July 06, 2004

Rerun: Tell Me a Story...

(This was originally posted at my old site.)

Anecdotal history is one of the most valuable resources we have for understanding the past. History is rarely an exact science. A lot of times we weigh the evidence, look at the circumstances, and make an educated guess. It's more or less a leap of faith.

For example, I once was in a hurry to get to work and was surprised to find a large yet loose group of muscular men congregating directly in my path. Me being me, I went through the crowd and then realized why they were there. In the middle of the group was Louis Farrakhan. I knew who he was and we smiled at each other, exchanged "Good mornings," and I proceeded on my way. I had barreled through his phalanx of Nation of Islam bodyguards.

Can I prove this story is true? No, I can not. With great effort, I could probably prove we were in the same building on the same day at roughly the same time. So you'll have to decide if this sounds like something I'd make up...or trust me.

One of my ancestors...I believe it was my great-great-great grandfather...told his granddaughter about how he ran away at age 12 to join the Illinois Volunteers' Drum Corps during the Civil War. He stayed with them until his father (also fighting in the Civil War) found him and sent him home.

Since I don't have my genealogical research right in front of me, I can't say if he was great x 3 or great x 2, but I don't think that little fact diminishes the story, do you?

I also haven't yet found documentation to prove his account, so he could be a big, fat liar. Or the granddaughter who claims he told her about this might be a big, fat liar.

BUT if you look at other anecdotal history, the story seems quite plausible. The interesting part of the story isn't necessarily that this specific person did what they said they did...the interesting part of the story is any 12 year old boy running off to the Civil War. And evidence suggests that sort of thing did happen.

Posted by Jennifer at July 6, 2004 09:00 AM