Is it me or has there been relatively little stir about Sears' Gettysburg? The book is probably a career capper, given Sears' age and the level of effort it required, and it was well positioned to raise old controversies of Meade's battle management and general competence. But all has seemed quiet.
I have had to make some effort to find reviews.
In the reviews I did find, some passages leaped out at me. Here's one:
Readers interested in learning more about Sears’s sources must delve through the endnotes to locate manuscripts and the more specialized works he consulted during the writing of Gettysburg. The endnotes may cause many readers more problems because not every paragraph is footnoted, an aggravating publishing trend that groups footnotes every third paragraph or so that makes it difficult to decipher specific sources on occasion.
What the reviewer is referring to is attaching a single endnote number to one or more paragraphs of information, and then piling on multiple references in the endnote referenced by that number. The procedure is not unique to Sears but Sears uses it no matter who is publishing him, so it is Sears we must blame, not his editors.
The procedure is so confusing and annoying I once asked a fellow with an Oxford University Press contract if he could get away with a citational style like that and he said absolutely not - it was irregular. Is Sears getting publishers' dispensation to torture end note readers?
Here is more from the same source:
It appears to this reviewer that Sears has used the “usual” Gettysburg sources in compiling this history of the battle.
That would be fine in an historical essay, but not an opus. The reviewer also notes "Sears’s research is adequate" (back of the hand, slapping sound) and in another place, and "there are a number of factual errors that mar Gettysburg." He refers to at least one "absurdity" and concludes "Sears’s study is an OK book about Gettysburg, neither outstanding nor bad."
As hostile as I am to Sears, as sloppy as I think his research is, as bad as I consider his sensibilities and management of sources, I did not pick that review out from among positive notices. Here are some raves, such as they are. If you ignore the star ratings, the texts seem equivocal.
I do love this bit:
I found this telling to have a more matter-of-fact style than Sears "Landscape Turned Red". I remember that chronicling of Antietam to [have] read more like a novel than "Gettysburg".
Damning with faint praise. Amen?