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General Discussion > War of the Aeronauts: A History of Ballooning in the Civil War

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message 1: by Porter (last edited Aug 24, 2018 10:31AM) (new)

Porter Broyles | 201 comments This was a fun book. Fairly quick read. The stories were interesting and presented a different side of the Civil War than what we usually think about.

The author of course highlighted the importance of ballooning during the Civil War, but he also presented the obstacles and resistance to the subject. While Evans is clearly a balloon enthusiasts and enjoys the subject, there were a number of times where I questioned the accuracy of his portrayal of various battles or events. Most of the times that the history was questioned, I chose to give him the benefit of the doubt. Writing a short book you sometimes have to gloss over the details and most of my qualms were nitpicks.

But then he started talking about the Pinkerton Detective Agency and its spy network. In this section he started showing clear signs of not understanding the subject on which he was writing. He talked about how Alan Pinkerton was selected to escort Lincoln from Springfield Illinois to Washington DC. In reality, the Pinkerton's only escorted Lincoln on the last legs of his journey to DC and only at the last moment. The book mentions that Alan Pinkerton was selected to be Lincoln's escort because of the fame and success that the Pinkertons had at protecting trains and investigating train robberies. This did not occur until after the Civil War. While he didn't mention it, he spoke of the Pinkertons as an all male organization. Kate Warne was one of the Pinkerton's best detectives/agents and broke the gender barrier in the Pinkertons. The Pinkertons came to realize that women could do what men could not and by the time of the Civil War Kate was not the only female employed. The last point was more of an impression... he didn't state that it was all men, but he did talk about the men of the agency. Here his failure here is one of omission, but when he said "men", I silently added "and women".

His errors when dealing Pinkertons had me questioning the accuracy of other parts of the book.

That being said, the book is very enjoyable and easy to read. The story is fun. If you are looking for hard core history, be wary. If you are looking for a good read, this one fits the bill.


message 2: by Manray9 (new)

Manray9 | 460 comments Porter wrote: "This was a fun book. Fairly quick read. The stories were interesting and presented a different side of the Civil War than what we usually think about.

The author of course highlighted the importa..."


Thanks, Porter. With respect to Evans: Credibility, once lost, is difficult to regain.


message 3: by Porter (new)

Porter Broyles | 201 comments Thanks, Porter. With respect to Evans: Credibility, once lost, is difficult to regain.

Agree. A couple of years ago I picked up Michael Bellesiles "1877: America's Year of Living Violently." It had good reviews on Amazon, but as I read it I didn't feel comfortable with some of the things the author wrote. I couldn't point to any one fact, but I felt that he made sweeping statements of fact that were really opinion.

So I investigated further. Bellesiles's "Arming America" is the only book to ever have won the Bancroft Prize in History to have the award withdrawn for it "violated basic norms of scholarship and the high standards expected of Bancroft Prize winners."

1877 turned out to be one of the few books I failed to finish because I just couldn't trust the author.


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