For much of his career, David Bigler and his critics used the term "revisionist historian" as an epithet. But after decades wading through what Wallace Stegner called the "morass" of early Mormonism's "enormous, repetitious, contradictory, and embattled' history, he concluded, "If ever there was a revisionist historian, I'm it. And if ever a chapter of our nation's history needed revising, it is this one."
The contrast between Utah's frontier and religious history make it a contested ground between those who see the state's past as a sacred story and those who consider it a prime stage for the Human Comedy. In this collection of his short works, David L. Bigler accepts a historian's obligation to reject counterfeit interpretations encouraging complacency and false pride and be as balanced and as honest as possible. His crisp, engaging narratives seek to recreate an authentic image of the past that tries to comprehend the aims of ail who lived it.
Confessions of a Revisionist Historian covers the issues and events Bigler considers central to understanding Utah's colorful history: Millennialism, the march of the Mormon Battalion, the California Gold Rush, the Mormon Kingdom of God, Brigham Young's Indian policy and the Fort Limhi mission to Oregon Territory, the 1856 Reformation and the origins of the Utah War of 1857, and the conflict's most controversial acts of violence, the Mountain Meadows Massacre and the Aiken party murders. His analysis incorporates sketches and close studies of overlooked but significant personalities such as Garland Hurt, Nephi Johnson, Benjamin Franklin Cummings, Lewis W. Shurtliff, Benjamin Franklin Ficklin, and John Hawley, plus celebrated and colorful "Danites" such as Bill Hickman and Porter Rockwell, and tributes to friends and colleagues Harold "Hal" Schindler and Jerald and Sandra Tanner.
In Dave Bigler's characteristic good-humored and gentle way, Confessions or a Revisionist Historian includes eighteen articles, essays, presentations, tributes, and a love story that showcase what fellow historian Polly Aird called Mr. Bigler's "legacy of path-breaking research, honesty, and historical integrity." This work stands as an enduring tribute to a gifted chronicler's ability to examine the facts, step outside the box of the venerated interpretation, and evaluate the evidence in an new way. This perceptive historian offers original insights into the significant human events that define today's American West.