I have a lot to say about Hoffer's book, but it has little to do with ACW historiography and so will stay out of these pages. Rees's review, however, got my ACW antennae twitching:
Most professional historians recognize that their work will never be the last word on a particular subject.Wasn't it Stephen Sears who wrote the article "Last Word on the Lost Orders?" We have a huge "last word" problem in Civil War history.
Rather than try to freeze historical interpretations in a block of ice, they revel in the give and take of professional consensuses gradually forming.The Centennial generation of ACW historians did not revel in give-and-take. They adopted an editorial line and stuck with it. Nor has been there been a significant or substantive revision of James M. McPherson's Battle Cry of Freedom, for instance, in the decades since it came out, despite torrents of new sources and interpretations published on the margins of best selling pop history. (Battle Cry is an aggregation of maintream Centennial opinions about the war.)
There are no prizes awarded for new ACW interpretations. The prizes are given for elaborations of existing interpretations developed prior to and through the Centennial years.
The fact that historiography can help students recognize these limitations of historical scholarship and the difficulty in finding immutable truth is the real value of this arcane sub-field.Limitations of historical scholarship are one thing; abuse of sources something else; and suppression of dissent yet another. But then, that might not be a perfectly collegial thing to say to the audience of historians who read HNN.
And, anyway, he's talking about historians in general, not the problematic subset known as "Civil War historians."