05 October 2009

Where's The Beef?

Other than Kevin Levin's first posting about H.W. Crocker's book, The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Civil War, it would appear that Kevin's biggest complaint against the book amounts to that of style (Crocker's sentimental, pro-South perspective) rather than substance.

His latest post about the book cites this passage:

It was its martial prowess–its men born to the saddle and to arms, the military tradition of its aristocrats, and the raw-boned rebel yell of its small farmers, workingmen, and frontiersmen in which the South trusted. It had never claimed to be an industrial power like the North. It had disdained Northern efficiency in favor of manners and charm. Yet when Lincoln’s armies crossed the Potomac, the South was ready with serried ranks of armed, equipped, and uniformed men led by more than competent generals. The Federals would find that Southern fighting prowess was no trifling matter. (35)

Levin then follows with this piercing and enlightening critique:

"Indeed. Well, there you go. Another installment from a book written for people who have very little interest in history."

Uh, yeah, ok. Is there something factually incorrect in the passage cited? Or does Levin just reject the broad (though accurate) generalizations in how Crocker characterizes the North and South in this passage? Is the problem with the style of the narrative? Where's the beef?

Would Levin feel the same way about some of Douglas Southall Freeman's sentimental narrative style:

The house the boy visited was, in reality, the only one that ever stood on the site, but the fanciful stories formed a respected tradition, real in every detail to Robert. As he sat in the hall, he must have seen the ghosts of his ancestors. When he walked along the winding way that led through the vast, affrighting garret to promenades framed on the roof around the central chimneys, he must surely have heard the scraping of the fiddles in the band that the builder of Stratford was reputed to have kept at the call of his daughters, while they took the air or danced with their suitors in the hall. (From R .E. Lee, Vol I, page 35)

Or that of Virginia historian Philip Alexander Bruce who wrote:

It was this love of home, with its thronging recollections of the past both near and far, — this clear vision of a house surrounded by ancient trees, perhaps, and standing in the midst of a wide rural domain, or of a few acres only, — that nerved the arm of many a Southern soldier and strengthened his soul in repelling invasion. Love of the South was inextricably mixed up with this love of the family hearth, whether imposing or humble in character. Love of one particular spot, of one neighborhood, of one State, was the foundation stone of the love of the entire region which entered so deeply into the spirit of the Confederate soldier; and men who cared nothing whatever for the political causes of the war fought just as bravely as those who did, because they were animated by this intense local and sectional patriotism, which had been largely produced by the retired country life that they had led on their own inherited estates, whether great or small in area. (From Brave Deeds of Confederate Soldiers, 15-16.)

Both of these samples are written in a rather romantic, sentimental (some would say "Lost Cause") style not uncommon in the Southern literary tradition--similar to the Crocker passage cited above. Perhaps its Kevin's provincial prejudices and perspectives that color his disdain for such traditions in Southern literature and history.

As promised, further commentary and a reply to Levin's original post (and the comments that followed) on Crocker's book will be coming soon.

5 comments:

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Corey:

I warned you about the insults. Your last comment was rejected.

Corey Meyer said...

It was rejected because I spoke the truth and that hurts your credibility.

Why not just edit out the alleged insult and post the rest?

But wait...I have my own blog...

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Corey:

If you would like to re-submit, feel free and I will edit out the offending remarks.

You hurting my credibility is the least of my worries.

(BTW, I noticed the last comment I posted to your blog was never loaded.)

Michael Bradley said...

It is easy for Levin, and others, to make disparaging remraks but I note they seldom present objective arguments. The census of 1860 shows that 80% of the manufacturing capacity of the U.S. was in states which remained in the Union, only 20% was in states which sided with the Confederacy. It is amazing that an agricultural society should be able to create an industrial base to sustain a war for four years; it is obvious that one reason for the Union victory was a preponderance of manufacturing capacity. One call call this "the myth of the lost cause" if one wishes, but the facts presented in the 1860 census are still the facts.

Richard G. Williams, Jr. said...

Thanks for the input Michael. Again, I think Levin's primary objection to Crocker's book is the perspective - which is fine, but as I've stated before, it's quite laughable that he, Simpson and others proclaim their own objectivity as "serious" historiography.