23 October 2005 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 2 comments

Here are a few more things that really irk me.

1. There are a handful of historians out there who have, through their past works, built up a fair amount of credibility. They have, however, badly diluted their reputations and the value of their endorsements by being promiscuous about doing so. Here’s the best example–and I know that I keep coming back to the Carhart book, but it’s one of the most egregious examples of being a really atrocious book I’ve seen in a very, very long time–Carhart was a former student of James M. McPherson. Consequently, McPherson gave the book a glowing and ringing endorsement. That the likes of a Pulitzer Prize winner put his imprimatur on the book lends it instantly credibility. Never mind all of the numerous flaws that I have already pointed out. Because most of the reading public is not as well-read about these events as some, they see McPherson’s imprimatur, say to themselves that if someone of McPherson’s stature and reputation says it’s okay, it must be, and they then waste their hard-earned money buying it. And because they don’t know better, they end up being badly misled and believe falsehoods and fabrications to be the truth. That is, in my humble opinion, grossly irresponsible, cronyism at its worst, and fostering the defrauding of the public.

2. I REALLY hate publishers that don’t do their own homework before accepting books for publication. There was a book published a few years ago by a guy named Paul D. Walker that also purported to address the fighting on East Cavalry Field (what is it about this fight that seems to encourage the writing of terrible books?). This book is about 100 pages long, and only 12 of them address East Cavalry Field. Take a look at the reviews of the book on Amazon (the one that was repeated–not sure why–is mine). Disregard mine if you like–instead, read the others. How this kind of stuff gets published is a complete mystery to me.

On a parenthetical note, Walker’s book, published several years before Carhart’s, espouses the same two theories as Carhart’s: that Stuart’s movement to East Cavalry Field was somehow tied to Pickett’s Charge, and that Custer–not David Gregg–was the true hero of the fighting there. Sound familiar? It’s the same theory espoused by Carhart, to much greater fanfare. Both books are awful, just in different ways.

3. Publishers who gouge their customers by pricing things at ridiculously high prices just because they can annoy me to no end. I have a deep interest in the Eleventh Corps, and have for years. Several years ago, I started gathering material for a book on the role of the Eleventh Corps at Chancellorsville and Gettysburg that I hope to write some day. It’s a project of massive proportions that will take years to research thoroughly. Given the important role played by General Francis C. Barlow at Gettysburg, I thought I would check to see what was out there in terms of a biographical treatment of him. I found a recent biography of Barlow published by a university press for the mind-boggling price of $49.50 for a 300 page book. Or then there’s the 150 page book on Sherman’s March to the Sea by Prof. Anne J. Bailey. I gave the book an excellent review in a recent issue of Civil War News–which it definitely deserves–but $65 for a 150 page book that has no dust jacket and no photographs????? Give me a break.

Again, I’m quite certain that there will be more, and I will continue to post these thngs as I think of them.

Scridb filter


  1. Terry Walbert
    Wed 26th Oct 2005 at 12:49 pm

    I think the free market will take care of these overpriced tomes. If they were the products of superior editing, they might be worth the added price.

    Copy editors and fact checkers seem to have gone the way of buggy whip makers and ice delivery men. I’ve seen lots of errors from “reputable” publishing houses, and not only in Civil War books.

    I’m reading a new work by a prominent British historian and have found three factual errors in the first 122 pages just doing a casual skim. I don’t blame the historian as much as the publisher, who is ultimately responsible for what goes out the door.

  2. Wed 26th Oct 2005 at 10:02 pm


    Let’s hope you’re right about the pricing.


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