Historiography – George B. McClellan

 

Examine how McPherson in Ordeal by Fire: The Civil War and Reconstruction, has generally treated that figure. Use your notes and the index in the back of the text to focus your research.
Review the major events related to the person selected and corresponding description(s), depictions and incidents listed in the index. For each, examine the notes, footnotes and references McPherson has cited, in order to determine:
?What primary and secondary source material did he use? (Primary source material is original documentation created by an eyewitness, participant or author of an original document. Secondary source materials are those created by newspaper accounts developed from interviews, commentary by others on an event or person, books/articles/papers written by anyone who was not a participant in the event or is not autobiographic.)
?Are there hints about any method that he may have used to shape the information?
?What was the context of the incident(s)? Did McPherson keep that context clear ? allowing the events/persons to “speak” for themselves?
?Determine what materials were primary sources (that is, eyewitnesses’ statements, personal accounts) and which were secondary (that is, accounts by others who were not participants).
?If possible review the original material, particularly the Official Records. The Official Records of the Civil War, which can be electronically word searched and examined at:https://cdl.library.cornell.edu/moa/browse.monographs/waro.html
?Examine two to three other sources concerning the selected figure, looking for differing opinions, accounts, or depictions, in opposition or support of McPherson’s interpretation. Then, and explain the differences or corroboration. You should look beyond Wikipedia, and not use it as one of the two to three sources consulted.
As a result of the research and reading, you should be able to produce a paper which explains briefly the nature of the character examined, how the person has been depicted by McPherson and others, and give an informed opinion as to why or how those depictions were developed, and how they deviate/comply with the primary source material.
If you choose Lincoln, Davis, Lee or McClellan, be selective in determining how far you would take the subject. Those four figures loom large in the text and in the Civil War, and may present a larger project than you care to do or have time to produce. If you have questions, please contact your instructor for suggestions about narrowing or approaching the subject in a practical manner. For example, if examining Lincoln, you might select one of the categories listed by McPherson in the index, such as Lincoln ? “as commander in chief” and focus only upon the data used to shape the presentation in that selection of references from the McPherson text.
The paper (not including the cover page and references) should be a minimum of 2,000 words in length, double spaced in 12 point Arial font. Sources should be cited in either APA or Chicago/Turabian format.

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