I’ve been reading some of the books in the battle series published by Emerging Civil War. So far, I’ve read about Shiloh (1862), Gettysburg (1863), and the Battle of the Wilderness (1864). It was while reading this third one that the author mentioned something as almost an offhand comment that threw me – and upended something I believed for 50 years.
The book was Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, May 5-7, 1864 by Chris Mackowski, but the comment was about Gettysburg. At the time of the battle in 1863, he said, “No one recognized Gettysburg as anything other than a setback, and certainly no one looked at it as the ‘High Water Mark of the Confederacy.’”
How it gained that reputation was due to a marketing-savvy photographer, lithographer, and Gettysburg historian named John Badger Bachelder, who was a tireless promoter of the Gettysburg Battlefield and worked to promote the site as a tourist destination.
In other words, the whole idea of Gettysburg as the turning point in the Civil War came from a promoter for the battlefield, decades after the battle was fought.
To continue reading, please see my post today at Dancing Priest.
Painting: Battle of Gettysburg by Thure de Thulstrap.