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Historically Deficient
By David A. Carrino, Roundtable Historian
The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable
Copyright © 2011, All Rights Reserved

Anyone who has seen the movie Jurassic Park might recall the scene when John Hammond, the billionaire who is the mastermind behind the park, recruits several scientists to evaluate his creation. When the scientists are sent on a trial tour of the attraction, the dinosaurs fail to cooperate and remain out of sight. After a few stops at different paddocks, the scientists fail to see any dinosaurs. This prompts one of the scientists, the cynical Dr. Ian Malcolm, to ask Hammond with all the sarcasm that he can muster, "You do plan to have dinosaurs on your dinosaur tour, right?"

A paraphrase of this line occurred to me as a question I should ask the Roundtable members when I was chosen to serve as historian for 2011-2012: "You do plan to have a historian as your historian, right?" This is not to say that I am not honored that the nominating committee and the members of the Roundtable selected me for this position. Far from it, I am enormously honored by this, and I look forward to carrying out the duties of the Roundtable historian. That said, I have some serious misgivings about the Roundtable's choice as its next historian.

The search for historical understanding continues...

For example, the Roundtable's next historian has absolutely no training in history. Rather, I have simply read about history over the years, in particular about the Civil War. This makes me eminently unqualified compared to many members of the Roundtable. Because of this, the History Briefs for the upcoming Roundtable session will consist of anecdotes that come from my admittedly limited knowledge of the topics that I present. No doubt there will be errors of omission and perhaps even outright factual inaccuracies. When these occur, I hope that these flubs will be pointed out to me by someone with superior knowledge of history than I possess (meaning everyone who is reading this). I am fond of saying that I try to avoid being so old a dog that I am unable to learn new tricks, which means that I not only accept but welcome being informed when I am incorrect about something. (Having raised two daughters, I have extensive experience with being told that I am wrong.)

The choice of topics for the monthly History Briefs will be items that I find interesting and seem to me to be relatively obscure. This approach comes from my desire not to hear what I have heard before, but to hear something with which I am unfamiliar so that I can learn something new. However, due to the aforementioned limited scope of my historical knowledge, something that is new to me has a likely possibility to be something well known to many others in the Roundtable. When this happens, I ask those in attendance to simply bear with me or even ignore my blathering altogether. (Again, having raised two daughters, I have considerable experience with being ignored.) If some significant oversight is noted by anyone who pays attention to my babbling, I am only too happy to be informed about this. After all, my monthly History Briefs ramblings will end up being deposited on the Roundtable website. In light of all the exemplary work that Paul Burkholder has done to make our website outstanding, Roundtable members can view their assistance with fixing my blunders as their contributions to presenting our best face to the cyberworld.

Finally, my selection as historian marks the second time that the Roundtable has saddled me with the exceedingly unenviable task of succeeding Mel Maurer. When I was Mel's successor as president, I said at that time that I knew how Phil Bengtson felt after Bengtson followed Vince Lombardi as coach of the Green Bay Packers. I expect that it will not be long into my tenure as historian that Mel's historical expertise and podium presence are sorely missed. Unfortunately, someone has to succeed the Abraham Lincolns who hold office, and the best that can be hoped for by those (like me) who find themselves in that position is to do better than Andrew Johnson.

My goal as historian is to provide a History Brief each month that is interesting and informative to at least one person in attendance. My hope is to provide a History Brief that contains at least one nugget that is interesting to most of the members in attendance. My desire is to learn from the History Briefs even more information than I present. If all goes well, Roundtable members might be willing to comment about my tenure as historian with a paraphrase of another memorable line uttered by Ian Malcolm in Jurassic Park. This line came after the horrific encounter with the Tyrannosaurus rex, during which one of the tour vehicles was ravaged, one of the characters was devoured, and Malcolm broke his leg. When Malcolm, injured and terrified, was rescued from this harrowing experience, he referred to his host, billionaire John Hammond, and said to his rescuers, "Remind me to thank John for a lovely weekend." If my time as historian is worthwhile, Roundtable members may ask to be reminded to do the same to me, and maybe they will even say it without the sarcasm with which Malcolm coated his remark.

Editorís note: Dave Carrino is a former President of the Roundtable, having served during the 2005-6 year. Although trained as a biologist, Daveís knowledge of the Civil War is much better than he would acknowledge.


The Cleveland Civil War Roundtable