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Bizarre Review of Richard Sommers' Book Challenges of Command in the Civil War

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  • Bizarre Review of Richard Sommers' Book Challenges of Command in the Civil War

    I was shocked to find thie following one star review tonight of Richard Sommers' new book Challenges of Command in the Civil War at Amazon:

    "Horrible Book! Don't Waste Your Money on This Trash!!

    I received this book for review for the Civil War magazine for which I am Senior Editor/Senior Historian. I consider it without any doubt the absolute worst Civil War book I have read in decades. What Sommers has obviously done is to pull the texts of his previous presentations/lectures on CW subjects and, without any apparent editing to remove any redundancies and leaving in his constant repetitiveness present these presentations as a 'book.' After two introductory 'chapters' on the leadership of Grant and Lee (shallow, unenlightened, extremely short takes on the leadership of those two iconic CW leaders that readers would get much better insight by reading their Wikipedia entries -- or any short entries in any CW encyclopedia) Sommers follows that with several short chapters which, in effect, repeat over and over, ad nauseum, the same exact points about the 1864 Virginia-Richmond-Petersburg campaigns, including the same, nearly exact explanatory footnotes repeating over and over the same points -- how many footnotes explaining how he insists on using the anachronistic term "army groups" must the reader suffer through?!? Apparently, endless repetition of that is what Sommers thinks readers must endure since he inflicts on readers unfortunate enough to try to read this abysmal book. After wading through that miasma of endless repetition, Sommers perseveres with more of his apparently unedited, re-cycled presentations/lectures that add nothing to our knowledge of the Civil War but merely repeats and repeats what he brought out in his one book, Richmond Redeemed -- which was unfortunately republished by Savas Beatie a couple of years ago -- Ted Savas, what were you thinking, my friend?!? Savas Beatie is a respected publisher and deserves much better than Sommers' efforts. Sommers' short "volume I" of a planned two-volume tome is only about 190 pages of text, and includes chapters on Lincoln's volunteer generals (readers are advised the Warner's classic "Generals in Blue" covers them much, much better) and an insipid closing chapter titled "Renowned Rev War Relatives of Civil War Soldiers & Statesmen" -- what? Excuse me? What in the world does this have to do with the Challenge of Command for CW generals? The answer is: "Nothing at all" since it is obviously mere "padding" to try to stretch a thrown together series of lecture notes into a book-length work. Do not pay money for this horrible abomination! You have been fairly warned! And that goes for whenever, if ever!, "Volume II" should eventually come out...Ted Savas, please, Sir, come to your senses! You are tarnishing Savas Beatie's stirling reputation with awful trash like this!"

    The reviewer? Armchair General's own Jerry Morelock. What gives? I haven't yet read the book, but I seriously doubt it can be as bad as this review indicates. I've read and written a lot of reviews of Civil War books, and I cannot recall seeing one quite like this. Is there some personal issue between them or something? I can't understand what else would possess someone to write this.
    Brett S.

    The Siege of Petersburg Online
    TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog

  • #2
    Perhaps after you read it, you may have a different view then....

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    • #3
      Perhaps, perhaps not. But there are three major issues I have with this review:

      1. Dr. Sommers is a respected historian. I've never noticed the slightest hint of an issue with his scholarship by amateurs or professionals. This "review", regardless of its accuracy, reads like a personal attack.

      2. One commenter on this review is already recommending his Civil War Roundtable not read the book, despite not reading it himself. That's kind of silly.

      3. Savas Beatie is known to publish quality Civil War books. I am having a hard time believing this book is the worst Civil War book to come out in decades. The odds of this being hyperbole are extremely high.
      Brett S.

      The Siege of Petersburg Online
      TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog

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      • #4
        Why dont you send a private message to the reviewer and politely ask...He did sorta spell out why he gave a poor review, or start a dialogue on Amazon...or here...
        Last edited by Darth Holliday; 25 Jun 18, 10:40. Reason: Gooder spelling

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        • #5
          Originally posted by Darth Holliday View Post
          Why dont you send a private message to the reviewer and politely ask...He did sorta spell out why he gave a poor review, or start a dialogue on Amazon...or here...
          I don't know Jerry Morelock's username here, or even if he has a username here, or I would have done that already. I have started a dialogue at Amazon under the review saying essentially the same thing I have here.
          Brett S.

          The Siege of Petersburg Online
          TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog

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          • #6
            Originally posted by bschulte View Post
            I

            The reviewer? Armchair General's own Jerry Morelock. What gives? I haven't yet read the book, but I seriously doubt it can be as bad as this review indicates. I've read and written a lot of reviews of Civil War books, and I cannot recall seeing one quite like this. Is there some personal issue between them or something? I can't understand what else would possess someone to write this.
            I must have missed something...ok..Good luck in your quest....

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Darth Holliday View Post

              I must have missed something...ok..Good luck in your quest....

              You didn't miss anything. I explained poorly. A quick Google search on Jerry Morelock shows he is a book editor for Armchair General magazine, not necessarily a poster on these forums. I thought someone here might know of him and if there is some kind of feud with Dr. Sommers.

              Brett S.

              The Siege of Petersburg Online
              TOCWOC - A Civil War Blog

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              • #8
                One can be a good historian, but a very lousy writer. q.v. Graydon Tunstall. He has a lot to offer on the Carpathian Campaign of 1915, but his book was oh so dreadful.

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                • #9
                  Originally posted by Tuebor View Post
                  One can be a good historian, but a very lousy writer. q.v. Graydon Tunstall. He has a lot to offer on the Carpathian Campaign of 1915, but his book was oh so dreadful.
                  Still better than a good writer and a sloppy historian. Just started one on a particular aspect of WW2. The blurb on the jacket says "reads like a novel but it's all true". Well it does read easy but in the first few pages there is a howler on dates and several popular myths which serious historians have long since exploded. Makes one distrustful about just how much of the specific material one can trust.
                  Human history becomes more and more a race between education and catastrophe (H G Wells)
                  Mit der Dummheit kaempfen Goetter selbst vergebens (Friedrich von Schiller)

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