Sunday, June 27, 2010

Updated Review--Gettysburg Medal of Honor Recipients

Hanna, Charles. Gettysburg Medal of Honor Recipients. Bonneville Books, Springville, Utah. 2010.271 pages, index, bibliography, b/w photos.

I recently wrote a brief preview on what I thought was going to be a quite fascinating book. I even put it on the "fast track" to be read. Unfortunately I came out feeling underwhelmed and a bit disappointed.

The book is a brief look at each of the brave men who have been awarded the Medal of Honor for their deeds at the Battle of Gettysburg. In this format most should not be long pieces and the average is probably less than 4 pages though Joshua Chamberlain is of course given ten pages (yawn). I have absolutely no problem with the format and it is probably how it should be for a work like this.

What this book really needed was a good history publisher with an editor who could have fixed the problems. It was clearly lacking here. Much of the book read like a high school essay with very simplistic sentences that make you feel like you are not reading a book geared toward those with an interest in history but rather an assignment that was put together right before the due date. In addition there were numerous spelling and grammatical errors that were probably even more a bother due to the writing. Then we get to the unneeded stereotypes. "...but McCarren was an Irishman, and it is difficult for an Irishman to stay out of a good fight." (p. 191). This stereotype is repeated several times in the book. Considering Cpl Bernard McCarren is allotted less than two full pages comments like this are unfounded, unwelcome, and should not have been included.

These issues aside I have a bigger problem and that is with the documentation or lack thereof. First up are the appendices and how they don't seem to match up with the text. Reading through I counted 63 men having been awarded the MOH according to the text. However when reading what I though would be useful charts at the end with breakdowns by state, rank, or regiment, I get different totals in each. This is an unforgivable error that is left unexplained. As far as notes go they are practically non-existent. For over 60 brief biographies barely a dozen have any kind of notation on sources. The most common source is the two volume work Deeds of Valor, which has been reprinted many times in a single volume. In multiple instances Hanna quotes from letters but gives no source as to where they came from or how another researcher may access them. His bibliography is less than three pages broken down into articles, books, and websites.

If you are looking for a very brief overview of a particular soldier or if you have a passing interest in the Medal of Honor and don't need further references this might be your book. However if you are looking to do further research on any of these brave men I would suggest looking elsewhere.

1 comment:

  1. Robert - It's a shame you were disappointed in the book but from what you wrote I can certainly see why. I wonder if there are better documented Medal of Honor compilations for particular battles? It seems like a good niche especially for larger battles with tens of recipients. Great review! Jim