Joseph Harsh, historian

"Woe to you if he considered you a member of what he referred to as the 'American Heritage' school of Civil War history!" - Ethan Rafuse

Joseph Harsh's death was reported while I was offline. You know how I feel about his work.

His death notices appear in a perfunctory, minimalist Washington Post obit; in a Centreville community paper; in Harry's Bull Runnings; in Tom Clemens' blog here and here; and in Civil Warriors under Ehan Rafuse's signature here. Harry has some recent photos on his site.

The scarcity of obituaries is ridiculous and a good index of the low, corrupt standards of Civil War history and the broader ACW readership. Harsh's Maryland campaign trilogy self-conciously sets a standard for campaign histories that very few books will ever reach, even over infinite time, no matter how many monkeys find publishers, grab typewriters, and begin flailing.

Over the decades, I noticed that no book touching substantively upon McClellan failed to cite Harsh's essential essay, "On the McClellan-Go-Round," which probably earned him more recognition than his opus.

He died at a chronologically young age (in his sixties). That is a warning to us all to complete our projects. His planned telling of the Maryland Campaign from McClellan's perspective, thus, is not done to my (selfish) regret. Perhaps, given the paucity of obits, it would have made no difference historiographically at this point, although it would have delighted the "real audience" of deep readers.

This was an author who respected the deepest readers and showed it in his research, insights, and prose. I wish that audience were larger than it is so that he could have his due.