He writes: "Some years ago, historian Michael C.C. Adams wrote, in a review of Ernest B. Furgurson's Chancellorsville, The Souls of the Brave:
It is peculiar that Civil War writing does not seem to be held to the same scholarly standards as other areas of the discipline, where knowledge of recent works is expected and where detailed reference to sources is essential. It is almost as though the war functions as folklore, the epic tradition of male culture, much as Beowulf and Roland functioned for the warriors clustered in the mead hall. What matters is a rattling good accounting of the grand old story rather than a serious contribution to historical understanding. [The American Historical Review, Vol. 98, No. 5. (Dec., 1993), p. 1687. ]That was Grimsley quoting Adams - and readers of this blog have seen those sentiments here before. Grimsley:
I would say that Adams got it absolutely right, not just for Civil War history but for much of military history. And I think he is correct to imply that in important ways this hobbles the field. But I think the way out is not to ridicule what might be called the mythic dimension of military history but to give it respectful attention.
"Beowulf and Roland functioned for the warriors clustered in the mead hall." In what way? To call attention to the warrior ethos, to gird them to plunge into battle, to confront the foe, to live life courageously and look death in the face.
There must be, I think, an equivalent function for the warrior ethos in the life of the 400-pound man I saw at the book store. In your life. My life. All of us.
Beautifully expressed. Let me take a day off from my usual carping to allow this point to stand.