Russell F. Weigley died last week and was erroneously remembered as a Civil War Historian. His history interests were actually much broader, as this list shows.
Weigley would take seemingly dry topics – Montgomery Meigs or Morrisville, N.J. – and try to breathe life into them, in a pop history way. For example, it may strike you as odd if I say I read straight through his administrative and doctrinal history of the U.S. Army - as if it were a novel. That is because he dealt with it in a narrative framework instead of its natural topical or analytic form. (The book was a failure, but I have kept it for 34 years as a kind of half-reference.)
This eye to entertaining never did win him a mass audience, but he developed a following among the pop historians themselves and he became this minor leaguer that the big money guys always took an interest in.
He died swinging for the bleachers with a one-volume history of the Civil War. It was a representative failure – his fans among the pop historians gave him the Borritt Prize and generously blurbed his dustjacket. But his publisher was not a trade press, and lacked the marketing power to deliver him the audience he craved.
People recognized the scholar in him – I think it intimidated some pop historians – but the scholar in him could never win out over the popularizer and he expired as this strange hybrid.