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Army of the Potomac, Volume II: McClellan…
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Army of the Potomac, Volume II: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862 (edició 2004)

de Russel H. Beatie (Autor)

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In this second volume of a multi-volume work, Russel Beatie continues his detailed study of the generals who commanded the Union's victorious Army of the Potomac. When the first volume appeared,Civil War News commended Beatie's monumental study, noting that "readers will find its thoroughness and extensive detail useful to their efforts to better understand the Union war effort." This new survey of the war's first six months of fighting places the command decisions of the army's senior officers in the social, political, military, and economic context of their day.Thought-provoking and original (the book is based entirely on manuscript sources, many of which have never before been examined), Beatie's account and his conclusions about the actions of the Union's high command differ-often significantly-from traditional historical thinking. What emerges is a fresh understanding of these men and how their personalities influenced their command decisions, and the political atmosphere that influenced their military actions.The Army of the Potomac is about leaders as men-their successes and failures commanding the Union's largest army.… (més)
Membre:JohnR1980
Títol:Army of the Potomac, Volume II: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862
Autors:Russel H. Beatie (Autor)
Informació:Da Capo Press (2004), Edition: First Edition, 672 pages
Col·leccions:La teva biblioteca
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Etiquetes:Cap

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Army of the Potomac, Volume II: McClellan Takes Command, September 1861-February 1862 de Russel H. Beatie

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This is a terrible, terrible vanity publication which outflanked all kinds of quality control. The book is a strange beast of a badly written novel, a partial civil war history, a muddled unit history and a multi-person biography with a whiff of the author's peculiar political philosophy. The commented bibliography is the only redeeming part of the work. I am at a loss to explain the number of good reviews at Amazon, and can only warn casual civil war readers. Without a firm grounding in civil war and military history, they risk tainting their knowledge with wrong ideas.

Let me illustrate this with an example of Beatie's writing (p. 566):"Fed by the growing power of democracy, the levee en masse, and the nation in arms, the armies of democratic republics in the mid-nineteenth century could fight one battle after another, mixing defeat and victories in a continuous stream. The army suffering a defeat could reappear to fight again and in a short time." In the relevant footnote 65, Beatie adds the example of the Prussian recovery after Jena-Auerstedt. Now, 1806 is not exactly mid-nineteenth century. The King of Prussia ruled anything but a democratic republic. Having established that the footnote is completely wrong, what about the main sentence? Apart from the United States and Switzerland (which did not participate in any external wars in that time period), there were no major democratic republics in the world I am aware of (ignoring the border cases such as Paraguay). Anyway, the fledgling democratic revolutionaries of 1848, e.g. in Vienna, were steamrolled by the forces of reaction as were the French in 1870/71 after Napoleon III (as was Paraguay in the Triple Alliance War). But I will be generous and relax the qualifier. Did defeated armies recover quickly in the mid-nineteenth century? The Mexicans of Buena Vista and Cerro Gordo, the Austrians at Solferino and Königgrätz or the French at Sedan beg to differ. The mid-nineteenth century saw an important number of decisive battles where the defeated never recovered. So Beatie's sentence is wrong too. Interestingly, he also argues against one of his own book's major currents: If (re-)building armies was like sowing dragon teeth, why should McClellan's managerial capabilities be so highly praised? A competent editor would have helped Beatie to strengthen and clarify his arguments. Unfortunately, there was none and this sentence is not an outlier.

The book fails in multiple ways to achieve the soaring ambitions of its author. It makes me sad to see an author's labor of love and archive legwork end in such a mediocre product. Five reasons cause my harsh judgment: sloppy editing, improper methodology, a lack of focus, a lack of structure and finally sloppy thinking.

Sloppy editing. Sloppy writing ("They found the road strewn with disabled men and horses", "no new news", "more impossible"), extremely sloppy spelling (Strasburg not Strasberg, Olmsted not Olmstead, stasis not stacis, martinet not martinette, ...) and extremely sloppy with facts (Erwin Rommel was a famous infantry officer not a cavalryman, p. 498, to correct but one small fault among the many, many erroneous military history excursions and comparisons.). The book is littered with mistakes. At times, it reads as if nobody had checked the manuscript before printing. An editor, even a casual reader, could and should have caught many errors. At any university worth its name, such a text would have been kicked back to the author in no time.

Improper methodology. The minor impropriety is the dramatization of historical actions with direct speech more suitable to a novel. This technique is not appreciated among proper historians as an author's voice may taint the original source (bias). The major impropriety is the (almost) exclusive use of Union sources. Not corroborating Union statements with their rebel counterparts gives at best an incomplete view of historical reality. In the case of McClellan confronted with rebel hordes only existing in his mind this is outright dangerous. This error might have been due to a mistaken application of Douglas S. Freeman's fog-of-war decision-making frame. Unfortunately, Beatie is no Freeman.

Lack of focus. The series title is the Army of the Potomac. Unfortunately, the author strays frequently from the topic. Some of it can be explained by McClellan carrying two hats (CIC and Army of the Potomac commander) at the same time. Some of it has to do with the unfortunate creation of Union departments. The lack of clarity in the book, however, remains the author's fault. Presenting Lander's excursion into the Shenandoah Valley was not necessary at all. The book not only is uncertain in its choice of objects, it wildly jumps around in its subjects too. The book tries to be both a Life of Billy Yank and Lee's Lieutenant at the same time, throwing in some Hagerman-esque tidbits too.

Lack of structure. A good structure could have framed the multiple viewpoints. The author makes two basic mistakes. Firstly, he repeatedly breaks the flow of time. The narrative jumps back and forth between and within chapters. I had to repeatedly reorient myself at what date an action was taking place. Bear in mind that the volume treats a time period of only six months. Secondly, not only the timing, but also the topical structure is flawed. The author discusses the social composition of the officer corps under the following chapter headings: 11 Bull Run Officer Pool, 12 West Point and Regular Army Pool 13 Foreigner and Politician Pool 14 Gubernatorial Pool. In an ideal structure, these headings would be MECE - mutually exclusive, completely exhaustive. In the author's structure, they overlap. Chapter 11 about the Bull Run officers is the result of the following chapters 12, 13 and 14. Logically, it should have been the last, resulting chapter. Chapters 13 and 14 also overlap (the gubernatorial pool is the state political pool). A simple look at the career of George Meade would have shown that he dipped his feet in all three pools. The treatment of the foreign officers in chapter 13 is also deeply flawed because the author neglects the difference between foreign-born Americans (who as the Germans in St. Louis had huge local political clout) and foreign military professionals. That the latter only work for pay (and not for patriotism) should be an obvious idea (also a career path of numerous US and CS officers after the civil war when the reduced US army offered only limited jobs). Instead, the author rants about unpatriotic foreign mercenaries, which is linked to my last point.

Sloppy thinking. Returning to my discussion of the sentence at the beginning, Beatie's arguments are often not fully thought through (probably for lack of feedback). He berates Secretary of War Edwin Stanton for being a bully and praises the strong leadership of über-bully Donald "stuff happens" Rumsfeld. He harshly criticizes the interfering Lincoln and admires the War President George W. Bush. Apart from the fact that only one team actually won a war, the inconsistency is puzzling. What merits the different judgment of similar behavior? He attacks McClellan's critics, but he does not consider Grant's successful battles of Belmont, Ft. Henry, and Ft. Donelson in the same time frame. A better analysis would have shown the personal and institutional differences that led one army and one general to success (and the presidency) and the other not.

In conclusion, it is sad that Beatie's efforts have resulted in such a weak, disappointing book. It has, however, increased my appreciation of the qualities of Douglas S. Freeman and Bruce Catton. ( )
2 vota jcbrunner | Nov 1, 2007 |
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In this second volume of a multi-volume work, Russel Beatie continues his detailed study of the generals who commanded the Union's victorious Army of the Potomac. When the first volume appeared,Civil War News commended Beatie's monumental study, noting that "readers will find its thoroughness and extensive detail useful to their efforts to better understand the Union war effort." This new survey of the war's first six months of fighting places the command decisions of the army's senior officers in the social, political, military, and economic context of their day.Thought-provoking and original (the book is based entirely on manuscript sources, many of which have never before been examined), Beatie's account and his conclusions about the actions of the Union's high command differ-often significantly-from traditional historical thinking. What emerges is a fresh understanding of these men and how their personalities influenced their command decisions, and the political atmosphere that influenced their military actions.The Army of the Potomac is about leaders as men-their successes and failures commanding the Union's largest army.

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