Saturday, July 19, 2008

In Defense of Michael R. Bradley, Ph.D.

Richard G. Williams, Jr.
"From Virginia sprung the Southern Mind, a mind which favoured the local community, Burkean conservatism, the folkways of ancestors, an unwavering orthodox Christian faith." ~ Alphonse Vinh
I've recently read several attacks on the work of Dr. Michael R. Bradley, who wrote a piece in a recent issue of North and South Magazine. The article was titled "In the Crosshairs" and focused on the Union army's treatment of Southern civilians during the Civil War. Personally, I found the article well-written, well-researched, interesting, and a needed reminder that the Union army was not as virtuous as many of the South's detractors would like for all of us to believe. Most of the criticism is coming from the predictable quarters, but the ones I've read have failed to mention (Intentionally?) Bradley's *credentials and other work. Bradley received a master's degree and a Ph.D. in history from Vanderbilt University and taught American history for 36 years at Motlow State Community College in Tennessee. He's written a number of books on the South and the Civil War; which is part of the reason for this post.

I was not familiar with Bradley's work or credentials until I recently picked up a complimentary copy of a book that was sent to me by the Civil War Preservation Trust last year when I renewed my membership. The book was authored by Bradley and is titled, It Happened in the Civil War. It is a collection of stories written in a popular style. The book was published for the CWPT, bears their name, and notes that it is a "Battlefield Preservation Edition." I assume this edition was used for fund raising and membership drives at one time.

I write all of this in defense of Bradley. It seems that any time someone writes anything that fails to portray the South and Southerners in the worst possible light--and the North and Northerners in the best possible light--there is a coordinated effort to discredit and impugn them, even referring to such individuals as "dangerous" and/or not worth reading. I know this from personal experience and could cite dozens of other examples. Failing to regurgitate the establishment's official story line (even when there exists reams of evidence to the contrary) and follow the approved template will bring down the scorn of the academic elites. It's really getting kind of boring and oh so predictable.

Typically, these "critiques" are little more than politically motivated ad hominem attacks and the vast majority don't warrant a response. But I wanted to bring this particular one regarding Bradley up due to it being a recent issue and for the reasons stated above. Academically, Bradley certainly has the credentials to hold his own with other CW historians and the fact that the CWPT would put their stamp of approval on one of his books gives further proof of his "worthiness" as a professional historian. I also understand that Keith Poulter, editor of NS, will be including Dr. Bradley in some future discussion and articles. I look forward to his contributions.

Perhaps some of these criticisms were motivated by a bit of jealousy?

*In addition, Bradley has been a fellow with the National Endowment for the Humanities and was also a National Science Foundation Fellow. Bradley is the recipient of the Jefferson Davis Medal in Southern History and is a member of the Southern Historical Association, the American Society of Church History, the American Association of University Professors, the Great Smoky Mountains Natural History Association, and the Society for Military History.

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