For Your Sunday Reading

A couple of articles that TOCWOC readers might enjoy.

Joe Bilby continues his “Guns of” series for American Rifleman with “The Guns of Gettysburg.” If you want to know who shot who with what, Joe’s your man. Gettysburg was probably the first major battle anywhere where both sides were armed almost entirely with rifles.

In the same issue is an article on the American Long Rifle by former Seal Chris Kyle, including a look at rifleman Timothy Murphy.

The online Journal of the American Revolution looks, as you’d expect, primarily at that conflict.

Is the story of rifleman Timothy Murphy just a myth? Obviously someone shot General Simon Frazier at Bemis Heights, but who?

Just how inaccurate were those smoothbore flint-lock muskets?

How long ago were gunmakers mounting telescopes on firearms? At least as far back as the beginning of the revolution, when Bostonian Charles Wilson Peale tried it.

Monday update: Did election fraud keep Lincoln in office? While electoral chicanery was common in the 19th Century (an honest politician was defined as one who would stay bought) Lincoln did elevate things to a new level by using the military at the polls. I always thought this should get more attention. Fleming’s book sounds quite interesting.

In a related article historian Philip Magness looks at how Lincoln is remembered and why everyone seems so anxious to enlist Honest Abe’s ghost to their cause.

A casual observer might wonder why a president who died almost a century and a half ago is the subject of such divergent and heated editorializing. Lincoln’s central place in the pantheon of American civic religion offers one explanation. But the deeper problem is that politicized history, whether laudatory or disparaging, typically makes for bad history, because it incentivizes an evidentiary technique that seeks out confirmation for a preconceived position or argument. Pundits latch on to a Lincolnian program as a panacea for modern political maladies left and right. Historical knowledge in turn suffers as an immensely complicated figure during an irreducibly complex war becomes a shallow stand-in for political scorekeeping.



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