Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Heavy Fire in the Blogosphere

Apparently the new issue of Civil War Times Illustrated has, to put it mildly, upset some folks. I know, I know—it was a special issue devoted to Gettysburg, so what could be the problem?

Well, the interview with historian Gary Gallagher, who comments at length about “the battle’s powerful place in the American consciousness, how it got there and why it has remained,” did the trick.

Here’s the exchange:

Question: "You delivered a paper at the Society of Civil War Historians that asked the question: Do we need another book on Gettysburg? Do we?"

Gallagher: "Well, I think that there are some books on Gettysburg we really don't need. If you just love Gettysburg and want to know everything about it, then this flood of books that comes out looking at tinier and tinier parts of the battle in greater detail are of interest. But for most people, those who want to understand the Civil War, or even the war in the East or the Gettysburg campaign, do they need 450 pages on two hours in the Railroad Cut? I don't think so. I just don't think that this literature takes us any place. Do we need multiple books about what Lee's real plan at Gettysburg was? Or, more recently, I think there have been two, maybe three, new books on Jeb Stuart during the Gettysburg campaign. I just can't believe that there is anything new to say about Jeb Stuart during the Gettysburg campaign. I really believe there is not. All the arguments have been laid out, pro and con. All the key documents have been available for a very long time. So you either pick your John Mosby school that says Stuart was pretty much doing his job, acting within his orders, and even Alan Nolan sort of fits into that, or you go to the other side where it's Jeb Stuart's fault. I think Jeb Stuart didn't do a good job. But the notion that there would be a lot that's new, enough to support new books--and not just one new book but maybe two or three--I just say, stop the madness."

The authors of Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg, Eric Wittenberg and J. David Petruzzi seem to feel Gallagher's comments were directed at them. I understand they have crafted a rebuttal letter to CWTI regarding the comments, but they have also voiced some of their outrage on their personal blogs:

Eric Wittenberg’s blog, Rantings of a Civil War Historian

J. David Petruzzi’s blog, Hoofbeats and Cold Steel

The best coverage about all of this comes from Kevin Levin’s blog, Civil War Memory

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