think RE Lee was a hell of a soldier)
I’ll give the Lee crew a chance to weigh in here. But as it stands so far – Grant is a clear winner in the “who would you rather have on your side” contest.