After both Levin and I pointed out there were two Richards commenting, Simpson became defensive, suggesting the apparent "confusion" on his part was purposeful and part of a scheme to "draw me out." However, I believe most folks (including Levin, myself, and two other persons commenting) reading the string of comments could clearly see that Simpson did not know who he was addressing. Then, after offering his defense and saying he really did know who he was addressing, he again attributes what the other gentleman said [the Reconstruction comment] to me and uses this incoherent defense to proclaim me a fraud. Amazing.
You can read the post and comments at the end of this post and judge for yourself. It is one of the most bizarre exchanges in which I've ever been involved.
In any event, Crocker's use of "all" regarding former Confederates being prevented from holding office during Reconstruction was incorrect. Is it reasonable to point out the error? Of course. I never denied that and wrote from the very beginning that I would respond to Crocker's statement and critics here on my blog; which is what I'm doing. Was it ignorance on Mr. Crocker's part, a moment of forgetfulness, carelessness, poor editing, sloppy research, etc? Who knows, but did that error warrant such eye-bulging, red-faced, over-the-top criticism? The assertion/error is not that uncommon. See here, here, and here for just a few examples. (These examples don't say "all" but the assumption could easily be made based on the wording of the text.)
And we have the following example from www.America.gov (the "State Department’s Bureau of International Information Programs (IIP) engages international audiences on issues of foreign policy, society and values to help create an environment receptive to U.S. national interests.") :
"Republicans in Congress decided to implement their own version of Reconstruction. They enacted punitive measures against former rebels and prevented former Confederate leaders from holding office."
Again, no distinction is made as to whether this is "all", some, or a certain class of leaders. Crocker's indiscretion is, while incorrect, not an uncommon one.
And from Digital History, (an academic site developed by the University of Houston, the Chicago Historical Society, The Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, The Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, and the National Park Service) we have this entry on the 14th amendment:
"It requires the ex-Confederate states to ratify the 14th Amendment, adopt new state constitutions disqualifying former Confederate officials from holding public office. . ."
Once again, since no distinction is made as to which "former Confederate officials", one could easily assume this meant "all". And, one would also assume that an academic site with such notable resources at their disposal would get it right, don't you think? Perhaps they used Mr. Crocker's book as their source for this entry or maybe those associated with these prestigious academic institutions and this website never read the Constitution and the 14th amendment.
So, again, I pose the question: Did Crocker's mistake warrant such attention or, were there other motivations behind the comments and criticisms on this particular issue? I think the answer is clear, which is the REAL point of Crocker's book in the first place. ;o)
Also, does this error by Crocker suggest that the rest of the book gets it all wrong or that it's not worth reading? If so, then logic would dictate that Simpson and Levin would never read anything written by the noted historians who wrote in The South's Terrible Swift Sword, published by the editors of Military History. In that "collector's edition" issue about Stonewall Jackson, I pointed out 6 mistakes/oversights made by the authors.
I get the distinct impression from both Simpson and Levin that they are really offended by a non-academic like me who is rather vocal about academic elitists and biased history which claims to be objective and apolitical. The constant sneering "lack of credibility" and "lack of knowledge", etc. charges you so often see on Levin's blog aimed at those he views as "beneath" his academic level (or his historical interpretations) betrays the elitist attitude of which I'm so often critical.
The following comments were posted in response to Levin's original post about Crocker's book. Those comments are no longer available, but permission was granted to post them here. Except where relevant, I have used only the initials or first name of the person commenting. I put emphasis on the more relevant comments. All emphasis is mine. I've also added some additional editorial comment which is bracketed in red.
I thought I might start a little series of posts from The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Civil War by H.W. Crocker III. I would say that such passages are worth a good laugh, but then I step back and realize that these books sell incredibly well both here in the states and overseas. The Lost Cause lives.
Reconstruction: the bad
There had been no segregation in the antebellum South. Plantation slaves lived in cabins within feet of their owner’s house. City slaves lived in brick houses behind their owner’s house. While whites in the North often lived far away from black people, Southern whites lived and worked (and their children played) side by side and thought nothing of it. That changed after the war when the Radical Republicans sent armed regiments of black soldiers into the South as occupation troops and installed black politicians into local and state governments slots, while barring all former Confederates from holding office. (206-07)
And in another post, I characterized Crocker's book in this way:
"Certainly, Crocker's collection of factoids and essays are not meant to be a scholarly, in-depth study of the WBTS. The book is, however, meant to challenge some popular myths surrounding the war and do it in a popular, somewhat witty, somewhat tongue-in-cheek, entertaining style; which it does very well. Crocker is a gifted writer." (See original post here.)
And the criticisms over my endorsement beg the question, to wit: Does one's endorsement of a particular book require that the endorser agree with every aspect and statement in the book? That's ludicrous and intellectually dishonest.
The additional logical fallacies employed in the comments by both Levin and Simpson are so numerous and sophomoric as to be embarrassing. Pointing out each and every one of them would be a waste of time, as most readers here will easily detect them.
Finally, regarding the criticism of Crocker's book, the comments and posts, at least to this point, seem to reveal much more about Levin's and Simpson's provincial prejudices and narrow views regarding certain Southerners and their perspecitves regarding their history than it does anything about the book in question. The criticisms over the book seem to me to be based more on style (Crocker's pro-South perspective) than over substance.