Modern Authors Who Have Been Unfair (And Contemporaries Who Got It Right)

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
By "modern authors" in context of this thread I mean published nonfiction works from the 1980s through today.

Subject should be a Civil War event or individual. Lets eschew causes of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction in this thread. Those largely have their own side forums and each could probably support a thread of their own given how contentious the subjects are.

By "unfair" I mean those you think have either made a historical subject look much better or worse than the facts warrant, perhaps due to the authors bias. Or who have argued a thesis about Civil War events you don't feel is supported by facts, either ignoring information that contradicts their thesus or perhaps because you perceive the author has an agenda.

A few of the better known examples I can think of:

1. Stephen Sears has been criticized for being too pro-Hooker and even moreso for being anti-McClellan.

2. Wiley Sword was well-know for his extreme disdain for Hood, views which have not aged well following Sam Hood's book.

3. Grant has been the subject of a lot of books in recent decades. Some are very fair reevaluations, others might try to present an excessively positive portrayal. Then there's Chernow's biography which has been criticized as turning Grant's life into a story of "triumph over alcoholism." Brooks Simposon's biography seems the fairest treatment of Grant's life (now if he could only finish the second volume!).

4. Tom Carhart's Lost Triumph became kind of infamous for arguing really hard for something that isn't supported by the historical record. Stephen Sears' Gettysburg includes a much more grounded description of East Cavalry Field in context of the battle, and I'm sure Eric Wittenberg's Defending The Flank provides a more detailed treatment of the subject.

If you can, when pointing out examples of books that you think got their subject wrong, also what book(s), preferably also modern, that you think got the same subject right.

I welcome our members who hold more contrarian views to use this thread as an opportunity to give examples of published works that align with their thinking.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
By "modern authors" in context of this thread I mean published nonfiction works from the 1980s through today.

Subject should be a Civil War event or individual. Lets eschew causes of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction in this thread. Those largely have their own side forums and each could probably support a thread of their own given how contentious the subjects are.

By "unfair" I mean those you think have either made a historical subject look much better or worse than the facts warrant, perhaps due to the authors bias. Or who have argued a thesis about Civil War events you don't feel is supported by facts, either ignoring information that contradicts their thesus or perhaps because you perceive the author has an agenda.

A few of the better known examples I can think of:

1. Stephen Sears has been criticized for being too pro-Hooker and even moreso for being anti-McClellan.

2. Wiley Sword was well-know for his extreme disdain for Hood, views which have not aged well following Sam Hood's book.

3. Grant has been the subject of a lot of books in recent decades. Some are very fair reevaluations, others might try to present an excessively positive portrayal. Then there's Chernow's biography which has been criticized as turning Grant's life into a story of "triumph over alcoholism." Brooks Simposon's biography seems the fairest treatment of Grant's life (now if he could only finish the second volume!).

4. Tom Carhart's Lost Triumph became kind of infamous for arguing really hard for something that isn't supported by the historical record. Stephen Sears' Gettysburg includes a much more grounded description of East Cavalry Field in context of the battle, and I'm sure Eric Wittenberg's Defending The Flank provides a more detailed treatment of the subject.

If you can, when pointing out examples of books that you think got their subject wrong, also what book(s), preferably also modern, that you think got the same subject right.

I welcome our members who hold more contrarian views to use this thread as an opportunity to give examples of published works that align with their thinking.
In fact, I believe that Eric has given a rather clear assessment of Carhart's theory on occasion.
 

Eric Wittenberg

1st Lieutenant
Keeper of the Scales
Joined
Jun 2, 2013
Location
Columbus, OH
In fact, I believe that Eric has given a rather clear assessment of Carhart's theory on occasion.

There's a 6000 word essay debunking his theory in the second edition of Protecting the Flank. I take it apart, point by point.

Wiley Sword really was unfair to John Bell Hood in his book on Franklin and Nashville. Sam Hood, a collateral descendant of General Hood, took Sword's characterization of Hood as a stupid laudanum addict apart very effectively and very convincingly.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
There's a 6000 word essay debunking his theory in the second edition of Protecting the Flank. I take it apart, point by point.

Wiley Sword really was unfair to John Bell Hood in his book on Franklin and Nashville. Sam Hood, a collateral descendant of General Hood, took Sword's characterization of Hood as a stupid laudanum addict apart very effectively and very convincingly.
That essay leaves nothing about Carhart's theory still standing.

Good point about the old Hood-laudanum issue. I think Steve Davis first raised a challenge to that one in B&G c. 1998 and the Hood papers published in 2013 pertaining to the effects and treatment of his Chickamauga injury thoroughly stamp out any embers. In fact, his treating physician's cautious use of laudanum should have been a model for the prescription of opioids in the 21st century. Hood's biographer, McMurry, apparently backed off his adoption of the addiction theory but did so by silence if I recall correctly.
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
By "modern authors" in context of this thread I mean published nonfiction works from the 1980s through today.

Subject should be a Civil War event or individual. Lets eschew causes of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction in this thread. Those largely have their own side forums and each could probably support a thread of their own given how contentious the subjects are.

By "unfair" I mean those you think have either made a historical subject look much better or worse than the facts warrant, perhaps due to the authors bias. Or who have argued a thesis about Civil War events you don't feel is supported by facts, either ignoring information that contradicts their thesus or perhaps because you perceive the author has an agenda.

A few of the better known examples I can think of:

1. Stephen Sears has been criticized for being too pro-Hooker and even moreso for being anti-McClellan.

2. Wiley Sword was well-know for his extreme disdain for Hood, views which have not aged well following Sam Hood's book.

3. Grant has been the subject of a lot of books in recent decades. Some are very fair reevaluations, others might try to present an excessively positive portrayal. Then there's Chernow's biography which has been criticized as turning Grant's life into a story of "triumph over alcoholism." Brooks Simposon's biography seems the fairest treatment of Grant's life (now if he could only finish the second volume!).

4. Tom Carhart's Lost Triumph became kind of infamous for arguing really hard for something that isn't supported by the historical record. Stephen Sears' Gettysburg includes a much more grounded description of East Cavalry Field in context of the battle, and I'm sure Eric Wittenberg's Defending The Flank provides a more detailed treatment of the subject.

If you can, when pointing out examples of books that you think got their subject wrong, also what book(s), preferably also modern, that you think got the same subject right.

I welcome our members who hold more contrarian views to use this thread as an opportunity to give examples of published works that align with their thinking.
I forget the name of the author that was pointed out by I believe @Saporenth a few years ago that wrote" McCelllan argued with Lincoln and defeated Lee" as reasons for McCelllan being ridiculed as an ineffective general.
Leftyhunter
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
By "modern authors" in context of this thread I mean published nonfiction works from the 1980s through today.

Subject should be a Civil War event or individual. Lets eschew causes of the war, slavery, and Reconstruction in this thread. Those largely have their own side forums and each could probably support a thread of their own given how contentious the subjects are.

By "unfair" I mean those you think have either made a historical subject look much better or worse than the facts warrant, perhaps due to the authors bias. Or who have argued a thesis about Civil War events you don't feel is supported by facts, either ignoring information that contradicts their thesus or perhaps because you perceive the author has an agenda.

A few of the better known examples I can think of:

1. Stephen Sears has been criticized for being too pro-Hooker and even moreso for being anti-McClellan.

2. Wiley Sword was well-know for his extreme disdain for Hood, views which have not aged well following Sam Hood's book.

3. Grant has been the subject of a lot of books in recent decades. Some are very fair reevaluations, others might try to present an excessively positive portrayal. Then there's Chernow's biography which has been criticized as turning Grant's life into a story of "triumph over alcoholism." Brooks Simposon's biography seems the fairest treatment of Grant's life (now if he could only finish the second volume!).

4. Tom Carhart's Lost Triumph became kind of infamous for arguing really hard for something that isn't supported by the historical record. Stephen Sears' Gettysburg includes a much more grounded description of East Cavalry Field in context of the battle, and I'm sure Eric Wittenberg's Defending The Flank provides a more detailed treatment of the subject.

If you can, when pointing out examples of books that you think got their subject wrong, also what book(s), preferably also modern, that you think got the same subject right.

I welcome our members who hold more contrarian views to use this thread as an opportunity to give examples of published works that align with their thinking.
David Williams book " Bitterly divided the South's Inner Civil War" is controversial because even though the author has numerous citations some of our posters don't like his theme that there was significant Southern opposition to the Confederacy. We are supposed to believe that all Southeners wholeheartedly supported the Confederacy.
Richard Current got it right in " Lincoln's Loyalists Union soldiers from the Confederacy" that the Union was able to recruit a significant amount of Southeners into the Union Army. Current's book is also well sourced and disspells the myth of a unified South in favor of the Confederacy.
Leftyhunter
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
Farnwell, 1992, Stonewall said Jackson never hauled B&O Railroad locomotives down the highway to the South. Robertson, 1997, Stonewall Jackson: the Man, the Soldier, the Legend said the haul was a myth and never happened. Tucker, 2003, Brigadier General James D. Imboden says that everything that we know about the haul came from Imboden's articles in Battles & Leaders and that he was a liar.

All three men are totally wrong. I have over 500 period documents proving the haul took place, just like so many other authors said it did. These proofs are from the B&O RR annual reports, the ORs, several diaries, many US and CS newspaper articles and hundreds of documents in the National Archives. See these documents transcribed at http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Jackson_and_the_Locomotive_Haul.htm.

I published the complete story in my book Locomotives Up the Turnpike in 2017.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Farnwell, 1992, Stonewall said Jackson never hauled B&O Railroad locomotives down the highway to the South. Robertson, 1997, Stonewall Jackson: the Man, the Soldier, the Legend said the haul was a myth and never happened. Tucker, 2003, Brigadier General James D. Imboden says that everything that we know about the haul came from Imboden's articles in Battles & Leaders and that he was a liar.

All three men are totally wrong. I have over 500 period documents proving the haul took place, just like so many other authors said it did. These proofs are from the B&O RR annual reports, the ORs, several diaries, many US and CS newspaper articles and hundreds of documents in the National Archives. See these documents transcribed at http://csa-railroads.com/Essays/Jackson_and_the_Locomotive_Haul.htm.

I published the complete story in my book Locomotives Up the Turnpike in 2017.
In addition, if I recall correctly Garrett/the B&O went south after the war ended to find B&O property that had been taken, including rolling stock.
 

DaveBrt

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Mar 6, 2010
Location
Charlotte, NC
In addition, if I recall correctly Garrett/the B&O went south after the war ended to find B&O property that had been taken, including rolling stock.
Yes, they got all the locomotives, except one, and a very few of the cars. All the recovered locomotives were repaired by the B&O and returned to service. The return of the locomotives to service is in the B&O annual reports; the story of finding and recovering the B&O material in the South is told in an unpublished manuscript I have.
 

Dead Parrott

Sergeant
Joined
Jul 30, 2019
There will never be a historian without a bias - then or now.

I enjoy multiple viewpoints, do not easily dismiss decades of collective scholarship for the latest fad reevaluation, but tend to give a pretty wide initial berth to new challenges and challengers. But never assume newer is better or better researched. Bias still wins. I've seen even the supposed 'numbers guys' consciously or unconsciously, manipulate like hell.

Every history filters through the historian.
 

Andy Cardinal

2nd Lieutenant
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 27, 2017
Location
Ohio
There will never be a historian without a bias - then or now.

I enjoy multiple viewpoints, do not easily dismiss decades of collective scholarship for the latest fad reevaluation, but tend to give a pretty wide initial berth to new challenges and challengers. But never assume newer is better or better researched. Bias still wins. I've seen even the supposed 'numbers guys' consciously or unconsciously, manipulate like hell.

Every history filters through the historian.
I dont think you can stress this point enough, which is why I try to read more then one book on any topic I care to know more about just to see the different viewpoints, even if I totally disagree with some of them.
 

Belfoured

Sergeant Major
Joined
Aug 3, 2019
Yes, they got all the locomotives, except one, and a very few of the cars. All the recovered locomotives were repaired by the B&O and returned to service. The return of the locomotives to service is in the B&O annual reports; the story of finding and recovering the B&O material in the South is told in an unpublished manuscript I have.
a few years ago I reviewed a book titled The War Came by Train about Garrett and the B&O during the war. An interesting story that tends to get lost in the mix since so much Civil War focus is on the USMRR.
 

Jamieva

Captain
Forum Host
Joined
Feb 7, 2006
Location
Midlothian, VA
Generally the ones I have seen with the most obvious bias tend to be works from 1970s and prior. Sword, Freeman, Dowdey to name a few.

Among more modern authors, Sears overall does good work but he never cuts Little Mac any slack. He can do nothing right ever in Sears eyes.
 

Joshism

2nd Lieutenant
Joined
Apr 30, 2012
Location
Jupiter, FL
Considering that some people consider Outlaw Joesy Wales an historical work I'd say the train has left the station.

The most popular and influential work about the American Civil War is Gone With The Wind.

But as stated clearly in the OP that's not what this thread is about.
 
Joined
Sep 17, 2011
Location
mo
David Williams book " Bitterly divided the South's Inner Civil War" is controversial because even though the author has numerous citations some of our posters don't like his theme that there was significant Southern opposition to the Confederacy. We are supposed to believe that all Southeners wholeheartedly supported the Confederacy.
Richard Current got it right in " Lincoln's Loyalists Union soldiers from the Confederacy" that the Union was able to recruit a significant amount of Southeners into the Union Army. Current's book is also well sourced and disspells the myth of a unified South in favor of the Confederacy.
Leftyhunter
Not sure recruiting soldiers from occupied territories indicates a lot as to loyalty or devotion, or even dissent to the country that's getting occupied...it usually reflects opportunism. Edited.
 

Saruman

Sergeant
Joined
Jun 10, 2011
David Williams book " Bitterly divided the South's Inner Civil War" is controversial because even though the author has numerous citations some of our posters don't like his theme that there was significant Southern opposition to the Confederacy. We are supposed to believe that all Southeners wholeheartedly supported the Confederacy.
Richard Current got it right in " Lincoln's Loyalists Union soldiers from the Confederacy" that the Union was able to recruit a significant amount of Southeners into the Union Army. Current's book is also well sourced and disspells the myth of a unified South in favor of the Confederacy.Leftyhunter

Also a lot of apathy. I think Albert Sidney Johnston summed it up best:

"I am disappointed in the state of public sentiment in the South. Our people seem to have suffered from a violent political fever, which has left them exhausted. They are not up to the revolutionary point."
 

leftyhunter

Brev. Brig. Gen'l
Joined
May 27, 2011
Location
los angeles ca
Also a lot of apathy. I think Albert Sidney Johnston summed it up best:

"I am disappointed in the state of public sentiment in the South. Our people seem to have suffered from a violent political fever, which has left them exhausted. They are not up to the revolutionary point."
No doubt. Americans love short decisive wars and hate long ones or ones that they are loosing.
The ACW certainly wasn't popular with many Southeners nor with many Northeners for that matter.
Civil Wars take a huge toll on countries psyche .
Leftyhunter
 

Irishtom29

Sergeant Major
Joined
Jul 21, 2008
Location
Kent, Washington
Good point about the old Hood-laudanum issue. I think Steve Davis first raised a challenge to that one in B&G c. 1998 and the Hood papers published in 2013 pertaining to the effects and treatment of his Chickamauga injury thoroughly stamp out any embers. In fact, his treating physician's cautious use of laudanum should have been a model for the prescription of opioids in the 21st century. Hood's biographer, McMurry, apparently backed off his adoption of the addiction theory but did so by silence if I recall correctly.

I'd cut Hood more slack if he had been a doper.
 
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