Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Blogadoon - Part II

Thus, Dimitri Rotov of Civil War Bookshelf could stumble across IPMH last April and hover over my shoulder for months without me having any idea that either he or his blog existed. Just lately (thanks to a search on Technorati), I found his blog and not long after, this entry:


Civil War author Mark Grimsley has started a military history blog.

I have long admired his Hard Hand of War and his judicious temperament. Look for example at the sentiments in this piece:

... North and South magazine has asked me to assess Robert E. Lee's generalship during his first campaign against Ulysses S. Grant the spring of 1864. [...] This isn't exactly a challenging assignment, yet I have found it difficult to write. I keep wondering what purpose it serves.

[You can't hear this, but the large staff of Civil War Bookshelf is applauding.]

Very often these assessments amount to little more than second-guessing, which seems not only intellectually sterile but also disagreeable.

[Shouts of Bravo.]

... withering criticisms are essentially ahistorical ...

[The crowd is on its feet now.]

I have tried to evaluate the principal leaders of this campaign as sympathetically as possible, always bearing in mind that they were intelligent men who operated under conditions and pressures I have not had to meet myself. True, to write is to judge, and ultimately I have made judgments that are sometimes harsh, but I have encountered few historical actors . . . for whom I could not muster at least some respect...

[Whistling and shouts of MORE! But wait ... the team is in trouble.]

But one referee for the press scored me pretty heavily for leaving out the distribution of praise and blame. On balance, I decided he was correct. Assessments of generalship are so much part of the campaign narrative tradition that readers expect it. So I rewrote the conclusion. It wasn't hard and, as far as it goes, reviewers seem to appreciate that part of the book.


Still, I was never entirely comfortable with it, partly because I'm still not clear about what purpose it serves to critique generals who have lain in their graves a century or more.

[A polite smattering of applause.]

It's a good blog, much more diary-like than this effort, as you can see, and I recommend it highly.

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