Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Sorry about the long silence. My responsibilities at work have been somewhat expanded, and I have less time to putz around the internet. Except for moments like now, while I wait for a situation to resolve itself down the line.

I finished Beatie's first volume last night. Not much to report besides an amplification of my previous comments, which is to say that Beatie isn't exactly a sterling master of prose, but it doesn't get all that much in the way of the reading. His style is very anecdotal, stop-and-start, and he's easily distracted down long digressions, often in thick, meaty footnotes of dubious relevance. It's all good - he writes like a wargamer dabbling in history. It's comforting, in a way.

And how long has it been since it was acceptable to write actual, honest-to-God footnotes? They've been taxing my patience and my pinky-finger with those verkakte endnotes since the Truman Administration and I, for one, am tired of that shit. Let's hear it for old-fashioned, Gibbonesque, verbose, rambling, footnoting. Reminds me of the freshman summer I spent reading through Fall of the Roman Empire.

Surprisingly enough, given Dimitri Rotov's endorsement, Beatie is remarkably hostile to McClellan, Fitz John Porter and most of their works. The individual for which Beatie had the most unexpected praise, of a sort, was Simon Cameron, Lincoln's first Secretary of War, which he portrays as bumbling, ignorant, but well-meaning and terribly buffeted by the peculiar starts of the near-senile Scott. Previously, all I knew of Cameron was that he was a Pennsylvanian politician of importance, was known for remarkable amounts of corruption in the early War, and no-one had anything good to say about him.

Beatie's love for colorful stories tends to take him off on wild rambles through material that often seems a bit off the subject matter, but the color does offer some entertainment value, if nothing else. His extended discussion of the long formation of the First New York Cavalry Regiment, in all its comic-opera glory, is a particularly shining example of these digressions, both in its faults and its virtues. He spends so much time on the First New York Cavalry and its place in official early-war ignorance and hostility towards the cavalry, that we hear very little of the rest of the early cavalry regiments, which must have existed, given their later mention in the aggregate and a separate, smaller set of anecdotes about the excessively nautical First Maine Cavalry.

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