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Historical Controversies: Corrections and Qualifications

  • Introduction to the Civil War
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12/31/2018Chris Calton

In the process of researching, writing, and recording a weekly podcast, there is no doubt that I am going to make mistakes from time to time. Because I try to record well in advance of the airing of a specific episode, it is not logistically practical for me to try to make the corrections in later episodes, so instead, I will keep a running list of episode corrections and qualifications here. Some of these corrections were pointed out by listeners, and I welcome comments pointing out any details I get wrong, though if I can’t quickly confirm the correction, I will prefer to see a source for the claim.

Season 2, Episode 1 – The March to America’s Civil War

I refer to the “destruction of the first party-system,” when I meant to say “second party-system.” In the episode on the Election of 1856, I give a correct account of the party-system changes.

Season 2, Episode 13 – Filibuster in Cuba, Part 2

I refer to William Crittenden as both the son and nephew of Attorney General John J. Crittenden at different points in the episode. He was the nephew.

Season 2, Episode 14 – Filibuster in Nicaragua, Part 1: William Walker’s First Failure

I refer to John C. Calhoun as the vice-president, but this was well after the time Calhoun was vice-president, and he was a US Senator during the majority of the period referenced. I believe this mistake has been removed from every version except for the YouTube version.

Season 2, Episode 19 – Filibuster in Nicaragua, Part 6: William Walker vs. Cornelius Vanderbilt

I claim that the Sharps rifle had a range of “twenty football fields.” A listener pointed out that Wikipedia lists an effective firing range of only 500 yards, and a maximum range of 1,000 yards. In Tycoon’s War, Stephen Dando-Collins writes, “The Hondurans thought they were out of range, but the Sharps rifle had a range of two thousand yards.” Neither Wikipedia nor Dando-Collins offer a citation for their range estimates, so I don’t know which one is correct, but I was referencing Dando-Collins for my claim.

Season 2, Episode 20 – Harper’s Ferry, Part 1: The Plan

I say that John Brown claimed to be nine years old at the time of his witnessing the beating of a slave child, but John Brown actually claimed to be twelve.

Season 3, Episode 9 – Martial Law in Maryland

A listener who is a lecturer for the Maynooth University Department of Law sent me an article he wrote that offers relevant legal qualification for my admittedly unqualified explanation of Ex Parte Merrymen. Rather than further misrepresenting the legal particularities of the incident, I’ll refer to his paper:

Tillman, Seth Barrett, “Ex Parte Merryman: Myth, History, and Scholarship” (November 7, 2015). 224 Military Law Review 481 (2016). Available at SSRN.

Additionally, in the same episode, I referred to the arrest warrant Lincoln allegedly issued for Chief Justice Taney. One of the supporting documents for this claim has been called into question for its credibility, so the arrest warrant remains a matter of historical conjecture and the position I took in the episode is more firm than the position I now hold on the matter.

Season 3, Episode 25 – We Must Have Kentucky

Although I didn't technically get this wrong, I believe my wording may have been unintentionally misleading. In a paragraph that is largely about the Northern presence in Kentucky, I say "General Leonidas Polk was occupying two towns in western Kentucky by September 3rd." This is correct, but I did not clarify for those who may not have been aware that Polk was a Confederate General, and that this occupation was a Confederate violation of Kentucky’s neutrality, which was justified by Polk on the grounds that the Union violated Kentucky’s neutrality first. In reviewing the context of my statement, I realize that listeners may likely interpret Polk as a Union officer.

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