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Don’t mess with Texas

Thanks to Gordon Berg for a not-all-together unfavorable review of my book Hood’s Texas Brigade in the Civil War (January 2013). However, I?must take exception to several things. If Mr. Berg finds the text’s 288 pages “mind-numbing,” he should consider himself fortunate that he didn’t have to tackle the original manuscript, which clocked in at 1,000 pages.

In the preface I state that the style is narrative and anecdotal. Mr. Berg suggests “judicious editing” would have resulted in a more “harmonious” narrative flow. This is a book about the troops, the “mud and blood” guys. I tried to portray as many of the difficult and horrible situations that the typical soldier encountered as possible. And they were all different, often in subtle ways.

Breathless hyperbole”? See the comments on page 152 by Rod Meekins, Company B, 1st Texas, predicting his death in the looming carnage at Gettysburg. “Labor of love”? Please! That sounds hyperbolic to me. Mr. Berg should have asked me first: the research—including a lot of exhausting and expensive travel—writing, rewriting, rejections, re­writing some more and, finally, publication! A 15-year “agony” would be more descriptive in my humble opinion. Still, I am already beginning research on my next project. Other than that, thanks again, Mr. Berg.

Edward B. Williams
via e-mail

Mrs. Grant weighs in

Winston Groom’s article “Grant’s ‘obnoxious order’ ” (November 2012) touched a nerve. My great-grand­father and his brother, members of the 37th Illinois Volunteers, fought at Shiloh. The brother was killed there and is buried in an unmarked grave. My great-grandfather died at an early age from lingering health problems related to the war. As a result I have studied everything I could find about Shiloh. Most reports state that the battleground took on a carnival-like atmosphere with hordes of unethical peddlers, prostitutes and souvenir seekers. Because of the disarray, General Grant was having a difficult time controlling the
rabble, burying the dead, tending the wounded and getting his army pieced together. While I don’t agree with the terminology of the order, I do disagree with the use of the word “obnoxious.” Grant could have used more finesse, but he had a war to fight and did what he thought was right to restore order.

Robert G. Anderson
Clarinda, Iowa

The description of General Orders No. 11 as “obnoxious” came not from Winston Groom but from Julia Grant, Ulysses Grant’s wife. “General Grant wrote that obnoxious order expelling the Jews from his lines,” Mrs. Grant noted in her memoirs. “The General said…he had no right to make an order against any special sect.”