Blog roundup

After Nov. 1, my routines changed and I have not been able to read and keep up with the expanding world of ACW blogging. I hope to get a new routine going soon. Even a cursory look around shows what I've been missing.
Andrew Wagenhoffer points out, per yesterday's post on Piedmont, that there is a "top notch" book on the battle, The Forgotten Fury . "The research is deep, grounded in published and unpublished primary source materials, and the reader is additionally treated to footnotes instead of endnotes." Speaking of forgotten battlefields that are despised by locals,   Tim Reese (not yet a blogger) commented to me that "Piedmont is the illegitimate twin brother of Crampton's Gap." We must pray, I think, that the Great and the Good eventually legitimize these places such that the locals can then begin profiting from them.
I wrote earlier that the Kelo eminent domain decision, if used to seize battlefield land, could make drive away private donors and depress membership in preservation organizations. Attorney Eric Wittenberg paints a more chilling picture: in Georgia, Kelo has been taken up to develop battlefield land. Let that sink in; the Kelo fiasco is about superior tax  revenue generation. (Mike Koepke has a little on this as well.)
On a lighter note, James McPherson's student Tom Carhart is taking some hard knocks from Civil War News (via Eric  and Drew):  "There's inadequate space in a book review to cite each factual error, contradiction and unsupported theory. Suffice to say, this reads more like a novel than historical analysis."Yikes.  I like this bit: "Meade — erroneously cited as George 'C.' Meade ..." Cees and Gees, leave that to those impenetrable academic scholars.
Kevin Levin has started a blog called Civil War Memory and has updated my preliminary year-in-publishing comments with an extensive rundown on some important 2005 titles. He wonders why I obsess on McPherson. Top reason - it's an enjoyable obsession to indulge, especially where the subject is vain, a little foolish, and his public adoring. Number two reason: lack of self control.  I'll indulge myself more on this topic at the end of the week.
Mitch Hagmaier has rekindled my interest in Kent Masterson Brown's Retreat from Gettysburg. His description of the book is wonderful - sounds like Lee's retreat was a page from the Thirty Years War. My inclination is to do a "Brown" on all Lee's movements - look into their details and savor the horror. It's on my list.
I can hardly believe, however, that Brown got himself entangled in a mistake as banal as the Clausewitzian/Jominian synchronization trap. Mitch covers those bases here and I would only repeat explicitly that Clausewitz was not published in America until some time after the ACW and his views were not in general (oral or literary) circulation here during the war. Not even the Prussian General Staff officer who wrote A Prussian Observes the Civil War makes mention of Clausewitz.
Mark Grimsley has a blog round-up of his own and it's less verbose than this one.
Don't miss Brett Schulte's multi-part writings on Harsh's Confederate Tide Rising. I need to do a ton of posting on Harsh but have been remiss. Brett's filling the gap to the tune of eight postings on just this one book. Go do some Harsh. Get Harsh. Be harsh.
I think I have discovered a credo.

History-laden Civil War latrines

His name is Spencer Henderson. He is Baltimore's most accomplished privy hunter.
As hobbies go, privy hunting is not pretty. It's not like, say, remodeling a '55 Chevy. It takes a different searching soul to dedicate months to digging 8 feet down into century-old outhouses in search of ... what?
See for yourself. It's magical.


Fort Pemberton - your private luxury community

This story makes me ill: "Easement, perhaps a few homes planned for Civil War era fort."

Just a few multimilliondollar homes here and there on or about a fort in great shape. An exclusive island with a unique history. And a socially-responsible easement to preserve it just the way it was the day the last home was built. I think the conservationists will get behind that.

And did we mention that multimilliondollar home owners tend to not invite the general public to tromp around their historic estates? So much the better to preserve the unique charm of the site!

The Civil War Preservation Trust created this paradigm. This Fort Pemberton page was taken out of CWPT's playbook.

The preservation disaster continues. Unlike natural disasters, this one has leadership.

Locals neglect own battlefield - dog bites man

This freelance writer has his eye on one of those battlefields not included in the master narratives of the Civil War:
Piedmont seems destined to remain The Battle that Never Was so far as local officialdom is concerned, despite its importance as the fight that lost the Shenandoah for the Confederacy, and the site of some of the worst military violence ever to take place in the Valley.
Note the reference to local officialdom. He's lucky the local editor did not edit out his local reference. I like the comment, though.

What is it that makes local officialdom consistently anti-local in its Civil War history? I tend to think it's a lust for framework, the need to simplify, and the siren song of "big picture." The Centennial views of the conflict are made to order for tour guides and tourism officials ... they just don't serve history, national or local.

I am reminded of local music reviewers whose universal model for success is not any kind of aesthetic criteria or even selfish enjoyment but rather commercial national success.

When this sort of writer interviews a musician, the entire discussion centers on matters of career progression. The Civil War history equivalent is the question of your local battle "making the big leagues" - as certified by others. More from our astute friend:
Fortunately, a bronze marker was placed at the site in the 1930s, and the accuracy of its location is a lucky break for today's visitor. Whoever placed it — a Civil War veteran perhaps — knew something that later historians would otherwise have had no way of knowing.
Nor will they ever care to know - now that history models showbiz and "the man in the wraparound shades" calls the shots (as the Washington Post has referred to a the Pre-Eminent Civil War Historian of Our Times).

We would expect locals to inundate us with local history - more about the Battle of Piedmont than could fill a book. Those were old locals. They planted their lonely sign and moved on. The new locals found no reference to the battle in the CWPT's most endangered battlefields list, McPherson's Battle Cry, or Ken Burns' teleplay.

Grumble Jones vs. David Hunter (top, right). Worth a dozen new markers, in my book.

As Mark Twain once said ...

... I'm too busy tonight to write a short letter, so forgive this long one.

In putting together this year's Civil War Book News, I noticed more than a few things just a third of the way through the year's list. In no particular order, here are some impressions.

* Biographers are now debunking Nathan Bedford Forrest (even). (As Eric Wittenberg has also done on his blog.)

* Tom Desjardin spearheaded a downward revision of the importance of Little Round Top last year; the counterattack has begun.

* The Grant party in ACW publishing continues (see here and here).

* Mark Neely suggests that maybe party strife was not good for effective war management and that there might have been excesses in Republican patronage that harmed the cause. (Thuds indicate sound of Centennialists falling out of their chairs.)

* Little Phil, penned by blogger Eric Wittenberg, I've written about here already. Now I need to compare and contrast blogger Mark Grimsley's And Keep Moving On with a book by Civil War Talk Radio's Gerald Prokopowicz's All for the Regiment. The two books have some yin-yang going on the metathesis level.

* There are a number of new studies, fairly obscure, that touch on McClellan and therefore interest me: the long-out-of-print How we Elected Lincoln suggests an wisecrack - "Fraud?" Meanwhile, I can hardly wait to get hold of Hospital Transports: A Memoir of the Embarkation of the Sick and Wounded from the Peninsula of Virginia. Not to mention Veterinary Service during the American Civil War, which should enrich some of the excellent analysis previously supplied on this by Hagerman.

* Yankee spy Elizabeth Lew has gotten her story told.

* And I am always interested in the doings of Hans Trefousse, long may he prosper. T. Harry Williams imagined Lincoln-the-Conservative driven by the radicals into adopting their policies against his will (Lincoln and the Radicals); the Centennialists imagine Lincoln the pragmatist adopting radicalism as the rational outcome of the course of the war; Trefousse, bless him, envisions Lincoln as radical from the first manipulating conservatives to achieve what he knows needs to be done.

Lincoln, First Among Radicals, were it a book title, might encapsulate his views. Shake 'em up good, Hans.
NEWS | Old Gettysburg Village to lose four of its shops * Benton considers historic commission to deal with 80+ ACW sites * Lowry exploits remembered in NC


Civil War Book News

Civil War Book News has been updated halfway through April 2005 with more to come.
By the way, whew.
Lots of titles, especially with the small-run presses. Two things that struck me: (1) Rowan & Littlefield has jumped into ACW publishing with both feet. That's a major new force on the scene. (2) Random House is now diving into the more detailed, scholarly topics, witness Bleeding Blue and Gray: Civil War Surgery and the Evolution of American Medicine by Ira M. Rutkow. Is this a testing of the waters?
More observations later tonight - lots of interesting things happening in 2005 - if I can get myself mobilized after 8:00 pm.

Team of Rivals vs. First Among Equals

Isn't it funny that veteran Lincoln scholar Hans Trefousse got his First Among Equals out before Team of Rivals appeared? The publisher says,
Trefousse carefully crafts a clear picture of how his contemporaries measured Lincoln's great strengths - and shortcomings.
Would love to see the Cabinet material in First Among Equals. Might actually find an insight....

Military reform

Even the Washington Post's ahistorical, live-in-the-moment journalists are smelling the coffee :
"Imagine after the Battle of Fredericksburg, during the Civil War, if Jefferson Davis had sent Gen. Robert E. Lee a telegram saying: "You've been out there for a year now. Why don't you come back to Richmond?"
It may be hard to reform an army in war, but it has to be done.
NEWS | Civil War Museum may benefit from Washington bill * Kentucky's statue struggle stems from Civil War * Edgecombe County moves along on Civil War trail


Civil War Book News...

... is finally being updated. About 10 minutes after this post goes up, I should have Jan/Feb listings published. Am shooting for June to be competed by Sunday.

There was no intention to make this a once-a-year update, but my tech hurdles this year have been remarkable.

I am, once again, humbled and gratified by the quantity and quality of the revisionism in ACW publishing. When I started Book News in 1998, our prospects as advanced readers seemed hopeless, the Centennial grip on the field being heavy and encompassing. The taste for nonsense was ovewhelming and publishers were hell-bent on seeking the lowest level of readership possible.

We have so much to be thankful for. I need to write about that in specific terms - and I will in the weeks ahead.

This has been a great year. Go to a bookstore and take advantage of it.

Enter Tor, but where's Loki?

One of the interesting side-effects of the success of the Gingrich-Forstchen alternative histories of Gettysburg – Forstchen being an established, successful fantasy author – is the venture of sci-fi/fantasy powerhouse trade marque Tor Books into Civil War nonfiction. Witness: Whip the Rebellion: Ulysses S. Grant's Rise To Command by George Walsh, published by Tor.

My hair-trigger judgement dumps this effort into the Centennialist minden heap, with one bit worth noting - author Walsh is a product/creation of ACW fiction, specifically Killer Angels. (See here for details.) He may have writings especially tasty to pulp fiction readers.

(Harry Turtledove’s successful series of Civil War fantasies may also have influenced this development.)

I think the Centennial interpretation of ACW history is very congenial to straight-ahead sci-fi of the Edgar Rice Burroughs type. This has to do with stylistic bias.

Scifi tends to be overwhelmingly conservative stylistically and culturally - favoring the most obvious forms of storytelling ... as is the case in all genre fiction. The principal work of the Centennialists has been to convert wild and wooly controversies - in their thousands - into a manageable mini-sets of predictable story elements.

I have long thought that ACW authors like William Davis – a Centennial stalwart - borrow heavily from pulp fiction literary techniques, Burroughs being a giant in pulp fiction. It may be worth a post to explore the direct borrowings and correlate these to practicing nonfiction hacks.

Meanwhile, the ray of hope here is that sci-fi fans, despite their hidebound literary tastes, view themselves as adventurous renegades with a tolerance for “weird.”

So the prospect of a sci-fi trade house going into ACW nonfiction encourages in us a certain amount of optimism. I hope some of the ACW revisionist authors dissatisfied with University Press outcomes will test the waters with new Tor submissions.

Are sci-fi/fantasy readers worth having in ACW nonfiction? Reading Blogfonte tells me "Yes, definitely."

Let’s see how “far out” Tor and its base may be willing to go.
NEWS | No news today


Another McPherson student identified: Catherine Clinton

After a lifetime in teaching, you would expect a world-famous professor - generally thought to be God's gift to Civil War studies - to have a few high-profile students in his chosen field. So far, I believe we have identified just two McPherson students at play in our field, one, teaching at Princeton, the other the methodologically challenged author Tom Carhart.
Here's one more, Catharine Clinton, with the McPherson connection documented here.
That might explain Doris Kearns Goodwin's blurbing of Clinton's 2004 Tubman book. Goodwin's a McPherson friend and McPherson staked his presidency of the AHA to lash out at her plagiarism accusers.Given the tiny number of McPherson students thus far identified, one could reasonably say she seems to be his "star."
Clinton may not count as a Civil War historian per se, however. She comes out of McPherson's own background of race relations history and her biggest project, Harriet Tubman: The Road to Freedom, is more of an American Studies item.
It also represents a small failure. The hardback did well enough for trade house Little, Brown to encourage issue of a paperback version this January. That paperback is now deeply discounted, from $14.95 list to $4.98 on B&N.
Clinton is prolific, but not in the Civil War genre. Notice (in the link) the number of gender studies deployed. I am not sure Dr. McPherson is at all cool with gender studies. His references to it, in interview after interview, are ambiguously neutral. Here, I think, he actually shows mild hostility:
There is increasing focus on fields like environmental history and women's history and social history and cliometrics, which is a sort of quantitative economic history with a specialized language. All of this makes what a lot of academic historians write either unintelligible or uninteresting to a broad lay audience. But it is what earns promotions, what earns tenure, what earns grants.
Maybe Clinton is compromised in McPherson's personal esteem. I'll have to check her tomes for McPherson blurbs to find out.
[Send in your famous McPhersonites, should you find any.]
NEWS | School House Ridge property acquired for Harpers Ferry National Historical Park * State funds sought for museum, White House of the Confederacy * Tale of Norwegians in the ACW slated for Chickamauga event


Better books

Ah, there's a mundane explanation for why the Pal Benko book is so good. I found this at Chess Cafe:
IM Jeremy Silman (the "Sil" in Siles Press) came to know and admire Benko in the 1990s, and conceived the notion of producing an ideal biography, one that would "demonstrate my own vision of how such a book should be presented." Incontrast to the common run of instant books and carelessly assembled rehashes, Silman's project took five years, and the results are impressive.
The book was intended as an example to chess presses in general. Meanwhile, Presidio Press seems to be getting into a similar game with The Civil War Experience 1861-1865.The book includes slip-covered document facsimiles and an audio tape. But $50 for a 64-page coffee-table book?
NEWS | National Park Service shows interest in Pemberton Civil War home * Civil War cyclorama to be restored  * Buffs clean up Fort D in MO


Publishing gambits

I stopped by Reston's Barnes & Noble to see if I could find Goodwin's new book Team of Rivals and her Lincoln quote "What's up?" – was it sourced or not?


I am close to buying her book just to run down the notes, a malicious pleasure I treat myself to once in a great while. But what's holding me back is what bothers Eric Wittenberg – financially rewarding someone who has badly mistreated another author and then cruelly failed to make amends. St. Martins Press now reissuing her unrevised and disgraced work - with all plagiarized material intact - to piggyback on the expected success of Team of Rivals - sets a new low for sleaziness in publishing.


To buy or not to buy? But I'm getting ahead of my story.


For what interests me is that B&N did not have a Team of Rivals display. There was a biographies shelf, hello Tab Hunter, no Goodwin here, and there was a "new biographies" table prominently featuring work by Alan Alda, no less. The Civil War and Lincoln sections did not have it.


I could not find Team of Rivals. Maybe it sold out.


In the games section my eye stopped on a book almost as thick as Team of Rivals. It was Pal Benko's 2004  autobiography.


Pal Benko is a second tier grandmaster, an Hungarian immigrant. From 1958 on, he was "the other child prodigy" whose career developed in the shadow of Bobby Fischer's. My father and I used to see him (and Fischer) at the Manhattan Chess Club in the late 1950s. I studied his games as a youth. The name evokes an intense nostalgia for me.


Chess publishing is small business compared to Civil War bookselling. I don't know a trade house or university press that will touch chess. The field belongs to tiny commercial publishers.


Benko's autobiography is gorgeous – as fine a vestige of the publishing tradition as one could ask for. Great paper and binding; a vast number of pages; liberal distribution of photos throughout; and excellent jacket and book design. And there it was, prominently displayed in a huge retail outlet. As it has been, presumably, for the last 18 months.With the in-store discount, it was available for under $39.


I had a flashback to a Civil War title purchased there last week. At about $35, it was sold shrink-wrapped to prevent me opening and skimming the contents. It sported naked cardboard  "hardcover" with a figleaf of cloth on the spine, cheap paper, skimpy index, and a great many necessary diagrams drawn smearily by the author himself with a broken-tipped felt marker. University imprint.


There is a lot more love and goodwill in chess publishing than in ACW publishing.


If the Goodwin affair teaches us how low this business can go, the Benko book gives our field a standard to imitate.


Sup, Lincoln?

McClellan Society member Harry Smeltzer notes that ...
I have to take issue with the criticism of her (Goodwin's) use of the term "What's up?" in her apparently created Lincoln dialogue.  I believe the term was in vogue at the time, and recall its use by Francis Donaldson of the 118th PA (I think) in his letters published as "Inside the Army of the Potomac".  Sometimes it's hard to believe that we did not create all the slang and cuss used today in the last 50 years.


Team of Rivals review roundup

Drudge is reporting today that Goodwin's Team of Rivals has passed 79,000 copies in sales. HNN is using the opportunity to remind us of her 2002 schweinerei and you really can't do better to inform yourself than read this by Philip Nobile.
I am having a great deal of difficulty finding reviews of her work by scholars and other informed readers; pop culture reviews are plentiful, though, so let's get to them.
Pittsburgh's Post-Gazette declares that "Goodwin takes no chances" - "Goodwin and company have little new to tell us and stick to the standard fare. Most of the familiar Lincoln stories are here -- from the suggestion from a young girl that he grow a beard to his attitude about Ulysses Grant's drinking." She does introduce this novelty, the reviewer says: "Goodwin describes the scene when an aide to Stanton visits Lincoln's office to ask a question: Lincoln greeted him. 'What's up?' Really? What's up with that?"
Invented dialog with a contemporary flavor: I love it. It calls to mind the title of an Arakansas paper's review: "Again with the Lincoln books!" ( subscription required).
The editor of Concord's Monitor is harsher. He says "In writing Team of Rivals she toiled under the burden of the controversy, and it shows." Pronouncing her "timid," he says "Goodwin not only loses the thread of her tale but also ignores the historian's greatest challenge: to bring fresh interpretation to the past. No historian or biographer should be satisfied merely to master the material well enough to recount events while leaving the interpretation to others. Yet this is precisely what Goodwin does."
This Bloomberg writer notes that this "is in many ways more a story of Goodwin than it is of Lincoln." However, "It is good to have her back," he purrs.
The Oregonian thinks that this is "one of the most compulsively readable books of history for a general audience to come along in a long time." It has a sharp eye out for troublemakers, too: "No doubt there will be those whose only interest in this book is playing "gotcha," looking for errors or for 'copying.' Here's hoping Goodwin's hundreds of endnote attributions are accurate and detailed enough to frustrate them..."
What's up? Myself, I like it when the wiseguys play gotcha with authors guilty of faking dialog and "copying" other authors. But I wouldn't expect a newspaper writer to feel that way.
James McPherson, who used his presidency of the AHA to attack Goodwin's plagiarism accusers in 2002, has stepped up to the plate to toss her a few rose petals in the New York Times, following a cruel review in those pages in October ( subscription required). This seems to be the third review of the book that paper has run, if you count this one.
The Cristian Science Monitor declares this "powerful" and "delicious" while trying to keep the author, and her moral stains, at arm's length. Having your cake and eating it is irresistible, I suppose.
On the other hand, Knight-Ridder news service manages to "review" the book without giving a single opinion. See for yourself!
Kentucky's Herald Leader thinks this is challenging reading, while asking "Was Honest Abe the Slick Willie of the 19th century?"
Doris Kearns Goodwin could give him slickness lessons.
NEWS | No news today


Southern sharpshooters

If I am reading this press release correctly, we have to revisit and rethink the AoNV's battles in light of the contributions made by Southern sharpshooting units.
Given the amount of attention devoted to the Union sharpshooters, I find it strange that this could be the first book on the topic in over 100 years.

It continues

Civil War Preservation Trust will hold a news conference on Friday to proudly announce how it "saved" the Daniel Lady Farm at Gettysburg by joining together with non-Civil War groups to buy an easement that places the farm off-limits to Civil War visitors.
NEWS | CWPT poll shows voter opposition to casino * Georgia Trust publishes imperiled list * Mobile to sponsor Civil War site study


Armistice Day

After the long months of intense strain, of keying themselves up to the daily mortal danger, of thinking always in terms of war and the enemy, the abrupt release from it all was physical and psychological agony. Some suffered a total nervous collapse. Some, of a steadier temperament, began to hope they would someday return to home and the embrace of loved ones. Some could think only of the crude little crosses that marked the graves of their comrades. Some fell into an exhausted sleep. All were bewildered by the sudden meaninglessness of their existence as soldiers - and through their teeming memories paraded that swiftly moving cavalcade of Cantigny, Soissons, St. Mihiel, the Meuse-Argonne and Sedan. What was to come next? They did not know - and hardly cared. Their minds were numbed by the shock of peace. The past consumed their whole consciousness. The present did not exist-and the future was inconceivable."

- Colonel Thomas Gowenlock, Fist Division (U.S.)


Give us the casino

We cannot deal with the arguments for a Gettysburg casino if they are completely, utterly, even shockingly ahistorical. We can't. Read this:
This is one more opportunity to develop something else that gives people a reason to come to Gettysburg and have a different kind of experience.
Different from history. Again:
This town folds up in the winter. This might bring in money. There're going to be casinos in Pennsylvania. Why not here?
Why not indeed? The question bypasses history to ask: aside from historical considerations, honoring the dead, reverencing a special place, why not multipurpose?

And guess what: the state and federal administrators of battlefields - multipurposing fanatics, every one - should be helpless before this question. Their operating principles have made the casino scenario normal and ethical. They have disarmed the truly preservation-minded for decades. The only logical grounds a state or federal parks administrator can have for objecting to a redlight district, casino, or animal rendering plant at Gettysburg is that of a social calculation: attendance levels and "appropriateness".

Likewise, Civil War Preservation Trust seems confused in condemning the casino, being more than happy to multipurpose battlefields by partnering with suchlike as wildlife groups and farmland preservation outfits to buy an easement on the cheap instead of own the land, an easement that keeps people off the land and out of history's way. CWPT has done so much to hybridize battlefield use that it seems weird they would suddenly get single-purpose religion in Gettysburg. Not that there is a lot of religion in that town:
Gettysburg Borough Council President Ted Streeter said he was neutral on the dispute, but he neatly summed up the concern that everyone shares, regardless of their point of view.

Noting that the casino would be outside the boundaries of the battlefield, he said: "How far does the radius of `hallowed ground' extend? If the radius extends that far, it goes through Wal-Mart, Sheetz and the liquor store. Where was our outrage when those started?"
Outrage. I know where mine is every time bird-watchers are invited to join CWPT in slapping restrictive covenants on hallowed ground to keep out the relatives of the fallen. The history minded. The reverent. Out. Rage.

We have set ourselves up for a casino by donating to such as CWPT and applauding their allocation of our funds to multipurposing; we delight in the takeover of private battlefield land by public park administrations for multipurposing.

A casino at Gettysburg is what exactly what we deserve. Not what the dead deserve, no, but what we have earned for them - the most perfect paycheck for our corrupt and incompetent battlefield stewardship. The destruction continues, fueled by our misguided preservation dollars, by ill-conceived preservationist planning, and by that highest of public use principles, multipurposing.

This particular park when founded was an emblem of a certain generation. The casino shall be the emblem of our generation. We will be known for what we really were, not by the lofty names we "preservationists" called ourselves.

[This Bloomberg columnist disagrees and has a few kinder words for CWPT's Gettysburg posture.]

What their friendship was worth

Apparently just 15 cents.

"Mister, can you break a 15-cent bill?"

"Sorry son, I don't normally carry that much money around."

Historiography is apparently like dropped coffee, splashing all sorts of surfaces in every direction. This bill was canceled for the best of historiographic reasons: its subjects weren't history yet.
NEWS | Pennsy Civil War Trails open for business * Historian: Civil War sub may be found * Logan Highway signs unveiled


Anybody seen Hagerman around here?

I don't know what he's up to but I miss him.

Back in the day when McPherson revived the Centennial interpretation of the ACW, when Sears developed vaudeville characters to broaden sales and garner acclaim, Edward Hagerman "got" the Civil War - at least the military science part of it.

So it seemed to me while ingesting reams of pop culture on my mass transit daily reading back then.

Hagerman laid it out in a 1988 tome, The American Civil War and the Origin of Modern Warfare. I don't want to slight the neat things happening in publishing right now - I want to tell you about some of them this week - but let me indulge my nostalgia for Hagerman just now. Here's a taste:

EH: McClellan, ironically, was dismissed for inactivity ... while leading over 100,000 men in one of the most impressive strategic movements of the war.

DR: McClellan's second Richmond campaign not only has a clever underlying idea - separate the pieces of Lee's army by plugging the gaps in the Shenandoah range - it has good execution with a launch date (as Rafuse points out) keyed to the height of the Potomac waters. Once McClellan starts, Lee - lacking bridging - cannot get behind him, nor can he stop McClellan from isolating Jackson west of the mountains while the AoP bears down on Longstreet who is meandering between the mountains and Richmond. There are accounts of Longstreet, isolated, being shelled as the relief letter is delivered to McClellan - the pitch-perfect anticlimax to Richmond II. Surprising to see people as independent and capable as Jones and Hattaway rotely repeating Lincoln's strategic stuffandpuff about the arc of the chord being the road to Richmond - call that as-the-crow flies strategy. Hagerman got it right, though.

EH: McClellan was the first Union field commander of a mass army to filter this heritage of organizational theory and doctrine through the "fog" of mid-nineteenth century transition from traditional to modern warfare. He was the first to feel the friction of mass armies, industrial technology, and the restructuring of American institutional and intellectual culture complicated by political and geographical factors.

DR: GBM was uniquely qualified for this. As a student of European (especially Russian) military doctrines, as a visitor to the battlefields where European doctrines were applied, McClellan was also an outstanding pupil of military theorist D.H. Mahan; and he was a railroad innovator who developed the country's first transmodal railroad shipping system (between Chicago and New Orleans). As for political and intellectual complications, his whole family deserted the Whigs en masse during the party's radicalization.

There is (sadly) no deep organizational/doctrinal study of the Civil War; these kinds of books tend to be shallow or theoretically underdeveloped and run off the rails into applied tactics at the first opportunity. Hagerman could have done it right but his space is limited and his concerns are much broader.

EH: Yet one must also take into account the internal consistency of his military logic. [...] The failure of others in similar or more favorable circumstances tends to support McClellan's military if not his political judgement. [...] Moving with smaller armies than McClellan, Lee was unable to sustain maneuver or maintain his army in the field, or destroy an army following a tactical victory. [...] The course of early campaigning reinforced what McClellan ... had anticipated from the beginning: maneuver was an organizational monster.

DR: Moving on from Mac...

EH: Lee at least partially overcame the problem of the increased number of wagons needed to forage when he anticipated the organization for foraging that Sherman would develop ... [Lee rejected Longstreet's suggestion at Gettysburg because] the risks of maneuver led Lee to seek what he had come to reject: tactical victory by frontal assault.

If Buell refused to attack him within a very few days, Bragg had no alternative but to seek subsistence. Coming within range of the Confederate Army, Buell entrenched. He refused to rise to Bragg's bait ... His [Buell's] 110-mile march from Nashville had taken only fourteen days, a fairly impressive average of eight miles a day for so large an army foraging with such limite transportation ... Buell was learning the logistical art of extending limited field transportation through the combination of widespread foraging and rapid movement.

[Rosecrans began Tullahoma] with an extraordinary standard that may have exceeded sixty-nine or seventy wagons per 1,000 men. Rosecrans also moved 45,000 animals, the highest proportion of animals to men of any campaign in the war. [...] Rosecrans' success and the speed of his movement make a case for the virtues of careful preparation and an abnormal transportation standard ... Rosecrans' speed of movement was remarkable, considering that he had to cope with torrential rains... This rate exceeds Sherman's average of between 12 and 15 miles per day in his raid to Savannah...

The priority Grant accorded entrenching equipment in the Union supply trains reflected the increased respect for hasty entrenchment... In preparation for the 1864 campaign, Grant ordered one-half the wagons carrying entrenching tools placed at the head of the supply column of the leading division of each corps.

Good stuff. Break's over, Mr. Hagerman, get back to work.

Civil War publishing is ....

If you did not follow the links in yesterday's post on the Civil War publishing experiences of Eric and Mark, please do. They went into a level of detail about their personal experiences that you find only rarely even on the Net.

Recycling secondary sources at a premium

Drew Wagenhoffer spotted a new book on McClellan's first Richmond campaign based entirely on secondary sources - mainly Sears ! - and priced at $45 for 185 pages.

Is this is a publishing house that thinks there's still plenty of money to be made in that old time (1961-1965) religion? Or is this the fruit of an acquisitions editor who does not know which end is up?
NEWS | Syracuse re-enactors wantr missing Union statue restored * Lick Run battlefield plan stirs discussion * Civil War bones removed from auction * For Confederate history buffs, caring for soldiers' graves a way to connect to past


On Civil War publishing

Mark Grimsley says - this surprised me -
For someone in my position, even a book that sells poorly still gets me a (usually decent) merit raise in salary. In fact, from a purely financial standpoint that's the main reason for a professor to write books in the first place. The only time a professor is likely to make more money from royalties than raises is when she hits the jackpot on a major college textbook.
I would guess that makes for a higher manuscript acceptance hurdle, since the editor reviewing the proposed book has some lingering suspicions in mind.

Mark was reflecting on Eric Wittenberg's comments about University Presses. Let me interleave some comments of my own.

Eric says: The advantage of a university press is that they don’t have to make a profit.

Comment: I think they do: professors used to complain a decade or so ago, that their university presses are more interested in commercially viable stuff than the school's monographs. I think the business model is just different from a trade house. There is a low first press run, keeping expenses down, there is a minimal marketing budget, and there is a hope that the books will become assigned reading - or be embraced by specialists. At a convention of the national organization of political scientists, I heard the director of LSU Press say that Volume I of Eric Voegelin's Order and History (a $45 hardback selling around 1980) had done quite well for them at sales of 1,800 plus copies. (Time frame: middle late nineties. Voegelin publishing is now at University of Missouri Press.)

This sets up explanatory for Eric's main beef:

Eric: ...they can get away with charging absolutely outrageous prices for things.

Comment: It seems to me that there is a cost-per-unit calculation at work in which the low press run is driving up unit prices. This is a hunch: I think in trade presses, some book costs are written off as overhead and in academic houses the full cost is account for in unit pricing. There is also a hope that a limited market of specialists will say "must buy."

Eric: ... although they can charge ridiculous prices, the university presses often cut corners in ways that detract from the overall quality of a book.

Comment: I have been humiliated on the author's behalf reading Oxford University Press offerings in which the author has been compelled to freehand his own battle diagrams using a blunt (damaged) marker.

Eric: ... university presses can take an unreasonably long time to get stuff published. LSU published one of my books in 2002. I submitted the manuscript in 1999. For the record, it took them nearly THREE years to get the book out.

Comment: I'll bet the politics around a university press's release schedule are ferocious. Up to a third of those I monitor will not even have released their catalogs at the start of the season covered by that seasonal catalog!

Eric: Kent State’s marketing efforts are stunningly lame.

Comment: I have never, ever seen a copy of Tom Rowland's George B. McClellan and Civil War History on a bookshelf in any store. I tried to buy the entire press run from them in case they had marked them for pulping or remaindering and the marketing department said, no worries, it may be slightly discounted at worst. At the time, I think they were having a catalog sale and it was 15% off list. So there's an upside: as an author you have years to gin up demand!

I was disconcerted but refreshed by Eric's and Mark's willingness to name names. (Grimsley's criticism of the University Press of Nebraska is here.)

p.s. Don't miss the comments section on both posts.
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The Civil War book sensation of 2005

This seems to be it.

The next wave in public history

... appears to be "stop mediating the public's history."

I see that Civil War Preservation Trust, preparing a story of the Battle of Chancelorsville, has invited National History Inc. to create an "interpretation" of the battlefield.

National History Inc. has resolved "to hear from residents about how to tell the story about what happened along a creek called Lick Run west of Chancellor Elementary School."

Perfect. At this rate even Ken Burns will be out of a job soon.

Obligatory McPherson post

C. Vann Woodward's lesser light, James McPherson, has taken his show on the road and landed smack dab on the home ground of Woodward's star pupil Edward Ayers. McPherson, "the dean of American Civil War scholars," will speak at the University of Tennessee at Martin next month.

He is sponsored by something called the Vertical Immersion Program - McPherson is all horizontal immersion to me - and where Tennessee native Ayers has lately and publicly been applying purgatives to McPherson fans, the University of Tennessee can still muster a statement like, "James McPherson is the most prominent Civil War scholar of the past 30 years."

Unless I miscounted, that would be the most prominent since 1975. If memory serves, McPherson was an obscure race relations historian in 1975 with little familiarity with the Civil War.

The habit of praising McPherson extravagantly has passed beyond the bounds of reason, record, or history, or even decorum.

Not that I am an expert on decorum. But really.
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Jazz based on Civil War themes

I want to hear this stuff.

Team of Rivals - the reviews roll in

Here's a treat for regular readers of this blog. It's a quote from American Heritage about Doris Kearns Goodwin's new Lincoln book Team of Rivals: "Though Goodwin has written a fine, well-researched book, she is stronger on narrative than on analysis."

As I pick myself off the floor, Goodwin herself decks me with this roundhouse punch:
After discovering additional passages [in her Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys) that closely paralleled the original sources, Goodwin ordered the book removed from stores and promised a new edition, which has yet to be written. "I just got right back to this (the Lincoln book), which was more important," says Goodwin ...
Meanwhile, meanwhile,
Meanwhile, new paperback copies of The Fitzgeralds and the Kennedys [unrevised edition filled with "borrowings"] remain on sale, not through the book's original publisher, Simon & Schuster, but through St. Martin's Press. [...] Goodwin said that she knew nothing about the St. Martin's edition until earlier this month, after The Boston Globe noted its availability. Simon & Schuster also expressed surprise.
Surprise, surprise. Would she have been surprised if the royalty checks told the story instead of the Boston media? Get this:
John Murphy, a spokesman for St. Martin's, said Thursday that the publisher was hoping to resolve the matter. "We're looking into the history of it," he said.
From beneath his rock.

Oh, but we're here for the reviews. Christian Science Monitor: "Goodwin isn't a prose stylist, and she could have included less play-by-play and more color commentary."

If she's no analyst and not much of a prose stylist, what the dickens is this? New York Daily News:
Goodwin's story of his great, troubled, triumphant life is a star-spangled, high-stepping, hat-waving, bugle-blowing winner.
Which is what we want from history, I suppose.
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