Letters to the Editor

The Virginia Magazine of History and Biography, Summer 1996 | Go to article overview

Letters to the Editor


To the Editor:

As one who shared something of William A. Tidwell's professional experience and who has spent countless hours arguing the interpretation of facts with him, may I express disappointment with Thomas R. Turner's review of Tidwell's April '65: Confederate Covert Action in the American Civil War (Kent, Ohio, and London, 1995), in the Virginia Magazine of History and Biography 103 (1995): 480-81. When a medical doctor, for example, turns to a historical personage or event and applies his professional knowledge and experience, historians often see new light shed on a perplexing subject (e.g., the "medical team" called upon by James I. Robertson, Jr., in his highly satisfactory explanation of the behavior of A. P. Hill in General A. P. Hill: The Story of a Confederate Warrior [New York, 1987]). But when a professional intelligence officer has the temerity to apply his knowledge and experience, it can be so easily dismissed as selective and subjective by an academically trained historian who lacks that peculiar background. As a result, he has difficulty following "the logic trail" that guides the professional intelligence officer. This produces an inherent skepticism that can blind one to "the facts of the matter." I believe such is the case with Turner and his review: Being "troubled" with Tidwell's thesis, as he construes it, Turner seems predisposed to dismiss it as preposterous, in the category of "conspiracy theorists."

Unlike the lawyer, the professional intelligence officer does not have to "prove it in court." Unlike the professional historian, he does not have to have incontrovertible (usually meaning documentary) evidence for all aspects of his conclusions. His work (usually sensitive to timeliness and impatient "consumers") requires him to be alert to patterns, to be able to detect the mosaic without all of its pieces (or, like the archaeologist, to reconstruct the pot without all of the shards). To me, this is the strengthand, yes, the weakness-of what Tidwell is doing. He aids history by saying, "Based upon my professional background and experience, I detect" so-and-so. Given the unique contribution of his research and perspective (and the absence of comparable study of the opposing chief executive), Tidwell's "thesis" deserves more careful consideration than it has received in some circles, especially those who think that Tidwell is projecting backward on innocent statesmen and soldiers ideas that are strictly modern. Ironically, this Texan from Virginia roots is tending to "prove" what Union authorities at the time (e.g., Edwin Stanton and Joseph Holt) believed but could not readily prove under the pressures of the moment. Let me illustrate from Turner's review:

1. Tidwell never suggests, as Turner writes, that "the object of the 1864 Kilpatrick-Dahlgren raid on Richmond was to murder Jefferson Davis" (p. 480). At best, he would say "an" object. Freeing (and unleashing on Richmond) pent-up prisoners of war was certainly a prime objective.

This does not rest simply on the Dahlgren papers but is substantiated by evidence of an earlier, abortive (and, I suspect, overlooked) Wistar raid, sanctioned by Lincoln and Stanton. (See Joseph George, Jr., "`Black Flag Warfare': Lincoln and the Raids Against Richmond and Jefferson Davis," Pennsylvania Magazine of History and Biography 115 [1991]: 291-318, cited by Tidwell in April '65, p. 224 n. 13.)

2. The discovery, first noted in Come Retribution: The Confederate Secret Service and the Assassination of Lincoln (Jackson and London, 1988), of the American way of handling covert funding at the level of chief executive is substantiated in the recent publication of volume 8 of The Papers of Jefferson Davis by a note written by Mr. Davis himself to a State Department official: "The President cannot . . . draw warrants for money, except in the case of secret service as it is called and then he is bound to the strictest attention as the payments are made on his sole authority" (Haskell M. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Letters to the Editor
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.