Wednesday, October 24, 2012

"Incomplete" actually a compliment

A couple of weeks ago, "Bert" posted a review on of my book Civil War Charlotte. While "Bert" meant the review as a rebuke, it was actually a compliment, and I would like to explain why.

First, he describes the book as "Incomplete." Well, every history book that has ever been written is incomplete. If they were not, we would not have 60,000+ books on the War, which includes 14,000+ books on Lincoln alone. I'm not sure why or how you could write another about Lincoln (or want to), but that is another post.  The reason that they are incomplete is that there are so many research gaps. I want to know more about the naval yard in Charlotte, but that information appears to have gone up in flames at the end of the war.

Second, "Bert" wrote that Civil War Charlotte is "a noble effort, however incomplete and lacking details of the great spirit of our people." That is not actually an exact quote. "Bert" used all caps, which is very rude, and his sentence construction and style leave much to be desired. But, the gist of what he is saying is that since I did not laud the people of Charlotte for what they did during the war, the book is not all it should be. Wow! Thanks! It was not my intent to write a history of a noble group of people fighting for a cause which remains lost. It was my intent to write an unbiased history of a place and a War. Many people will be familiar with the statement by D. H. Hill after the War that is considered the charge of the SCV. Hill said that it is our responsibility as Southerners to "see that the true history of the South is presented to future generations." That was my aim: to write a true history, one unstained by bias that seems to run rampant  through the historical literature of the day. I wanted to be fair.

Could I have talked more about the "great spirit" of the people of Charlotte? Maybe. The story of Mrs. Col. Charles C. Lee, who continued to work at the way-side hospital in Charlotte after the death of her husband in June 1862 is a picture of that noble people. Of course, I would need to be fair, you know, that "true history thing," and have written more about Lewis Bates, with whom Jefferson Davis stayed  while in Charlotte in April 1865. Bates later testified (in a highly questionable statement) that Davis was excited and rejoiced over the news of the assassination of Abraham Lincoln. I don't think that Bates would fit into "Bert's" ideals of a noble people.

Several of you have paid me great compliments in the past, saying that my writing was "clean." That's what I aim for: presenting history in such a fashion that anyone can read it, and that preserves the true history of the South for future generations, not some "noble" or gilded idea of what that history should be.

By the way, if you like Civil War Charlotte, or any other of the fifteen books that I have written, please consider crafting your own review and posting it on Amazon.  After all, we'd like to see more reviews from thoughtful folks like you so that it doesn't look like everyone who read about the war is as misguided as poor "Bert."


Kevin Ellis said...


Well researched and written.
Incomplete? Sure.
I've got all kinds of interesting details,late '64 and early '65 about the 10th Michigan Cav., 13th Tn.Cav., 11th Ga. "Sumter Flying Artillery", etc, that happened within 25 miles of Charlotte.

Little or nothing to do with Wilson's Store and Sherman's Feint

But that's a different story for a different book!

Pretty sure you know this, but I'll bet "Bert" doesn't.

May 31, 1775

Kevin Ellis

Michael Hardy said...

Kevin - Thanks for the note. There were a lot of other things I could have added. But, I signed a contract for a book of a certain length. Then I crammed everything I could into that allotment of words. And now, after 150 years, Charlotte has its first book about the roll the city played during the War.

spinelabel said...

I agree that "clean" is the right word for your style. "Readable" and "even-handed" would apply as well. This is not faint praise. Telling a story in just a few words takes a lot of discipline. Thanks for spotlighting Charlotte!

Michael Hardy said...

Thanks! I'll take "even-handed" any day!