What Glatthaar Was Probably Not Looking At

In his somewhat obscure review of Joseph Glatthaar new book, Lee’s Army: From Victory to Collapse, Dimitri Rotov suggests the following:

Perhaps he was looking at the succession of volumes of Russel Beatie’s Army of the Potomac thinking, “Why not the ANV?”

Let me suggest that Glatthaar did not have any of Beatie’s books in mind during the writing of this study, which predates Beatie’s own work. I’ve actually finished reading Glatthaar’s book, though from Dimitri’s commentary it is difficult to know whether he has read it other than the sections that have to do with the Antietam Campaign.  Glatthaar’s book is a tightly argued overview of the history of the Army of Northern Virginia.  While I do not believe that every chapter represents a new interpretive step Glatthaar does an excellent job of synthesizing much of what has been published about Lee, the ANV and the Confederate home front over the past two decades.  [Previous posts on the book can be found here and here.]The book has absolutely nothing in common with Beatie’s work and we should be thankful for that.  I tried reading through the first of his three volumes and found so many interpretive and factual mistakes that it was impossible to continue.  I wish I had read John Hennessy’s review of volume 1 in America’s Civil War before setting out.  The reconstruction of dialog and almost unquestionable use of postwar material was just too much for me.  Perhaps successive volumes are better organized and better judgment was employed in terms of what to include and what to leave out.  I just don’t see how the piling on of information without any coherent analytical/interpretive threads is helpful to the reader. 

What I can say is that Glatthaar’s book is well organized and a useful tool to understanding the ANV’s structure from the top-down and its evolution through the war.   

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