End-of-year publishing

New meme alert: Howard J. Fuller argues in Clad in Iron that the ironclad building program was primarily intended as a strategic balance-of-power play in the cold war against Britain. But it seems to me that in order for this idea to "float," a U.S. ironclad specifications review would be in order. Hope he has included one. Furthermore, the ironclad building program would have to survive the war and as William H. Roberts has shown in Civil War Ironclads, the builders were ruined, the relevant project office was discredited, and the Navy walked away from the new technology. (Just some initial thoughts.)

Old meme alert: Grant scholar Brooks Simpson once mused on what it would be like to switch careers to hack - I'm sorry, a popular - Civil War author. This occurred to me in seeing yet another reworking of his first book by Edward H. Bonekemper, a Grant partisan/essayist who knows how to milk his memes. Expect polemic, an absence of primary sources, and short shrift for the opposing view. I hope he's making loads of money - it would be a shame to contaminate future demand for Grant books for mediocre sales.

Older still: The question of whether the South could have won the war is revisted yet again by an author, Bevin Alexander, who has published a run of speculative history of this sort. From comments I've seen, this is military conjecture exclusively, with the author showing a soft spot for the decisive battle doctrine. The decisive battle question, if you even want to entertain it, would have to play differently for each side, North and South. Alexander sets the bar suspiciously low for the North, imagining, for instance, a capitulation after the occupation of Washington post Bull Run number one.

(These books are being released between tomorrow and the new year and I have not seen them - I am reacting to the publisher's information and reviewers' comments.)


A career buried in Grant's tomb

Imagine a four-hour daily commute to your job as park ranger for Grant's Tomb. Imagine doing that job for 11 years:
... the stately, 159-foot marble and granite edifice was covered with graffiti, and the one-acre site was infested with junkies, frequented by the homeless and used by neighborhood gangs to stage dogfights.

Sesquicentennial license plates

So far, Tennessee is the only state to Civil War anniversary license plates. And it won't offer them unless it gets 1,000 advance orders.


The bloodlust of the Civil War historian

Having put in a few bad words for Mark Neely's Civil War and the Limits of Destruction, let me now share a few moments of enjoyment.

First there is a general tone of exasperation with Civil War history which suits me very well. Not all the complaints rock my own hobbyhorses, of course.

For instance, Neely is unhappy with ACW historians' readings of the Mexican War; they have not incorporated the social lessons within the regimental histories that have been issued since the Centennial. Myself, I think this is missing the point of "What the Civil War historian needs to learn from the Mexican War." I'll save that for a series of posts.

More convivial to me is Neely repeatedly mining James McPherson for examples of ahistoricisms and analytic errors. I need to do more of that here.

Neely's last chapter is the starting point for an altogether new book, an inquiry into why Civil War historians avoid numerical analysis whilst they grossly abuse the few numbers they deploy.

Here we have a theme dear to this blog: you've seen it in posts on the surgeon's morning reports, Lincoln's ongoing sub rosa dialog with McClellan on desertion, on the use of round numbers in battle estimates, and in the ignorant modern criticism of contemporary strength estimates.

Neely starts off noting that no one has ever bothered updating Fox or Livermore - a huge tell on Civil War historians, I think - and thus"we can add to our 'to-do' list a future sophisticated statistical assessment of the traditional figures given for losses in the Civil War."

The current crop of deeply misunderstood casualty numbers, Neely notes,
"serve Civil War historians themselves, for example. The emphasis on unequaled bloodiness has become a way for those of us who write on the war to impress our readers with the importance of our subject. The number killed, usually put at around 620,000, exceeded the number of American soldiers killed in all our wars put together... It is a horrifyingly impressive figure..."
He then proceeds to take it apart, noting it is used "to sensationalize Civil War history."

He notes the figure totals friendly and enemy dead - producing a unique, one-of-a-kind aggregate.
If we consider the Civil War casualties one "country" at a time, then the 360,000 Union dead do not equal even the 407,000 Americans killed in World War II.
He then explores why people use the combined totals.
If the casualty figures are meant as a measure of tragedy, then they certainly are tragic. But if they are meant as a measure of the intensity of fighting, destructiveness, mercilessness, and hardness, then to combine the two [figure sets, Union and CSA] is unfairly to have doubled the intensity ...
(Emphasis in the original.)

He notes this is "a simple statistical fallacy." He also notes the tendency to take the total of 620,000 and extrapolate the losses against the current population base. "That escalation of numbers typifies the tendency ... toward sensationalizing results."

As a further deflator, Neely uses readily available statistics to identify death figures from disease: 225,000 for the North and 194,000 for the South. Suddenly, we see combat deaths combined for North and South total 201,000, not (he notes) 620,000. If we disaggregate blue from grey, we find 135,000 combat deaths for the North and 66,000 for the South. "In absolute numbers, then, the North suffered deaths equal to about two and a half times the number of Americans killed in Vietnam." [...] The point, put another way, is to show that the claims of "bloodiest conflict" can be qualified so as not to make the Civil War exist in some unfathomably violent category by itself."

Neely, looking for a relevant comparison, turns to casualties in the Crimean War, seeing an aggregated death toll of 640,000 over a two year period. "... the Crimean War generated as many soldiers' deaths as the American Civil War did in about half the time..."

He reaches a conclusion that we have previously seen in Nosworthy's Bloody Crucible of Courage:
Repeated assertion of the destructive nature of the Civil War may, in fact, only serve to remind readers of the provincial nature of American history-writing.
In a look back at his own work in this volume, Neely imagines he has put paid to the idea that the ACW was a "total war" and muses, "Destructiveness, shorn of the greater overarching concept of 'total war,' now leads nowhere. It is not clear what the cult of violence in writing about the Civil War now serves."
It cannot possibly be true that we are now at risk of underestimating the destructiveness of that war. Instead, we consistently underestimate many other important features of the conflict because of the fixation on violence.


The perfect disclaimer

A publisher warns Civil War readers:
The work presents happenings from a contemporary viewpoint rather than how they were reported and retold at a later time.
It's like a microwave oven warning about pacemakers. Your preconceptions will not work here. Love it.


Lincoln's communists 1/4

If I were directing a film about Shiloh, there must come a scene where Col. August Willich's 32nd Indiana, sore pressed by the Rebels, deploys its band which begins rallying men's spirits with blasts of La Marseillaise - as we are told actually happened. Exercising my artistic license, I would put these revolutioary Badeners under their beloved red flag. Then, I'd have my extras mouth a verse of that La Marseillaise for heightened effect:
Tremble, tyrants! and you, traitors,
The disgrace of all groups,
Tremble! Your parricidal plans
Will finally pay the price!
Hating (as deeply as he does) American political history, we can hardly expect the Civil War historian to break his high-speed narrative journey for a side trip down the tracks of contemporary European politics. As a result, we see through the window of our speeding storymobile, vestiges of information like abandoned crossroads or grown-over side streets when we hear that, for instance, Franz Sigel was a veteran of the Baden revolutionary war of 1848. This glimmer of information is then further obscured to be served up in formulae such as as, "he brought a reputation as a fighter and a liberal" to the Union side. An additional gloss is often provided on our ride down talespinner boulevard: "He fled Germany, eventually arriving in St. Louis, Missouri..."

Yes indeed he did. And as to the stops on the way, and what he believed and fought for, his political work, well, who has time for that? For Sigel, as putty in the hands of the ACW historian, prefigures the apoliticism imposed on all those American Civil War generals who figure as neutral characters in the Centennial narrative.

We must consider ourselves lucky to glimpse even the outside of the political dossier on Sigel. The inference offered by Civil War histories, when another German name is encountered, is that this is some officer recruited into an ethnic unit who eventually merited promotion or attention.

To get any glimpse into the lives and beliefs of Lincoln's German generals, we have to range far outside of Civil War literature into books like Exiles from European Revolutions: Refugees in Mid-Victorian England and Revolutionary Refugees: German Socialism in Britain. We learn there, for example, that August Willich founded in London the Communist League; that he recruited Sigel, Schimmelpfennig, and many other future Union officers to the League; that the League believed in a dictatorship of the proletariat; that Willich, Sigel, et al feuded with Marx and Engels (the same Engels who had been Willich's ADC during the Baden revolt); and that Willich wrote extensively on his beliefs ("We will make hell a well-organized union foundry.")

Friedrich Engels shared his scorn for Willich as socialist idealogue in an article called "On the History of the Communist League" -
Willich was one of those sentimental Communists so common in Western Germany since 1845, who on that account alone was instinctively, furtively antagonistic to our critical tendency. More than that, he was entirely the prophet, convinced of his personal mission as the predestined liberator of the German proletariat and as such a direct claimant as much to political as to military dictatorship.
It may have been passages like this one that pushed Engels' buttons:
...in the rule of private capital in the relations of production, i.e. in the basis of its own existence, also lies its own destruction. [The bourgeoisie] does not understand that the nature of capital has become concentrated and that only then, the fourth estate, the proletariat, will cease to be revolutionary, because concentrated capital can only become social capital.
In other words, Willich says capital tends towards concentration, concentration emphasizes the social dimensions of capital, and the eventual transformation of financial capital will pacify the proletariat.

Damn, now I'm dumbing down the record.

In any case, I'd have to put that little speech in my Shiloh movie as well. Union soldiers shouting over musket fire the terms bourgeoisie and proletariat. Our Centennial friends would curl up and die.

Meanwhile, let's look at some public records.

(This is the first post in a series.)


"Havoc" moves to paper

Cry Havoc!, an attack on James McPherson's and the Centennialist's "inevitability of war" thesis, has appeared in paperback.

In reviewing the hardcover, the NY Times well understood author Nelson Lankford's use of narrative to undo the corruption of narrative:
Historians tell stories. That is their profession. And the goal of storytelling is to impose order on a disorderly array of facts, to steer events toward a conclusion that seems satisfyingly final, even inevitable. In “Cry Havoc!” Nelson D. Lankford disrupts the process.
The idea that "historians tell stories" is nonsense, of course, unless one counts that along with other items like "Historians eat meals" and "Historians rest at night." But you get the larger idea.

I think "What If" - as a hook - will provide the lever of Archimedes in Civil War history - one that moves the discerning readers off the world of craptastic pop history.

p.s. Harry has posted on this book and finds the "what-if" factor weak.
Each chapter identifies various turning points at which, if things had been handled differently, events might have been profoundly affected. The problem is that the alternative choices are seldom specific, and the alternative outcomes are rarely identified. [...] Another problem is the failure of the author to recognize that the fundamental difference between the Union and the seceded states were their mutually exclusive objectives - Union or Disunion.
I think these matters are worth a second look in another post.

Lincoln books - a roundup

Quite an omnibus review of Lincoln books from the Library Journal here. Interesting to see Gerald Prokopowicz's Lincoln book, which he and I discussed on his radio show, is coming out next month. He said he was aiming for the broadest audience and apparently he delivered. Library Journal was not pleased:
Prokopowicz, Gerald J. Did Lincoln Own Slaves? And Other Frequently Asked Questions About Abraham Lincoln. Pantheon. Jan. 2008. 352p. illus. bibliog. index. ISBN 978-0-375-42541-7. $24.95. BIOG

Within chronological chapters, this book indeed consists of questions and answers. Unfortunately, the author's heavy-handed casualness ("Billy Herndon") and ripostes (e.g., turning down one of his own questions by responding "Next question please") will turn off many earnest Lincoln readers. Optional for public libraries.
The book is out in an audio format as well.

Savas Woodbury bloggers

Ted Savas does some nice reminiscing about Savas Woodbury, the publishers, on his blog. I still cite material from Civil War Regiments.

As for his erstwhile partner David Woodbury, he has published an intriguing snatch of correspondence between Stanton and Grant on his own blog. He thinks the exchange is mainly about evicting McDowell. I think it is mainly about evicting Halleck. (So says a comment - not mine - as well.)

Lincoln opera on the way

News from Louisville:
$17,000 [granted] to the University of Kentucky Opera Society for a new production that will focus on Lincoln as a young man in Illinois.


Emancipation on Long Island

Even at this late date, people are still learning about slavery.

People like arraigned ... enslavers.

The wonder of Illinois agriculture

The Anything but Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum (ALPLM) is going "to develop educational resources on the history of Illinois Agriculture."

And you thought multipurposing was just for battlefield parks.

The expulsion order was Halleck's fault

The Politico:
On this day in 1862, Gen. Ulysses S. Grant (1822-1885) issued an order during the Civil War expelling Jews from a large region occupied by the Union Army.
[...] Grant came under the influence of Henry Halleck, the Union armies’ general-in-chief, who directly linked “traitors” with “Jew peddlers.”
Or was it Grant's father's influence? Why can't this be Grant's decision?.

"Lincoln was psychic"

"Lincoln lovers will be interested to know that Lincoln himself was a pretty psychic guy," said Martinez.
He could tell whenever a commanding general was going to be fired.


The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction

Mark Neely has written an extended historical essay to ask what were the limits of destruction in the Civil War (military-on-civil) and how were limits set. To get this on a solid history footing, one pictures years of trolling through county property records 1861-1865, through newspapers of the period, and through court records, never mind memoirs, letters, and other kinds of testimony.

Instead of rigorous history, one gets here, as mentioned, an historical essay: impressionistic, anecdotal, with some broad-brush overviews of the Sand Creek massacre, the Mexican civil war, and the U.S. - Mexican War. Almost an op-ed piece, this.

The construction of the book is eccentric, so the reader should start with the conclusion, which is clear and strong, then work backward through Neely's arguments. (He seems to have worked backward from his conclusions anyway.)

Neely notices limits on Civil War violence set by the commanders' and soldiers' internal (cultural) beliefs, violated only in cases of racial hatred or guerilla warfare. (To the extent an essay can support such an ambitious agenda, the race hatred element is the least developed, btw.)

The limits of violence could have undergone an historian's treatment, as I said at the outset; however, transformed by Neely into a statement about the inner life of soldiers and their cultural mores, it becomes a difficult sociological or anthropological matter, subject to the exacting methodology of a more respectable social science than history - something far beyond what an extended history-flavored op-ed can accomplish.

Note that this book's social science problem - the inner values of soldiers - fell out of a non-historic core project. The core project Neely gave himself was actually literary: to take down the Centennial meme of the Civil War as an "unusually destructive" war - as being "modern" in its destructiveness.

The core project then is literary and therefore manageable with a literary toolbox. (Tom Rowland set a marvelous example of how to do this when he unwrapped the inane literary conventions surrounding the historians' depictions of McClellan.) But Neely mishandles the task. You are not going to remedy literary excess with historical arguments and proofs.

"Modern-in-its-destructiveness" certainly deserves an acid bath, being yet another novelistic Centennial history gimmick deployed to tart up the "interesting" and "unique" aspects of the Civil War while spinning a lovely coverall for those of the storyteller's "characters" who might be seen by readers as murderous or wanton. One way to manage this kind of problem would be to examine the passages in works where the meme is stated most plainly and test them as the potential novelistic devices they appear to be. The issue is not what kind of history they represent if they are not history at all.

"Factual" examples and reasoning to "disprove" historically what is at root writerly tradecraft - this way lies madness.

So Neely is here fighting bad literature with bad history thinking all the while he is applying a cure to the other guy's nonfiction. Moreover, in racing the rattletrap equipment of bad history down the litcrit highway, he has run off the road into the high weeds of cultural anthropology (where the cottonmouths of the blogosphere await!).

Given a mission to debunk the meme "modern-in-its-destructiveness," powerful literary tools await: "close reading," deconstruction, comparative analysis, whatever. They await the hand of the essayist as long as the work remains.

I'll read Neely's next book and the one after. They're always interesting. He's usually on the right track.

He's been developing a meta-criticism of the entire Civil War field. Now he should find a publisher with top-flight editors to guide him in this purpose.


Civil War mindsets in cyberspace

If you agree with my Boydian premise that culturally the Army (and its progeny the Air Force) remain Civil War-era institutions, you'll understand the thrust of John Robb's new insights immediately.


Bicentennial funding cut in Illinois

Interesting comment:
"The creation of our committee is partly in response to the fact that the state bicentennial commission's funding has been cut, and there remains an uncertainty regarding funding for the local bicentennial groups."
Meanwhile, CWPT is pushing to preserve 50,000 acres in Virginia before the ACW Sesquicentennial kicks off.

p.s. If you search for >>sesquicentennial "civil war"<< on Google News, you'll get a staggering 24 hits, about half of which are false positives.


Union corps commands - a dissent

Reader Will Keene had objections to the corps commander posts presented here. The comments below are his with my interleavings in blue.

I found your "analysis" on Corps commander turnover
very disappointing. Examples:

- You give two date spans for the I Corps during which it was officially designated as I Corps, but the organization continued under McDowell throughout the time from April to September 1862, just under a different names. Thus there was continuity during this period and not the discontinuity you show.
I followed the dates given in Commanders of Army Corps, Divisions, and Brigades; Dyer's Compendium; and Eicher's & Eicher's Civil War High Commands. I didn't cherry-pick them from among the three sources - all three provide the same dates at the root of which are Army decisions on the matter. From the Army's point of view the Army of the Department of the Rappahannock did not equal I Corps, AoP. Keeping McDowell for that period as I Corps commander does not lower the number of changes of command but would extend the "life" of the I Corps to 733 days. That would increase the stability picture slightly by making the average corps tenure 61 days at a cost of violating the Army's view of the heritage of the corps. Can we agree that 61 days of command remains a cruel joke?

- Stating in your final entry of the series that there were 12 changes of command in the I Corps is technically true but tells us nothing about the nature of those command changes.
In many cases I don't understand the nature of those changes. However, the number 12 I view as atrocious.

You provided more information earlier in the series but chose to not analyze that information, instead preferring summary statistics without context.
I don't have the context to analyze the data - I present it here so that enterprising readers can get cracking on their own analyses. You have started on this yourself.

In the case of the I Corps there were only 4 permanent commanders: McDowell, Hooker, Reynolds, and Newton. Meade, Wadsworth and Doubleday (senior Division commanders) filled in during the temporary incapacity or absence of the regular commander. Thus your summary statistics makes it appear as if there were more commanders than there actually were. The changes from Hooker to Reynolds and Reynolds to Newton were due to casualties in battle, not anything to do with decisions eminating from high command in Washington.
I don't understand the concept of "permanent" commanders, where this comes from or why it matters. A change of command for two days is a change of command - to use a Wadsworthian example. A temporary command is paralyzing to the unit as no major decisions can be made nor plans drawn up; additionally however much the division commanders socialize, the temp corps commander is a stranger to the division commanders managerially unless this is his second temp incumbency.

Across all data I found only three instances of incumbency lasting for a few days. Given that the senior division commander would naturally assume corps command in the commander's absence, I don't know why orders for temporary command - if that's what thses were - needed to be issued unless the new (temp?) appointee lacked rank to command a corps. In which case, more stress on cohesion.

Incapacity and absence also create turmoil, whatever the circumstances.
- Likewise with the III Corps there were only four main commanders, with one temporary commander. Since that temporary commander had to step in on multiple occasions for a few days while the main commander was absent, it appears as if there were more instability in command than really was the case.
I disagree with this concept of "more instability than really was the case." I have been the temporary commander of units. I have been subject to temporary commanders. In the case of III Corps, it was not a case of a few days absence while the troops lolled in winter quarters. E&E count nine of these instances.
- I find it shocking that you would not see the difference between what was called the V Corps from '13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62' and what was called the V Corps from '18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65'. Two entirely different entities yet you treat them as the same thing.
I treat them exactly as the Army listed them - I made no personal exceptions to the Army's classification system, otherwise the whole analysis would fall into question.
- Again, most of the change in command in the IX Corps was temporary changes, such as Schurz briefly taking command on July 1 while Howard commanded all Corps present at Gettysburg.
I don't think temporary is stabilizing. The onus is on anyone to explain why temporary changes are not detrimental. As a former brigade and division staff officer, I assure you they matter, especially under stress such as combat.

- Like points made above, most of the turnover in the XII Corps is the result of Williams stepping in during the temporary absence of the commander. Banks (not included in your count because you seemed to have not grasped the history of the entity), Mansfield, Slocum and (temporarily) Williams were the only commanders of this Corps until merged into the XX Corps.
I did not name the commanders (making up the Eicher's XII Corps count of nine command changes in this post), so how could anyone possibly know if I included or excluded Banks?

Let me repeat that there is a heavy burden of proof on anyone who claims that three people can change places nine times and not destabilize a unit.
So, for you to conclude based on this superficial data that "The illustration we have here is of the destructive incompetence of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck." makes the writings of Sears and McPherson looks good by comparison.
This destructive incompetence conclusion is a throwaway line that deserves a separate post and should not have appeared where it did. Where it is now, it bears the hallmarks of overreaching that mark the histories of Sears and McPherson.

We can agree that Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck can't be saddled with changes due to combat losses - so here the data perhaps should be refined. But these men knew that combat losses would be a tax levied on top of other changes made in the command system. At the end of it all, they were responsible for creating the conditions that would win the war, for the stability of commands. Every permanent corps change made by or requested by the army or department commander required higher approval.

The data, raw as it was, incomplete as it was, preliminary as it now is, seems to me to point to managerial failure on a grand scale. Further, it seems to me to be unique to Lincoln, Stanton, Halleck, and this war. Material for a future post, perhaps.

If temporary assignments should not be counted as changes - if a serious case can be made why this should be so, let it be made. It is fair criticism to require that battlefield replacements not be charged to the competence of Lincoln, Stanton, or Halleck. It is possible, through these adjustments, to arrive at better turnover rates, but in no case do we arrive at decent corps commander turnover rates, not even by the abysmal standards of Vietnam.

Her father's manuscript

Along with Paul and Drew, I too have become enchanted with a story about a daughter's rescue of her late father's manuscript.

Meanwhile, here's a story about what happens when you don't complete your research. I like the touch about alerting the relatives (who couldn't give a damn, one suspects).


Black spies

This is an interesting but not deep article on .... well, just read the title:

Black Dispatches: Black American Contributions to Union Intelligence During the Civil War

Some tidbits I found irresistible: Butler's "Big Bethel" offensive was a pre-emptive strike incited by intelligence and reconnaissance; Pinkerton relied heavily on one John Scobell for order of battle information, troop movements, and morale evaluations; AoP intelligence gathering shut down abruptly in November of 1862 with McClellan's relief. (Not that it stayed inactive.)


A new novel about ACW intelligence

This may be a trend. The new title. The less new title.


History professors need to begin complying with the minimum disclosure standards of the journalist, says Gil Troy.


Meade's oblique reference (cont.)

Reader Bill Bergen writes:
I spent a day at the Point last year investigating the turmoil there in 1863-64. Stanton was taking an active interest, and there was rapid turnover in Point's leaders as a result. Tidball describes some of this. While I found interesting material, I did not find anything publishable.

Foner on Musharraf's Lincoln references

Eric Foner from the Nation:
Here is what Lincoln did not do and Musharraf did. He did not suspend the Constitution, remove the Chief Justice, impose martial law upon the entire country, incarcerate dozens of lawyers, arrest leaders of the opposition party and human rights advocates or ban political demonstrations.
Did he not suspend provisions of the Constitution? Ignore the Chief Justice? Suspend habeas corpus throughout the north? Arrest leaders of the opposition party and place them in prison incommunicado? To the Republican in the street, opposition to the war was treason and opposition to the incumbent's war policies were treason; hence 1861's Summer of Rage in which mobs were unleashed against the Republican Party's political opponents. To the man in the street, Musharraf included, Foner is splitting ridiculously fine hairs.

It's one thing to argue steps were necessary another to say they never happened.


Rick Beard plans a Lincoln exhibit

When you think "Lincoln," do you think of race riots:
The Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library wants the public's help to put together an exhibit marking the 100th anniversary of the Springfield Race Riot. [...] The riot began on August 14, 1908, after news that two black men being held at the Sangamon County Jail had been moved. A mob raged for two days, killing at least seven people and destroying many black-owned businesses and homes. Just two people were punished by the law.

Beard says interested donors should call the museum. He says the materials will be in use from spring 2008 until January 2009.
Whatcha gonna do when "Fashion Knight" ends? Celebrate some race riots! Celebrate them right up until the bicentennial of his birthday: February 12, 2009. I guess after a few years, you run out of Lincoln exhibition ideas and materials.


Meade's oblique reference

Ethan Rafuse posted some more of Meade's snappings, including this coy one:
By the by a recent oration at West Point has made a great rumpus, & I understand the principal officers engaged in getting it up are to be relieved from duty. The oration was good enough in itself but the time, place & man were all unsuited, and the whole affair a mistake.
The reference is to McClellan. The speech is here.

Brooks Simpson on Neely's new book

Some thoughts of mine on Neely's newest coming late in the day.

Meanwhile, Brooks Simpson has registered a few impressions:
I’ve already mentioned my surprise upon coming across a catalog description for Mark Neely’s The Civil War and the Limits of Destruction. Normally one chuckles at what one could call publisher overstatement, although in many cases authors have more than a casual hand in framing promotional material. In this case, I don’t think the advertising’s misrepresenting the book. I do think the book misrepresents current scholarly understandings of the nature of the Civil War and whether it deserves to be typed a “total war.” By offering a certain definition of “total war,” one can set up a strawman that is subject to easy dismissal. Since the term “total war” has been tossed around rather casually in the literature, this is an easy task. If one wishes to rest one’s claim to fame upon a rather clever dismantling of a carelessly-employed term, well, that might qualify for brilliance in a first year graduate seminar, but I think one has to do more if one is to advance understanding beyond that. We shall see.
This is from a post called "On my desk" and one would suppose Brooks Simpson's own new book would be on that desk but I see that Amazon has now moved the release date from December 2007 to mid-2009.

p.s. His aside to me in discussing blurbs I think pertains to this post (scroll down to 2/25/2004) rather than to my exuberant blurb on Army of the Potomac.

Update, 12/07/07. Brooks writes: "...that manuscript is in a computer, not on a desk. :) It should go out to the publisher early next year. I was trying to absorb moreof the recent work on McClellan and Ethan's work on Lee in the East, which will soon appear."

Virtual Savas-Beatie

Ted Savas has some thoughts on yesterday's post. Interesting also that Sarah has opened a chatroom.


Union corps commands: chaos at the top: 4/4

Welcome to your new command, corps commander. We're hoping you can help win the war in the next 40-odd days of your incumbency.

This post presents the inferno that was the Union corps commander turnover rate. It focuses on those formations most closely associated with the AOP.

The data below represents corps lifespans in days as calculated from Dyer's Compendium; the changes of command are from Eicher & Eicher's Civil War High Commands. The number of days (Dyer's) was divided by the number of changes (Eichers) to produce average number of days tenure in command.

The success story, from the viewpoint of stability, was IV Corps with one commander only, Keyes. On the other end was IX corps - though identified with Burnside, it suffered 30 changes of command.

For a modern perspective, keep in mind that the Vietnam tour for officers was six months, say 180 days, and that this was generally considered extremely destructive of morale, institutional memory, efficiency, and effectiveness.

I Corps
13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62
12 Sep 62 - 24 Mar 64
Lifespan - 571 days
Changes of command - 12
Average corps command span - 48 days

II Corps
13 Mar 62 - 28 June 65
Lifespan - 1204 days
Changes of command - 29
Average corps command span - 42 days

III Corps
13 Mar 62 - 24 Mar 64
Lifespan - 743 days
Changes of command - 9
Average corps command span - 83 days

IV Corps
13 Mar 62 - 1 Aug 63
Lifespan - 507 days
Changes of command - 0
Average corps command span - 507 days

V Corps
13 Mar 62 - 4 Apr 62
18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65
Lifespan - 1159 days
Changes of command - 18
Average corps command span - 63 days

VI Corps
18 May 62 - 28 Jun 65
12 Sep 62 - 24 Mar 64
Lifespan - 1138 days
Changes of command - 10
Average corps command span - 81 days
Includes time spent in AoS

IX Corps
3 Aug 62 - 1 Aug 65
Lifespan - 1094 days
Changes of command - 30
Average corps command span - 36 days
Includes time spent attached to other armies and departments

XI Corps
12 Sep 62 - 10 Apr 64
Lifespan - 573 days
Changes of command - 12
Average corps command span - 48 days
Includes time spent in AoC

XII Corps
12 Sep 62 - 18 Apr 64
Lifespan - 585 days
Changes of command - 9
Average corps command span - 65 days
Includes time spent in AoC

Days were rounded up from 0.5 inclusive. The leap year in 1864 is accounted for.

This post makes no claim that the turnover rate for AoP units was higher or lower than for western corps. That would represent the next layer of analysis.

The illustration we have here is of the destructive incompetence of Lincoln, Stanton, and Halleck.

HarperCollins to compete with "MySpace"

HarperCollins has created some sort of toolkit that allows their authors without websites to create them (example here).

I'm not sure how this is better than a MySpace page or the publisher's own "about our author" page. It won't be indexed any faster and given that the book is out, it is too late to build a web readership that carries over to paper products.

Additionally, as the linked example shows, the results are bad.

Booksquare says, in connection with this, "the truth of the matter is that publishers simply don’t have the staff and budgets to market each and every book published."

Isn't that mind boggling? Let that sink in. The web-tardic DIY author site will be the only "marketing" some books get.

She continues, "Authors must be active participants in marketing themselves and their work."

So this is a lame marketing gesture dreamed up by the marketeers so they can report to higher-ups that they've done something. It's a checkbox on the marketing department's to-do list.