Reading Update

Neptune’s Inferno

Just finished this book on the Naval Battles of Guadalcanal  Ironically a lot of it was read at a Japanese restaurant. The full review is in another post. It will be followed by the “Sun King” on Louis XIV.

A Ship To Remember

The question last time was whether this book was going to be a history of the Maine and the investigation into its sinking or on the Spanish-American War. It appears to be the latter. The Spanish contend it blew up due to a coal bunker fire, and the US contends that the raised keel of the wreck must have been from an external explosion, and events are moving on.

There was a quick mention of a coal bunker fire on the Oregon as it steamed from the West Coast to join the fleet. Of course, the ship did not blow up from this fire due to the crew’s action.

The Vicksburg Campaign III

The two assaults have failed, and the text describes the attempts to drive approach trenches up to the Rebel works for an assault up to the surrender. It does each approach in each sector from start to end to give a coherent story, but it does take you out of the flow of the campaign.

The commander of the XIII Corps, McClernand has been fired for illegally publishing articles in the paper disparaging the other corps in the army. He’s an odd duck – as a General its hard to find any major problems with his performance. Certainly in this campaign he did as well as, say, Sherman. He didn’t get along with Grant and his clique, which was pretty much the rest of the army by now.  This caused some problems all by itself, and Grant and the others were quick to use this friction to call his competence into question.  If he’d been buddies with Grant, it would have never been a problem.  It’s almost a shame he couldn’t have gotten transferred to the Army of the Cumberland, or that he couldn’t have channeled his ambitions into helping Grant instead of undermining him – because Grant could play army politics almost as well as he could fight against the Rebels.

How Rome Fell

Slogging away on this one, and I the mistake I feared when I found he was starting at the Antonine Period seems to be happening. He’s narrating the entire sequence of emperors for the two hundred years or so, and the point he is trying to make is lost in a discussion of trivia such as if Emperor X diddled little boys or not.

Gibbon started there, but he had three fat volumes to work with, and frankly he wasn’t that interested in why the Western Empire fell – since he carries on with the East for another thousand years or so.

Goldsworthy is trying to show that reason for decline was an absolute weakness in the Empire. He hasn’t really addressed the power of the Germanic tribes in the Antonine period (critical in establishing that the decline in relative power was due to stronger barbarians, which is a competing thesis).  He seems to claim that destructive civil wars were a major factor, but at this point we have had two already without any description of huge losses in men or morale.  Perhaps he will go back to this, but so far it seems like “proof by Blatant Assertion”.

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