Civil War books and authors

Shameless self-promotion, November 16 edition: My NEW book, The Battle of White Sulphur Springs: Averell Fails to Secure West Virginia, is now out! This is the first and only detailed tactical study of this strategically important battle. It features the great maps of Steven Stanley and I am really excited about it. For those who have already ordered, you orders will ship on Saturday. If anyone is interested, please contact me!

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Please forgive a bit of shameless self-promotion.

For those who have been wondering about the status of the new edition of my first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, three cases of it were waiting for me when I got back from lunch just now.

The new edition features more than 10,000 words of new material in the main text, a 5500 word essay by J.D. Petruzzi and me on where Farnsworth’s Charge occurred, a new map, and a number of new illustrations. I’m really pleased with it.

If anyone is interested in a copy, let me know, and I can hook you up.

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17 Oct 2011, by

RIP, Blake Magner

Today, I received the sad news that my old friend Blake Magner has died. Blake did the maps for nearly half of my books, and we had a great working relationship. Blake was a Vietnam War veteran, and he was a fellow who enjoyed an adult beverage or six or seven. He could be crusty, but he was always fun to be around, and always good for a laugh.

For years, he was the book review editor for Civil War News, and I worked with him in that capacity. I also represented him and his company, CW Historicals, professionally, so I had a lot of dealings with Blake over the years.

You will be missed, old friend. Rest well. And have a beer with Brian Pohanka for me, please.

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12 Oct 2011, by

Cool news!

For those of you who have been waiting for the new edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions yesterday. The History Book Club and the Military Book Club have made a deal with Savas-Beatie to issue a special hardcover edition of the book for their members. That process has slowed up the printing process for the softcover edition, but I’m excited about it. This book has never had a hardcover version, nor did I ever expect that it would, so I am very excited about that.

The downside is that it will only be available to book club members. I will get a couple of personal copies, but I do NOT expect to have any to sell. If you want the hardcover edition, you will have to join the book club and purchase it that way. But I figured that you should know that that option will be available.

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5 Oct 2011, by

Upcoming events

Since I’ve been asked to report these things more often, I will try to remember to do so. Details, such as time and place, for each event are available by clicking on the link provided for each program.

Later this month, I have two Civil War Roundtable appearances, which are my last two of the year. On Wednesday, October 19, 2011, I will be presenting to the Civil War Forum of Metropolitan New York. The topic for that talk is Ulric Dahlgren’s short but controversial life.

The next night, October 20, I will be speaking to the Civil War Roundtable of Fairfield County, Connecticut, which meets at the Stamford Historical Society. The topic there will be an old favorite, Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg.

On November 16, I will be doing a presentation to the Ross County Historical Society in Chillicothe, Ohio. That talk will be titled “The Gettysburg Campaign: A Study in Command.”

I hope to see some of you at one or more of these programs!

By the way, this is the 1,200th post that I’ve done since this blog began in September 2005. As always, I remain grateful for your continued support and for taking the time to visit my little corner of the Internet.

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15 Sep 2011, by

A eulogy

On Sunday, September 18, 2011–three days from today–the final Borders stores will close. Most of them have already shuttered up and gone dark. The last two Michigan stores close today. That’s especially sad, as Borders was born and based in Ann Arbor. The last store in Las Vegas also closes today. The last Chicago store closed yesterday, and the liquidator donated 8000 books to the Chicago schools. For those of us who love books, this is nothing but sad news.

I spent many an hour in our local Borders stores in the 20+ years that the company conducted business in Columbus, and God only knows how much money. I enjoyed the ambiance of the stores: LOTS of books on lots of subjects, nice, comfortable chairs to sit and browse the books, nice bistros to get a snack or something to drink. The stores always had excellent inventories and selections of Civil War books, which I always very much appreciated, usually including at least one of my titles and usually more. I could–and did–spend many hours in Borders, and I have felt a persistent sense of loss since our local stores closed several months ago during the first major round of store closures.

Sadly, the story of the failure of Borders may never be told. It is a sad tale of bad business decisions, a terrible choice of CEO in hiring someone who knew nothing about the bookselling business, really unfavorable leases (the flagship Chicago store had monthly rent of $1,000,000 per month–you have to sell a LOT of books to meet that nut), staying in the CD business too long when the music business has changed dramatically due to the popularity of devices like the iPod, poor technology–whomever thought that it was a smart move to partner with Amazon, Borders’ primary competitor, for online sales wasn’t terribly bright, and whomever missed the boat on developing and marketing an e-reader to compete with the Nook and the Kindle was just plain stupid. Finally, Borders was a victim of the changing paradigm of the book publishing business, which is filled with uncertainty as to what the future holds. Thus, the Borders saga is a cautionary tale, both of how NOT to run a business, but also of how to run a business into the ground, and its failure was probably inevitable. There are many lessons to be learned from its failure. However, the inevitable failure of Borders is nevertheless a sad thing for anyone who loves books.

Simon & Schuster, which was Borders’ biggest creditor and which recently negotiated a more favorable deal with Barnes & Noble, put the kaibosh on a potential sale of the corpse of Borders to the Book-of-the-Month Club, which was going to dip a toe into the water of brick and mortal retail sales. It also nixed the sale of more than 30 of the Borders leases to Books-a-Million in order to cozy up to Barnes & Noble.

And so, we’re left with Barnes & Noble and Books-a-Million. I detest Barnes & Noble. The stores carry only a tiny percentage of the incredible inventory that Borders maintained and it’s a quintessential big box retailer that cares nothing about the customers. The last time that I was in the local B & N superstore, it had about 30 Civil War titles in its inventory–that’s it. Even though I am a local author who lives about five miles from the store, they rarely ever have any of my stuff, even in the local interest section. It really makes me angry, if the truth be told. Books-a-Million does not maintain a presence in Central Ohio, so our only option is B&N, meaning that it looks like I will be doing the overwhelming majority of my future book buying through Amazon.

The only good thing that may come out of the death of Borders is a rebirth for the small, independent bookseller, as this article points out. No matter how popular electronic gadgets like the Nook or Kindle may become, old school guys like me will always prefer to hold the real thing. I just prefer the look and smell and feel of a real book, and I will always prefer them to my Nook. The failure of big box Borders opens the door for the independent booksellers to cater to the likes of me, and I hope that they do. I would dearly love to have an alternative to Barnes & Noble in Columbus, and I will continue to buy books from the independent booksellers (such as the Abraham Lincoln Bookshop, which is a sponsor of this blog).

Fare thee well, Borders. You will be missed.

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….Pete, because I want him to have something good to read while deployed in Uganda.

Runners up are Bob Hamann, Sarah Adler, Rae-Ann McDonald, Dennis, Paul LaCroix, and Joe Fafara. Runners up will get a free copy of my other Gettysburg volume, Protecting the Flank: The Battles for Brinkerhoff’s Ridge and East Cavalry Field, Battle of Gettysburg, July 2-3, 1863.

All winners and runners up should contact me using the “Contact me” button. I will need the address you want the book sent to. Thanks for playing!

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22 Aug 2011, by

A contest

In the course of finishing the library project yesterday, I found something that I didn’t know that I had. My first book, Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, was published in 1998. It won the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award as the best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg of 1998. The book has been out of print for four or five years now, and copies of the original edition have become quite rare. New copies of it sell for over $100, which amazes me. It’s a softcover book of about 140 pages, and it retailed for $12.95.

I have a new edition of the book coming out in just a few weeks. The new edition is being indexed as I write this. It’s fully revised, with a lot of new material being added. I’m excited about the new edition, but the original occupies a special place in my heart as my first book.

When I finished up the library project last night, I found a brand new copy of the 1998 edition of Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions that I didn’t know that I had. It’s been years since I had one to sell, simply because it’s long out of print. It’s too close to the release date of the new edition, so I’m not going to try to sell it.

Instead, I’ve decided that I will give it away to one of you. We’re going to have a little contest. If you want it, leave me a comment that explains the reasons why you should be the one to get it. I will select the winner two weeks from today, and will announce the winner here on this blog. Have at it, and have fun!

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For a couple of years now, I’ve been trying to get a handle on my library. It needed to be completely rearranged, and I needed a good place to put oversized books. Susan came up with a brilliant idea for how to accommodate that need. We got rid of the huge particle board computer desk, and replaced it with the Elfa shelving system from The Container Store. There are now three shelves of oversized books above the new desk, and I have a new desk and place for our old iMac computer.

So, here’s some library porn for you. Every book that you see in these photos is a book on the American Civil War.

This first image
is the corner, where two walls of built-in floor to ceiling bookcases come together. I guess you could call that ground zero of the library.

In this photo, you can see new desk with the three shelves of oversized books above it.

And, finally, this is the right wall. It’s longer than the other wall and has more available space.

Fortunately, after the reorganization, I have about a bookcase and a half left of empty space, so that there is still room left to grow.

I didn’t photograph them, but there are also three bookcases of other history books in the room, ranging from basic military history to presidential biographies, and pretty much everything in between. I also have a bookcase of nothing but books about the Revolutionary War in our bedroom next to my nightstand. And then there are Susan’s books…..

We like books.

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19 Aug 2011, by


Like every author who has had more than one work published, I have favorites among my various books. There are just certain projects for which I have a certain fondness, for whatever reason. In the case of Trevilian Station, it was my first campaign study, and the book was the first detailed tactical treatment of an important campaign. It was groundbreaking work, and that book was long been one of my favorites as a result.

Another of my favorites is also the source of a great deal of frustration for me. In 2003, my book The Union Cavalry Comes of Age: Hartwood Church to Brandy Station, 1863 was published by Brassey’s. To my displeasure, Brassey’s allowed it to go out of print, and when they refused to print a new edition of it, the rights to the book reverted to me. This is one of my very favorites of my work, as it covers a range of material never covered in real depth before, since, or anywhere else. There are several cavalry actions detailed in this volume that had never received a detailed treatment previously, and I’ve long been proud of it.

The problem is that I cannot find a publisher that would be willing to take a shot with it and bring it back into print. Hence, I face a variety of options:

1. Self-publish it as a print-on-demand book as originally published.

2. Self-publish it as a print-on-demand book as a completely revised edition with new maps.

3. Self-publish in Kindle/Nook format only (thanks to old friend John Geracimos for that suggestion).

4. Continue to look for a new publisher for it.

There are pluses and minuses to each. POD is fine, but I’ve always had questions about the quality of the books so published. I don’t have the cash or warehouse space at the moment to print a large quantity of them in order to have inventory on hand, so that’s not really an option for me. Publishers are hesitant to bring out a new edition of something that has already been published, and Ted Savas, of Savas-Beatie, who is already working on new editions of two of my prior books, has already passed on this one because he doesn’t think there’s a good market for a new edition.

It pains me to see this book out of print. I would really like to see it back in print, but I have limited options. What do you–my readers–think I should do? Please give me your opinions, as I value them. Thank you.

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