Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Details, details: the downside of paying attention

I had an experience last week at the visitor center that I'm sure won't be the last of its sort.

A man strode up to me with a big file folder in his hands and proceeded to regale me with his research of his great,great, grandfather who had fought in the Civil War. He detailed the process he made of tracking down his ancestor's records through the National Archives as well as local history rooms in various libraries. He had a lot of cool stuff in that folder. Then he proudly produced his trump card - a photograph. ''that's him, taken shortly after the battle of Gettysburg."

The quickest glance at the picture had me searching for words that would come under the heading of "breaking it to him gently".

"Well sir..." I began, "this may very well be a later photo of the person of whom you speak, however this is not a Civil War soldier..." I went on to point out that this soldier was in the sort of uniform worn many years later - during the Spanish-American war. I also explained that the web cartridge belt was of a later era and that the trap-door style receiver on his rifle was a system that wasn't even invented until a year after the Civil War had ended.

The gentleman listened to my line of reasoning, and then, slowly closing his file folder, he responded;

"Isn't it funny how they did things back in the Civil War?" "Imagine, giving soldiers guns that hadn't even been invented yet!"

He walked away thinking his story was still intact though infinately more interesting.

Sometimes the truth will not set you free.

Speaking of looking at old photographs with a critical eye, this interesting website was brought to my attention:

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