Search This Blog

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

I just don’t get it

The Coffee Coolers by Edwin Forbes
These guys were notorious for falling out of the march and hiding until they were not missed. After all the fighting had taken place they would find their units again loaded with excuses why they couldn't keep up.

My Civil War library is huge. The amount is a problem of space but the amount of good CW books is NOT a problem. Well, let me back up a bit… it is not a problem for me that my collection is too big, only my lovely wife has a problem with the amount. Like most CW buffs I’d like to see it double today and perhaps triple by tomorrow. There are so many books I’d love to own and I probably will, given enough time and assuming I don’t get abducted by aliens or get hit by a bus any time soon. For the past 3 years I have begun stacking books on the floor and I could be featured on the TV show “Hoarders” soon. *gulp* I don’t have a problem… seriously!

The issue I have is that there are some people who think there are enough books published already. Yeah… they do exist! When I was in Gettysburg last month I spoke to quite a few people (who shall remain nameless) that feel there are… say… enough books about Gettysburg for example. They also will say with a straight face that ‘why do you need a book about so and so? He was only a brigade commander.’ I don’t get that. The people I’m talking about are not just ordinary passersby but CW buffs, Rangers and Guides. It is mindboggling. I’ll give you that we do not need another book about Gettysburg that states the exact same primary material, secondary resources and idiotic theories (the kind of ‘what if’ off the wall stuff that would NEVER have happened) that has been reprinted a billion times. I know these books because I have waaay too many of them. So I’m not talking about these books but who wouldn’t want a book that provides new primary material or greater detail with more accurate maps about the battle?! Well there are some and I just don’t get that.

I had a discussion at Gettysburg when the topic came up about the battle of Antietam. I had told this gentleman that I wished that every battle had a book that described the action with the detail and depth as the book Antietam: The Soldiers' Battle by John M. Priest. I have put this one in my all time best 12 CW lists. The gentleman said he thought that Landscape Turned Red: The Battle of Antietam by Stephen W. Sears was a MUCH better book. I told him I wasn’t disputing that the Sears book wasn’t very good, it was just that I have 4 very good books on the battle and loved them but I wanted MORE detail than just an overall “battle book”. (“Battle book” is the term I use to describe a book in which an entire battle is written in a broad over view. These books can have detail but they essentially cover the entire battle evenly as if you didn’t know anything. There is nothing wrong with that of course.) The fact is I have tons of battle books but now I want more and this is why I loved the Priest book so much. If you read this book first you might get very confused and I get that. The book is chock full of antidotes that describe the battle in the eyes of the soldiers themselves, not McClellan’s grand strategy (he had one?!). The gentleman had a problem with the book because of this. I just couldn’t get him to understand that once you read a dozen battle books on one battle you want MORE. Half jokingly I said that if I could I would like to know the name of every soldier that fought in every battle, what he was wearing, how he was wearing it, what he had to eat that day, how/where did he sleep the night before, where did he came from, did he have a family, how old was he, was he wounded or killed, did he suffer, what company/regiment was he from, did he survive the war, did he write down his experiences, where is he buried, are there photos/letters of him that still exist today… etc etc. I want to know it all! Any book that can get me closer to that level of detail is good in my mind.

Okay I do admit I’m a bit over the top here but why wouldn’t you want details if you are really into the Civil War? It is perplexing to see book after book about the Irish Brigade and they all tell the same old story. You might be surprised to know that the Irish Brigade won the war all by themselves! Well… if you read these books that is almost the way the story turns out. It’s like the boring 12,865 books on Gettysburg that never needed to be published. Bring something new to the table or find another subject. You’d be shocked to know how much could still be written yet no one has touched them but of course if you just read battle books or books on the Irish Brigade you don’t need anything else.

Sorry, I just don’t get it.

40th NYSV monument


  1. I agree with you, I will never have enough books and I also like the detailed books like Priest's. I really liked the one he wrote about South Mountain. I also have his books on the Wilderness. I guess I just like the detailed stuff on soldiers as I used to reenact back in the 70's/80's and spent 20 years in the army as a trigger puller...
    Happy 4th of July to you!
    R. S. Abbott

  2. And Happy 4th to you as well!

    I have Priest's South Mountain book but have not read it yet. I intend to get the Wilderness one. Have you read it and is it as good as the others?

    Recently I have been getting MUCH more into the CW then even before.... if that is even possible! Writing these new rules has meant a lot more research and the stuff I've dug up has made me more crazy than ever. I think I posted this sometime ago but... my dream is to do the AoNV and the AoP in 25mm in one to one scale. It's a dream so.... I can dream. :)

    Thanks for the comments.