I know you weren't saying only a footnoted book is a good one, nor was I. I just think if you are going to use them, the purposes should be clear and some sense of the purposes they were created for in the first place.
As to Bowden. I had a similar experience. I had a friend, Mike Cox, check some footnotes from Bowden's Wagram OOBs in his book. He listed the same artillery companies twice in different corps. When Mike had a look at the cartons cited by Bowden as the source of his information, Mike found different regiments in several places and different guns, or no mention of gun weight, even though that was supposedly Bowden's information source.
He basically lists sources to look good, rather than actually expects folks to look them up. OF course, most readers don't, and are impressed by his scholarship. I'm guilty of that, and GMT's Austerlitz was based on that assumption. It's jounalistic and historical fraud. What is really sad is the number of things he does well that are tainted by such behavior, let alone the contempt in which he holds historians, at least suggested by the fake, incomplete, and poorly presented sources he cites.