General Grant and the Rewriting of History

How the Destruction of General William S. Rosencrans Influenced Our Understanding of the Civil War

Like other memoir writers, Ulysses Simpson Grant set out to control how we would remember the Civil War, and in large measure he succeeded. As a result, our understanding of much of the war is flawed and should be rethought. Although there is much worth noting in his writings, we need to look again at our blind acceptance of certain historical “truths”…For us to uncritically accept his evaluations of the men with whom he served, and then to use those evaluations as the foundation upon which we develop Civil War history, does them, and us, a disservice. — Frank P. Varney

Our September speaker, Frank P. Varney, will be discussing the results of his research into General Grant and how it altered the way he viewed the Civil War. Varney will be looking at the truth behind some of the commonly-accepted myths of the Civil War, as well as how we got to the point where much of what we thought we know turns out to be wrong.

After 22 years in the non-academic world, including stints with three huge multi-national corporations, Varney returned to college to pursue his lifelong dream of becoming a teacher. The road wound up taking him to Cornell for his Ph.D., followed by a year in New Jersey at William Paterson University as a visiting Assistant Professor. He then moved to Dickinson State University in North Dakota, where he has been for the past six years. Varney teaches US and Classical history, and for the last two years was also the director of the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program. He has recently stepped down from that post in order to spend more time in the classroom and less time in meetings. Varney was promoted to Associate Professor and granted tenure last year. He does a significant amount of public speaking and has been taking students to Gettysburg and other historical sites for the past 15 years. Varney is currently developing a course to be taught on-site at Gettysburg, and will be doing the same for an on-site course at Chickamauga.

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