Look again at yesterday's excerpt from Sears. The incident, as I excerpted it, is about Franklin's proposed attack on Rebel lines at Antietam. It begins with Franklin's arrival on the field and ends with "a staff man" going to McClellan with news that Sumner forbade an attack. As shown, Sears covers this span of events with a single endnote, citing an article Franklin wrote long after the war. And, as shown, the article contradicts some of his text and fails to support some of his assertions, although it does source one Franklin quote Sears uses.

This incident is also covered by Mark Snell in his 2002 book From First to Last: the Life of Major General William B. Franklin. Snell uses a conventional and ethical citational style, assigning one source for each major piece of information. We can actually break down the elements comprising the incident and see where the information came from. Here's a rough summary:

* Time departed for the field – Franklin's report of Crampton's Pass and Antietam (OR)
* Weather conditions – A veteran quoted from a certain master's thesis
* Time Smith arrived on the field – Franklin letter to wife Anna
* General Hancock detached from Smith's command – A magazine article
* Time two of Slocum's brigades arrived on the field – A bio of Gen. WF Smith.
* Smith charges a rebel brigade – Ditto
* The arrival of Slocum's third brigade with Gen. Sumner – Franklin's congressional committee testimony
* The deployment of Slocum's command for assault -- Franklin letter to wife Anna
* Sumner forbids the assault – ditto
* Hammerstein reports to McClellan - Franklin's congressional committee testimony

Snell uses 6 sources in 10 places to cover the same ground as Sears, without including (relying on or needing) the Battles and Leaders article. And he adds many details missed by Sears.

Some readers will object that Snell was writing at greater length than Sears, hence the detail. This is nonsense: Sears was writing an account of the battle and Snell was writing a biography of Franklin's entire life. The burden of detail was on Sears. The question is one of bad history practices and sloppy work.

Snell is aware of Sears' awful Landscape Turned Red, and he does not point out Sears' errors in describing Franklin's role at Antietam. He does not correct Sears on the point of the "argument" between Franklin and Sumner. He does not correct him on the notion of a two division attack versus a two brigade attack. He does not correct him on the 1:00 p.m. time given, or on the 10,500 figure for VI Corps strength. He simply and graciously acknowledges a certain psychological insight about Franklin, that

"Perhaps, as Stephen Sears has noted, 'shedding the responsibility of independent command apparently restored his confidence.' "

Snell has identified the sum total and worth of Sears' contribution to our understanding of this matter -- a single psychological observation based on false and incomplete data.

Subtlety in damnation is something I need to learn. I think I've found a teacher.

More on Sears' citational habits tomorrow.