Two distinguished historians and two contrasting opinions of a book. Just for fun, I’ve included each of their opinions below, and then I’ll give my evaluation of John Scott’s, Story Of The Thirty-Second Iowa Infantry Volunteers published in 1896.
Dr. James I. Robertson, Jr., from Civil War Books: A Critical Bibliography, Vol. 1:
“A poor effort toward a history; the author borrowed heavily from official sources and some letters published in newspapers; there is no evidence that Scott relied on any manuscript sources” (page 156).
Dr. Ludwell H. Johnson from Red River Campaign: Politics & Cotton in the Civil War:
“This was by far the most valuable regimental history used. Scott was more compiler than author, and he gathered some very informative eyewitness accounts of the campaign. The map of the field at Pleasant Hill was extremely helpful in reconstructing the battle. The book also contains much information on the battle itself, and on A. J. Smith’s proposal to arrest Banks” (page 298).
So which opinion do I agree with? The winner is Dr. Ludwell H. Johnson in this instance. Most of Dr. Robertson’s evaluations in Civil War Books are reasonable to me, but his evaluation of the Scott book is puzzling. Yes, Scott’s book does include excerpts from the Official Records as did many regimental histories written by veterans. However, Scott’s inclusion of eyewitnessaccounts of the regiment’s campaigns makes his book particularly valuable to historians. Altogether Scott devoted 158 pages of his 526-page book to coverage of the Red River campaign. This is appropriate since the 32nd Iowa Infantry served actively in the campaign, and lost 86 men killed or mortally wounded at the battle of Pleasant Hill. Scott’s book is anything but “a poor effort toward a history.”