A challenge worthy of evasion

Harry Smeltzer has double dared me to read the new Slocum bio. I'm going to browse it in a bookstore and then probably declare myself defeated without a full reading effort. Until about five years ago, I was compulsive about finishing a book regardless of how trashy. That is probably how I built up an endless rage against pop historians. He has made me afraid to read the new bio.

OT: I used to drive by Slocum's Bowl-a-Drome near Trenton (NJ) wondering about the strange name "Slocum." One day, in the company of an Englishman we passed the sign and he burst out, "Slocum! That describes how you bowl after a few beers."

If you are wondering how pop history ends up as trash, Harry gives a clue on his blog:
As I began my research, I asked the advice of some folks who have had success in Civil War publishing. I was told that my approach was all wrong. Rather than starting from square one and just letting the information lead me, I was assured that the only way to go about the project was to start off knowing what I wanted to produce (an article, a book), and to also have a pretty good idea of the story I wanted to tell. Needless to say, I didn’t take that advice.
I notice Harry has some Sprague material on his blog. I once took exception to Salmon Chase being called his daughter's pimp, but the more you learn about Sprague (who looks drunk in the picture on Harry's site), the more the circumstantial evidence mounts in favor of pimping. Let's see, richest man in America; needs cotton to stay rich; ACW cuts off cotton imports but Chase gets Lincoln to authorize cross-border cotton trading; Chase protege McDowell is put in charge of inspecting cotton transactions with Secessia; voila! Riches! Daughter has the means to take care of papa.

Shame old Sprague had to get mixed up in gun smuggling to the Confederacy but Stanton did well to hush that up. Then he had to go and divorce the belle of Washington.

Kate Chase-Sprague, a recent biography noted, ended her life selling eggs and milk to neighbors to stay out of the poorhouse. Her father ended on the Supreme Court as a Democrat. Sprague ended in the proverbial gutter.

Who says the Civil War is boring?

(Photo: Slocum's death mask. Apologies for linking his memory with a bowl-a-drome.)