Do Civil War Historians resemble their subjects?

It has been said, and I think truly so, that long married couples come to resemble one another, just as a dog and his master do. I have long wondered whether the same might be true of historians of the Civil War and some of the subjects they study.

I first noticed this some years back, when I worked at Rutledge Hill Press and was assisting the editor of Civil War Journal with some photo research. At that time the History Channel had the successful series Civil War Journal airing—this was in the era when they produced legitimate history shows and not the bogus “aliens from outer space invented everything” shows that now pass for their history programming—and Rutledge Hill Press was doing the print version. Of course the show had some very distinguished historians working for it and doing on-air commentary. Among them were Brian Pohanka and William C. Davis, eloquent spokesmen and excellent historians and to the best of my knowledge, neither one has asserted that little green men from mars invented either the pyramids, the steam engine or the repeating rifle.

Perhaps it is just my own imagining, but at that time it struck me very strongly that Pohanka strongly resembles General John Gordon, the notable Confederate commander, whose memoirs I have since mined for quotes for at least one of my books and hopefully for more in the future.  Admittedly, Brian Pohanka loved to go Zou-Zou on occasion, dressing up as an officer of the 5th New York Zouaves; but nonetheless, the resemblance to the Southern general is remarkable.  Appended below I show the two men side by side (or as they say in Louisiana, side by each):

Brian C. Pohanka, noted Civil War historian and author, featured on Civil War Journal on television.

Brian C. Pohanka, noted Civil War historian and author, featured on Civil War Journal on television.

General John B. Gordon, Southern leader in war and peace.

General John B. Gordon, Southern leader in war and peace.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Professor William C. Davis, to my eyes, also bears a resemblance, perhaps not as strong as in Pohanka’s case, to General Ulysses S. Grant. To be sure, Davis has only a mustache and not the full beard; but his broad face, his bulldog countenance and general facial features could easily pass for grant were a television make-up expert to do but a little tinkering. Moreover, both Grant and Davis are Missouri men, although Grant by marriage rather than birth. Nonetheless, I think there is a resemblance here:

Professor William C. Davis is a well known historian and Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.

Professor William C. Davis is a well known historian and Executive Director of the Virginia Center for Civil War Studies.

Grant in the field late in the war.  His bulldog visage here is apparent in this photo.

Grant in the field late in the war. His bulldog visage is apparent in this photo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Some fellow enthusiasts of the Late Unpleasantness (aka The War of the Rebellion, or the War of Northern Aggression, depending on your point of view) out there may have noticed similar similarities to Civil War historians and Civil War leaders.  If so, let me know and I would be glad to add them to the list.

Civil War historian and author Brian C. Pohanka going Zou-Zou at a reenactment.

Civil War historian and author Brian C. Pohanka going Zou-Zou at a reenactment.

For further reading about Grant and his sometimes uncanny experiences, read Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War.

As for the Gordon quote mentioned above, I originally used it in an article about Civil War presentiments, but as that has yet to be published and the Lincoln book is already out, see The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln. Happy reading.

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About Christopher Coleman

I am an author, lecturer, and sometime instructor. My interests span a variety of subjects, including Southern tales of the supernatural, American history and folklore, military history in general, as well as archaeology, anthropology, plus various and sundry things that go bump in the night. I currently have six books in print: Strange Tales of the Dark and Bloody Ground, Ghosts and Haunts of the Civil War, Dixie Spirits, Ghosts and Haunts of Tennessee and The Paranormal Presidency of Abraham Lincoln, a factual history of some more esoteric--and hitherto overlooked--aspects the sixteenth President. My book is Ambrose Bierce and the Period of Honorable Strife, published in hardcover by the University of Tennessee Press and chronicling the wartime experiences of young Ambrose Bierce, noted American author. Bierce has been called many things by many people, but idealist, hero and patriot are terms that should be added to the list after reading this book. I am currently at work on several projects, some dealing with the American experience but also several fiction and non-fiction works looking into the Age of Arthur.
This entry was posted in Brian C. Pohanka, Civil War Historians, Civil War History, Civil War Leaders, General John Gordon CSA, The American Civil War, Ulysses S. Grant, William C. Davis and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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