Writing a Book, Part II: The First Review


By Colin Woodward

In my last post about Marching Masters, I discussed the early stages of writing a book, which involved much research. After the research comes the writing, a discussion of which I will have to skip this time. Because recently, while searching online, I read the first review of my book.

Michael Pierce, a professor at UA-Fayetteville was in the research room where I work a few weeks ago. He said the most important review is the first. That may be true. I don’t know. After reading what Kenneth Noe (author of Reluctant Rebels, among other books) said about my book, I can say that I survived my first review. It neither made nor ruined my day.

Here are some excerpts. “Woodward thoroughly delineates the multifaceted relationship between Johnny Reb and slavery.” Good.

Dr. Noe also liked that I dismissed the “trendy, Internet-borne fantasy of willing ‘Black Confederates’ and supportive white comrades joined in common brotherhood to stop Abraham Lincoln from creating a welfare state.” Nice.

“Bold in both conception and execution.” Great to hear.

“The most notable caveat, however, involved methodology.” Uh oh.

The book is “curiously old-fashioned in execution.” Dang.

I can’t say I’m surprised about Noe’s surprise at my not being specific about my soldier ‘sample.” More specifically, he takes  issue with my not using quantitative methods in a work on the army. Noe was frustrated with my use of vague qualifiers like “some” or “most.”

In my next post, I’ll respond to Noe’s critique and talk more about historians and the numbers game and how it relates to studies of the Confederate army.

Colin Woodward is an archivist and historian. He is the author of Marching Masters, Slavery, Race, and the Confederate Army during the Civil War (UVA Press, 2014). He is writing a second book on Johnny Cash.

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