One of the strangest sensations you or I will ever have as Civil War history readers involves detecting a certain scholarship practice that is so weird - and so immoral - that it has no name.

I call it "reversing a citation" or "flipping a citation." This reversing or flipping involves an author linking a statement to a source whose meaning is the mirror image of what the author is asserting. For example, imagine I say:

General Franklin arrived at the Antietam battlefield with 10,900 combat-ready men (Note 1).

You flip to Note 1 and read: "Battles and Leaders of the Civil War, page X."

You pick up Battles and Leaders, find page X, and find nothing that attaches to the number 10,900. Instead, you find a narrative by Franklin about arriving on the battlefield at Antietam with 6,000 exhausted men.

Your author has flipped or reversed the citation. The source makes the point that Franklin arrived with fewer, more tired men than the author wishes to allow. Your author wishes Franklin to arrive with many men, full of fight. He has compelled Franklin to testify against himself and to lie in court doing so!

I'll give an ACW example or two of this in the next few days. in general, the more thesis-driven an historian is, the more of this you find.

For a nice warm-up drill showing a shockingly huge number of reversals, astound yourself with this posting by Prof. Clayton Cramer on Prof. Michael Bellesisle's use of sources. The number of flips exceeds anything I've seen in a pop history, ACW or otherwise. For other sins Cramer finds in Bellesiles (that we will examine in the ACW corner) see this piece, too.