Popular Drivel

24 08 2012

If you haven’t heard about “historian” Richard Slotkin’s new book on Antietam, Google it. I will not link to it here. I refuse. Just like the Supreme Court and prior restraint, the book has been roundly rejected by a number of Antietam scholars I know. But check out this critique of a recent interview this “historian” – make that “MAJOR historian” – recently did with NPR.

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10 responses

24 08 2012
Brett S. - Siege of Petersburg

Interesting. Kevin Levin thought Slotkin’s book was the very, very best one on the Crater back in 2009, praising him numerous times in his review of No Quarter. Has he gotten that much worse in three years…or was he that bad all along? I think I know the answer.

25 08 2012
Harry Smeltzer

At the time his book on the Crater came out, I looked at it along with another Crater book that came out at the same time by John Schmutz. I think I gave the nod to Schmutz’s book (despite the fact it is a McFarland pub). I believe Kevin may have liked Slotkin more because he focused a little more on memory, but I’m working on my own memory here which could be faulty.

26 08 2012
Kevin Levin (@KevinLevin)

This is what I said about the book: http://cwmemory.com/2009/11/04/richard-slotkins-crater/ Keep in mind that he had already written a work of historical fiction around the Crater so I suspect he was more comfortable with the subject. His Crater book was not steeped in archival sources, but it did offer a very readable account of the battle and many of the larger issues around it.

26 08 2012
Chris Evans

I agree. I thought both of his works on the Crater were quite good. Actually, his novel is one of the best ever written on a Civil War battle. I think he did a good job telling that story in fiction and nonfiction. He must have apparently had a bad day with his Antietam work which I have not yet read.

Chris

24 08 2012
Patrick Young

So why the disgust with Slotkin?

25 08 2012
Harry Smeltzer

I don’t know Mr. Slotkin. I do know there are some problems with his book on Antietam, some of which are discussed in the link provided, many others brought to light in reviews, albeit unknowingly on the part of the reviewers.

25 08 2012
Chris Evans

I think the big controversy is (from what I read) that Slotkin basically thinks that McClellan was a traitor. I don’t really agree with him on that.

Chris

25 08 2012
Chris Evans

Harry,

What is your overall opinion of McClellan? Would he have won the war if Lincoln would not have meddled in McClellan’s situations with the Army of the Potomac? Has he been underrated and he is really one of the greatest generals of the Civil War and American history?

I’ve read some soldiers letters who were in the Army of the Potomac that are pretty rough on McClellan.

Chris

25 08 2012
Harry Smeltzer

I choose not to discuss McClellan on this forum, though you readers are free to do so. In a nutshell, I will say that otherwise rational historians (and others who call themselves such) appear to short-circuit when it comes to McClellan, and any editorializing regarding him seems OK to many consumers, who swallow it all without thought. (Ask many NPS interp rangers and they’ll tell you – when you feel like you’re losing the crowd, make a snarky McClellan reference and you’ll have them eating out of your hand.) And that’s about all I have to say about that.

25 08 2012
Chris Evans

Thanks. I like the quote by Walter Geer in his ‘Campaigns of the Civil War’ about McClellan: ‘Here is a character that will be argued over for Generations.’

Chris

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