So Much For Credibility

While I tend to see this whole Gallagher controversy from a different perspective from Eric and J.D., I do understand that they feel a need to respond.  They’ve decided to write a letter to CWTI which will appear in the next issue.  In it they will no doubt try to make the argument that Gallagher singled them out and intended to demean their scholarship.  Again, I will probably disagree with their conclusions, but they have every right to respond.  Hopefully, they will be able to make their points in a clear and concise manner; we will have to see if Gallagher takes the opportunity to respond.  However, it is going to be difficult to convince readers to sympathize if they are willing to change their book website in such a way.  Click here and here.  To say that this is the book that Gallagher doesn’t want you to read is not only silly, but has nothing at all to do with what he actually said in the interview.

I’m sorry to say that in my view J.D. and Eric have lost some credibility.

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24 thoughts on “So Much For Credibility

  1. Eric Wittenberg

    Kevin,

    We’re just trying to have a little fun with something that was incredibly insulting. Nothing more, nothing less.

    And, to respond to another portion of what was posted, I’m sick to death of “defending” my work. It stands for itself and it speaks for itself. JD and I have explained the merits of our work and wasted far more time with this nonsense than I really have to spend.

    As for me, I’m finished.

    And you’re welcome to think whatever you want to think. I genuinely couldn’t give a damn.

    Eric

    Reply
  2. David

    Have to agree with you here. Referring to the one web page claiming this is the book Gallagher doesn’t want you to read: there’s a vast difference between Gallagher expressing his opinion on the literature of the campaign — without identifying any books or authors — and this flat-out, dishonest misrepresentation of Gallagher’s comments. In point of fact, he very nearly said just the opposite. He said that if you love Gettysburg and want to know everything about it, these kinds of studies would be of interest.

    At worst, Gallagher’s comments should be treated like a critical review. You may not like what he said, and you’re welcome to engage or rebut him on his critique, but launching an online campaign of character assassination is ugly. Usually, the best way to respond to something along the lines of a negative review is to ignore it, or else to rebut it with a calm and collected counter argument.

    David

    Reply
  3. J. David Petruzzi

    C’mon, Kevin and David. First, we take issue with what we feel is a personal shot at us, and you don’t like it, Kevin. In fact, you’ve done nothing but to defend Gallagher as if you’re his personal PR rep.

    Now, we try to have a little fun with it all, to lower the temperature a bit, and you don’t like that. I truly believe that you’d rather we have just ignored it. However, you don’t get to make that call.

    I just spoke with a friend who is with a large tour group at a large western battlefield this week. The Gallagher situation has already made the rounds there – they were in the VC filled with Rangers, and without exception the Rangers made comments such as “it’s about time Gallagher got some comeuppance” and the like.

    Eric and I spent the last 20 years gathering material for this book, and writing it. It’s been described as “madness.” You don’t think for one moment that we have a right to contradict? Then you think we don’t have a right to poke fun at the whole thing?

    And as far as credibility goes, again you’ve done nothing but defend Gallagher. Not even a hint from you that, in spite of the fact that our book is only one of two in the last 12 years that’s devoted to Stuart’s ride, that Gallagher was possibly referring to us. Not a single hint. You seem to maintain that we’re nuts for even thinking it. That mystifies me. Most folks are beginning to believe that Gallagher can do no wrong as far as you’re concerned. Kevin, if Gallagher said the sky was green, it seems as though you’d put up three posts trying to explain that it wasn’t what he meant.

    We feel insulted. Our publisher feels insulted. A host of NPS personnel are glad that Gallagher’s long-held pontifical views are finally being challenged. And out of all the blog post and comments, perhaps one or two others agree with your position.

    Seems like you’re a bit alone.

    Just as Gallagher is in his opinions, it seems.

    J.D.

    Reply
  4. Kevin Levin

    I defended your right from the beginning to state your case clearly in response to a perceived slight. And just because we happen to disagree you decide to insult me in the worst possible way. I read through the interview and considered other things said by Gallagher re: Civil War historiography and arrived at a conclusion. Not once did I call you “nuts” or anything along those lines. Looks like your true colors are shining through.

    So because I am in a minority you now believe that this is a sufficient reason to attack my integrity. Wow! You and Eric want to be respected and yet you go ahead and pull a stunt that reflects the kind of behavior that you claim to be offended by. Why can’t Gallagher now claim that he was just having a little fun?

    I JUST LOST ALL RESPECT FOR YOU!

    Reply
  5. J. David Petruzzi

    I must also add – where is Gallagher’s credibility in all this in your opinion? You’re quick to jump on us and pull your trigger regarding our credibility, and we didn’t insult anyone. Apparently in your opinion, Gallagher’s credibility is just fine, but it’s ours that slid.

    And as far as putting Gallagher’s comments on our book website Reviews page, if what he said is so fine with you, and it couldn’t have possibly been referring to our book one iota, then what’s the problem with putting it on there? If his comments were actually so positive (as you’ve alluded to several times) then it should be a positive for us, correct? You can’t have it both ways. Maybe the reader of the Reviews page will think that Gallagher actually meant that after our book, it would be “madness” to think that another could be written. Since they were public comments, we are able to use them as long as they are cited – so why are YOU so bent out of shape?

    And as far as the “The Book GG doesn’t want you to read” tagline is concerned – consider his comment (which one would have to assume refers to our book, which I know is out of the realm of possibility for you) that we should “Stop the madness.” STOP, he said. When a respected, well-known, very public historian says that, why is it such a leap to say what we said.

    Say Gallagher wrote about your blog, and then told the public to stop the madness. Think he’d be endorsing you? Or something else? He said what he said, and like any adult must deal with the reaction to it.

    Eric and I and our publisher have submitted our letter to CWT. I think you’ll get a very cohesive, concise, scholarly recounting of our opinion and reaction. And I dare say it reflects the opinion of 99% of the folks I’ve interacted with about this.

    J.D.

    Reply
  6. J. David Petruzzi

    Well, then I’m sorry for that, Kevin. Give me the same break you do GG – I think you will admit that phrase “nuts” is simply slang – it has no meaning beyond “madness” right?

    The more I defend myself against a historian who just called the last 20 years of my work “madness,” I lose more and more credibility with you.

    There’s no way to win. Read our printed response when it comes out and if it doesn’t cause you to think more about what he said and the consequences, then there’s nothing more to be said.

    Over and out.

    J.D.

    Reply
  7. Kevin Levin

    I’m sorry you don’t know how to deal with criticism or difference of opinion. I will leave it at that. Good luck with your letter and I do hope it gets you what you so desperately need.

    Reply
  8. Anonymous

    Eric Wittenberg has launched an attack against me, which I will respond to here rather than post separately. From Eric’s blog:

    Kevin Levin, who seems obsessed with the Gallagher thing and just can’t resist sniping at us, has climbed up on his high horse to attack us for trying to make a little light of a situation that has caused both of us a tremendous amount of discomfort and which we found to be tremendously insulting.

    Personally, I’m sick to death of Kevin’s constant and persistent self-righteous pontificating. I’m also sick to death of the insults and snide comments.

    Therefore, I’ve had enough. In order that I don’t say something that I might regret for a long time, I’m going to take a break from this blog until I cool down. When I feel like I can post here again without worrying whether I might say something I might regret, I will be back. Until then, you’re just going to have to settle for his constant sniping at me.
    ——————————————
    To say that I’ve been sniping suggests that Eric really does need to take a break. Apparently he doesn’t know how to deal with a difference of opinion. I’ve done nothing but try to offer another perspective to all of this. My God, this is the blogosphere. If you are not prepared to deal with responses to posts than you have absolutely no business blogging at all. I took part in an online discussion based on comments about a published interview. Again, I read it and arrived at a different position. That I even need to justify my statements is indeed a sad reflection on your inability to deal with criticism.

    Reply
  9. Craig A. Warren

    I tried to debate J.D. on his own blog earlier tonight, but my comment was swiftly deleted. So it goes. In any case, I just don’t understand his point when he writes:

    “A host of NPS personnel are glad that Gallagher’s long-held pontifical views are finally being challenged. And out of all the blog post and comments, perhaps one or two others agree with your position….Seems like you’re a bit alone.”

    Is Kevin supposed to change his mind due to peer pressure? Should he not speak up if he finds he’s “out of step” with the rest of the community? Critical thinking, like scholarship, is about reaching one’s own conclusions — not conforming to look and sound like everyone else.

    Reply
  10. Phil LeDuc

    Kevin –
    Wow! Try to interject some perspective and reason into this whole thing and all you get is heartache. As I’ve followed this affair I’ve tried to organize some thoughts and send them along, but events seem to outstrip me at every turn. Nevertheless, here are a few of the things that have struck me – very much a novice at this stuff – throughout “l’affaire Gallagher” -

    1. Wittenberg and Petruzzi have written a fine book – one that
    I purchased, read, and enjoyed immensely.
    2. I’ve ordered a couple of Wittenberg’s previous works, and
    I’m sure I’m going to enjoy them just as much.
    3. While Gallagher (full disclosure – I’ve met him more than
    once and have enjoyed talking with him) was – assuming he
    hasn’t read the book – wrong in painting with too broad a
    brush, I for the life of me can’t see how he took “a per-
    sonal shot” at the authors.
    4. You, Kevin, are the one obsessed with this thing???!!!
    5. I can’t believe some people are so thin-skinned that any
    perceived disagreement or slight is taken as a personal
    attack.
    6. Guys, don’t take “madness” as calling you nuts or anything
    else. All it is is one of those catchphrases with a
    humorous connotation that’s entered the language ever since
    that gal with the bleached buzzcut used it some years back.
    I’ve heard it everywhere from “Friends” to my 14-year old
    daughter’s conversation. Good grief.
    7. I’ve been bemused by the constant reference to the number
    of words or chapters Eric and J.D. have written on this or
    that – a 1,700-word reply letter; 8,000 words for this;
    2 chapters for that. Sorry, but trying to convince me of
    the superioriy of a position or anything else via word
    count doesn’t impress me. All it does is summon up
    memories of a place and time when we were told body count
    indicated that we were winning.
    8. I haven’t always agreed with points of view that you,
    Kevin, have expressed here, but among other things I’ve
    come to respect your integrity. If you say that someone has valid reasons for
    anonymity, that’s good enough for me.

    Some (very) random thoughts.

    Now guys, take a breath or two and realize that not everyone is going to agree with you or say things that you agree with. Such a state of affairs doesn’t mean a personal attack. And
    after that, go out and continue to write some more well-researched, well-written history. Living life with always-gritted teeth isn’t a good way to live.

    Reply
  11. Kevin Levin

    Craig and Phil, — What is sad in all of this is that Eric and J.D. would have all of us sympathize with their being insulted by Gallagher, but their actions and comments on this blog as well as their own suggest that there is also an incredible amount of insecurity. How many times do we have to hear how many pages they’ve written and how many years they spent collecting material? The rule seems to be as follows: they can form an opinion about a public document, but unless you agree with their position watch out. I’m not surprised that they deleted your comments; it’s just more evidence of their insecurity. J.D. went so far as to delete my blog from his site. Oh well, I’m sure he will stop by on a regular basis.

    Of course, this is will be my last comment. They will have their day in the sun when their little letter is published and then they can relish in everyone’s support. Unfortunately, as Craig points out no one will know the full story.

    Reply
  12. David L

    J.D. and Eric need to get a grip. It seems to me that they are, in effect, committing the same “crimes” they accuse Gary Gallagher of. They have clearly made some unwaranted assumptions about the connection between Gallagher’s comments and their book. And we all what happens when assumptions are made.

    Gallagher has had a distinguished careeer as an archivist and a historian. He has deeply researched and written widely on a variety of topics and has earned the right to comment on the literature of the American Civil War. While Eric says he does not want this to turn into the “professional vs. amateur thing,” perhaps that is where some of the differences of approach and opinion originate.

    Reply
  13. Samuel P. Wheeler

    Hey Kevin,

    For whatever it’s worth I just wanted to ring in and say I think you’re doing a good job wading through all of this. Your blog is first-rate and you’ve tried to give both sides of this issue. Keep it up!

    Here’s my two cents:

    Yes, Gallagher is a well-respected Civil War scholar (and for good reason) and I can see how JD, Eric, and their publisher might be miffed that he seemingly dismissed their work. A well-written rebuttal to CWTI is entirely appropriate. However, I really think it ends there. Personal attacks are absolutely inappropriate, be them aimed at Gallagher himself or Kevin, who is simply trying to give balance to this discussion.

    Reply
  14. Ken Noe

    Kevin:

    I just posted this on Eric’s blog, FWIW:

    Ken

    Eric:

    I returned from Germany the other day to discover this “Gallagher Affair” in full cry. My first impulse was to stay out of it. Gary is a friend and mentor, Kevin is a friend, and through our cyber-correspondence I consider you a friend as well. I don’t know J. D., or I’d add him here too. Nothing good is going to come from my getting involved, I expect.

    On my walk this morning, however, I remembered a germane point that might help bring this to resolution. I attended the original SCWH Gettysburg talk in Atlanta. Gary was preceded by Lesley Gordon and Steve Woodworth, both of whom suggested that the Gettysburg theme was not exhausted. Much of what Gary said was in the form of good-natured rejoinders to them. Then–and this is the critical point–Gary as I remember made the same comment about unnecessary books about Stuart at Gettysburg. Unless he has the power to see the future, he wasn’t referring to J. D. and you. Frankly, I took it as a second jab at Carhart. I can’t read his mind as it existed during the Carmichael review, but it seems to me that the evidence suggests that for better or worse he was simply repeating a line he’s used for years. I hope the letter and anticipated response will clear that up.

    Some of your readers might also like to know that Gary went on to mention by name several authors whose works on the battle were good but in his view unnecessary, adding nothing to what we already know. Every person he mentioned was an academic. So much for that old divisive argument.

    For the record, four of my ancestors took part in the cavalry battle at Gettysburg (16th VA Cavalry) and a fifth rode with Stuart in the 9th VA until he was captured after Antietam. So the subject interests me, but at the same time I do think that there’s more to the war than Gettysburg, which as I remember was Gary’s big point.

    Finally, if I may, I’d like to hold up the example of Michael Aubrecht. Mike and Kevin sadly were at odds for some time. Mike’s response was to design a new banner for Kevin, which Kevin graciously accepted. There’s a man who does more than talk about his faith. At least in the secular/cyber realm, maybe all of us should take a deep breath (as J. D. has done today) and try to be more like Mike.

    Fire away, gentlemen.

    Ken

    http://civilwarcavalry.com/?p=507

    Reply
  15. Kevin Levin

    Hi Ken, — Nice to hear from you and welcome home. You’ve laid out some very reasonable thoughts, most of which I mentioned at one point or another over the past few days. I directed people to the reprint of Gallagher’s SMH talk in North and South and mentioned that I’ve also heard him use that G-burg line over the past few years. My guess is that you will be credited for saying this while I’ve been insulted for saying the same thing. Go figure. I have no personal issues with Eric or J.D. I’ve never met them. I’ve tried to use this blog as a tool to share my own ideas and to foster discussion when possible. What I’ve done to deserve such a backlash from those two is beyond me.

    Michael did indeed do a fantastic job with the banner.

    Reply
  16. Ken Noe

    Kevin:

    Before I forget I need to tell you this, unrelated story. Several years ago I was at the OAH. In the lobby I was telling a tale and I gather was quite animated, swinging my arms about until–shudder–I hit someone. “Excuse me,” said the voice of my victim–John Hope Franklin! After he left, a friend said, “you know, if he gets a blood clot and dies, everybody is going to blame you for killing him!”

    So really, no one is happier about you meeting him than me.

    Ken

    Reply
  17. Kevin Levin

    Ken, — What a wonderful story and thanks for sharing. I am looking forward to reading the James Lane article in the near future. Hopefully, we will have a chance to catch up in person at some point soon. Perhaps in Richmond this November at the SHA.

    Reply
  18. Michael Aubrecht

    I just realized that I had forgot to post this on your blog Kevin. I posted it on Eric and JDs yesterday and would like to add it here as well…

    Thanks for the compliment Ken. I appreciate it very much, but I’m far from a perfect example.

    It pains me to see these guys at odds. There is one “positive” example that can come from this… Obviously Eric, JD, Kevin, and Gallagher truly care about the material because if they didn’t, they would not comment, argue, and defend it so passionately. This proves to me that they really and truly value their subject matter, which ultimately leads to more great work. If no historians commented on this debate (or Gary’s interview), I would be more bothered by the lack of interest…

    ADDED: In addition, for what it’s worth, I’m also glad to see all of the reader comments that have been posted on all of the blogs. It appears that we are blessed with a community of individuals (both amateur and professional) who truly care about the state of the Civil War genre. This debate was commented on almost every blog that I frequent and it shows that our history is still a much-valued and treasured subject.

    Reply
  19. Kevin Levin

    Hi Michael,

    I read your comment on one of the other blogs yesterday, but thanks for posting it here. I agree with the overall sentiment expressed. That said and without opening up this can of worms again there is something very disturbing about two grown men who claim to be professionals who are unable to distinguish between a difference of opinion and a personal attack. The way that both Eric and J.D. attacked me was very surprising to me and sad at the same time. I can’t tell you how many people emailed me privately to express a sense of embarassment for them. I join them in that sentiment. Still, it’s time to move on.

    Reply
  20. Larry Cebula

    Kevin, what were you thinking when you decided to wade into this pissing match?

    Civil War Memory is among the very best history blogs on the internet. Your combination of excellent posts, a unique perspective on a popular topic, and regular updates can give you an audience far beyond the usual hobbyists. Your blog is not really primarily about the Civil War, it is about the broad themes of American history.

    Taking your readers into an obscure and nasty feud limits your reach and influence. And it fans the flames of the feud itself. When I see the discussion here descending into internet flamewar mode, complete with all-caps posts and dramatic announcements that you are dead to me, I am saddened.

    Reply
  21. Kevin Levin

    Hi Larry, — Thanks for the kind words and for the observation. Of course I agree that all of this got a little out of hand. That said, I would like to think that my posts were thought provoking and offered a much needed perspective to what was passing for rational discourse. My intention was not to fan the flames.

    I am pleased that it is over and I assume it won’t happen again.

    Reply

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