Thursday, May 14, 2009

Booknotes II (May '09)

Acquisitions or review copies received this month:

1. A Wisconsin Yankee in the Confederate Bayou Country: The Civil War Reminiscences of a Union General by Halbert Eleazer Paine, ed. by Samuel C. Hyde, Jr. (LSU Press, 2009).

Paine's writings [compiled and edited by Hyde, with some annotation] are useful as source material for the 1862-1863 campaigns in southeast Louisiana and Mississippi (he lost a leg at Port Hudson).

2. The Shiloh Campaign edited by Steven E. Woodworth (SIU Press, 2009).

I put together a short preview of his book back in February. I haven't read any of the articles yet but the presentation looks pretty spare overall, with no photos and only light cartography -- e.g. the essay detailing Stuart's Day-One defense of the Federal left has no map at all. I hope Woodworth rejoins Civil Warriors someday; I liked his posts.

3. The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln: The Story of America's Most Reviled President by Larry Tagg (Savas-Beatie, 2009).

I think the broad range of fronts criticizing and attacking Lincoln during his presidency have been pretty well documented in the literature, so it appears the original angle that Tagg is asserting is based upon his bringing it all together in a single volume.


  1. I'm almost done with The Shiloh Campaign. The presentation is very sparse and no effort was put into copy-editing. Smith's and McWhiney's essays make an interesting contrast regarding their treatment of the Hornet's Nest, though it's a minor point in McWhiney.

    A decent set of essays but nothing outstanding so far.

  2. Drew, I'll look forward to your review of the Paine reminiscence. The wording "with some annotation" may be telling. I was one of the readers of Hyde's manuscript and found far too little annotation in the version I read for the press.

  3. Hello Drew

    I received my copy of The Shiloh Campaign - Woodworth. The lack of photgraphs and maps is striking.

    I like the idea of a series similar to UNC Press's on the eastern campaigns. I hope SIU Press will improve the presentation with the next volume, which I believe will be on Chickamauga.

    Really enjoy your blog.

    Don Hallstrom

  4. Hello Drew,

    re: "Unpopular Mr. Lincoln," by Larry Tagg

    With all due respect, your description is only partially correct. I have never seen anything like his exposition of the political and cultural context of Lincoln's presidency (contained in Chapters Two through Five and Chapter Twenty-two), which is particularly important to understanding the opposition to Lincoln. Also, he spent a long, long time searching through microfiche rolls of Civil War-era Democratic newspapers and yielded new items that have never been published before to our knowledge.

    While many other Lincoln books mention his critics, and throw out a sentence here, and paragraph or two there, no book in its entirety until this one documents Lincoln's election and war years from first to last through the eyes of his contemporaries.

    If you read James Durney's review (now on Amazon), you will see he found the entire experience similar to being shaken from a deep sleep by a cold glass of ice water to the face.

    I felt much the same way when I read Tagg's original manuscript. "Do we need yet another Lincoln book?" I asked myself. When I was about one-third of the way through the manuscript I had my answer.

    Thanks, and be well.

    Theodore P. Savas

  5. Ted,

    In my mind, I was being generous. In all honesty, I am 6+ chapters in and haven't seen anything unfamiliar. I skimmed the primary source section of the bibliography twice and didn't spy a single unpublished source. In fact, I was disenchanted enough with my partial reading to put it down for later (or not later).

    That the book has proved a revelation to others (or to one other reviewer) can have no effect on my own thinking. I stand by what I wrote.

  6. Art,
    I am really enjoying Paine's writing. The amount of annotation in the final version remains pretty light.

  7. Stephen and Don,
    There is definitely a cost conscious feel to it, although the material is nice. I got the same impression from the Champ Ferguson book. Regardless, I am happy to see this series, and hope for the best.

  8. Hi Drew

    Well, I hope you keep reading, and I hope overall you enjoy it and see it as a solid contribution to the literature.

    I just got an email from someone who heard Larry in Illinois two days ago and bought his book. He is about where you are and is loving it and asked for a catalog of all our titles. I guess this all makes the world go around.

    I appreciate your blog and all you do for the world of CW publishing.

    Have a great weekend.



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