August, 2011

My friend and co-author J. D. Petruzzi and master cartographer Steve Stanley (who is doing the maps for my White Sulphur Springs book) have come out with an extremely useful little volume titled The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook: Facts, Photos, and Artwork for Readers of All Ages, June 9 – July 14, 1863 that was just published by Savas-Beatie. I can’t say enough good things about this book.

A couple of years ago, J.D. and Steve brought out their extraordinary guidebook to the Gettysburg battlefield that covers the battle in great detail and which also covers some really offbeat and off the beaten path aspects of the battle. However, some things had to be left out in the interest of space, and the new volume serves as a perfect companion to the Guide.

The new volume–softcover and small, for easy use on the battlefield–is precisely what the title suggests. It’s a very useful tool for anyone interested in visiting the battlefield. It includes lots of useful and interesting tidbits, such as a listing of all 64 winners of the Medal of Honor for the Battle of Gettysburg, as well as a brief description of why each individual was awarded the Medal. It discusses weather conditions during the battle. It includes lots of fascinating factoids about the battle, and it includes a series of quotes by participants that give the reader something to deeply ponder while on the battlefield. There is also a gallery of photos and capsule biographies of some of the more important but less known personalities of the battle, such as Lt. Col. Benjamin F. Carter of the 4th Texas Infantry, who was mortally wounded during the fighting for Little Round Top on July 2, 1863 and was then buried in Chambersburg, Pennsylvania. The last part of the book is a reading list for those interested in further reading and learning about the events of July 1-3, 1863.

The most important portions of the book are the extremely detailed order of battle and the descriptions of the three days of the battle itself. Written so that even a Civil War novice will understand them, these chapters provide an excellent overview of the battle. They, alone, are worth the purchase price.

The book is done in full color. There are lots of excellent photographs by Steve Stanley, and Steve’s maps are printed in full color. There is no cartographer in the business better or more talented than Steve Stanley, and his maps are presented here in their glory. The layout of the book is handsome and Savas-Beatie spared no expense in using Baxter paper to publish this volume. At only $18.95, this book is a real bargain.

I highly recommend The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook for anyone with an interest in the Gettysburg Campaign. Everyone–from novice to expert–will learn something new here. It should be required reading.

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Some guy I’ve never heard of previously named James R. Leighton left a review on Amazon of my 2001 book, Glory Enough for All: Sheridan’s Second Raid and the Battle of Trevilian Station. I read it and was floored. I actually was left speechless by it and had to share my exchange here.

The title of the review is “Another biased Civil War book.” This is what the review says:

Like so many books and articles as well as art I found this book heavily in favor of the South. The North is often made to seem lacking in good Generals or often even in good horses. It is always something!! I really only liked this book because it was about a train station and I am a train collector. Actually I have read many books about the civil war since I was 16 years old and have visited many of the important battle sites. I even collect toy soldiers and here I am 68 years old!

What are the good points about this book? One is that it is easily readable and the story flows evenly with good maps which is rare in civil war books. It also does a good job of describing the content of the battle, going into the purpose of the raid, as well as the many difficulties of being in a troop of some 9000 men trying to engage an elusive enemy. I also found that Sheridan’s tactics in trying to lead the Southern cavalry away from Grant’s movements to Petersberg were justified. Also remember it was under Grant’s approval that this raid was conducted. Since that goal was accomplished I would say that the raid was successful and disagree with the authors opinion that it was a failure.

What is not so good about this book? I would say that it could have used a few more maps in some strategic places, that the battle of Samaria seemed more like an after thought and was not very well described. Most of all, the books inherent Southern bias made me wonder how accurately the battle is described in spite of the rather large amount of documentation included at the end of each chapter. But since the documentation included many references to the First Maine Cavalry in which some of my relatives served at least now I have to find another book to read which is often the outcome of reading one book on the very Lost Cause.

Wow. I’ve been called a lot of things in my day, but a Lost Causer? Inherent Southern bias? Say what? Those of you who read this blog regularly know that nobody has EVER accused me of having inherent Southern bias or of being a Lost Causer before. I was blown away and had to respond. Here’s my response:

Wow. I’m blown away by this. I’ve been accused of a lot of things, but one thing I have NEVER been called is a Southern partisan. If anything, I’m known for my work on the UNION cavalry. The Union cavalry has always been the primary focus on my work. I am most assuredly NOT a Lost Causer. NOBODY has ever accused me of that before. Wow.

So, he responded. Get a load of this:

Whether or not you write about the Union cavalry is is not the issue. The issue is the fact that you are and other writers are critical of the Union side of the war until the last year of the war. You depict Sheridan as basically incompetent just like other writers about Sherman and Grant. Why is this? The Battle of Travilian Station was another victory of the Union not a loss as you depict it. Sherman gave the South exactly what it deserved with a constitution that approved of slavery and so did Sheridan. Even Mort Kuntsler depicts the South in a positive light. I cant find one artist or writer including you that depicts the South as basically a criminal society. Such is revisionist history!!

Let me see if I’ve got this right: anyone who doesn’t portray the South as a criminal society is a revisionist Lost Causer with an inherent Southern bias. Anyone who criticizes the Union high command–even when it’s appropriate and deserved–is a Lost Causer. Hmmmmm….that’s a new one on me, and I thought I’d heard pretty much everything in my years of working with the Civil War.

My reply:

That’s a very strange definition you use, Mr. Leighton.

You seem to think that I should have preconceived notions rather than go where the evidence leads me. If it takes being what you criticize to satisfy you as to my work, I’ll take a pass, thanks.

By every definition–tactical and strategic–Sheridan failed miserably. You and he are the only ones who call it a victory. How is being driven from the battlefield after failing to achieve your objective a victory? That’s one strange definition you have, sir.

Good luck to you.

Normally, I would be terribly amused by this sort of thing, but I’m actually troubled by it. The only thing that will satisfy this bozo is something that condemns the South as a criminal society and compares Jefferson Davis to Adolf Hitler. It really concerns me that this guy takes such a viewpoint seriously. He can say what he wants about me–I don’t care what he thinks about me. I am, however, worried now about how many others are out there who share this absurd viewpoint.

It seems that I have found the mirror image of the Lost Causers and neo-Confederates that I so despise. I guess I now have a new category of moron to contend with, and that concerns me. What do we even call this viewpoint?

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2 Aug 2011, by

The Rules

It’s been a while since I posted the rules of this blog here, and given that I have had to delete a number of comments for failing to abide by the rules recently, it’s time to do so again.

First, and foremost, it’s important to note that I pay for this blog. That means that I get to make and enforce the rules. There is no right of appeal, and there is no whining or arguing with me about my decisions pertaining to the enforcement of the rules. If you don’t like my rules, don’t post here.

With that said, there are only a few rules:

1. Anonymous comments are not permitted. Ever. Either use a real name, or don’t bother leaving a comment. Failure to do so will lead to the deletion of the comment.

2. Be polite and be respectful, whether it’s to me or to anyone else. Insulting me on my own website is guaranteed to not only get your comment deleted, it’s also guaranteed to get your IP address blocked.

3. Spamming is never allowed. That includes people who decide that it’s okay to use my website to pimp their latest whatever without clearing it with me first. Those comments are also guaranteed to be deleted.

4. Trolling, flaming, or other means of insulting people and trying to stir up discontent are not only not permitted, they are guaranteed to get your IP address banned.

That’s it. Those are the rules. Obey them, and you will be welcomed as a member of this community. Don’t, and you won’t like the result.

Thank you again to all of you who devote a bit of your time to my rantings. Without your support, there would be no reason for this blog to continue to exist.

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