Glaring error in new Naval history book

Thomas Weine

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Joined
Nov 29, 2019
I pre ordered Defending the Arteries of Freedom: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861 - 1865 by Neil Chatelain.

Just received it today and man am I underwhelmed.

I opened the book to a random page (254) and started skim reading.

Lo and behold, I found this "John Shirley, the same shipbuilder who constructed the ironclad Louisiana at New Orleans,"

I think that qualifies as a glaring error. Glaring as in a high school senior shouldn't make that mistake in a 9 weeks grading period term paper.

Selecting a few topics that I am familiar with, I found no other outrageous errors, but the depth of the content was unimpressive. Maybe good as an intermediate level intro book, but not much beyond that. The footnotes give a small number of sources and when I examined the sources that the author cited, I found that a good deal of the book's content is not found in his cited sources.

The most impressive section was on the CSS MCRae, not surprising as the author had previously published Fought Like Devils:The Confederate Gunboat McRae.

I had really anticipated the arrival of this book, looking forward to some new insights on this subject, but I may send it back for a refund.

Maybe I will find some justification for keeping it, as I am somewhat addicted to almost any books about Civil War Naval matters.

 

Lubliner

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Nov 27, 2018
Location
Chattanooga, Tennessee
If you can afford to hold on to it, it is a back-up source you may regret sending back. Comparing and contrasting style, plus Bibliography resources, and understanding the tone and author's hope for reaching a particular audience is a fruitful endeavor. Not all scholars have a PHD level of the English Language, nor have they all a desire to expend the amount of sweat it takes to write an award winning Title. To farm out the material to specialists can make marketing entirely unprofitable. Support the cause and keep the book, IMO.
Lubliner.
 

James Brenner

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Nov 10, 2016
Location
North Canton, Ohio
I agree that having a manuscript reviewed prior to publication can be a costly venture that can eat into any profits (or at least reaching the break even point). The downside is that it doesn't take many negative reviews for people to avoid anything the author either has written or will write.
 
I pre ordered Defending the Arteries of Freedom: Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861 - 1865 by Neil Chatelain.

Just received it today and man am I underwhelmed.

I opened the book to a random page (254) and started skim reading.

Lo and behold, I found this "John Shirley, the same shipbuilder who constructed the ironclad Louisiana at New Orleans,"

I think that qualifies as a glaring error. Glaring as in a high school senior shouldn't make that mistake in a 9 weeks grading period term paper.

Selecting a few topics that I am familiar with, I found no other outrageous errors, but the depth of the content was unimpressive. Maybe good as an intermediate level intro book, but not much beyond that. The footnotes give a small number of sources and when I examined the sources that the author cited, I found that a good deal of the book's content is not found in his cited sources.

The most impressive section was on the CSS MCRae, not surprising as the author had previously published Fought Like Devils:The Confederate Gunboat McRae.

I had really anticipated the arrival of this book, looking forward to some new insights on this subject, but I may send it back for a refund.

Maybe I will find some justification for keeping it, as I am somewhat addicted to almost any books about Civil War Naval matters.

Thomas, first I would like to say thanks for ordering a copy of my book and taking a look at it. Second I would also like to thank you for pointing out an error. I actually appreciate it when readers find errors in the text. It reminds me that no manuscript is perfect and no matter how many people look at it, something will always slip through the cracks.

You are correct in that on that page I do mention John T. Shirley as the constructor of the ironclad Louisiana. Fortunately for my own sanity, I ran through the book because of this and found it to be a one time issue in this regard. All other mentions of the ironclad Louisiana include its actual builder E.C. Murray, and Shirley is mentioned elsewhere in the text appropriately attached to the ironclads Arkansas and Tennessee. An error it certainly is, but fortunately for my own sanity it was one made tangentially in a part of the book not about any of those vessels and instead about the possibility of ironclad construction opportunities near Florence, Alabama later in the war by Shirley.

No book is perfect and I certainly hope you do not dismiss it for the sake of one small mis-wording. Please feel free to message me if you wish to discuss thing further.
 

Ptarmigan

Private
Joined
Jul 21, 2013
I too have this book on order and as the author has graciously acknowledged this error I am inclined to overlook it . Not every book I have bought lives up to my expectations and when they do I am very appreciative but even when they do not I am still grateful that someone has made an effort to research the subject.
I shall reserve my judgement until I have read it but I recall another Naval book by James Bender on the 17th C Dutch navy getting slated in the reviews but when I read it I thought that it was one of the best books in my collection. I suppose its all about expectations. Most of the books I've bought contain very little new information but I still keep buying them and despite their shortcomings they only seem to go up in value.
 

Biscoitos

Corporal
Joined
May 14, 2020
I would like to thank Neil Chatelain for his work in researching the little known history of the Lake Pontchartrain Flotilla, I have been using his paper in my own research recently and just realized that he was the author and thought I should say that I found it very informative
Me too.
His book on the McRae "Fought Like Devils" is also impressive.

Just got his "Arteries of Rebellion" yesterday and have been too busy to open it. Looking forward to the weekend.
 
I would like to thank Neil Chatelain for his work in researching the little known history of the Lake Pontchartrain Flotilla, I have been using his paper in my own research recently and just realized that he was the author and thought I should say that I found it very informative
Glad to hear that someone read that paper! Let me know if you ever need any of the source material and cannot track it down. Would be glad to help you.
 

Ptarmigan

Private
Joined
Jul 21, 2013
Thank you Neil , I would love to share my material with you and discuss references if I had an address to send it to .
 

James Brenner

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Joined
Nov 10, 2016
Location
North Canton, Ohio
It sounds like this book will fill scratch more than one itch. It's always struck me as curious that, despite all the volumes written about the CW, there has not been (to my knowledge) any comprehensive - or even introductory - treatment of Confederate coast defense; a work that ties in submersibles, torpedoes, stone/brick fortifications (Totten Board), earthen forts, ironclads, etc. To that could be added a discussion on the administrative aspects: policy, placement, personnel, armament, training, and command structure. There are treatments of various aspects of coast defense (Raymond Lewis, Seacoast Fortifications; Weaver's, Legacy in Brick and Stone), a couple of personal accounts (Ripley, Siege Train), Still's work on ironclads, but nothing that links them all together or provides an analysis of what worked and what didn't.

Any PhD candidates out there looking for a challenge?
 

lelliott19

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@Neil P. Chatelain will be our guest on CivilWarTalk Presents on Wednesday, October 21st at 8:30 pm EDT. He will be discussing his book, Confederate Naval Operations in the Mississippi River Valley, 1861 - 1865. It was just released by Savas Beatie in September so we will be among the first to hear about it. I hope everyone participating in this thread will register and participate in the presentation! Here's the link https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZUtc-ioqTssEtHj7lofULgJdDwM2MFcZxJs
 

19thOhio

Corporal
Joined
Oct 24, 2019
I just registered for Neil's presentation Wed. and looking forward to it. I have been learning so much from this forum I think I should get some credit hours in history.

It's good to note that an error may have been made, noticed and corrected. Neil is fortunate, perhaps, because of this forum it has been noted and recognized. Good. We can go on from there. I'm sure there may be some pretty bad works out there but does one recognized and corrected error negate the usefulness of all the work? I hope not.

How does an author correct an error in a published book? Just cringe and hope no one notices?

I am a beginner researcher/author with absolutely no credentials regarding anything regarding history much less the C W. Editing and publishing can be expensive, possibly eating all profits, should profits be the primary reason for writing the book.

After I published (I did have some semi-pro help) I found an error, misnamed a river, (palm to head, I had been there twice but it is correct in later sentences). How to correct it? I made the change with a second printing, that and a comma. Over four years nothing else has come up, although it hasn't been scrutinized by members of this Civil War community.

Recently I have read two books that mentioned Lincoln having passed through our community. These are esteemed authors and yet I discovered errors as our community is mentioned or implied in their stories. One has an incorrect picture. The other just needs a bit of clarification in one statement in my opinion. These are human endeavors, errors can happen.
 
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