Friday, August 10, 2007

New Book Forthcoming on Confederate Navy

Thanks to Dimitri Rotov over at Civil War Book News for his post of the forthcoming book by R. Thomas Campbell. I'm always excited to see new books coming out regarding the Civil War navies, particularly the Confederates.

Campbell is certainly one of the most prolific authors in that field. Though Campbell's books all serve a purpose in telling the stories of the Confederate Navy, most historians do not consider Campbell to be one of them. I will agree with the argument that Campbell is more of a "compiler," taking bulk quantities of material from the Official Records and secondary sources, using them in block quote format in many cases, and providing little new or substantial interpretation. That being said, I also believe that Campbell's books, like much popular history, do serve a purpose. That purpose is simply to get the story out there to the general public. Many of these stories would not be further analyzed or interpreted by more traditional, academic historians were it not for Campbell and others like him putting the story out there. Though I would not place Campbell in such company as a Bruce Catton or Burke Davis, his purpose is much the same - to write history that is accessible to all in order to foster the general public interest. Isn't that what all historians should be striving for?

As for this latest offering from Campbell, I am disappointed that he published it with MacFarland. That company publishes some fine books, but they are always out of my price range and this one, at $55, is no exception. I'll have to wait until I can pick up a used copy that is more affordable. As with all of his other works, I am sure this book will serve to tell some stories and be useful as a reference work to boot.


Drew W. said...

I think that's a good characterization of Campbell's work. One unfortunate tendency he has is to cite those block quotes to a secondary source rather than the original document.

Andrew Duppstadt said...

Good point Drew. Campbell published many of his earlier works with White Mane; many of White Mane's Civil War offerings by other authors conformed to the "Campbell style." That includes works such as Elliott's Ironclad of the Roanoke and Hinds' Anatomy of a Gunboat War series. They all are good reference works, but not very scholarly. I think Campbell's best effort is Storm Over Carolina which was published with Cumberland House. We'll have to wait and see what the new offering looks like.