Civil War Librarian “Reviews” SGW

on October 2, 2013 in Books, Media, Reviews

I’ve adopted the rule of not responding to reviews of my work, either by readers or professionals. Most authors follow this line, and I think that is a wise policy. Even if an author produces a good work, taste is taste, not everyone will like it, and it’s better to grow a thicker skin that to descend into unseemly bickering.

Yet when a reviewer makes factual statements in a review that are inaccurate, well, that is an entirely different ball game. And when the reviewer in question has semi-professional status, it demands rebuttal.

So it is with Rea Andrew Redd, the “Civil War Librarian.” If this review had appeared in a newspaper or magazine, I would be on the phone with the editor demanding the kind of corrections that would likely ensure Prof. Redd would never write for that publication again. However, Redd is a blogger, so I must publish the correction myself.

Redd’s Factual Errors
In his review, Redd makes three factual errors:

1. “Jackson is a corps commander at Gettysburg”

While Jackson survived Chancellorsville and retained his rank and position, the story clearly states that Jackson was convalescing with his family in Lexington for the Gettysburg campaign. He was not “at” Gettysburg, and did not participate in the campaign, as implied here. This may be a merely a misstatement, but I doubt it in view of the more serious error Redd made just a few sentences later. In either case, it is still plain wrong.

2. & 3. “Within sixty days Jackson has the Army of Tennessee at Nashville and Sherman never enters Georgia.”

Mistakes two and three were more serious. In my story, Jackson assumed command just after New Years, and the fictional Battle of Lawrenceburg was not until early May. That is a space of four months, not two.

My guess is that Redd is dating his statement from where my story picks up with Jackson in Georgia, which is in March 1864. However, scenes in Richmond clearly describe him as intending to assume command after the Holidays. Furthermore, there are multiple scenes set in February which refer to Jackson as already in command: Jackson actually sends Cheatham’s Division to Polk to combat the Meridian campaign; Polk and Cheatham talk about having Jackson in charge; Sherman discusses Jackson with Banks in New Orleans after the Meridian Campaign is over.

So it is about 120 days, twice as long as the period Redd mistakenly describes. Since Redd accuses me of “not staying within historic parameters” and criticizes the plausibility of the story, the fact that he demonstrably missed so many references as to how long Jackson was in command before starting his campaign, and therefore how long he spent preparing, is damning of his opinion to say the least. How many other obvious details did he miss in a similar fashion?

The simple answer is “more,” which is proven by the last part of that statement. The novel ends on May 9, and the historical Atlanta Campaign’s opening moves were on May 5. Also in the novel, I have a conversation between Sherman and George H. Thomas which clearly indicated Thomas was to be left with a large army and charged with the task of invading Georgia. In saying “Sherman never enters Georgia,” Redd acts as if none of those things were in the book. Given that the subject is discussed at length and the timing of the issue, that part of the statement is also in error.

Fanciful, But Unprofessional, Opinions
Redd made three factual errors in a mere two-paragraph plot synopsis, getting almost as much wrong as he got right, and two of them couldn’t possibly be interpreted as careless misstatements. Plenty of other readers are on the record as having picked up on these details, so I can only speculate that he didn’t read the book very closely before writing his review.

Beyond that, the sloppiness of this review calls into question not just the merit of the review itself, but the merits of the blog Civil War Librarian as a whole. Having made such demonstrable errors in his review of my work, it is entirely plausible that some, most, or perhaps even all of Redd’s other reviews are just as inattentive to detail.

2 Responses to “Civil War Librarian “Reviews” SGW”

  1. Jim Walters says:

    Thanks for saying this. I bought a couple of History Press books based on Redd’s recommendations over the last couple of years, which he gave high marks. They were cheap books, didn’t have depth of info or offer any interesting insight, and in some cases missed some very major points. I thought they were average at best, two or three star works. If left me thinking “WTF is he talking about?”

    Your fictional book is more elaborately detailed and insightful than ANYTHING the History Press has done, at least as far as I can see, and yet there is Redd making an ass of himself. I already decided to not trust Civil War Librarian. This confirms it.

  2. Paulson says:

    I bought Bright Starry Banner because of what Redd wrote about it, and it’s a lousy book. I mean, it’s TERRIBLE. If Redd likes that book and hates yours (and your book is MUCH better), the man either lacks taste or simply trashes anything that isn’t rabidly, laughably pro-Union, which Bright Starry Banner certainly was.

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