Yesterday the 2014 Lincoln Prize winners were announced. This year the prize was split between Allen Guelzo for his book, Gettysburg: The Last Invasion and Writing the Gettysburg Address by Martin Johnson. I read and thoroughly enjoyed Guelzo’s book, but have not have yet had a chance to read the second. It’s worth pointing out that Guelzo’s book is the first military campaign study to be awarded the prize since George Rable’s Fredericksburg! Fredericksburg!, which won in 2003.
Last May I wondered how the Licence Battlefield Guides at Gettysburg and Gettysburg enthusiasts generally would respond to Guelzo’s book. This morning I came across a couple of reactions on social media from two Licensed Guides that are worth sharing.
Is anyone else as outraged as I am? Gettysburg historiography has taken a major step backwards. Has anyone who knows anything about the battle actually read this book? Where is the History Police when you need them?
I don’t know why anyone is surprised by Guelzo getting this prize. His friends and colleagues in academe choose the winners. Guelzo has been cultivating them for years. It’s just business. Ho hum.
A few other comments from the thread caught my eye.
I’ve read it. It is well written but there are numerous problems with it. When you look at the panel that selected it, it is easy to figure out why it won. Johnson’s book, which I thought was excellent, should have been the sole winner of the award.
The only thing new I learned in the entire book was that Krzyżanowski was a first cousin of Chopin. Aside from that, there are 672 pages of my life that I’ll never get back.
I suspect that the same people who have a problem with Guelzo’s book prefer Frank O’Reilly’s Fredericksburg study over Rables’s book. Let me be clear that I have no issue at all with pointing out weaknesses and mistakes in a history book, but I get the sense that there is more at work here than a concern about factual errors.
Please don’t ask me to wade into whether I believe Guelzo deserves the award. I have absolutely no reason not to trust the integrity of the members of the awards panel. As noted above I thought the book was incredibly thought provoking for a number of reasons. With that I want to congratulate the winners of this year’s Lincoln Prize.