Saturday, May 21, 2011

Shouldn't an Editor Catch These?

Reading as much as I do I often come across references in books that I know are incorrect. It is a pet peeve of mine to see errors, especially when they are in books published by some of the most reputable printers of scholarly works.

For example, I recently just finished reading A Savage Conflict: The Decisive Role of Guerrillas in the American Civil War by Daniel Sutherland, a professor at the University of Arkansas. I had read a number of other works by Sutherland and had heard great reviews on this new book, so I was excited to get started.

The book did not disappoint. It is one of the best books that I have read this year. And, the author makes a great case for his thesis that guerrilla warfare severely weakened support for the Confederate cause by showing that the southern government could not protect its citizens from retaliations by Unionist guerrillas and the Union army.

But, something that also caught my attention, was the couple of errors that I discovered in my reading. The first, one which I found glaring was on page 81. I quote: "Colonel John A. Garfield, future president of the United States, believed Unionists in parts of eastern Kentucky were determined enough by March 1862 to resist the 'small bands of reckless men' who still endangered them." Whaaaaa? I thought it was James A. Garfield. Surely, this must have been a typographical error! Well, maybe it was, but when I checked the index it too listed, "Garfield, John A., 81." Sure, it is only a difference of a few little letters, but isn't this something that an editor should catch before the book is printed?; especially when it is being published by probably the best publisher of scholarly Civil War works around, the University of North Carolina Press?

I found another small error later, toward the end of book. On page 267, it mentions Robert E. Lee's effort to combine forces with Joseph E. Johnston after the fall of Petersburg and Richmond, but in the next paragraph it stated, "Only the combined forces of Lee and Johnson, not scattered partisan bands, could halt the enemy's advance." Uh, it's Johnston, you just said it was Johnston; why now say Johnson?

Not too long ago I came across a reference that was clearly intended to be about Braxton Bragg, one time commander of the Army of Tennessee, but incorrectly named him as Thomas Bragg. Thomas was Braxton's older brother, and for a short time Attorney General of the Confedearcy, but was not a Confederate general.

It is not only names that are often printed incorrectly. Another book I recently read stated in error that the Battle of Perryville, Kentucky occurred on October 16 and 17, 1862. The battle actually occurred on October 8, 1862. Who is proofreading these books?

I am sure that I make my fair share of typos and grammatical errors in writing my blog posts, but I hope that if I do ever find myself fortunate enough to get an article or book published, my editor catches those little mistakes that can prove to be so embarrassing, because, after all, a blog post can be edited once published online, but once something's in print, it's there forever.

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