Most of the changes reflect casualties, sackings and promotions due to the action in Stonewall Goes West. The one change that might strike even those who have read Mother Earth, Bloody Ground as strange, and therefore demands a comment here, is Patrick Cleburne’s promotion to Brevet Lieutenant General.

In the Old U.S. Army, brevet rank was given as a reward and was a de facto temporary promotion, effective only in the current assignment and without the accompanying raise in pay. It was quite common in the Old Army, what with its many small and far flung postings, because the need for field officers was high but the number of them was kept low by law. So a lieutenant or captain might find himself bumped up to brevet major and put in charge of a frontier post. During the Mexican War, many officers were given brevet promotions for meritorious service as well.

The Union Army continued to use brevet rank during the Civil War, following its Old Army antecedents. The Confederate Army had the provision for brevet rank on the books, as their 1861 Articles of War and C.S. Army regulations, both of which were virtually copies of their older U.S. counterparts.

However, the Confederates never used brevet ranks, and even passed a law creating “temporary general” rank (meaning full or “four-star” general) rather than use brevet general rank instead. This was despite the fact that the two amounted to practically the same thing.

Cleburne became, insofar as my story is concerned, the Confederacy’s first and only brevet lieutenant general as part of an elegant solution to a thorny problem, a solution devised by Judah Benjamin. To find out the details, you will need to read the book, but I thought some detailed explanation of this part of army regulations was in order.

Overall Commander and Field Commander, Army of Tennessee: Gen. Thomas J. Jackson, Department of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi

Polk’s Corps
Commanding: Lt. Gen. Leonidas Polk

French’s Division

  • Ector’s Brigade
  • Cockrell’s Brigade
  • Sears’s Brigade
  • Cantey’s Brigade

Maney’s Division

  • Featherston’s Brigade
  • Quarles’s Brigade
  • Lowry’s Brigade (no relation to Mark Lowery of Polk’s Division)
  • Scott’s Brigade

Stewart’s Corps
Commanding: Lt. Gen. A.P. Stewart

Stevenson’s Division

  • Brown’s Brigade
  • Cumming’s Brigade
  • Reynold’s Brigade
  • Pettus’s Brigade

Clayton’s Division

  • Stovall’s Brigade
  • Holtzclaw’s Brigade
  • Gibson’s Brigade
  • Baker’s Brigade

Cleburne’s Corps
Commanding: Brevet Lt. Gen. Patrick Cleburne

Cheatham’s Division

  • Strahl’s Brigade
  • Wright’s Brigade
  • Vaughn”s Brigade
  • Walker’s Brigade (home of the 41st TN Infantry and the Grimes Brothers)

Polk’s Division (Lucius Polk)

  • Govan’s Brigade
  • Lowery’s Brigade
  • Granbury’s Brigade
  • Smith’s Brigade

Forrest’s Cavalry Corps
Commanding: Maj. Gen. Nathan Bedford Forrest

“Red” Jackson’s Division (three brigades)
Buford’s Division (three brigades)Rucker’s Brigade (independent)

A lot of authors, including myself, fret over bad reviews. The usual advice for such things is to try to learn what you can from them and otherwise grow a thicker skin, but to that I can add something new: sometimes your bad reviews are the sign of a good thing, if they are Amazon reader reviews that is.

Even Excellent Books Are Read By Morons
Take a look at the reader reviews for a book that inspired my own in some ways, Gettysburg by Newt Gingrich and William Forstchen. The book was a bestseller, and in my opinion the trilogy of which it is a part are the best alternate history novels of the last quarter century, and they are among the best Civil War novels for the same period. Yet the overall star rating is only 4.1, less than that of my own novel.

Gettysburg has a merely four-star rating precisely because it is a bestselling novel. The simple fact that it reached a large audience guaranteed that it would get bad reader reviews, because reaching a large audience means reaching idiots who can read.

I know that sounds harsh, but look at the bad reviews for Gettysburg. A big chunk of them came from people who complain that they didn’t know the book was an alternate history, and were expecting straight historical fiction. In other words, they were from readers who were too stupid to read and understand the plot synopsis posted front and center on the Amazon page and printed on the back of the book!

Look up any great book you would care to name on Amazon, and it will have reviews written by trolls, cretinous wannabe critics and dimwits. The simple truth is that having a healthy number of stupid reader reviews is part and parcel of reaching a larger audience. It is a sign of success.

Sales, Fakes And Hitting The Target
One of the things I have done since Stonewall Goes West came out a year and a half ago is keep a casual eye on authors who publish books in my genre. Based on that, I have a fair idea of how well those books have sold, and one thing I have gleaned from that is more evidence that stupid reviews are a sign of reaching a larger audience, because most of them didn’t sell well and don’t have several stupid reviews.

This is not to say that a book without a decent helping of stupid reviews hasn’t sold well. I can think of one good example where that is not the case, that being a sign of an author who really managed to hit the nail on the head and satisfy everyone, the discriminating and the lame-brained alike. I believe that because my observation suggests the book sold better than my own, and yet it doesn’t have that many dumb reviews.

On the other hand, I know of a dozen books that sold much, much worse than my own, yet have 4 1/2 star ratings with dozens of reader reviews, almost all of them positive. My guess is that most of those reviews are fakes written by family, friends, and members of the author’s writers club. In fact, in once instance I’ve had the author of one of those books contact me and then boast about doing that very thing. I have previously discussed this problem of fake reviews here.

But What About Bad Books?
The obvious problem with this theory is using it as a tool to evaluate books you want to buy, as opposed to drawing comfort from it as an author. Tons of bad reviews aren’t a paradox that points to a good book, or even a book with good sales.

That points to a caveat in the theory: bad reviews are a sign of reaching a larger audience only up to a certain point, and the reviews in question need to be stupid to count. Don’t discount all criticism by saying “it’s just a sign that I reached dumb asses too.”

In my own reader reviews, the one consistent criticism that rings true is that my books don’t have maps in them. That was due to budget constraints, and frankly there is nothing I could or can do about that for this trilogy. Still, it’s a valid complaint and one I understood from the very beginning, which is why I attempted to bridge the gap with maps I made myself and published on the internet.

So the maps complaint is basically sound, because it’s true and for some readers it hampers or even spoils their enjoyment of the book. Sometimes I think the complaint is taken to an unfair degree, but that makes it harsh rather than stupid. I would be a fool not to listen to it and try to incorporate maps into my next project, and you would be a fool to assess all bad criticism as stupid merely because it’s bad.

 

Here is an updated order of battle for the Army of the Tennessee for the start of Mother Earth, Bloody Ground.

Overall Commander: Maj. Gen. William T. Sherman, Military Division of the Mississippi

Field Commander: Maj. Gen. James B. McPherson

XV Corps
Commanding: Maj. Gen. John Logan

  • Harrow’s Division
  • Osterhaus’s Division
  • John Smith’s Division
  • Morgan Smith’s Division

XVI Corps
Commanding: Brevet Maj. Gen. A.J. Smith

  • Sweeny’s Division
  • Mower’s Division
  • Thomas Kilby Smith’s Division

XX Corps
Commanding: Maj. Gen. Joe Hooker

  • Butterfield’s Division
  • Geary’s Division
  • Williams’s Division

Cavalry (two independent divisions, not organized into a corps and answering to army headquarters)

  • Minty’s Division
  • Grierson’s Division

During the course of the novel, the Army of the Tennessee is reinforced by the XVII Corps:

XVII Corps
Commanding: Maj. Gen. Frank Blair

  • Leggett’s Division
  • Gresham’s Division