Interrogating the Project of Military History

October 10 - In early August the dean of the College of Humanities sent me the following request:

I would like to invite you to represent the College of  Humanities as the featured presenter at this year's Colleges of the Arts and Sciences Focus Weekend on October 8, 2004.  Focus Weekend is an important development event for the Colleges of Arts and Sciences and an opportunity for us to showcase our outstanding faculty, students and programs to key donors.  I extend this invitation to you as a faculty member whose accomplishments epitomize excellence in the College of Humanities and I sincerely hope that you will be able to accept.

Let me give you some details concerning your participation.  You will make a presentation based on your work to a group of forty selected donors to the Colleges of Arts and Sciences (I have a special request that you speak on Sherman's march through Georgia.)  Your presentation is intended to provide this audience with an appreciation for the quality of research being done by our faculty.

At the time I didn't read the email closely; I just noticed that there wasn't a schedule conflict with the date and sent back my acceptance.  Only in reviewing it now do I realize that it was actually rather a flattering invitation.  Anyway, aside from responding to the occasional organizational email on the event, I didn't think anything more about my talk for a good many weeks.  About the only decision I made concerning the topic is that I'd honor the "special request" to speak on Sherman's March and that I would not use an off-the-shelf talk like "The Mythology of Sherman's March."  When asked to supply a title for my presentation, I told them to use "The Long Shadow of Sherman's March":  the title seemed general enough to encompass a number of potential topics.

I hadn't done a thing with the presentation when Autumn Quarter began.  Then things got very busy and I didn't have time to deal with it even had I wanted to.  I had an idea percolating in the back of my mind, but that was all.  Finally, much like the undergraduate I used to be, I pulled an all-nighter to get the presentation done.  Here it is:

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