November, 2005

I’m often asked about how I parse out sources for my writing projects, so I thought I would answer the question in a two-part series.

In this first part, I will address how I choose sources to use in my writing. Tomorrow, I will address what I do with those sources once they’ve been selected.

With that in mind there are a few general rules that apply to the selection of sources.

1. Primary sources are always preferable to secondary sources. I try to only use secondary sources for background material if I can help it. A good example is a biographical sketch of someone who plays a role in the story, such as those included in Ezra Warner’s Generals in Blue or Generals in Gray. I do this because I don’t want to be tainted by someone else’s interpretation of these events, and prefer to figure out what happened from the words of the participants.

2. The closer in time to the events described, the more dependable the source. Human memory is an imperfect thing, and the passage of time means that people’s perceptions and memories change, perhaps influenced by what others have written about the same events. Some of my very favorite sources are soldier letters published in hometown newspapers within a few days of the events described. These correspondents, usually writing under anonyms, knew that their friends and family would be reading their reports. Consequently, they tend to be very accurate accounts of things, written within a few days of the events described, while all is still fresh. The least reliable accounts are those written sixty and seventy years after the events and drawn entirely from memory.

3. I prefer letters and diaries to post-war memoirs. Again, letters and diaries are written closer in time to the events in question and tend to be more reliable. The leading repository for this type of material, which is unquestionably the starting point for this sort of research, is the United States Army Military History Institute at the Carlisle Barracks in Carlisle, PA. USAMHI has an immense collection of manuscript material, and is the best place to begin. The Library of Congress and many universities also have large collections of this type of material, and local historical societies can also be good sources.

4. The Official Records of War of the Rebellion, commonly referred to as the “OR’s”, are a compilation of 128 volumes of the official records, including correspondence, of the Union and Confederate armies. Although actually published more than twenty years after the war, these books represent a transcription of the actual records, and is THE starting place for all Civil War research. Usually written by the participants within days or weeks of the events described, these reports are crucial to understanding what happened. In addition, Broadfoot Publishing has published a 100 volume Supplement to the OR’s that contains additional material that should have been included in the OR’s but wasn’t. The problem with this set is that it is astronomically expensive, and most can’t afford it. I bought the first twelve volumes and canceled my subscription. The rest is not useful enough to me to make it worth my while. The original OR’s are available on CD-ROM. Broadfoot offers a CD-ROM version for the outrageous price of $600. I don’t recommend it. Another company publishes a version for $69.95, which is perfectly good (I use it myself).

5. Contemporary newspaper accounts can be very good, but keep in mind that the correspondents who wrote those reports often had agendas of their own, and these accounts can be unreliable.

6. Official governmental records not included in the OR’s–such as the service and pension records of soldiers who served, or the regimental books and records of those units that made up the armies–can be real treasure troves. Often, Medal of Honor files contain tremendous amounts of useful material. I spent years researching a new regimental history of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, which is nearly done. I have found any number of really useful things in the pension and service files of these soldiers that simply is not available anywhere else.

7. Veterans’ group records can be good sources, too. As an example, there was a group called the Military Order of the Loyal Legion of the United States. In order to belong, a veteran had to have been a commissioned officer for the Union. When the comrades, as they were called, died, their local chapters (called commanderies) published detailed obituaries of them that often contain useful information that’s not available elsewhere.

8. One of my very favorite sources is a veterans’ newspaper called The National Tribune, which published from the 1880’s to the 1920’s, when the name was changed to Stars and Stripes. The Tribune published tons of veterans’ accounts and is an invaluable but often underutilized source. Some of the accounts are very reliable and some are very unreliable. It all depends on what you’re looking for, or what you intend to use them for. However, the Tribune is hard to find–I only know of a couple of complete sets of it on microfilm–and it’s not indexed, so it can be cumbersome and frustrating to use. Old friend Rick Sauers is wrapping up the compilation of an index to the Trib that will make it much easier to use. The Philadelphia Weekly Times also published similar articles, as did the Richmond Times-Dispatch and the Charleston Mercury. These can be treasure troves, but be careful about their reliability.

This is how I find the material that makes up my work. Tomorrow, I will address the culling out process by which I determine what’s worth using and what isn’t.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Our blogging community has a new member, Kevin Levin, a high school history teacher from Charlottesville, Virginia. Kevin has commented on some of the posts that I’ve made here. I’ve read Kevin’s initial posts, and enjoy his insights. I commend his blog to to those of you who appreciate introspective thought on the Civil War. Welcome aboard Kevin, and good luck with your blog.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

In: Blogging | Tags:

As the clocks tolled the arrival of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918, the guns finally fell silent. After more than four years of butchery, The Great War, The War to End All Wars, World War I, came to an end.

The anniversary of the end of the war was known as Armistice Day. However, it changed to Veterans’ Day in recognition of the sacrifices of the many men and women who have sacrificed to give us the country we have today. As you go about your business today, think of those brave men and women, and thank them for their sacrifices. Thank them for the country we have today.

A Canadian doctor named John McCrae, weary of the butchery of World War I, left a simple but eloquent tribute to those who gave the last full measure of their devotion.

IN FLANDERS FIELDS the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

I’ve always been an admirer of Lt. Wilfed Owen, who was the embodiment of the warrior-poet. Owen was a brlilliant Scots poet who served in the British army in World War I. He was killed in action a scant two weeks before the armistice, having been through inimaginable hell. With the war-weary eyes of one who had seen too much, Owen chronicled his time in the charnel houses of Europe. His most famous poem, “Dulce et Decorum Est” follows:

Bent double, like old beggars under sacks,
Knock-kneed, coughing like hags, we cursed through sludge,
Till on the haunting flares we turned our backs
And towards our distant rest began to trudge.
Men marched asleep. Many had lost their boots
But limped on, blood-shod. All went lame; all blind;
Drunk with fatigue; deaf even to the hoots
Of disappointed shells that dropped behind.

GAS! Gas! Quick, boys!– An ecstasy of fumbling,
Fitting the clumsy helmets just in time;
But someone still was yelling out and stumbling
And floundering like a man in fire or lime.–
Dim, through the misty panes and thick green light
As under a green sea, I saw him drowning.

In all my dreams, before my helpless sight,
He plunges at me, guttering, choking, drowning.

If in some smothering dreams you too could pace
Behind the wagon that we flung him in,
And watch the white eyes writhing in his face,
His hanging face, like a devil’s sick of sin;
If you could hear, at every jolt, the blood
Come gargling from the froth-corrupted lungs,
Obscene as cancer, bitter as the cud
Of vile, incurable sores on innocent tongues,–
My friend, you would not tell with such high zest
To children ardent for some desperate glory,
The old Lie: Dulce et decorum est
Pro patria mori.

Here’s another of my favorite Owen poems. In light of the war in Iraq, it seems especially appropriate today:

Anthem for Doomed Youth

What passing-bells for these who die as cattle?
Only the monstrous anger of the guns.
Only the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle
Can patter out their hasty orisons.
No mockeries for them; no prayers nor bells,
Nor any voice of mourning save the choirs, —
The shrill, demented choirs of wailing shells;
And bugles calling for them from sad shires.

What candles may be held to speed them all?
Not in the hands of boys, but in their eyes
Shall shine the holy glimmers of goodbyes.
The pallor of girls’ brows shall be their pall;
Their flowers the tenderness of patient minds,
And each slow dusk a drawing-down of blinds.

To all who have sacrificed on my behalf, thank you for your sacrifices and for your service.

In memory of Staff Sgt. Morton L. Wittenberg (U.S. Army, WWII) and Staff Sgt. Joseph R. Pacitto, USMC (Panama, Grenada, Desert Storm). May you both rest in peace with the thanks of a grateful nation..

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Today, I’m going to wrap up this series on battlefield preservation. I hope that it hasn’t been too boring.

In my mind, the key to successful battlefield preservation is being pro-active instead of reactive. In other words, think ahead, plan ahead, and make the necessary arrangements to preserve the ground instead of panicky, crisis mode responses to threats.

Here’s an example.

Ohio has only one Civil War battlefield, at Buffington Island in Meigs County on the Ohio River. On July 19, 1863, Federal cavalry forces under Generals Judah, Hobson and Shackleford finally caught up with Morgan’s raiders, and a short but sharp engagement followed that led to more than half of Morgan’s command being captured. About 13,000 cavalrymen were engaged there, so it was a good sized action. The battlefield itself is largely pristine. The only changes are a handful of 20th Century houses, and an elementary school (which is now a community center that will house a museum exhibit on the battle). Meigs County, and in particular the area where the battle was fought, is a sleepy place, and the county is very poor.

A major portion of the battlefield has been owned by a sand and gravel company for decades. The company claims that the blend of sand, loam, and gravel there is unique and that there is no substitute parcel for this one. Consequently, the company has planned to turn a very significant portion of the battlefield into a very unsightly sand and gravel pit for decades. Lots of permits are required–from the Army Corps of Engineers, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources, etc. That process takes years.

In 1997 or so, we learned that the company had begun the process. I offered my legal services pro bono, and was involved in trying to stop it. We got a brief stay from the ODNR based purely on an emotional appeal, but the company eventually prevailed. All of the permits have been issued, and sooner or later–probably sooner than later–the battlefield will be forever destroyed. At the time, Bob Taft was running for governor of Ohio. Given his family history, I figured it was worth trying to get his support. His campaign office was in the same building as my office, so I made an appointment with one of his policy wonks. The guy politely heard me out, and then we never heard another word about it. Why? Apparently, the politics are such that jobs in a poor county are much more desirable than the preservation of a Civil War battlefield and the injection of whatever tourist dollars it might generate. Taft was not interested. I shouldn’t have been surprised, but I have to admit that I was.

Eventually, the final recourse available would have been an eminent domain proceeding to save the battlefield. Eminent domain falsl within the takings clause of the 5th Amendment of the U. S. Constitution, which says that the government cannot deprive a person of his or her property without paying them fair compensation for that property. Eminent domain proceedings can be very expensive, since they usually entail knock-down-drag out fights over the value of the property, and it requires taxpayer dollars to pay that compensation. Again, jobs are politically more desirable than preservation, and we couldn’t get anyone interested in pursuing that avenue either. With that, we were done. There was no other recourse left to us at that point. Given that the sand and gravel company has owned the land for decades, there’s nothing we can do about it.

The Ohio Historical Society owns 4 acres of the battlefield, and, to mollify some of the hue and cry, the sand and gravel company agreed to save 4o acres of the most heavily fought-over ground when the time comes. And that’s the end of it.

With a little bit of foresight by those in power, and the expenditure of what would have been a trivial sum of money in those days, this land could have been preserved forever. Instead, that shortsightedness will cost Ohio the legacy of its only Civil War battlefield. It’s a tragedy, but there is NOTHING that can be done at this point.

The moral of the story, and of this entire series of posts, is: Use common sense. Think ahead. Plan ahead. Make contingency plans. Get politicians on board to support preservation efforts. Work with developers, not against them. Be realistic and understand that you won’t save every parcel. Save those that are worthy of saving. Make wise use of limited preservation dollars, and get the maximum benefit for those dollars, even if it means that General Hossenfeffer’s historic outhouse gets bulldozed as a consequence.

And in so doing, you will help to save the legacy of our battlefields for generations yet to come.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Today, I want to address the question of prioritizing. A couple of days ago, Drew Wagenhoffer made an especially prescient comment in response to one of the other posts in this series: “Also, I would prefer that money be spent on open spaces rather than buildings, which are outrageously expensive to “restore”. People seem to want to keep every little shack that was a general’s HQ during some battle or another. I always cringe when I see several million dollars being spent on restoring some old home because “Washington slept there” or some other thing.”

Drew jumped the gun on what I had intended to say in this post, so kudos to him for making a very valid point.

Everyone has their own priorities and their own opinions, and I respect that. However, given a choice between saving a single building that has some historical significance or using the same money to buy actual battlefield land, that’s a no-brainer in my book. I am, at heart, a pragmatist. Recognizing that you’re never going to be able to save every marginally significant piece of land–and that doing so is not necessarily in anyone’s best interests–means that picking and choosing one’s fights is the key. Only fight the fights that are worth fighting, is what I always tell my clients.

Basic laws of economics apply here. Supply and demand govern. Let’s start wtih the following assumptions: the amount of battlefield land available is finite. So is the amount of money available to be spent on preservation. Thus, it seems to me that simple cost-benefit analysis should govern the exercise. Is it, for instance, a better use of scarce resources to spend several million dollars on a parcel of land next to a battlefield that saw no fighting, but which was important staging ground that was used as a bivouac site, or is it better to use those same dollars to buy a house that General Hossenfeffer used as his headquarters for three hours? It seems to me that it’s a much better use of those scarce dollars to buy the land next to the battlefield to preserve it and to prevent commercial sprawl from creeping right up to the edge of the battlefield, than to preserve General Hossenfeffer’s outhouse. If you need an example of what I mean here, pay a visit to the Monocacy battlefield just outside Frederick, MD some time. A massive mall one one side of the road and an enormous strip shopping center on the other butt right up to the battlefield, a matter of a few yards from where Special Orders 191 were found in 1862. It’s scary.

Now, I fully understand that some folks won’t get this, that they think it’s more important to preserve the outhouse since General Hossenfeffer used it once. I respect that opinion, but it seems to me that with the basic laws of supply and demand governing these events, it makes much more sense to prioritize and to get the maximum effect possible for those scarce dollars. If that means that some marginally significant ground is lost on one battlefield to save truly significant ground at another battlefield, I can live with that and not feel badly about it. In my humble opinion, it’s far better to save as much ground as possible than it is to spend those scarce dollars on the place where General Hossenfeffer took a nap for an hour.

It’s all about common sense, folks. Use more of it, act like a reasonable, rational human being, and developers will be much more likely to want to work with you than to go running away from the stark raving loonies bound and determined to save that outhouse.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Some of you know that I have been involved with the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation for a number of years. I sit on the TSBF’s advisory board, and was the author of the text that appears on the Virginia Civil War Trails markers that grace the battlefield. It’s been a pleasure to be involved with what began as a successful grass roots movement by some dedicated local citizens who have done brilliant work with the assistance of the CWPT.

Unfortunately, these groups tend to be plagued by political problems and political issues. One of the founding members of the organization, who had been a board member, has had a major falling-out with the organization and is now a major problem and no longer an asset. This person apparently had ulterior motives–he wanted to see a state battlefield park developed out of the land, so he could get a job. When that didn’t happen, he launched his own campaign. That campaign, in turn, has created significant problems for the TSBF. I haven’t heard anything further about this situation since this article was brought to my attention. I hope that this meeting ended the problems and have permitted folks to get back to the important business–saving a battlefield.

The problem, of course, is that everyone has their own agenda, and often those agendas are in conflict with the goals of the organization. What happened here is a classic example of just that, and it saddens me a great deal to see this organization, with whom I have sweated, toiled, and labored, having problems because someone else had different political agenda. The TSBF has enough financial problems that it doesn’t need its circumstances further complicated by a disgruntled person whose personal agenda was thwarted.

Unfortunately, this is all too common of a problem in not-for-profit organizations and especially in battlefield preservation groups where there is no real heirarchy. “I don’t get paid, so therefore I can do what I want, even if what I want is inconsistent with the needs of the group,” seems to be the common theme when this happens. In a perfect world, everyone sets aside his or her own personal agenda and works toward the common good. I can only hope that that happens more often than not in these organizations. Otherwise, a lot of hard work and the money of decent people will go to waste. And that would be a real tragedy.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

One aspect of battlefield preservation that was not addressed yesterday is the issue of picking and choosing.

Some preservationists draw a line in the sand each and every time that someone even remotely threatens something that they consider to be important. Their posture is much like that of the NRA–never, ever give an inch because it will lead to giving yards. The problems with that approach are numerous:

1. It causes people to look at preservationists as unreasonable and irrational.
2. It means that relationships with developers and zoning authorities are contentious instead of cooperative.
3. It means that everything is costly and emotional when it need not be so.
4. It means that, at times, the baby ends up being thrown out with the bathwater.

In short, this sort of approach may win the occasional battle, but it usually loses wars. People get the perception that preservationists are irrational nut cases who cannot and will not listen to reason.

There are, of course, times when this sort of approach is necessary. The battlefield at Brandy Station probably would not have been saved if it had not been for this sort of full court press, and everyone–including me–celebrating the success there.

I tend to take a much more pragmatic approach to these things. Perhaps it’s my professional life coming through. When I was a young lawyer oh so many years ago, an old gray beard asked me if I knew what a good settlement was. When I said no, he told me that a good settlement is one that both sides walk away from equally unhappy. That made a lot of sense to me, and as events have played out in my career, this statement has proved to be very true.

Consequently, I recognize that not every parcel can or should be saved. I know that what I’m about to say is sacriligious, but I didn’t cry any tears about Camp Letterman at Gettysburg. It was a hospital. There was no fighting there. I would rather lose that ground than ground where actual fighting took place, and you can’t stop all progress. Given that choice, I will always choose the hospital over the actual battlefield. So, I believe in picking and choosing battles and selecting only those fights that are worth alienating people over. Ultimately, some developers will actually work with preservationists and accomplish a satisfactory result.

If you need an example of what I’m referring to here, take a look at the partnership that was forged between the CWPT and a developer at Bristoe Station in Virginia. The deal means that Centex Homes, the developer, agreed to preserve the critical portion of the battlefield in return for the CWPT’s dropping its objections to the rest of the development. The developer is donating 127 of the 340 acres that it owns to the CWPT in order for that ground to be turned into a battlefield park. That, in my mind, is a win-win scenario that meets precisely my definition of a good settlement. Both sides gave up something to get something, and both sides ended up walking away with a compromise. In my mind, this is a real formula for successful future preservation efforts, and I hope that local preservation groups learn something from it.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Those who know me know how important the cause of battlefield preservation is to me. Perhaps that’s part of the legacy that I inherited from Brian Pohanka and my friend Bud Hall, who were two of the three founders of the Association for the Preservation of Civil War Sites (“APCWS”). The APCWS was, of course, merged with a rival group, the Civil War Trust, forming the current organization, which is called the Civil War Preservation Trust (“CWPT”).

The folks at the CWPT are dedicated professionals who are determined to do the right thing and the best that they can do to preserve battlefield land. Of that, I have no doubt. I’ve worked with them on several occasions, and they honored me greatly on two different occasions by offering my books to donors as a premium. It certainly helped me with book sales, and I was flattered and honored to have been asked.

However, I do have some issues with CWPT.

First, not every dime that is donated to a specific cause ends up going to that specific cause. That strikes me as being somewhat misleading of the public, and it also means that funds being raised for specific causes end up going to other uses.

Second, the organization has professional staff who, quite understandably, expect to be paid for their time. That’s perfectly reasonable–I don’t work for free either, and I have bills to pay just as these folks do. In addition, the CWPT has to pay for expensive office space in Washington, D. C. In short, the organization has a lot of overhead, meaning that a significant portion of the moneys collected by the CWPT end up going to overhead and not to battlefield preservation.

At the same time, I find it quite telling that Brian Pohanka, who helped found the CWPT, left some very large and very generous gifts to other organizations. The following paragraph comes from an article by Deborah Fitts in the current issue of Civil War News pertaining to some of the bequests Brian made:

“In September a representative of Pohanka’s estate notified the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), Save Historic Antietam Foundation (SHAF) and Richmond Battlefield Association (RBA) that they would receive a total of more than $1 million. Pohanka, 50, died in June after a long struggle with cancer.”

Conspicuously absent from this list is the CWPT. I’m not sure whether Brian left nothing to them, or if it is a private gift, or just hasn’t been announced yet. If he left nothing to the CWPT, that’s a real slap in the face to an organization he helped to found. At the same time, when Brian died, his widow Cricket asked that, in lieu of flowers, etc., that folks make a donation to the CWPT.

What’s significant about CVBT, SHAF, and RBA is that they are entirely volunteer organizations with no paid professional staff, and very little in the way of overhead. Nearly every dollar that gets donated to them goes to the purchase of battlefield land. The CVBT, in particular, has done an absolutely magnificent job of buying and preserving land in the Fredericksburg area, where rapid development threatens a lot of really important Civil War sites. The CVBT purchased a significant portion of the first day’s battlefield at Chancellorsville and then donated it to the National Park Service, saving a critical piece of ground from development along Route 3.

I still believe in what the CWPT’s doing, and I still strongly support their efforts. However, I would really like to see some of my concerns addressed, and I would love to see a larger percentage of each dollar donated end up being used for the purchase of land and less toward overhead.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

5 Nov 2005, by


Copyediting is an integral part of the publishing process.

Let’s get this way out of the way first. EVERYONE needs the services of a good editor. I don’t care who you are, or how good a writer you may think you are….you’re not as good as you think you are. That includes me too, by the way. I am painfully aware of my own shortcomings as a writer. I have always had a tendency to overuse the passive voice, and it’s a constant, and never-ending battle for me to keep that particular problem under control. I also am occasionally prone to using unduly long and unnecessarily complex sentence structures when there are times that simpler is clearly better.

Let’s also be clear about this: a good copy editor can make or break a book. Poor copy editing and poor proof reading is embarrassing. It says that product quality is not important, just getting it out there (that, by the way, is my primary complaint with White Mane). Poor production values can trash the credibility of what otherwise might be a worthy and worthwhile project. It’s absolutely guaranteed to bring about terrible reviews, and hurt the sales of the book, and harm the credibility of the author.

The job of the copy editor is to work with the author and the author’s work product and make it better while maintaining the fundamental integrity of the work. In other words, the best editor is the one who has the ability to take the author’s existing product and make it the best it can possibly be. The best editor will clean things up, point out inconsistencies, ask pertinent questions to resolve inconsistencies or to clear up that which is unclear, and will definitely maintain the fundamental essence of what the author has written. For historical works like the ones I write, a good working knowledge of the subject is absolutely critical. Otherwise, how can the editor do an effective job of determining what the author was trying to say, or be able to tell whether the author’s got it right or wrong?

I had an editor on one of my projects–I won’t name the book or the publisher to protect the guilty–who was atrocious. This fellow didn’t know the first thing about the subject and also violated the cardinal rule–instead of working with my style, which is uniquely my own, he insisted in injecting himself into the book. Mix in the multitude of idiotic questions he asked, and by the time I got through the draft, I was ready to blow a gasket and was also ready to throttle the clown. I told the editor in chief of that particular press that if they ever let this guy near one of my manuscripts again, I would refuse to work with him, even if it meant that I terminated the contract with the publisher. He made it a thoroughly unpleasant experience, to the point that I was prepared to pull the plug with the publisher if that’s what it took. The compromise was that we would finish the project with the guy, as unpleasant of a prospect as that might have been, but that he would never come anywhere near another one of my projects again, no matter what.

I was extremely fortunate to have an excellent editor for my next book. He is actually a friend of mine and is familiar with my style. He has a good working knowledge of the events that are the subject of the book, and he knows better than to try to interject himself into my work. Instead, he works hard at making me the best I can be, and I am very grateful to him for that.

I’ve been an editor myself, and I know how difficult it can be not to interject yourself into the work. I respect anyone who can. And I definitely respect and appreciate those editors who have helped to make my work the best that it can be.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

3 Nov 2005, by


I’ve already unleashed a fair number of rants about publishers on this blog. It turns out that I’m not finished.

I have some strong ideas about what I do and do not like about books. Here are a few general rules:

1. More pictures/illustrations are preferable to less.
2. There can NEVER be too many maps.
3. Footnotes are preferable to end notes.
4. If end notes are the only option, then do not use one for an entire paragraph and lump a bunch of different sources together.
5. Any book without a bibliography is not a book that I will buy.
6. The same holds true for an index.

Those are my general rules for what I look for in books. The obvious exception to this rule is if it’s something that I need for one of my research projects. Then, I will buy it even if it doesn’t meet my criteria. So, it’s not a hard and fast rule.

I have spent about ten years researching and writing a new regimental history of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as Rush’s Lancers. In the course of gathering material for this book, I have accumulated about 75 photographs of members of the regiment, about half of which come from private collections and which have never before been published. There are other photos as well, such as the regimental monuments on the battlefield at Gettysburg that will need to be included, and several reunion photos. In short, there will be close to 100 illustrations when it’s all said and done. I also expect to have between 15 and 20 maps; this unit was involved in dozens of engagements over the course of the war. I’m also in the process of putting together a roster of the more than 1000 men who served in this unit that will be a cornerstone of the overall project. Using all of these items is important to me, so finding a publisher that shares my philosophy about them is critical.

The book was originally supposed to be a joint venture between Ed Longacre and me, but Ed withdrew from the project due to conflicts with his other book projects. We had originally signed a contract for the book with Combined Books, which has published a number of Ed’s books. Combined was a Philadelphia company, and the Lancers were a Philadelphia unit, so it was a logical connection. However, Combined was sold to Perseus Books and made a part of its DaCapo impression. Instead of a small Philadelphia-based publisher, suddenly, I was faced with the prospect of having a megapublisher do my book. I quickly decided that DaCapo was NOT the right place for my modest regimental history, even though they were prepared to honor the contract. If I got 20 of my illustrations included in the book, I would have considered myself lucky. The roster–forget it. It wasn’t going to happen. I terminated the contract, repaid the miniscule advance (a whopping $250), and got my freedom from DaCapo.

The problem, of course, is finding someone to publish it. I have a few ideas, and have had one conversation with a publisher that shares my philosophy. I’m going to submit the manuscript next week, and we will see where it leads. I hope that this particular publisher wants the book, as I really believe it’s the best possible opportunity for the book to be published in accordance with my vision for it. We shall see what happens.

I just wish that more publishers shared my philosophy about what makes up a good history book. However, in a shrinking industry where many publishers aren’t interested in including lots of illustrations and rosters, the range of candidates is slim and growing slimmer all the time. And therein lies the tragedy.

Scridb filter

Continue reading

Copyright © Eric Wittenberg 2011, All Rights Reserved
Powered by WordPress

Warning: substr() expects parameter 3 to be long, string given in /home/netscrib/public_html/civilwarcavalry/wp-content/themes/wittenberg/footer.php on line 54