An antidote to Easter Bunny history

On Sunday I spoke with a business owner who takes his employees on outings once or twice a year. He had no idea I was interested in Civil War history much less that I was an ACW contrarian.

On Friday, instead of a seminar "where people fall backwards and are caught," as he put it, he took his staff to the nearby Antietam battlefield for a staff ride conducted by the Army War College Foundation (apparently in exchange for a donation to that charity). He couldn't stop talking about it.

As I probed with questions about the tour, each answer surprised me. The guides had an interesting view of the causes of the war that they shared with their audiences. They had a fully developed economic perspective, and their political view of Lincoln was one that a mainstream reader would have found difficult. They offered something like 360 degree views of strategy and tactics deeply intertwined with personalities, political struggles, political economy, and skulduggery. It was an escape from the readymade world of easy answers. I could paraphrase the fascinating specifics but coming from me, it would be third hand stuff.

This War College tour was not the history you get through headphones, my informant told me. "I can't stand Santa Clause history," he said, adding (perhaps unfairly) he would never take a battlefield tour with battlefield park staff. Once you get into that consensus-driven mainstream, that "Easter Bunny" stuff, all the richness and detail is lost to future generations, he told me with great force.

This must be quite a program. In its effect it resembles evangelism for big H History.