Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Ryan Petty Review: This is a Historian?

Civil War expert Ryan Petty

       I normally don't respond to reviews of my books. I've only received one bad review so far and it comes from a Civil War re-enactor and author from Texas named Ryan Petty. I think I understand this type of author clearly. I know I can't please everyone with my writing style and don't really care, but he decides to portray me as being ignorant about the commanding general of the campaign, Confederate General John Bell Hood. 
       Mr. Petty says he likes most Civil War novels, but found my book a stretch as he says, "All Civil War historians know (not debatable anymore) that Hood took control..." of the army and went on the offensive and got a lot of good men killed and wounded. He says that I attempt to portray Hood as someone misunderstood by modern day historians. He complains because I compare Hood to Lee and Jackson. He says, "That right there threw up a red flag up with me." He says, "The author does his best to disprove many facts that we already know about General Hood and I think that takes away from the book." 
       Well, since Mr. Petty is an expert on Hood, we would think he would tell us what is correct about the man, but he stops short by simply bashing me and my book. Basically, he is saying I don't have a clue. Thank goodness I have studied this subject for so much of my life or I wouldn't be able to provide my line of reasoning. 
       I never said that General Hood was comparable to General's Lee and Jackson. I simply stated that every move Hood made was an emulation of what he'd seen those two great officers do in previous battles. I will use maps to make my point for those like Mr. Petty who can't understand what they are reading. 

Lee and Jackson's flank attack at Chancellorsville.

       Lee decided at the Battle of Chancellorsville in May of 1863 that the best way to deal with a larger army was to keep it occupied with a small portion of his own army and send a corps around to attack an exposed flank. This was extremely successful. Of course it worked almost to perfection, so Mr. Petty would call this an excellent plan. 

Hood's plan for the Battle of Atlanta

       As you can see from the above map, Hood was using the same plan at Atlanta. he was sending Hardee's corps out to attack an exposed flank of Sherman's army to the east of Atlanta. Why did it not succeed the way Lee's had at Chancellorsville? It took Hardee over twenty hours to march the few miles and get into position. This occurred because of traffic jams, exhausted troops, and a sullen Hardee who resented taking orders from a much younger Hood. Hardee had been offered command of the Army of Tennessee twice and turned it down. Nevertheless, Hardee arrived five hours late and by that time the Federal line had been extended. Unlike General Lee, Hood didn't have a Jackson.
       Hood gets a lot of bad publicity because of the attack at Peachtree Creek. Most people haven't studied that battle obviously or they would understand that battle was planned by General Joseph E. Johnston prior to being relieved. Hood simply continued forward with Johnston's plan. In Richard McMurry's biography on General John Bell Hood, he tells about the Battle of Ezra Church. Hood gave Lieutenant General S.D. Lee an order to take his corps west of Atlanta and dig in on the Lick Skillet Road to stop Sherman's advance around the western side of Atlanta. Lee arrived short of the road to find Sherman's army already in possession behind strong breastworks. Without consulting with Hood what he should do, Lee orders his men advance in disjointed attacks and loses a lot of good men. 
       That brings us to Spring Hill. The plan Hood had at Spring Hill was excellent. It reminds us historians of the plan Lee had for Pope during the Second Manassas Campaign. He would send part of his army around Pope under Jackson and cut Pope's communications in an attempt to capture his entire army. The plan failed, but is considered a success because Lee finally did win the battle against Pope. 
       A Spring Hill, Hood actually went along with his flanking force to make sure everything was accomplished. He placed A.P. Stewart's Corps in a position to crash into Schofield's flank when he engaged Cheatham's Corps in retreat. It was a beautiful plan, but again Hood didn't have a Jackson. Hood arrived at Franklin upset that he couldn't get his subordinates to take the initiative or obey his orders. He orders a disastrous frontal assault. This same thing happened at Gettysburg with Lee. His subordinates failed him and he ordered a bloody frontal assault in the Federal center. I suppose Mr. Petty is correct. Hood wasn't in the same league as Lee and Jackson, but he made some of the same mistakes. 
       I could go on and on about the misconceptions about General Hood, but this is a blog and it would take a book's worth of writing to get my point across. Unfortunately, people like Mr. Petty wouldn't believe it because everyone knows without debate what an idiot Hood was a commander. The late historian Shelby Foote even stated that Hood was mistreated by history and Joseph Johnston was a worse general than Bragg. Too bad Mr. Petty didn't review his work and show us how dumb Shelby Foote really was. 
       I soon realized what I believe to be the case with Mr. Petty. He rates others books low to build up his own. I've met many people like him in life. I noticed that he even rated his own book a five star. I'm proud to say that I have never rated my own book and never will. Mr. Petty sounds like another man who used to camp and re-enact with my unit. He knew everything and could tell you so. He told me that his friends drive to Texas each year to urinate on General Hood's grave. I never replied to him the way I have Mr. Petty, but thought those friends must have a very powerful stream if they can stand in Texas and urinate on Hood's grave in New Orleans, Louisiana. 
       When Mr. Petty makes such absurd statements in his review, as he likes to say, "that right there threw up a red flag with me."


  1. Tim, I trust your knowledge more than any Civil War historian I have ever met;you know Civil War history like the back of your hand! If there was a trivia contest between you and Mr. Petty on Civil War facts, all my money is on you and I have no question that I would win a big payday!!!

  2. He has called me out but hasn't got the ball's (testicles to meet me face to face, he is scared) let's see what he has?????