A Sad Virginia Blog

A fellow blogger brought this post to my attention. The author makes some claims that are as remarkable as they are ridiculous, and he sounds just like another person whose shrill whining is a matter of note.

First, an observation: although I’ve never met Steve Davis (at least to the best of my recollection), I have blurbed his first book. I wasn’t aware of this book until the post in question appeared. Unlike some other bloggers, I do not normally receive books from publishers, and so I find out about what’s appearing through happenstance and advertising. Thus, when the author of the entry says it’s “highly unlikely” that other bloggers haven’t heard of the book, he can’t be speaking about me. It’s especially highly likely when I’m engaged in several writing projects. Nor is he highlighting “hypocrisy in academia” … but he is highlighting his own personal issues.

Second, it is amusing that the author of this blog entry admits he hasn’t read the book … apparently he’s not subject to his own standards concerning other bloggers. This doesn’t stop him from holding forth on it, and I think you can judge for yourself someone who assesses a book he hasn’t even read.

On to the claims:

I also recalled how a number of Civil War bloggers have downplayed this aspect of the war, even questioning the veracity of some of the claims of Southern civilians; while others took a “so what?” attitude and, in some cases, actually became cheerleaders in justifying such treatment for the “slave-holding rebels.”

I’d love to see proof for this. The author paints poorly with a rather broad brush.

I recall specifically a number of historians downplaying Sherman’s march through Georgia. One in particular labeled the various claims of atrocities as “myth” and “legend.” Of course, much of this perspective hails from the same objective bunch that thought George Bush was guilty of war crimes, but applaud the first President in history who simultaneously holds the Nobel Peace Prize and a kill list. Frauds. But let us not forget, they are really about sociology, not history. No wonder the court historians are fawning over Spielberg’s fantasy movie of Lincoln. After all, the Spielberg film’s screenwriter is a big Obama fan who has referred to Reagan supporters as psychotic.

Again, evidence would be nice. Please point to any comment in this blog saying George Bush (either one, I guess) was guilty of a war crime; show me the applause here for Barack Obama; and readers of the blog know that I’ve criticized Tony Kushner several times. Court historian? Please … try to be original, instead of plagiarizing Tom DiLorenzo.

And, no, the book is not published by Pelican Publishing – another favorite target of historiography’s gatekeepers.

I don’t believe I’ve ever mentioned that particular publisher on this blog.

Those who decide to look at the blog entry in question might well compare the handling of a review with the actual review, which is more of a summary of the book (as well as two other books) than anything else.

This does not deter the blogger, who then warms to his central concern:

But what I find rather strange, is that there seems to be a deafening silence on just about all of the Civil War blogs when it comes to this new title. Are they boycotting it? Does it expose them for their own sloppy, biased posts about atrocities perpetrated on many Southerners by the Union Army? One would think that such a “breathtaking” and “scholarly work” would have gotten some mention on the more prominent CW blogs. But no – utter silence – at least from the ones I typically visit.

Oh my goodness.  First, I have no idea who Bill Hendrick is. I have no idea as to his qualifications for reviewing a book. Read this biographical sketch, and judge for yourself.

Second, let’s look at where these terms appear.

The richly documented tome, published by Mercer University Press, is breathtaking as a scholarly work, so meticulously researched that it can only be objective — which had to require extraordinary effort by Davis, who clearly feels Sherman was far too ruthless.

Now, this is wonderful blurb material, but what exactly do the reviewer mean when he says that the book was “so meticulously researched that it can only be objective”? The presence of footnotes means a book “can only be objective”? That’s funny. And yet later on the reviewer suggests that perhaps scholarly objectivity was not quite such a concern:

Davis, 64, who has been working on the book off and on since 1990, says he uses the word Yankees as Southerners did during the war. “In writing this book I wanted to return to the time of the war and re-experience what my people and the city had endured,” he said. “I wanted to shed all academic filters and feel what my city endured.”

Not exactly a testament to scholarly objectivity, but our blogger decided to leave that out. Were I to adopt his mode of thinking, I’d say the omission was a deliberate distortion of the truth in order to satisfy his personal political agenda. But I won’t say that.

Back to our blogger, who declares:

But from the same Civil War blogs which I refer to above – nothing. I wonder why. It couldn’t be bias, could it? Or maybe, they’re simply not interested because the book does nothing to advance their preferred narrative. Perhaps they’re uncomfortable with having their assumptions challenged.

Ah, I didn’t know they made tin foil hats in the shape of Confederate kepis.

This particular blogger seems to overlook an important point. Those historians who have questioned the destructiveness of Sherman’s march through Georgia are not discussing the siege of Atlanta, but the following march to the sea. Davis’s book covers the siege. Able students of the war understand the difference.  The blogger in question does not.

So what we have here is another example of a blogger’s agenda-laden ranting, displaying not only the bias he deplores but also simple outright ignorance, all the while making unsupported claims (yet again) about other bloggers. In this case, I expect the promise of future blogs entries dedicated to exploring these issues in detail, although such entries usually fail to appear.

It’s at moments like these when I think the complaints of some bloggers that entries like these give attention to people who do not deserve such attention have some merit, and as a rule I ignore certain blogs. In this case someone waived this entry in my face. That person speaks for himself: I have chided another blogger who used to bring this same blog to everyone’s attention. Sometimes the best way to deal with such foolishness is to ignore it: in the case of this particular blogger, I ask my readers to indulge my annoyance and to treat this post as the exception that proves the rule.

UPDATE: As expected, the blogger in question huffed and puffed and whined, but he failed to offer any evidence to support a single allegation, and he could not even admit that he had confused the march to the sea with the siege of Atlanta. Typical. But I’m sure he’ll remain a loyal reader.