09 August 2011 by Published in: General musings 18 comments

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?

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 5:50 pm

    Your first warning should have been “…because it was about a train station and I am a train collector.” Train foamers are the worst. Trust me, I deal with them every day.
    Other than that, I find his comments baseless and uninformed. I have read all of your books, Eric, and find you to be non-judgmental and fair to both sides. Continue the fine work.

  2. Paul LaCroix
    Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 5:59 pm

    Eric, thanks for sharing that. I can understand you being taken aback by his comments of your book and about you as well. Standing on the outside looking in though, it is amusing that he would even think that you have Southern sympathies, are a “Lost Causer” or worse of all, you’re a revisionist. Do you we call someone such as him a neo-federalist? Perhaps we should say that he’s lost and is a lost cause in knowing anything about ACW history.

  3. Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 6:10 pm

    Eric,
    I dealt with knuckleheads like this when I sold spot on clothing and accoutrements to CW reenactors. I would always get people cursing me for charging too much or at how I arrived at a particular price for an item. They rarely, if ever, thought I was running a business and trying to turn a profit…they were reenactors and deserved the very best for next to nothing! Whew! I feel your pain.
    For the record, your books are all outstanding and your blog is on my site as a reccomended place to visit.

  4. jeff edwards
    Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 7:31 pm

    Footnotes? We don’t need no stinkin footnotes. Eric, as one who has walked around with you a few times I can say that was truely priceless.

  5. James F. Epperson
    Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 7:57 pm

    As a model railroader I object to the “train foamer” comment ;-) Actually, I am intrigued by it—never heard it before.

    As for the substance of the post, there are a few folks who label *me* a neo-Confederate sympathizer. I figure they got left at the train station when intelligence was being handed out. Just laugh, Eric, it is all you can do.

  6. Vernon Trollinger
    Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 8:48 pm

    Hmm….

    “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.”

    I think this gent has some personally compelling issues derailing on his perspective of history –apart from being another demented rail-rubbing choo-choo fancier —like me ;>) . But, to be blunt, I think he wants to believe the the Union had some brilliant military minds in the command chain that actually were not incompetent —which they damn well did —it’s just that he wants that part of the story spun in BIGGER neons letters versus the missed opportunities and lack of bold moves that characterized many of the early Union campaigns.

    He’s not a historian. He just has a firm belief in his idealized version of the facts. Lotus, anyone? It’s fresh.

  7. Brian
    Tue 09th Aug 2011 at 10:45 pm

    This wackjob is an example of the intolerance that many people in this country have for those whose views don’t agree with theirs.

    Take a look at the state of political discourse. Just turn on CNN, MSNBC, FOX News, or any political/news program or web site, and you’re bound to see some politician/talking head saying (in so many words) that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is the enemy. Not only do they say that, they frequently say it in an agressive, combative manner.

    You also see this on sports sites, travel sites, or any other kind of site you can think of. People calling each other names, insulting each other. The ability to have civil conversations and civil disagreements is rapidly receeding. I think the 24 hour news cycle and the anonymity of the internet has something to do with this. Frankly, it’s very disturbing.

    I’m starting to rant, so I’d better stop before my blood pressure gets too high. I’ll close by saying that I love your blog, even when I don’t agree with you, and I hope you keep doing what you’re doing.

  8. Ken Noe
    Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 8:55 am

    After all that he still gave you four stars!

  9. Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 9:09 am

    I knew I liked you for some reason. :)

  10. Chris Evans
    Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 11:09 am

    Totally silly review. I’m glad that you ripped back into him. That biased of people like him are not helpful when it comes to Civil War study except for a laugh.
    Chris

  11. Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 11:36 am

    Eric,

    Wear it as a badge of honor, and don’t lose any sleep over it.

  12. Ulric Dahlgren
    Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 1:34 pm

    Being misinformed is one thing. Being informed, but reaching a demonstrably ridiculous conclusion based on accurate information is quite another, and it seems to be becoming a disease. Could it be food additives, or perhaps some form of adult autism? The really scary thing is that it is now spreading from the voting constituency to the elected officials in the country…or perhaps it’s the other way around…perhaps we are seeing a root cause of most wars as it forms…

  13. John Mills-Darrington
    Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 2:39 pm

    How is it that it’s taken him 10 years to get round to reading your book? I can’t wait 10 minutes.
    When,s your next one out?
    What’s the title?
    When’s it coming across the pond?
    IGNORE ALL IDIOTS Keep up the excellent work.

  14. Wed 10th Aug 2011 at 7:41 pm

    John,

    Many thanks.

    I have a couple of irons in the fire. One is a new edition of my first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, which has been out of print for several years. The new edition was due out in April, but was delayed. It should be out by the end of September. It will go to the printer this weekend.

    The other is my book on the August 26-27, 1863 Battle of White Sulphur Springs, which will be out in time for Christmas.

    As for when it will come across the pond, I don’t know how long Amazon takes to ship. :-)

    Thanks for asking.

    Be safe with the rioting.

    Eric

  15. John Mills-Darrington
    Thu 11th Aug 2011 at 2:25 pm

    Thanks Eric looking forward to the new book,
    we don’t do rioting in Norfolk so I’m very safe
    John8Kcw

  16. Matt Borders
    Thu 11th Aug 2011 at 4:45 pm

    While the classic “Rabid Reb” is more common, the “Rabid Yank” is out there.

  17. Jim Williams
    Mon 15th Aug 2011 at 2:07 pm

    Be thankful. It was a similar misinformed view that led me to your excellent Brandy Station book. Not every book is right for every reader. And if I ever become a train collector I’ll know to stop reading your books!

  18. J. D.
    Thu 18th Aug 2011 at 1:41 pm

    First time to your pages; arrived via the WaPo; interesting, thanks for providing.

    I’m sure you get criticisms from time to time, but certainly this is so off the wall that a reasoned response is not only difficult, it is completely futile.

    Just think, though, the basic complaint is that you are critical of the conduct of the northern military leadership (including their apalogia and spin efforts) during the first years of the conflict. Consider what kind of company that puts you in–aligned with a certain A. Lincoln, for example.

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