Sunday, March 31, 2013

Review: Robert Toombs

By Mark Scroggins

Civil War scholarship often falls victim to the cult of celebrity; thousands of tomes have been written about Abraham Lincoln and hundreds about Jefferson Davis, Ulysses S. Grant, Robert E. Lee, William T. Sherman, Stonewall Jackson and others of their like.  It’s understandable; it is what sells.  Books focusing on the less than stellar personalities of the antebellum and Civil War period are noticeably fewer.

Robert Toombs, ranks among those notables of the 19th century so often overlooked, that is until now.  Author Mark Scroggins has authored biography of the Confederacy’s first Secretary of State, and later Brigadier General.

Scroggins’ womb to tomb biography (pun intended) covers the width, depth and breadth of Robert Toombs life, the successes and the failures, beginning with his ancestry and ending at his death.  Scroggins literally follows Toombs life from Washington, Georgia to Washington D. C. and back.  Mr. Scroggins’ book details the quick rise of the sarcastic and egotistical Georgia politician from state office to United States Congressman and Senator; from Whig to Democrat; from a Unionist of the 1840’s and 1850’s to one of the South’s most fiery Secessionist; from politics, as the Confederacy’s first Secretary of State, to the battlefield as one of the Confederate Army’s most unsuccessful Brigadier Generals; and finally to his final role as an unreconstructed rebel.

Often acerbic and sarcastic, Scroggins points out Toombs could also be charming and graceful, but demonstrates his ego and fiery demeanor often won him as many enemies as it did friends, and often prevented him from rising to the level of his personal ambitions.

Scroggins’ book is well researched, but reads like a history textbook, which weighs down the forward movement of his narration.  The text of the book is set in a small font and very compact with very little “white space” on the page, which in combination with the dryness of his narrative makes for tedious reading and leaves his reader with little sense of progress.  Had Scroggins’ book been set in font size found in most hardcover books I suspect his 242 page book would lean more towards a 450 to 500 page book.  A cover price of $35 seems a little excessive for a book of its physical size, but taken with the immense scope of its contents, it is an equal value to any other book covering a like subject.

ISBN 978-0786463633, McFarland, © 2011, Paperback, 242 pages, Photographs, End Notes, Bibliography & Index. $35.00.  To purchase the book click HERE.

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