|Colonel Emerson Opdycke|
It’s a strange thing, to come to know someone through their personal letters a hundred and fifty years after the events they describe. It’s a one-way relationship, obviously, but a relationship all the same. I was putting words in Emerson’s mouth, thoughts in his mind. I could reasonably argue that these were in character as I had read his letters but it’s still an imposition. And then I started to discover that these cast iron letters, often written the day after a battle were sometimes wrong, at least when compared to the accepted historical record. It comes back to Hilary, ‘the evidence of fallible and biased witnesses…’. The official military history of the battles of the civil war is only a distillation of personal accounts, but imagine the chaos in which those accounts were born. Emerson’s version of events often contradicts what later became accepted truth. Should I go against Emerson’s letters or against the official history? Either way I’m tampering with one or other version of the truth. That’s the thing about history, it doesn’t always agree with itself.
|Colonel Emerson Opdycke grave.|