Research and Writing

Of late, I’ve been particularly intrigued by the aborted Mine Run Campaign, which is notable both for what it was as well as for what it might have been. There wasn’t a lot of fighting, largely because Gouverneur K. Warren refused to attack Robert E. Lee, who was dug in and in a nearly impregnable position. When George Meade saw that, he validated Warren’s decision and pulled back. It makes for an interesting study in command, and the campaign lacks anything definitive in terms of a study. Many of the same problems that plagued Meade in the days immediately after the Battle of Gettysburg–namely, being stuck with inferior corps commanders such as William “Blinky” French as a result of the loss of three corps commanders at Gettysburg–and Old Blinky gets the lion’s share of the blame for the lack of any real fighting at Mine Run.

Would you readers find such a book interesting, even though there’s not a lot of fighting? I’m trying to decide whether to try to do a book-length study, and I’m looking from input from you–the folks who would buy such a book–whether you would find it interesting enough to want to read it. Please don’t hold back, and please let me know your thoughts.


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16 Mar 2012, by

You Stink update

Here is the final cover art for You Stink: Major League Baseball’s Terrible Teams and Pathetic Players, the baseball book that I’ve written with Michael Aubrecht. The image on the cover is a classic Norman Rockwell painting titled “The Dugout”, which depicts the 1949 Chicago Cubs. The batboy’s expression says most of what needs to be said, but the looks on the faces of the players in the dugout truly depict what we were trying to accomplish with this book. I’m tickled that the Kent State University Press decided to take our recommendation that that image grace the cover of our book.

Dave Raymond, the original Phillie Phanatic, who wrote the foreword to our book, said it best: “This is why we are baseball fans. Of course, we want to be champions but sometimes the hope from the eternal loser is stronger and more real than celebration of the perennial winners. So sit back and enjoy this celebration of the “most neglected topic in the annals of baseball history” and remember—it could be worse . . . you could be a Cubbies fan.”

The best news of all: the book went to the printer today!

Thirty-eight years after I came up with the idea for this book, it’s finally coming to fruition. I couldn’t be more excited. Pre-orders for signed copies will now be accepted. The cost is $24.95 per copy, with $3.95 shipping and handling. It’s $1.00 per copy in additional shipping and handling for those who order multiple copies.

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29 Nov 2011, by

New link added

This evening, I have added a link to my friend Steve Cunningham’s excellent West Virginia in the Civil War website under the “Civil War Sites” category. Take a few minutes and check out Steve’s site, which is chock-full of good and useful information. You won’t be disappointed.

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For those of you who have been waiting for the release of my book on the Battle of White Sulphur Springs, here’s an update for you. I finished my review of the draft of the index for the book yesterday and signed off on it. That means that I have now completely signed off on the page proofs. As soon as my final changes get made, it’s ready for final proofread and then it’s off to the printer.

I will keep you posted as to release date once I know it.

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I got the cover art for my new book, The Battle of White Sulphur Springs: Averell Fails to Secure West Virginia, today. It’s below. See what you think:

If you click on the image itself, you will get a larger version of it that is far more legible. I should note that the text in the box on the back cover is still in draft form and is still being tweaked. It is NOT the final copy for the back cover.

The book is scheduled to be released about Halloween.

I’ll be happy to take orders for signed copies for those who are interested. Please use the “contact me” button above to let me know that you want a copy, and I can then let you know how to proceed from there.

I’m excited to see it in print.

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12 Sep 2011, by

Further update

Ted Savas informed me today that the new edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions is at the printer now, and that books will be available in about three weeks. If anyone is interested in a signed copy, please contact me via the “Contact me” button above. The new edition will retail for $17.95, which is still a bargain price.

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29 Aug 2011, by

Project updates

The last several weeks have been insanely busy, trying to tackle the wrap-up of two projects at once.

The one closest to fruition is the new edition of my first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, which has a slightly different title. I have completed my review of the page galleys, and it’s being indexed. As soon as the index is done, it’s off to the printer. The new edition features about 14,000 words worth of new material in the main text, lots of additional photos, a replaced map, and a new appendix that addresses the question of where Farnsworth’s Charge actually happened (co-authored with my writing partner, J.D. Petruzzi) of about 5500 or so words, and walking/driving tours complete with GPS coordinates. The original edition was approximately 140 pages. The new edition will be 225-230 pages in length, so there’s obviously quite a bit of new stuff. That one will be out late September/early October.

The other is that I have submitted my White Sulphur Springs manuscript to The History Press. The tentative title is The Battle of White Sulphur Springs: Averell Fails to Secure West Virginia, and it addresses the August 26-27, 1863 Battle of White Sulphur Springs. Although the battle involved only 4000 men of both sides, it had great strategic significance for both sides, and mine is the first detailed tactical treatment it has ever received. The maps are being done by master cartographer Steve Stanley. The book is being copy-edited as I write this, and if all goes according to schedule, it should be out on or about November 1. That will be my first new title in about 18 months.

I’m excited about both. Stay tuned for more as we get closer, and I will update on both.

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Those of you who are long-time readers of this blog know that I have been vehemently opposed to that portion of the Google Book Search project that involves the scanning of copyrighted works without the permission of the author, and then making those books available on-line in some fashion without paying royalties to the authors for the privilege. I came out against this program from the very start, and I enthusiastically supported the class action copyright infringement lawsuit filed against Google Book Search by the Authors Guild.

I then became horribly disillusioned when I learned that the Guild had entered into a tentative settlement with Google that would have perpetuated the copyright infringement AND which would have given Google a veritable monopoly over its massive copyright infringement scheme. Fortunately, Federal law requires that class action settlements have to be approved by the court before those settlements become effective. I’m pleased to report that the Court has roundly rejected this ill-advised settlement.

From CNet News today:

March 22, 2011 12:20 PM PDT
Court rejects Google Books settlement
by Caroline McCarthy

Adding another chapter to a long, drawn-out legal saga, a New York federal district court has rejected the controversial settlement in a class-action suit brought against Google Books by the Authors Guild, a publishing industry trade group.

“While the digitization of books and the creation of a universal digital library would benefit many, the ASA would simply go too far,” a court document explains. “It would permit this class action–which was brought against defendant Google Inc. to challenge its scanning of books and display of ‘snippets’ for on-line searching–to implement a forward-looking business arrangement that would grant Google significant rights to exploit entire books, without permission of the copyright owners. Indeed, the ASA (Amended Settle Agreement) would give Google a significant advantage over competitors, rewarding it for engaging in wholesale copying of copyrighted works without permission, while releasing claims well beyond those presented in the case.”

The settlement would grant Google the right to display excerpts of out-of-print books, even if they are not in the public domain or authorized by publishers to appear in Google Books. When the settlement was initially announced in mid-2009, opposition flooded in from lawyers on behalf of Microsoft, the Electronic Frontier Foundation, and a coalition called the Open Book Alliance who decried it as anticompetitive.

“Google and the plaintiff publishers secretly negotiated for 29 months to produce a horizontal price fixing combination, effected and reinforced by a digital book distribution monopoly,” a lawyer for the Open Book Alliance said at the time. “Their guile has cleared much of the field in digital book distribution, shielding Google from meaningful competition.”

The settlement was revised, primarily to deal with objections coming from the European Union, but concerns remained that it would give Google too much power over out-of-print book titles.

The most recent court docket, filed today, explains that Google has digitized over 12 million books since the original 2004 announcement of Google Books and its set of partnerships with several major universities to digitize their research libraries. In 2005, the class action suit was filed over the fact that many of the out-of-print books included in the mass scanning were still under copyright. Settlement negotiations began nearly five years ago.

Last year, the Authors Guild said that it chose to settle rather than head for a court battle because it didn’t want to repeat the well-publicized mistakes that the music industry made while policing digital piracy.

But concerns about the settlement have ranged from the aforementioned antitrust qualms, international law issues related to overseas copyrights, and privacy concerns regarding how much information Google could glean about readers.

The docket filed today, authored by Judge Denny Chin, asserts that “the ASA is not fair, adequate, and reasonable.”

“This is clearly disappointing, but we’ll review the Court’s decision and consider our options,” a statement from Google managing counsel Hilary Ware explained. “Like many others, we believe this agreement has the potential to open up access to millions of books that are currently hard to find in the U.S. today. Regardless of the outcome, we’ll continue to work to make more of the world’s books discoverable online through Google Books and Google eBooks.”

John Sargent, CEO of Macmillan, issued a statement on behalf of the publishers that had joined the plaintiffs’ side of the lawsuit. “While the March 22 decision of U.S. District Court Judge Denny Chin on the Google Book Settlement Agreement that was filed on November 13, 2009 is not the final approval we were hoping for, it provides clear guidance to all parties as to what modifications are necessary for its approval,” he said. “The publisher plaintiffs are prepared to enter into a narrower Settlement along those lines to take advantage of its groundbreaking opportunities. We hope the other parties will do so as well.”

To read the actual court order rejecting the settlement, click here.

Kudos to Judge Chin for protecting my rights–and the rights of other authors. I hope that the Guild now resumes its efforts to protect authors, not to give away the farm.

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I am in the midst of doing an overhaul of my 2002 book Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field, Battle of Gettysburg, July 2-3, 1863. This is one of my favorite titles of my work, even though it’s a short book. It was the first in Ironclad’s The Discovering Civil War America Series–an idea I came up with–and it also made the most extensive use of The Batchelder Papers of any study of East Cavalry Field yet published. It has also sold steadily over the years, and I am grateful to Bernadette Atkins for bugging me into writing it. When Ted Savas offered me the opportunity to give it an overhaul and bring out a new edition, I jumped at it.

The new edition will add material that I did not have in 2002 when it was first written, and will also add an appendix addressing the intellectual fraud of Tom Carhart’s Lost Triumph: Less Real Plan at Gettysburg–and Why It Failed. In the process, I get to deal with one of the more resilient of the plethora of Gettysburg controversies.

No battle of the American Civil War has generated more controversies than did Gettysburg. Ranging from the Meade-Sickles controversy, the Lee-Longstreet controversy, the “where did Farnsworth’s charge really occur” controversy, and so on, these debates continue to stir emotions 148 years later. My study of the fighting on East Cavalry Field touches on two closely interconnected controversies: why did Stuart fire random artillery shots at the beginning of the fighting, and who fired those shots?

Carhart’s theory–completely and totally unsubstantiated by either the historical evidence or the laws of physics–is that the shots were supposed to be a signal to Robert E. Lee that Stuart’s cavalry was in position and ready to coordinate with Pickett’s Charge. Never mind that there simply is not a scintilla of historical evidence to support this preposterous charge, and never mind that the sound of four random artillery shots never, ever would have been heard over the fighting raging at Culp’s Hill–squarely between Stuart’s position and Lee’s headquarters on Seminary Ridge, six or seven miles from East Cavalry Field. This is the cornerstone of Carhart’s theory.

Neither Lee nor Stuart ever said a word about this in their reports. Undaunted, Carhart just makes stuff up and says that Lee elected not to say anything about it in order to protect Stuart’s delicate ego. When I wrote the book initially, I postulated that Stuart’s true plan was to ambush Gregg, and that the shots were to announce his presence to draw Gregg out and lure him into the trap he had laid. In my mind, that was the ONLY explanation that made sense, given Stuart’s troop dispositions. It turns out that I was in the right church but the wrong pew.

Several years ago, historian Bill Styple published a really useful little book titled Generals in Bronze: Interviewing the Commanders of the Civil War, wherein he published the notes of sculptor James E. Kelly of the many interviews of prominent officers of the Civil War that he conducted. One of the men interviewed was Alexander C. M. Pennington, whose battery did superb work on East Cavalry Field. Pennington related that Stuart’s adjutant, Maj. Henry B. McClellan, told him that Stuart knew there was Federal cavalry out there, but was not sure where, and realized that firing the shots would draw a response, thereby enabling Stuart to pin down Gregg’s precise location.

It’s as simple as that. None of this ridiculous conspiracy theory nonsense spouted by Carhart.

The other controversy is which battery fired those shots. Jeff Wert, in his excellent Gettysburg: Day Three, says that Capt. Charles A. Green’s Louisiana battery of Ewell’s Second Corps fired those shots. Robert J. Trout, THE authority on Stuart’s Horse Artillery, states in his history of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion, Galloping Thunder: The Story of the Stuart Horse Artillery Battalion, that those shots were fired by Capt. Thomas E. Jackson’s Battery of horse artillery. My buddy J. D. Petruzzi states in his superb The Complete Gettysburg Guide: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest that the shots were fired by Capt. William H. Griffin’s Baltimore Light Artillery, a unit that had recently been converted to horse artillery.

The problem is that none of the Confederate battery commanders left after-action reports, and neither Stuart’s report nor the memoirs of Henry McClellan identify which battery fired those shots. We simply do not know, and the likelihood is that we never will know for certain. All we can do is to guess, but there are some logical guesses that can be made. Jackson’s battery was armed with short range weapons. Green’s guns were not horse artillery and probably were not yet on the field.

So, puzzled, I e-mailed J.D. about this, and he called me in response. We spent some time on the phone, and J. D. pointed out to me a powerful piece of circumstantial evidence. We do know that the Confederate horse artillery was plagued by the same problem as the rest of the Confederate artillery: poor ammunition. We also know that Pennington’s and Randol’s guns blasted Jackson, Griffin, and Green right of the field that day with extremely accurate and extraordinarily effective fire that could not be countered by the Confederates, in part due to the poor ammunition they had. The only one of these three batteries to report significant casualties that day was Griffin’s Maryland battery. Jackson’s battery reported one casualty. Therefore, as J. D. pointed out, and with which I agree, it makes sense that it would have been Griffin’s battery that drew the return fire, thereby causing the reported casualties. Many thanks to J. D. for pointing that out to me.

Can we prove it for sure? No, and I doubt we ever will. Is this a reasonable and defensible assumption? I think so.

And hence, once more unto the breach, dear friends, as the Bard once said. I believe we have tackled two of the more enduring Gettysburg controversies and hopefully will settle the questions once and for all. Then again, this is Gettysburg after all, and the controversies associated with it will probably always resonate.

UPDATE, MARCH 6, 2011: I am now persuaded that it was, indeed, Jackson’s battery that fired the four shots. There are a couple of reasons for this. First, and foremost, further research indicates that Griffin’s battery wasn’t even on East Cavalry Field. Instead, it was serving on Oak Hill with Ewell’s Second Corps, meaning that it could not have fired those shots. Also, I have found a primary source account by one of Breathed’s gunners–admittedly not there when the shots were fired, since Breathed’s batter didn’t arrive until the fighting was well underway–that says very clearly that Jackson’s battery fired those shots, which corroborates an account by Lt. Micajah Woods of Jackson’s battery.

J. D. now acknowledges that he was incorrect in his Guide and that this will be changed in the next printing of the book, whenever that happens. Mystery solved.

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Tip of the hat to good friend J.D. Petruzzi for bringing this to my attention…

Dr. Thomas P. Lowry is a retired physician who has published several interesting books on some very obscure aspects of the Civil War, from the Victorian sexual habits of the era to some very good books on Union courts-martial during the Civil War. Lowry has received kudos for his work, and for good reason. It was all groundbreaking work.

However, EVERYTHING that he has done to date is now subject to question. His reputation is now trash. And rightfully so–he committed criminal acts in the course of promoting himself. And in doing so, he has harmed the reputations of all of us who take the telling of history seriously, and who take the responsibility that goes with it just as seriously.

The following press release was issued by the National Archives today regarding Lowry:

National Archives Discovers Date Change on Lincoln Record
Thomas Lowry Confesses to Altering Lincoln Pardon to April 14, 1865

Washington, DC…Archivist of the United States David S. Ferriero announced today that Thomas Lowry, a long-time Lincoln researcher from Woodbridge, VA, confessed on January 12, 2011, to altering an Abraham Lincoln Presidential pardon that is part of the permanent records of the U.S. National Archives. The pardon was for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army who was court-martialed for desertion.

Lowry admitted to changing the date of Murphy’s pardon, written in Lincoln’s hand, from April 14, 1864, to April 14, 1865, the day John Wilkes Booth assassinated Lincoln at Ford’s Theatre in Washington, DC. Having changed the year from 1864 to 1865, Lowry was then able to claim that this pardon was of significant historical relevance because it could be considered one of, if not the final official act by President Lincoln before his assassination.

President Lincoln pardon for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army who was court-martialed for desertion. Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army) National Archives. ARC Identifier: 1839980

Close up of altered date and Abraham Lincoln “A. Lincoln” signature from a President Lincoln pardon for Patrick Murphy, a Civil War soldier in the Union Army.

Close up of the altered date: Long-time Lincoln researcher Thomas Lowry admitted to changing the date of Murphy’s pardon, written in Lincoln’s hand, from April 14, 1864 to April 14, 1865. Records of the Judge Advocate General (Army) National Archives.

In 1998, Lowry was recognized in the national media for his “discovery” of the Murphy pardon, which was placed on exhibit in the Rotunda for the Charters of Freedom in the National Archives Building in Washington, DC. Lowry subsequently cited the altered record in his book, Don’t Shoot That Boy: Abraham Lincoln and Military Justice, published in 1999.

In making the announcement, the Archivist said, “I am very grateful to Archives staff member Trevor Plante and the Office of the Inspector General for their hard work in uncovering this criminal intention to rewrite history. The Inspector General’s Archival Recovery Team has proven once again its importance in contributing to our shared commitment to secure the nation’s historical record.”

National Archives archivist Trevor Plante reported to the National Archives Office of Inspector General that he believed the date on the Murphy pardon had been altered: the “5” looked like a darker shade of ink than the rest of the date and it appeared that there might have been another number under the “5”. Investigative Archivist Mitchell Yockelson of the Inspector General’s Archival Recovery Team (ART) confirmed Plante’s suspicions.

In an effort to determine who altered the Murphy pardon, the Office of the Inspector General contacted Lowry, a recognized Lincoln subject-matter expert, for assistance. Lowry initially responded, but when he learned the basis for the contact, communication to the Office of Inspector General ceased.

On January 12, 2011, Lowry ultimately agreed to be interviewed by the Office of the Inspector General’s special agent Greg Tremaglio. In the course of the interview, Lowry admitted to altering the Murphy pardon to reflect the date of Lincoln’s assassination in violation of 18 U.S.C. § 2071. Against National Archives regulations, Lowry brought a fountain pen into a National Archives research room where, using fadeproof, pigment-based ink, he altered the date of the Murphy pardon in order to change its historical significance.

This matter was referred to the Department of Justice for criminal prosecution; however the Department of Justice informed the National Archives that the statute of limitations had expired, and therefore Lowry could not be prosecuted. The National Archives, however, has permanently banned him from all of its facilities and research rooms.

Inspector General Paul Brachfeld expressed his tremendous appreciation for the work of Plante and the Inspector General’s Archival Recovery Team in resolving this matter. Brachfeld added that “the stated mission of ART is ‘archival recovery,’ and while the Murphy pardon was neither lost or stolen, in a very real way our work helped to ‘recover’ the true record of a significant period in our collective history.”

At a later date, National Archives conservators will examine the document to determine whether the original date of 1864 can be restored by removing the “5”.

# # #

For Press information, contact the National Archives Public Affairs staff at 202-357-5300.

Unfortunately, this act will not be prosecuted due to the statute of limitations having expired. However, that does not excuse Lowry’s actions, which now puts him in even a lower category of pond scum than plagiarists Stephen Ambrose, Joseph Ellis, and Doris Kearns Goodwin. His search for personal glory has harmed all of us.

Shame on you.

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