News and Notes, December 10, 2013

Neither snow nor sleet nor … wait a minute, I’m in Arizona …

  • Ned Baldwin offers a review of Frank Varney’s book, General Grant and the Rewriting of History, that will raise some eyebrows. The review built on a discussion on where someone places a great deal of faith in favorable Amazon reviews.
  • Someone reports actually seeing that Confederate flag in Virginia off I-95. Really.
  • Finally, a Confederate heritage blogger who resents being asked direct questions nevertheless wants other people to do her own research for her. Help her out: “Describe for me the horrors of South African apartheid, from 1948 to 1994.” Heck, even checking Wikipedia could help her out. But why ask me? After all, she thinks I’m a “total nobody.” 🙂 Capeesh indeed. 🙂

As for that blogger, who asks:



I guess one could ask her why she believes this:

Superior Reversed

16 thoughts on “News and Notes, December 10, 2013

  1. Michael Confoy December 10, 2013 / 4:15 pm

    Well I have to admit that I had to do a Google search to find Dickson State University. Maybe with all the oil money in North Dakota, the state will be able to invest more in higher education.

  2. James F. Epperson December 10, 2013 / 6:07 pm

    Many thanks to Ned for doing to Varney’s book what it deserved.

  3. jfepperson December 11, 2013 / 5:27 am

    It will be interesting to see how Savas responds to Ned’s review.

  4. rortensie December 11, 2013 / 6:51 am

    I really enjoyed Ned’s review of Varney’s book as well.

  5. John Foskett December 11, 2013 / 8:27 am

    Amazon reviews seems to fall into several categories – only one of which is reliable. There are reviews put up by “friends and family” – almost always *****. In a similar vein is the occasional “review” consisting of the publisher’s puff interview of the author – a resounding *****. There are reviews put up by disgruntled rivals, etc. – These can be spotted by the uniform *, as in the “review” put up about one year ago asserting that maps had been plagiarized from another (who turns out to have been the reviewer in a thinly-veiled disguise). Very, very occasionally a reviewer is someone who demonstrably is qualified to review the book and has done so objectively. These usually range from the ** to ***** category, with **** usually the highest. And then there are the majority of reviews by folks who mean well but who either (1) ain’t qualified to review the book or (2) ain’t reviewing the book so much as the author or the topic. GIGO.

    • Mr Dave December 19, 2013 / 12:30 pm

      Haven’t you admitted on the TOCWOC site that you haven’t even read Frank Varney’s book?
      Didn’t Dave Powell of the Chickamauga Blogspot praise Varney’s book and personally recommend that you read it?
      It’s one thing to criticize a book one has read, another a book one hasn’t read.
      You really need to read the book before you go from blog to blog commenting on it.

      • Brooks D. Simpson December 19, 2013 / 12:40 pm

        It appears to me that the comment to which you object contains a general comment about Amazon reviews, not the book in question. Just to reassure you, I own the book, I’ve read it, but I turned down a chance to review it in part because of what I’ve seen concerning discussions of these books lately. At some time I will offer my own take on how the book addresses my work, although I hasten to add that I don’t appear to be an especial target of the book. There’s a good deal with which I agree in the book, although I think that in other cases I would have gone about things a different way, and I would have restricted myself to demonstrating issues of fact and interpretation without speculating about motive.

        The unfortunate thing about these discussions is that the defenders of the Hood and Varney books spend more time attacking the critics of the books than on demonstrating the virtues of the books they support. This raises the question of whether the book’s defenders have read the book they defend. Surely had they done so, they would speak to the book’s contents and not to this discussion. I advise them to speak about what Hood and Varney have written and to show us why they value it.

        • Mr Dave December 19, 2013 / 12:44 pm

          This post was meant for Ned Baldwin.

          • Mr Dave December 19, 2013 / 1:56 pm

            Actually comment meant for James Epperson not Ned Baldwin.

          • Tony December 19, 2013 / 2:30 pm

            Ned made it pretty clear that he was in the process of reading the book, but that it was tough to wade through all of the factual errors therein.

      • Ned B December 19, 2013 / 4:56 pm

        I had not know that Dave Powell praised the book. Its actually a little disappointing to hear. I am also fascinated at how emphatically you promote other reviewers as your tactic to defend the book. Anyway, within the next few days I will be posting additional commentary about the book at TOCWOC, so you will have more opportunity to respond.

        • Mr Dave December 19, 2013 / 7:45 pm

          Tactic? I’m just spotlighting other opinions. Isn’t that a good thing?
          Why you yourself didn’t know about and were surprised by Dave Powell’s positive opinion
          of the book.
          What is disappointing to me is how many people have zestfully announced their opinion of Frank Varney’s book based on your review. I just want to show that other reviewers have disagreed with you. I hope that people will encourage people to look at Varney’s book.
          I hope in your next TOCWOC postings you’ll address the major larger points of Varney’s book and not just highlight small citation errors. Anyone can make a mistake. I confused you with Ned Baldwin. I hope that doesn’t render my opinions invalid.
          On another note below is a link to an interesting review of another book that looks at the Grant veracity issue. Note that the reviewer has issues with the presentation of the story but doesn’t believe that disproves the main theme. I think you should follow that example.

          • Tony December 20, 2013 / 1:55 am

            I was tempted to have a look at the book, but Ned’s review has dissuaded me. Seems incredibly shoddy to point fingers at others for mangling sources while mangling sources. It’s no secret that Grant didnt like Roseacrans, but as Brooks has pointed out in the past, Roseacrans was the one who instigated the bad blood between the two. That considered, Grant doesn’t go out of his way to smear Roseacrans in his memoirs. I’m not sure I would be so kind to someone who had attempted to smear me unfairly, especially after Roseacrans made himself such an easy target with the drubbing he received at Chickamauga.

    • Mr Dave December 19, 2013 / 12:42 pm

      Here are two reviews of Frank Varney’s book that should find meet your criteria.
      Dave Powell:
      ” General Grant and the Rewriting of History is an important read for any student of the war. It warns all of us of the dangers of over-reliance on single source history and a too-quick acceptance of one man’s version of events.”
      Full review

      Edward Bonekemper (who is criticized by Varney in the book):
      “This superb book disproves the notion that there’s nothing new to learn about the Civil War. Frank Varney builds a convincing case that William Rosecrans has been treated unfairly by historians and, perhaps more significantly, that Ulysses S. Grant deliberately destroyed his reputation and the reputations of other Civil War generals.”
      “All in all, this book is a “must” for anyone interested in Grant, Rosecrans, the Western Theater, Civil War historiography or the relationship among Union generals. It is a groundbreaking study that deserves attention.”
      Full review

      • Brooks D. Simpson December 19, 2013 / 12:56 pm

        Did Grant deliberately destroy Rosecrans’s reputation? That presupposes that Rosecrans had a high reputation, that Grant set out to destroy it, and that’s that. Surely people aware of the Grant/Rosecrans relationship know matters were a little more complicated than that, and that while Grant challenged Rosecrans’s claims to greatness, others stuck up for the Rock of Stones River. Thus the people who came to negative conclusions about Rosecrans did so by relying on Grant’s work is another argument: it might be worth our time to wonder why certain views prevailed.

        The two men disliked each other, and that dislike became worse after the war. As with so many other issues in Civil War history, we have to keep in mind these sorts of things when we evaluate accounts and seek to understand what really happened. It isn’t as if Rosecrans held Grant in high regard, and that some of the people who liked Rosecrans went after Grant’s reputation.

        The postwar battles over the reputation of Union generals is a rich story that for the most part has not been told in comprehensive fashion.

        • Mr Dave December 19, 2013 / 2:06 pm

          I just wanted readers on this site to be aware of those two reviews of Frank Varney’s book by “informed” reviewers.
          The Rosecrans-Grant issues perhaps can be discussed another time.

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