Saturday, November 22, 2014

Gates at Camden: Why I have not been blogging but instead trying to become a boy historian

  • In the JOURNAL OF THE AMERICAN REVOLUTION there is this very interesting piece by Wayne Lynch from last April, "Winner or Runner: Gates at Camden." I read it last night and decided it was history from the top down because it quoted Hamilton and Jefferson but not the pension applications of the men who had served (and often fled) at Camden, South Carolina. I am so enthralled with Will Graves's and C. Leon Harris's free, searchable SOUTHERN CAMPAIGNS site, transcriptions of pension applications of aged Revolutionary veterans, mainly under the 1832 law, that I knew Lynch had given me a stay-at-home assignment to be Thankful for. I became "enthralled" (I used that word deliberately, earlier) on first looking at applications by GGGGG and GGGG Grandfathers. How could you not love a man who applied for his pension at 90, and got it? How could you not love blinking at Major Puriegood in Grandpa's application (an officer recorded nowhere else) and after much SEARCHING in the incredibly searchable site realize that whatever Grandpa said and whatever the drunken boorish scrivener thought he said, the name was Farragut, as in George, father later on of David, as several other applicants' wild attempts at spelling the name showed, once searched. Searching with someone else having done the work of transcribing--none of that burrowing all by myself on Melville for decades! This is what I used to call looking for captive textual variants. Shooting fish in a barrel: Graves and Harris have caught the fish and filled a vat as big as the Monterey aquarium. So now I have to spend a few days on how the men remember Camden. What a fate.

      What I posted on JAR last night:

    By coincidence JAR is now considering my “John Butler’s ‘Want of Good Generalship’” in which I use aged veterans’ recollections in the SOUTHERN CAMPAIGNS pension applications to try to write a piece of history from the “bottom-up,” as JD Lewis says. I was going to start writing something else, actually have an opening paragraph, but now I have to spend some time seeing what the men say about Gates at Camden. I already know they won’t say “coward,” because I have searched that word on Graves’s and Harris’s great site. The point of the Butler piece is to encourage people to use the pension applications, so I don’t have any choice. I have to look. I will come up for air in a few days, and I may not have found anything worth talking about. But I have to look.

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