Something inspiring happened in May of last year, and you likely did not know about it.
Alfred C. Young III's book was published: Lee's Army During the Overland Campaign: A Numerical Study.
Ok, not exactly the eye-catching title that would makes you grab it off the store shelf and begin reading, unless you are a historian or an American Civil War buff.
This was Mr. Young's first book, and may be his last.
He is not even a writer by profession, but just an "independent scholar."
But, it is not the bland title of Mr. Young's book, his writing style, or his resume that makes this work special.
It is the concept.
An amazing concept.
And one I think that transcends disciplines.
Alfred Young had an idea, and the book is the product of more than 6 years of diligent research.
In sum, Young's work is a valuable contribution to history as he provides new insight into a question that historians had given up hope in answering:
What were Confederate troop numbers during a series of battles (referred to as the Overland Campaign) near the end of the American Civil War?
Unfortunately, reports of soldier counts were not as well maintained by the Confederacy--further complicated by many of their records were destroyed prior to the surrender in 1865.
As such, historians relied on what few reports survived as well as interviews with survivors.
Knowing that these figures were inaccurate, they had been accepted for more than 150 years as "best guesses."
I mean, without a time machine, how would anyone know what Southern troop strengths in Virginia were in 1864?
Enter Alfred Young.
Mr. Young noticed that regimental troop reports were regularly published in hometown newspapers of the period.
The reports are equivalent to muster rolls.
For years, he tracked down 1864 newspaper articles corresponding to the units that fought for the Confederacy, and then compared the reported troop strength with the "best guess" numbers.
His research has now replaced some of the "best guesses."
He brought fresh and reliable insight, and did something that others had thought to be impossible.
Not bad for an "independent scholar."
I think all of us have ideas racing in our minds waiting to be pursued.
You do not have to be a professional; just someone willing to invest in an idea.
Maybe you will be next and join Alfred Young.
Answering a question that the "experts" had given up hope on.
I think you can do it.
I hope you have an inspired Wednesday.
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