Virginia recently placed a marker to Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain to mark the spot where he was wounded and then later promoted to brigadier general because it was thought he was so grievously wounded he couldn’t survive.
Now comes word the State will move the marker. Dennis Rasbach, a surgeon from Michigan, was researching an ancestor and felt he had evidence the marker was in the wrong location. Researcher and author Bryce Suderow supports Dr. Rasbach’s position. Dr. Rasbach petitioned the State to move the marker approximately 4,000 feet. The state Department of Historic Resources brought in two outside experts, Julia Steele, the cultural resource manager at Petersburg National Battlefield, and A. Wilson Greene, the director of Pamplin Park. Steele conducted her own research and agreed with the proposal to move the marker. Greene was fine with the move. In addition, other experts from the National Park Service agreed with the move.
Bryce Suderow wrote an Op-Ed piece in which he laid out his objections to the original marker placement. In it he claimed the two primary people behind the original marker placement, Diane Monroe Smith, an author from Maine, and Susan Natale, a historical researcher in California who’s done extensive primary source research on Chamberlain’s life and who owns and operates the Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain website, relied solely on Chamberlain’s recollections and didn’t use any confederate sources. Full disclosure: Susan and I are internet friends. In response to Suderow’s claim, Susan highlighted this section of her website, which is a confederate source in which Joseph Kershaw confirms he was attacked at Rive’s Salient, and this appears to corroborate Chamberlain’s recollection.
Ms. Smith wrote her own Op-Ed piece giving her side of the controversy.
Unfortunately for those of us who are not privy to the reports and research that prompted the move, the newspaper accounts and Op-Ed pieces don’t lay out the evidence in a cogent manner we can evaluate. We don’t know exactly what Rasbach and Suderow found, we don’t know exactly what Steele found. We don’t know exactly what the other experts said. We don’t know Smith’s and Natale’s full response to Rasbach and Suderow. We can be forgiven for thinking this is only a meaningless, ego-based argument due to the lack of substantive information about the research. I think there’s more to it than that, but only because it’s a feeling I have.
What do you think?