How Grants' Rewriting History
Hurt General Rosecrans' Military Career

Alan Cottrill’s Statue of Major General William Starke Rosecrans on his horse Boney will be dedicated Saturday, September 28, 2013, on Sunbury Square.  Civil War authors Frank Varney and David Moore will be in the Myers Inn to greet the public from noon until the Military Parade at 2:00.  The Dedication ceremony follows the parade.

 Moore’s book will not be out until later in the year but Varney will be autographing his book, General Grant and the Rewriting of History: How the Destruction of General William S. Rosecrans Influenced Our Understanding of the Civil War.

Frank Varney, PhD

Frank Varney was born in Ticonderoga, New York, which is a well known for its importance in the War of Independence as well as the French and Indian War. For his 12th birthday, Varney received a set of Bruce Catton’s books on the Civil War.  These popular history books were well written and hooked Varney on Civil War history.  Many years later, the Ken Burns documentary on the war and the movie “Gettysburg” renewed his interest in the time period.

Varney became of age for military service during the Vietnam War but his number did not come up so he went to college where he studied history earning a PhD in 19th century history with an emphasis on the Civil War from Cornell University. He minored in Greek, Roman and Chinese history. 

While reading Grant’s Memoirs, Varney realized some of the things Grant wrote were at odds with primary sources.  Fascinated by the concept of historical memory (the reason we remember things the way we do), Varney began comparing Grant’s Memoirs with what other observers wrote and the official war records.  He discovered Rosecrans was a better General than Grant painted him. “There was much more to the story than I had expected,” noted Varney.   In some instances, what Grant said about the Civil War got into the history books at the detriment of the truth.  Many assume if it is not in Grant’s book, it didn’t happen.

Few know Horace Greeley asked Rosecrans to run against Lincoln for his second term.  Rosecrans turned down the offer saying he was trained to be a General and there was still more for him to do.  Lincoln was President and should remain so.  Later Lincoln asked him to serve as his Vice President but the telegraph with Rosecrans’ affirmative reply never reached the President.

For five years, Varney researched the Grant-Rosecrans issue finding a completely different view of what really happened at the battle of Chickamauga which is considered Rosecrans’ only defeat.  The lies Grant told about the battle tarnished Rosecrans’ career. Years later, Congressman Rosecrans as Chair of the Committee on Military Affairs refused to vote to reward Grant for his distinguished military service.  Rosecrans said when ‘true history is written that service would be pared down to very different dimensions.”  Varney is showing that is true.

Varney’s book is a scholarly work comparing Grant’s memoirs and the facts available which make one wonder how many other ‘heroes’ changed history.

Varney and his wife, Nancy, met in college and now live in North Dakota where Varney teaches U.S. and classical history at Dickerson State University.  He serves as director of the Theodore Roosevelt Honors Leadership Program.  He regularly leads student groups to Civil War battlefields and is a frequent speaker at Civil War Roundtables.   Presently Varney is developing a course to be taught at Gettysburg and one to be taught at Chickamauga.

Although the Varneys  have no children Frank says  “If we had any I can guarantee they'd like history.”

Copies of Varney’s book are available for purchase in the Myers Inn Gift Shop which is open 10-3 on Saturdays, 12-3 on Thursdays, Fridays and Sundays at 45 South Columbus Street facing the Sunbury Village Square.

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