Jean Smith and Grant (cont.)

In his Battle Cry of Freeedom, James McPherson follows a narrative timeline - and timelines are a boon to storytelling but a bane to analysis.

The matter of Grant's Civil War drinking, which demands analysis, can be introduced naturally at a number of points on any narrative timeline.

McPherson takes up the drinking question just before Stanton's spy Charles Dana is assigned to watch Grant. This is because McPherson has told his story in a way that skirts the drinking controversy and he will confuse readers by introducing Dana without a review of boozy charges.

In other words, McPherson's choice is idiosyncratic, based on his story structure. Perhaps I'm wrong, but so it seems to me. And I hear alarm bells if another storyteller interrupts his tale for a drinking analysis at exactly the same point as McPherson.

Jean Smith does so in Grant.

Having decided to deal with matters alcoholic, McPherson, in Battle Cry, then chooses a way to ease into the topic. He begins with the anecdote about Lincoln "telling a a delegation of congressmen that he would like to know Grant's brand of whiskey so he could send some to his other generals." [P. 588*]

I find this choice idiosyncratic, as well. Jean Smith launches his digression with the same anecdote, although he recites it in detail. [P. 231*]

McPherson next plunges into a long passage of doubletalk about Grant's drinking and not drinking. Smith avoids the nonsense and boils things down to a simple sentence: "The evidence is overwhelming that during the Vicksburg campaign he [Grant] occasionally fell off the wagon." After this, the parallels intensify. These passages appear in the same sequence in each work:

McPherson: "He may have been an alcoholic in the medical meaning of that term. He was a binge drinker." [P 588]
Smith: "Grant was a binge drinker. In a clinical sense, he may have been an alcoholic." [P. 231]

McPherson: "For months he could go without liquor, but if he once imbibed it was hard for him to stop." [P 588]
Smith: "He could go for months without a drink, but once he started it was difficult for him to stop." [P. 231]

McPherson: "His wife and his chief of staff John A. Rawlins were his best protectors." [P 588]
Smith: "For the most part, Grant remained sober, protected from alcohol by his adjutant, Colonel John Rawlins, and especially by Julia." [P. 231]

The effect is that of Smith lifting an entire section of someone else's work and modifying the parts that don't work for him, while leaving the narrative stucture intact.

The following comments were made about Stephen Ambrose and they resonate here:

"When two or more significant words are quoted in the same form and juxtaposition as in the original, and are not enclosed in quotation marks, that is plagiarism." - Lee Nash, Professor of History, George Fox University

Let us not neglect our old acquaintance Peter Charles Hoffer:
Authors must paraphrase with great care if they are to avoid falling into plagiarism, for paraphrasing lends itself to a wide range of errors. In particular, a paraphrase, particularly after some time has passed in the course of research, may be mistaken by the author for his or her own idea or language and reappear in the author's piece without any attribution. Mosaic paraphrases patching together quotations from a variety of secondary sources, and close paraphrases, wherein the author changes a word or two and reuses a passage from another author without quotation marks, also constitute plagiarism.
Note also the outcome of the 2003 case of Prof. Brian VanDeMark. His employer, the US Naval Academy examined a pop history tome he penned and found "improper borrowing and inadequate paraphrasing and that these improprieties constituted plagiarism." [Emphasis added.] VanDeMark was busted down in rank, reprimanded, deprived of tenure, and his pay reduced by $10,000.

Have a look at these definitions of plagiarism and draw your conclusions about Grant.

Is Marshall University paying attention?

- - - -

* These page numbers come from the editions whose online contents were made searchable by Amazon at these links:

Smith and McPherson.

You can compare the passages yourself by using the Amazon "search inside" functionality and then pasting distinctive word strings from the quotes above into the search boxes.

I am indebted to a reader for pointing me to these passages. We'll do some additional Smith vs. Catton analysis soon.