The Atlantic, December 5, 2011

Last week I mentioned that I went ahead and picked up a copy of Newt Gingrich’s new Civil War novel, The Battle of the Crater, at the insistence of my friend, Yoni Applebaum.  He suggested that I write a review and submit it to The Atlantic, which I went ahead and did.  Today the review is live on their website and I couldn’t be more pleased.  Thanks to Jennie Rothenberg Gritz for reviewing it and especially for agreeing to publish it.  We are talking about cross-posting excerpts from specific posts on their site and I’ve been encouraged to go ahead and think about possible topics for future publication.

Welcome to those of you who have clicked through from The Atlantic.  If you are interested in commentary on the Civil War and historical memory you have come to the right place.  I’ve been blogging for six years now.  The subjects covered sit at the intersection of Civil War historiography, education, and public history.  I encourage you to take some time to browse the site.  You can join the Civil War Memory facebook page, which is a great way to keep track of the latest posts as well as other stories that relate to this blog’s theme.  Finally, click here for more information about my forthcoming book on the battle of the Crater and historical memory.

Thanks so much for stopping by.

12 comments add yours

  1. Very insightful review. You’re in a great position to explore some issues surrounding this event that wouldn’t, perhaps, occur to the standard reviewer. That, combined with your discussion of the political elements and timing of the book, made for a very interesting read. Thanks.

  2. Just finished reading your review. It is outstanding. Congratulations Kevin.

  3. I am a conservative and looking at Gingrichs history I believe the best explanation for his book is simply that he wanted to make as much money as he could. If he thought you could write an historical novel where ducks in space suits stole the plans for the atomic bomb from aliens working for Nazis that is what he would write. In focusing on African American troops he is just rewriting “Glory”.

    No African American is going to vote for Gingrich so that is not a good explanation for the focus of his book. I think if there is a political explanation it is a cynical attempt by Gingrich to blunt criticism of him by the media by using the book to appear moderate and professorial, neither of which he is. It is cynical and wrong and about what you would expect from a serial philanderer who courts the religious right.

    At the time Gingrich wrote the book he was not seriously regarded as a candidate so writing the book to get votes was an odd strategy at best. But writing it to appeal to book reviewers and the media to make more money is entirely consistent with taking big checks to advise the Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac while criticizing big government.

  4. Kevin, do you know off-hand if Lee witnessed the Crater battle? I’ve heard people say that he was up on a hill and watched it happen.

    • He was there for part of the battle, probably in the area around the Gee House.

      • I was up there a couple days ago, and I know where Gee House used to be (near the 7-Eleven off S. Crater, formerly Jerusalem Plank rd).

        I guess what is confusing me is how FLAT the area seems. Standing on South Crater, you can’t see anything out there. So I’m wondering how much of the battle Lee witnessed.

        Lee’s silence on the Battle of the Crater is deafening, and I’m upset with Fortschen and Gingrich for basically lying and making up words he never said. Lee’s silent condoning of the massacre is one of the darkest and most telling parts of the story.

        Have you even seen a picture of the Gee House? Could he have been observing from a window?

Now that you've read the post, share your thoughts.