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Discussion 2 to Talk Back 21
What would make it "conclusive"?

by Dan Shanefield

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Suppose you are a historian of the U.S. Civil War, and you buy a trunk full of letters from somebody's attic.  The letters are from several soldiers, written home and telling about an obscure Captain Jensenhurst of Union (northern) infantry who actually did something that won the most important battle of the war.  He led his three platoons through a forest, coming out behind the southern Confederates, who then scattered in panic, allowing the rest of the North's troops to attack successfully.  Some other history buff had collected these letters but died before writing about them.  You go through Army records and find that all these people did exist, and this story does jibe with other facts about the important battle.  So you write a history book about this event and the heroic captain.  It's not fiction, it's history.

But suppose, on the other hand, that the Army records show no Captain Jensenhurst, no troops by the names on the letters, and no panic of the southern troops.  It was all fiction, although it might make a good novel.

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