I'm looking at the content of the programming planned for the History Channel's "Civil War Secrets Week" (May 22-May 26) and not seeing many secrets.
Sherman, marching to the sea? Well, his destination was secret in any case.
Wild West technology? I notice that this episode is going to reveal that "There were more than 2,000 Civil War battles fought west of the Mississippi..." - a secret to me.
"Battlefield Detectives: Antietam (May 25 at 8 pm): Experts from the fields of archaeology, geology, weapons technology, and pathology investigate this uniquely horrific moment in American history-the bloodiest single day in the Civil War."
And so it goes.
Unfortunately, this kind of programming cloaks events in hype and nonsense: "General William T. Sherman launched a military campaign with the objective to destroy the Confederate's infrastructure and ability to make war." I think that's an after-the-fact rationalization. Rather, the march seemed intended by Sherman to be a psychological warfare stunt to discredit the Davis government and hurt Southern war will.
"He [Sherman] is considered today to be one of the foremost architects of modern warfare." We see this claim often attached to that march.
But I was in the Elizabethtown (Kentucky) museum in the fall of 1986, far from the sea, and read a touching letter there by one of the local farmers to distant relatives. She was commenting on the contending armies criss-crossing her neighborhood, destroying structures, and plundering. Her frame of reference was Germany in the Thirty Years War, almost 250 years earlier.
Unlike Sherman's victims, this Elizabethtown woman had (at the time of writing in 1863) endured three "marches to the sea." There were no exclamations of novelty in her mail. This was the Thirty Years War of her upbringing, of her Protestant imagination.
This post is overkill, I admit it, but a Civil War reader can go mad looking at history packaged by television producers and museum curators. Let me propose my own "Secrets" programming ideas:
* The secret of keeping a farm family alive with the father at the front for years, with what little pay might be sent home, amidst raging inflation and shortages.
* The secret destiny of thousands of Civil War orphans.
* The secret of famous personalities, like Alfred Pleasanton, dying in utter poverty.
* The secret of surviving as a propertyless freed slave in a war zone.
* The secret Cotton trading papers issued by Lincoln.
* The secret fortunes made in the North by trading with the South.
* The secret life of thousands of convalescents who never returned to their units.
* An infantryman' secrets for avoiding combat when a battle breaks out.
* The secret of the muster roll - how absentees get paid every month.
These are just a few secrets that I'd like to learn more about, and I'd even suffer TV writers and producers to do so.