Civil War book reviewing

Last summer, Civil War Book Review published some interviews on the theme "whither ACW publishing."

In one interview, ex-editor-in-chief Sylvia Frank Rodrigue, formerly of the Louisiana State University Press, made some interesting observations. (Louisiana State University Press has consistently published a strong list of ACW titles year after year.)

Her thoughts, as of 2004:

"Many earlier conclusions are being challenged by recent scholarship..."

"... competition for slots on publishers' list is tighter than ever ..."

"... more [diaries and letters] are available than could ever be published profitably"

"No one book or type of book will please or interest all Civil War readers."

This is the best bit, however [my emphasis]:

We must learn the truths and analyze the complexities to attain a real understanding of battlefield conditions, the humanity of those involved, the war's ccomplishments, and the sacrifices made for the rebirth of our nation. The way to do that is to continue to encourage new scholarship on all aspects of the war, and to publish, read, and discuss the results of new research and analysis.

With all due respect to Civil War Book Review and other such outlets, critics are doing an awful job of tracking the newness Rodrigue calls for. Reviews tend to be pick-up gigs or chores knocked out grudgingly.

I can't remember when I last read an ACW review profitably, deriving a sense of what is new or special about the work.

A strange conservatism besets otherwise interesting authors once they begin a review. Consider this amazing display by Russel Beatie and see if you can find in it a single hint of why he would write his own history of the Army of the Potomac.

Reviewers, focus please: new research and analysis is what it's about.