30 November 2005 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 13 comments

This review of Tom Carhart’s crappy book appears in the current issue of Civil War News:

“Several authors have recently ‘discovered’ the horse soldiers who clashed at Gettysburg’s East Cavalry Field. Most of them assert that J.E.B. Stuart’s cavalry endeavored to strike the Union rear in conjunction with Pickett’s Charge on July 3, or at the very least cause havoc if the Confederate infantry assault was successful.

Dr. Tom Carhart vociferously argues the former case. Forty percent of the book is devoted to causes of the war, the formative years of Robert E. Lee, Jeb Stuart and George A. Custer, battles in history that inspired this trio of generals, and the Civil War in the Eastern Theater. The remainder is devoted to Gettysburg, with about 40 percent of the tale devoted to the final day.

The text is peppered with errors, ranging from the dates of the Louisiana Purchase, South Carolina’s secession and Custer’s birth, to the location of John Buford’s cavalry on July 3. Endnotes are meager, and serious omissions of sources include cavalry accounts by Eric Wittenberg and Pickett’s Charge narratives by Earl Hess and George Stewart.

Meade — erroneously cited as George ‘C.’ Meade — is lambasted for taking the defensive and using interior lines to his advantage. Contradictorily, Lee is praised for employing the same tactics at Antietam.

Readers are asked to believe that Lee, Stuart and Custer virtually conducted world history seminars prior to battles, reminiscing about wars studied in their West Point days. In the same spirit, there are battle maps of Cannae, Leuthen and Austerlitz, but only one concerning Gettysburg.

Even more perplexing are the conspiracy theories. David Gregg, believing he was in a hopeless situation against Stuart, delegated Custer (who was not in his division) to repel Stuart’s attacks, thereby sparing his own command the ignominy of defeat. Lee, meanwhile, shared his plan of a coordinated attack between Stuart and Pickett with almost no one, and was reticent afterward to protect Stuart’s sparkling reputation.

There’s inadequate space in a book review to cite each factual error, contradiction and unsupported theory. Suffice to say, this reads more like a novel than historical analysis.”

The author of this review is David F. Riggs, a National Park Service historian who is the curator of the museum at Colonial National Historical Park, Yorktown. He has a BA in history from Lock Haven University and an MA in history from Penn State. His publications include Embattled Shrine: Jamestown in the Civil War and Vicksburg Battlefield Monuments.

David’s first book, which was actually his master’s thesis, was titled East of Gettysburg: Custer vs. Stuart, so he knows a bit about the fight on East Cavalry Field and is qualified to render an objective opinion of just how awful Carhart’s book is. I might also point out that David’s book was the first modern, book-length treatment of this action, and he led the way for those of us who have followed, me included.

It’s quite gratifying to know that I’m not the only one who sees this festering pile of garbage for what it really is.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Wed 30th Nov 2005 at 1:00 pm

    Eric,

    I’m just curious. Has Tom Carhart ever tried to contact you? I’d assume he’d be scared to after reading your opinion of his book… 😉

    Brett S.

  2. Wed 30th Nov 2005 at 1:56 pm

    I really appreciated the depth of research that went into Riggs’ Jamestown book “Embattled Shrine” and gave it an entry in my blog’s Best of White Mane series.

  3. Wed 30th Nov 2005 at 2:11 pm

    Brett,

    No, he hasn’t. 🙂

    I am on a program with him next June for the Little Big Horn Associates. Now THAT”S going to be an interesting weekend…..

    Eric

  4. Wed 30th Nov 2005 at 2:12 pm

    Drew,

    I concur. It’s a good book and, as you point out, proof that even White Mane publishes a decent book every now and again.

    Eric

  5. Wed 30th Nov 2005 at 3:24 pm

    Eric and Brett,
    I remember seeing a booktv program that had both Brooks Simpson and Geoffrey Perret on it. It was a cold, cold place…LOL. On a different subject, why Simpson seems to enjoy participating in the endless flamewars on the CW usenet group is beyond me.

  6. Mike Peters
    Wed 30th Nov 2005 at 4:26 pm

    Eric wrote the following:

    I am on a program with him next June for the Little Big Horn Associates. Now THAT”S going to be an interesting weekend…..

    Eric:

    I’d say! Oh to be a fly on that wall.

    Mike Peters

  7. Thu 01st Dec 2005 at 4:13 pm

    Hold your ground with him, Eric, if the topic of his book comes up between you two. I wouldn’t be afraid, if he mentioned it to me, to let him know in a mature way that his book stinks like garbage cans behind a Chinese restaurant in the hot sun 🙂

    Even though he hasn’t contacted you, I’m quite sure he’s aware of your opinion as well as the multitude of lousy reviews he’s received. Chances are, he’ll avoid the topic altogether.

    J.D.

  8. Thu 01st Dec 2005 at 6:58 pm

    JD,

    If he’s smart, he will. I won’t hesitate to tell him to his face what I’ve said here.

    Eric

  9. Ethan Rafuse
    Sun 04th Dec 2005 at 11:56 am

    Eric (if I may):

    So you fully know what you are getting into in June, be sure to read Rick Atkinson’s Long Gray Line.

    ESR

  10. Sun 04th Dec 2005 at 10:41 pm

    Ethan,

    Thanks for the tip. I really enjoy Rick Atkinson’s work, and if this gives me insight, then I will be sure to read it.

    I really enjoy your work, by the way. I particularly liked your book on First Bull Run. Keep up the good work, and thanks for reading here.

    Eric

  11. Tony Ten-Barge
    Tue 13th Dec 2005 at 8:27 pm

    Eric & Ethan ,
    Two of my favorite authors discussing a third . Ethan your McClellan book was excellent .

    Eric I will talk to you soon
    Tony

  12. Tom Bradley
    Thu 29th Dec 2005 at 3:52 am

    What’s this about Perret and Simpson?

  13. Thu 29th Dec 2005 at 10:05 am

    Tom,

    I’m afraid I have no idea. The post you refer to was made by Drew Wagenhoffer.

    Eric

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