Sunday, February 15, 2015

Details or just the facts?

I am extremely blessed that I get to spend my days with some great writers and historians. Recently, ITo Antietam Creek. It is a fantastic examination of the days leading up to the battle of Sharpsburg, including Harper's Ferry and South Mountain. Likewise is Tom Clemens's editing of the Erza Carman manuscript. Carman was a Federal soldier who fought at Antietam, and later in life, compiled a 1,800 page manuscript on the battle. He went to great lengths to talk to his fellow veterans, and his final work, along with his collection of correspondence, is quite possibly the most definitive collection of information on any Civil War battle. I finished out my work this week by reading Thomas McGrath's Shepherdstown: Last Clash of the Antietam Campaign, September 19-20, 1862.I also liked this book a lot. I would have liked it even more had there been more about the Confederate side of the battle, but, that information may not exist. Added to this are books by Mike Priest, Joseph Harsh, and Stephen Sears.  While there are more books on Gettysburg, the quality of the tomes on Antietam are, in my opinion, unbeatable.
finished reading Scott Hartwig's

All of this leads to my real reason for posting. I have noticed in the past few months quite a few "book reviewers," especially on Amazon, disliking various books because they are so detail-oriented. I've seen this with my own books, and with fellow authors, like Eric Wittenburg. What gives? I dislike books because they  are not rich in details. If I am reading a battle history, or a regimental or brigade history, I want those details. Have we descended to a mediocrity in intelligence where the educated reader simply wants to get by with just the big facts? Would you, the reader, prefer me to write "that there was hand-to-hand fighting around the farm house," or, would you prefer to hear it from a survivor of the battle? For example, during a portion of the battle of Hanover Court House, a member of the 25th New York  chronicled that Sgt. Harry Clark, a New York City Fireman, “was wounded, and the rebels thought to take him a prisoner; he resisted, as it is supposed, for he was found lifeless over the dead body of a rebel, having put his bowie knife through the rebel's throat.” ?

What I like about Hartwig, Harsh, Carman, and many others, is the level of details that put the reader there. I guess that not everyone is up to that level of history. 


William McGrath said...


Drew@CWBA said...

We're both thinking about the same thing this weekend. I've been noticing the trend for a long time and the newest 1-star "review" of Dave Powell's Chickamauga book pushed me toward the edge. Maybe I still will write about it.