Book Review: The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Civil War

The Politically Incorrect Guide To The Civil War, by H.W. Crocker III

This book suffers from all of the problems that one would expect from a book that tries to take up the side of the Confederacy.  None of this should be surprising to anyone who has studied, for example, the genuinely restrained nature of Northern efforts in the war [1] or the frankly racist slave-baiting arguments that secession advocates used to encourage rebellion in the Deep South after Lincoln’s election in 1860 [2] or has thoughtfully examined the socialist tendencies of the Confederacy that contemporary libertarians often ignore [3].  This book is mainly of appeal to those who wish to parrot lies about the Civil War that can encourage unreconstructed Southern nationalists to avoid facing the flaws of their worldview, and is not the sort of book that holds a lot of personal interest for me.  I knew going into this book that it would be factually inaccurate, deeply biased, and would not be particularly appealing, and that is precisely what I got, although as usual it at least was able to suggest some reading for me to tear apart if I ever feel like it.

This book is a bit more than 300 pages and is divided into five parts and fifteen chapters.  The first part of the book gives the author’s best attempts to argue (unsuccessfully) that the south was right to rebel (I), with two chapters that deal with slavery as the cause of the civil war (1) as well as Lincoln’s supposed blameworthiness in baiting the Confederacy into attacking first (2).  The second part of the book looks at the history of the Civil War in sixteen battles (II), with eleven of them being in the period leading up to and including Gettysburg (3) and the remaining five providing the somewhat happy ending of the Civil War (4).  After that, the author provides some eminent Civil War Generals (III) with a marked bias in his presentation for the rebels in discussing:  Lee, Thomas, Sherman, Longstreet, Forrest, Grant, Jackson, Hill, and McClellan in that order, each with their own chapter.  After that there is a brief discussion of four Cavalry generals (IV) in Hampton, Sheridan, Stuart, and Custer (14), followed by some vain speculation on what would have happened had the Confederacy won, like Cuba becoming a Confederate territory (15), which seems plausible enough.

There are a lot of weaknesses and flaws in this book.  The author dishonestly presents the case for rebellion and tries to sugar coat a revolutionary solution as being a constitutionally legitimate one.  The western front is downplayed, the author shows a marked case of Virginiaitis, and issues of logistics are downplayed as well.  The author tries to defend Forrest from accusations of massacring black soldiers at Ft. Pillow but does not attempt to demonstrate the larger issues of such matters at Olustee, Saltville, and other occasions.  The author, moreover, misrepresents the targeted economic destruction of elite property by Northern generals like Sherman and Sheridan as being a use of total war while celebrating similarly destructive Confederate behavior as mere “raids.”  In short, the biases of this book and the author’s deliberate misrepresentations of the historical record make this a book that cannot be relied upon.  Like all of the books in the series, it is at least entertaining at points and the author’s ready wit is certainly a positive quality, but the author’s lamentable bias and poor historical skills are not made up entirely by the author at least being witty about his incorrect perspective.  Alas, wit is not enough to make someone competent at writing about a subject as contention as the Civil War.  There is room to be politically incorrect and factually correct that this author does not even begin to discuss.

[1] See, for example:

[2] See, for example:

[3] See, for example:

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in American Civil War, American History, Book Reviews, History, Military History and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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