Tag Archives: Books

How Not To Respond To a Review by Ted Savas and Stephen Hood

Full Disclosure: I am a Digital History Adviser for The Civil War Monitor magazine.

You may remember that both publisher Ted Savas and author Stephen “Sam” Hood took issue with a couple of posts of mine [and here] that targeted the way the latter’s new study of John Bell Hood was being marketed. At the time Savas suggested we wait for the reviews to appear. They have appeared and one in particular written by historian Carole Emberton for The Civil War Monitor has unleashed a very nasty response from the two. Continue reading

A Confession

Bully PulpitI have a confession to make. I am a huge fan of Doris Kearns Goodwin’s books. Yes, I say this despite the plagiarism scandal and her recent performance at the Gettysburg 150 commemoration this past July. I do not subscribe to the “three strikes” rule.

Goodwin tells exciting stories about our most important political leaders and the times in which they lived. Occasionally, you can sense a whiggish streak running through the narrative, but it’s rarely overbearing and rarely evolves into full-blown sentimentality. [That happens more often than not during interviews.] She is one of the few popular writers who has the ability to remind the country that its collective memory extends beyond the past few weeks. Continue reading

The Civil War Monitor’s Best Books of 2013

In addition to my short travel piece on Civil War Boston for the latest issue of The Civil War Monitor, I also took part in the magazine’s “Best of 2013″ feature. Seven of us, including Ken Noe, Andrew Wagenhoffer, Robert Krick, Ethan Rafuse, Brooks Simpson and Harry Smeltzer were asked to select a “Top Pick” along with an “Honorable Mention.” Here are my selections. Continue reading

New to the Civil War Memory Library, 11/21

Jaime MartinezEnrico Dal Lago, William Lloyd Garrison and Giuseppe Mazzini: Abolition, Democracy, and Radical Reform, (Louisiana State University Press, 2013).

William C. Harris, Lincoln and the Union Governors, (University of Southern Illinois Press, 2013).

Jaime A. Martinez, Confederate Slave Impressment in the Upper South, (University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

Jared Peatman, The Long Shadow of Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address, (University of Southern Illinois Press, 2013).

Kevin Peraino, Lincoln in the World: The Making of a Statesman and the Dawn of American Power, (Crown, 2013).

Rachel A. Shelden, Washington Brotherhood: Politics, Social Life, and the Coming of the Civil War, (University of North Carolina Press, 2013).

John David Smith, Lincoln and the U.S. Colored Troops, (University of Southern Illinois Press, 2013).

Mark Twain, Autobiography of Mark Twain, Volume 2: The Complete and Authoritative Edition, (University of California Press, 2013).

Have You Really Read Battle Cry of Freedom?

McPherson Battle Cry of FreedomThis past week The Daily Beast did an interview with James McPherson to mark the 25th anniversary of the release of Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. As we all know it was a bestseller when it was first published in 1988 and remains the go to book for those looking for a reliable survey of the Civil War Era. That is quite an accomplishment.

While it is likely the single most popular Civil War book published in the past two decades I sometimes wonder how many people, who own it or who throw out the name in polite conversation, have actually read it in its entirety. At just under 900 pages it is quite demanding.

I first purchased the book in 1995. At the time I was just beginning to explore the period and everyone recommended that I start with McPherson.  I don’t mind admitting that I never really got around to reading it in its entirety until I took a graduate school class in historiography in 2004. On numerous occasions I committed myself to reading it only to be distracted by another book or even a shorter McPherson essay that summarized aspects of the larger study. Of course, that did not stop me from recommending the book to others.

Part of why I resisted had to do with the mistaken assumption that Battle Cry is no more than a survey, heavy on narrative and short on analytical rigor. That certainly is not the case.

So, who else is going to come clean?