Sunday, December 16, 2018

More on Greene's "A Campaign of Giants" Vol. 1

Every once in a blue moon I get a note from the author of a reviewed title. Last week, A. Wilson Greene nicely emailed me about an issue he had with my highly positive review of his most recent book A Campaign of Giants - The Battle for Petersburg, Volume 1: From the Crossing of the James to the Crater (2018) and with how I encapsulated his views on Meade in a later interview with Meade biographer John Selby. It turns out that my summary characterization of Greene's views on Meade at Petersburg are not exactly in line with the author's true feelings or intentions. Indeed, they are much opposed. I always welcome comments from anyone about the reviews on the site, so I invited him to leave a comment on the review page or better yet put together a rebuttal of sorts that I could publish as a standalone post where more people would see it.

Not getting a response either way, I think my obligation ends there but I'm not really comfortable leaving it at that. Many readers tend to want to box authors and biographers into pro and anti camps, and I didn't want to have my review construed by anyone in the opposite way that the author intended. That said, I stand by everything that I wrote in the review (which was published eight months ago), as it represents my honest impression of the accumulated arguments presented in the book.

So, what can I say? I'm not going to block quote from a private email, but I think I can appropriately try to encapsulate Greene's objections. Apparently, my impression that Meade had outlived his usefulness as an effective army commander by the end of the period covered in the book is not at all the view that Greene wanted to convey. He doesn't see any of the failures and mistakes committed during the initial offensives as singularly attached to Meade but rather liberally shared among the rest of the theater's high command. Greene by no means self-describes himself as a Meade "detractor."

I think that's a good overview of what he shared with me, and I'll link to this on both the original book review and the Selby interview.


  1. I experienced a similiar contrast from author Jeffrey William Hunt. I got the impression from the first volume of his Meade-Lee trilogy* (published a little over a year ago) that he does not think very well of George Meade. Yet when Civil War Talk Radio interviewed him about the book this year he came across as much more positive about Meade.

    * "Meade and Lee After Gettysburg: The Forgotten Final Stage of the Gettysburg Campaign"

    1. I thought Hunt came across as quite unimpressed on most aspects of Meade's army generalship, too. There could be many factors involved with this type of stuff. When it comes to weight and direction of criticism, wires between reader and author almost inevitably get crossed somewhere at some degree. Part of it could be human nature, too. I love horror movies but you could never guess it by how mercilessly I can pick them apart, even the ones I treasure.

    2. I see two subtly different issues here. The first is whether the reviewer has taken statements and arguments made in the book and has plausibly and reasonably interpreted them. The other is whether the author intended his points to come across differently than they did. I know that I have never written a brief in which I could not have stated any of the arguments in a better way. I'm sure that the same pertains to authors.

    3. When I reread my way too long review, there are probably only two sentences that the author objected to in particular (at least going off just what he mentioned in the email). Unfortunately, I used those in my interview with Selby as the template of what I believed to be Greene's summary judgment of Meade!

  2. Hunt clarifies his views of Gen. Meade in his upcoming book "Meade and Lee at Bristoe Station," which will be going to the printer within the next 10 days.

    Merry Christmas, all.


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