Robert K. Krick Defends Lee From Strawmen
I think it’s time for Robert K. Krick to get a new angle. How much longer do we have to be subjected to vague references of an “anti-Lee” cabal among academic historians? In 2007 I was asked to respond to a presentation he gave as part of the University of Virginia’s commemoration of “Lee at 200.” In it Krick accused academic historians of intentionally distorting the history of Lee through an embrace of psycho-history and an over reliance on interpretation. It appears that when it comes to Lee: No Interpretation Necessary. If you want to know what Lee believed, just read his own words. It appears little has changed in five years.
This past weekend Krick took part in the Virginia Sesquicentennial Commission’s Signature Conference at the Virginia Military Institute. It sounds like it was a huge success, which I am glad to hear. Krick used the opportunity to once again go after his fellow historians. This time, however, he accused them of ignoring Confederate postwar accounts as tainted with Lost Cause mythology. As one example he cited the following:
One “inane strain” of that criticism, he said, holds that Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee wasn’t really so popular among his troops and Southern citizens at the time. Nonsense, Krick said. He offered a maxim about the writing of history that he called Hamlin’s Razor (a riff on Occam’s Razor): “Never attribute to malice what can be adequately explained by ignorance or sloth.”
Can someone please name one historian who has recently made such a claim? This is nothing more than a strawman argument. The article does not mention whether Krick had anyone specific in mind and I suspect that he failed to do so. And I don’t know one historian who brushes off postwar accounts as unreliable. What a silly thing to say. The only example Krick could muster was a recent story out of Ohio in which a teacher reprimanded a student for including Confederate sources. Krick wrote to the teacher and we can only hope that this is the end of the story, but it tells us nothing particularly interesting about how historians treat postwar Confederate sources.