July, 2006

31 Jul 2006, by

All Moved In

It was 95 degrees with very high humidity here today. Ideal weather to move, right?

Today was the day to move my files, my books, my two client chairs, and the contents of my desk from the old firm to the new. I had no help other than that my friend Chris stopped by the office today and helped me load some of my boxes into my car. I had court in the morning and had to wear a suit, but I took a change of clothes with me. I changed into some sweat shorts and t-shirt, and got busy.

It took me much of the day to get everything moved over there and unpacked, but I am all moved in. My files are all put away in my new filing cabinet. My desk is unpacked and set up. My office is reasonably well set up.

I easily sweated off five pounds today, and I grossed myself out. I’m so tired tonight that I’m just being a vegetable in front of the TV, not even thinking about working on Civil War stuff. The best thing is that the move–what I’ve been dreading–is finally over.

I have to move my furniture out of the old office (I’m paying movers to do that for me), but I’m ready to hit the ground running tomorrow.

Tomorrow is a new start for me. Wish me luck.

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30 Jul 2006, by

Home At Last

I got home at about 4:30 today after having covered about 1400 miles in the past week and after visiting roughly a dozen battlefields, give or take. I’m beat.

And, on top of all of it, I not only have to be in court tomorrow, Tuesday is my first day at the new firm, and I have to move my boxes of files tomorrow when I get done with court. It’s going to be in the mid-90’s again tomorrow. This is going to be a pretty chaotic week.

We will post photos from Hollywood Cemetery and from some of the battlefield sites this week once a little of the dust settles from the trip.

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Well, it happened again last night. Another previously unknown large set of letters by a trooper of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry came to my attention last night. More about that shortly.

The lunch speaker at the conference today was Tom Carhart. He apparently reads this blog, as he was aware that I have described his book as a festering pile of garbage. He actually got in my face about it after his talk. I challenged his nonsensical theory with two very pointed questions, and he obviously figured out who I was, and came up to me. When I introduced myself, he actually got in my face. He made a big deal of telling me that since he has a big New York publisher behind him, he must be doing something right. Good for him.

I stand by my assessment of his work. After hearing his talk today–filled with errors, by the way–he actually claimed that one of Custer’s regiments was armed with Henry rifles–I’m even more convinced than ever that his book is intellectually dishonest and that it intentionally seeks to deceive the public. Another flagrantly false thing he claimed is that Kilpatrick went to Hunterstown to lay a trap for the Confederate cavalry. Never mind that it was a classic example of a meeting engagement. Because of his twisting of facts to suit his endst, I simply have absolutely no respect for his book or for him.

Don’t get me wrong–I support all authors, so long as they are intellectually honest and don’t distort and/or twist the facts. His theory does just that. Consequently, I have not been shy about stating my opinion, and I won’t stop now just because he doesn’t like it.

Anyway, back to the Lancers….

One of the other attendees of the LBHA conference is a lawyer from Dayton that I know named Rick Carlile. Rick represents Morningside, which is how I know him. Anyway, Rick and I were chatting last night, and he made the comment that he wished I would do another book on the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry, because he had purchased a set of 106 letters by a trooper of the Lancers from a family member that he would love to see get used. He mentioned that other than a few people, nobody’s ever seen them, and that they are really excellent letters.

You could have knocked me over with a feather.

I sent my publisher an e-mail last night with the subject line “You’re going to kill me…..” and told him what I’ve just told you. So, I’ve got time–the end of August–to incorporate the good material from these letters into my manuscript. It’s obviously going to be a big job, but from what Rick tells me, it will be worth it. Or so I hope. I will keep everyone posted.

I’m in Chambersburg as I write this. I visited another Dahlgren spot on the way out of Richmond today and then drove up here. I have my second panel discussion of the day at 10, and a talk tomorrow morning, and then I finally get to go home. I have to admit that I’m really looking forward to getting home.

There are big changes afoot in my life next week, and I’d like to get a decent night’s rest before tackling them.

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28 Jul 2006, by

Richmond, Day 4

Today was a full day of touring. It was 96 degrees here today with equal humidity.

I had one bus and Bobby Krick had the other. We ran in tandem. I saw several places that I’d never seen today, including a couple of additions to my list of obscure places.

The first stop was the Army of the Potomac’s crossing of the Pamunkey River at Hanovertown at the end of May 1864. I’d never been there before, but Bobby had arranged access to the ford with the landowner. From there, we went to Haw’s Shop, which I interpreted for the group. From there we went to Cloverlea plantation, which was the home of Ella Washington. Ella’s stepson was a West Point classmate of Custer’s, and when her stepson was captured during the 1862 Peninsula Campaign, Custer treated him with great kindness. Consequently, Ella, who was a fervent secessionist, had a soft spot for Old Curly. The house still stands and recently got new owners. We were the first large tour group ever permitted on the property.

After lunch, we covered a couple of Peninsula Campaign sites related to Custer, then I interpreted the cavalry phase of the opening engagement at Cold Harbor (June 1, 1864). The final stop was Yellow Tavern, which Bobby and I did together.

The air conditioning on my bus failed during the middle of the day. By the end of the afternoon, it was so hot and so humid on that bus that I couldn’t stop sweating. It was really kind of disgusting.

I have a panel discussion tomorrow. When it’s done, I head to Chambersburg and then finally home on Sunday.

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27 Jul 2006, by

Richmond, Day 3

I’ve now been here for 48 hours. It’s been quite eventful.

Yesterday, I had a busload of 60 people that I took around the battlefield at Trevilians. It was a good day and a good group. We covered the entire field, with a particular focus on Custer and his role in the battle. We also had an excellent presentation by the Trevilian Station Battlefield Foundation folks. It as 95 degrees and about 90% humidity, so it was pretty beastly out there. By the time we got done at the first stop, I was drenched in sweat. Fortunately, the night was free. I had dinner and got to relax.

Today was an incredibly busy day. Today was a lecture day. There were talks for most of the day, with me as the closer. There are about 160 attending here–yesterday’s tour was an optional pre-conference tour–so they had me talk about Trevilians. I was genuinely surprised to see a lot of the people who attended the tour at the talk. I guess they hadn’t had enough.

Frankly, most of the talks weren’t of much interest to me, so I went off on my own. My first stop was Hollywood Cemetery. I got to see pretty much all of the cool graves (although I couldn’t find Henry Heth’s), and photographed most of them (although I got the rope for the camera in front of the lens while shooting Archer’s grave). I will post most of them when I get home.

I left there and went to the visitor center at the Tredegar Works, and visited the bookstore. From there, I went to the west side of town where Dahlgren and his raiders were repulsed by Confederate home guards. It’s at the intersection of the Three-Chopt Road and Cary Street in the high-rent district of Richmond (most of the battlefield is part of the Country Club of Virginia today).

I then did my talk, sold some books, and then this evening, there was a reception at the Museum of the Confederacy and White House of the Confederacy. Of course, the air conditioning at the MoC went out this afternoon and it was 95 here again today, so it was just ghastly in there.

The highlight was finally getting to meet JEB Stuart, IV. I’d spoken to him on the phone and corresponded with him at length via e-mail, but I’d never met him. Jeb was there to help raise money for the MoC (which is in dire straits financially, by the way), so it was really a pleasure to meet him. Put a bushy beard on him and he would look just like his famous ancestor. I’m going to try to get together with him to show him Trevilians in October–he’s never been there.

Jeb IV spent 27 years in the Army and retired as a colonel. He’s now a stockbroker. Jeb V is an orthopedic surgeon who spent 12 years as an Army doctor. Jeb VI is 15 years old. What a great legacy.

Tomorrow, I have another all-day bus tour. I’ve got one bus and Bobby Krick has the other. Stops include Hanovertown Ferry, Haw’s Shop, Yellow Tavern, Cold Harbor, and a couple of other places. It’s going to be another beastly hot day.

I hope to post more tomorrow night

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25 Jul 2006, by

Richmond, Day 1

Last week, I visited the final resting place of Ulric Dahlgren. Today, I visited the place where he was killed and where his body was temporarily buried for a day or two. And it cost me $85.00. I’ll explain.

First, greetings from Richmond. I’m writing from the beautiful Omni Hotel, which is at the corner of 12th and Canal Streets. It’s gorgeous, and very plush. The LBHA knows how to do this right.

I spent nearly 8 hours driving to get here. I had planned the trip so that I would have time to drive the thirty or so miles to the spot where Dahlgren fell, which is in King and Queen County, near Walkerton, northeast of Richmond. All worked out well. I got to Dahlgrens Corner, as the place is known today, about 5:30, shot my photos, walked around a bit to get the lay of the land, and then started heading back to Richmond. I will post the photos when I get home to Ohio.

I was talking to Susan on the cell phone while driving. I came to a very sharp curve and, because I had to steer with one hand, drifted out beyond the center line, and damned near ran a Virginia state trooper off the road. I looked in the rear view mirror, saw him swerve, and then just pulled over and sat and waited for him, because I knew he’d be coming. Sure enough, I see the lights come up behind me. When he got to the car, I already had the window open. I didn’t even let him get the “Do you know why I stopped you?” out and instead said, “I guess I went left of center, huh?” He said yes, that I had nearly run him off the road. I apologized, accepted responsibility, and then waited. He looked at my license and registration, and decided that since I’d been honest and forthright, he’d cut me a little slack and only cite me for going left of center and not reckless operation. Hence, the $85, which is how much the fine is.

He asked me what I was doing there–I guess they don’t see many Ohio license plates around those parts–and he told me that his house is right there at Dahlgrens Corner. I proceeded to tell him the story about why that spot was significant, and he really got into it. We shook hands, he told me that the next time I come visit, to visit him and not run him off the road. We both laughed and that was that.

There really was no doubt about it. I DID almost run him off the road, and he had every right to be pissed about it. Since I didn’t give him attitude or blow him any shit, he gave me a break. The lesson is, always tell these guys the truth. They can tell when you’re bullshitting them, and they will be much easier to deal with if they think you’re being a straight shooter with them. They’re just doing their jobs.

So, I got to visit the spot where Ully died, and I will get to pay $85.00 for the privilege. Ah, well. Such is life.

I have a busload of 60 to take to Trevilians tomorrow. Should be a good day.

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The Little Big Horn Associates is an organization devoted to….you guessed it, the events of June 25, 1876. There are a lot of scholars whom I respect a great deal who are involved with this organization. Brian Pohanka was a stalwart. Greg Urwin is a regular contributor. I could go on, but you get the idea.

This year’s annual conference is devoted to George A. Custer in 1864, and is based in Richmond. I am pretty much the star of the show. I’m leading a busload tour of Trevilian Station on Wednesday, I’m giving a talk on Thursday, I’m co-leading an all-day battlefield tour with Bobby Krick on Friday, and then I’m participating in a panel discussion on Saturday. My bestest pal, Tom Carhart, is on the program, which should be interesting.

Tomorrow, on my way to Richmond, I’m going to detour to King and Queen County, VA to visit an obscure spot called Dahlgren’s Corner, which is where Ulric Dahlgren was killed. On Thursday morning, I’m going to find the spot where Dahlgren was repulsed from the defenses of Richmond, and then on Thursday afternoon, I will be making my visit to Hollywood Cemetery.

Saturday, after the panel discussion, I drive to Chambersburg to participate in a late-night panel discussion, and then to give a talk on Sunday morning at one of Ted Alexander’s Chambersburg Chamber of Commerce events. I enjoy Ted’s programs and try never to say no when he asks me to come.

So, I’ll be hitting the hot and dusty tomorrow for Civil War Central. I will try to report from the road.

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I’ve got a major announcement to make. While it impacts my professional life, it will also impact my blogging, which is why I decided to pass this along.

Since October 2002, I’ve been a partner in a small law firm. It hasn’t provided me with the mechanism to really expand my practice that I’d hoped, and I’d been hoping for a better opportunity to come along for some time.

Several weeks ago, that opportunity finally presented itself. Effective August 1, I will be joining a newly-formed law firm as a partner. It was too good an opportunity for me to pass up, and I jumped at it. I am being brought in to head the firm’s litigation practice and it’s going to provide me with the long-missing springboard to take my professional life to the next level. For the first time in years, I feel energized and enthusiastic about the practice of law. I can’t remember the last time that I felt this way.

So, it’s a huge change–trading in an old and comfortable relationship for a bold, new venture. I’m nervous and excited all at the same time. It’s certainly going to be a significant adjustment. I tell all of you this because it will undoubtedly affect my blogging–I don’t know how much, but I’m going to have more on my plate for at least a while during this transition.

I will keep everyone posted as to how things progress. I spent the day today beginning the process of packing up my office and all of my things, never a small task.

Wish me luck. It’s going to be a big change.

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21 Jul 2006, by

Project Update

Some time ago, I mentioned that, as I was trying to put my new regimental history of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry to bed, I discovered a large set of letters that I had not found the first time around. Consequently, the project had to be put on hold while I tracked the letters down. My researcher in Philadelphia made a trip to the University of Pennsylvania, and reviewed them for me. He reported back that they were great letters, just filled with good material. Thus, there was no choice but to wait, since I just wouldn’t have been able to live with myself knowing that I had missed something significant like that.

The letters arrived while I was in Philadelphia earlier this week. I got to see them for the first time on Tuesday and was blown away by just how good they are. In truth, they’re probably worthy of publication on their own. For these purposes, though, I had to go through them one at a time and insert pertinent material into my manuscript. It took me pretty much all evening for three straight nights to get this finished, but I’m pleased to report that it is, in fact, finished. I sent the final versions of all chapters to the publisher this evening. The final version of the manuscript is just about exactly 120,000 words in length.

I finally feel like I’ve gotten everything that there was to be had on this regiment. I have about a dozen different sets of letters, several post-war memoirs, a couple of diaries, the 1868 regimental history, and tons of newspaper articles. If there’s anything more out there, it’s in private hands and I don’t know about it.

I’ve been working on the Lancers in earnest since 1994, which is when I decided to tackle researching this regiment and studying their storied history. Twelve years later, it’s finally done. It’s almost an undescribable feeling.

I have also finished chapter 12 of the Dahlgren bio. With the completion of that chapter, Dahlgren is dead and buried in his final resting place in Philadelphia. The controversy surrounding his life and death has been spelled out in detail. I have one chapter left to go: my assessment of Ulric Dahlgren’s unfinished life. There’s also one appendix to do, which will address the authenticity/legitimacy of the so-called “Dahlgren Papers” found on Ulric’s body when he was killed on March 2, 1864. In short, there’s finally a very large light at the end of that particular tunnel after nine months of working (on and off, but mostly on) on the first draft of the manuscript. I will start on that final chapter when I get back from my coming trip to Richmond, meaning that I’m taking the week off from writing beginning tomorrow and ending a week from Sunday.

Of course, once I do finish that first draft, there will be lots of editing and tweaking to do, but the important thing is that the heavy lifting is finally almost done.

I feel like I’m finally getting somewhere.

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The following is a list of things that I can only pray that you will NEVER find in one of my books:

Every year, English teachers from across the country submit their collections of actual analogies and metaphors found in high school essays. These excerpts are published each year to the amusement of teachers across the country.

Here are last year’s winners…..

1. Her face was a perfect oval, like a circle that had its two sides gently compressed by a Thigh Master.

2. His thoughts tumbled in his head, making and breaking alliances like underpants in a dryer without Cling Free.

3. He spoke with the wisdom that can only come from experience, like a guy who went blind because he looked at a solar eclipse without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it and now goes around the country speaking at high schools about the dangers of looking at a solar eclipse, without one of those boxes with a pinhole in it.

4. She grew on him like she was a colony of E. coli, and he was room-temperature Canadian beef.

5. She had a deep, throaty, genuine laugh, like that sound a dog makes just before it throws up.

6. Her vocabulary was as bad as, like, whatever.

7. He was as tall as a six-foot, three-inch tree.

8. The revelation that his marriage of 30 years had disintegrated because of his wife’s infidelity came as a rude shock, like a surcharge at a formerly surcharge-free ATM machine.

9. The little boat gently drifted across the pond exactly the way a bowling ball wouldn’t.

10. McBride fell 12 stories, hitting the pavement like a Hefty bag filled with vegetable soup.

11. From the attic came an unearthly howl. The whole scene had an eerie, surreal quality, like when you’re on vacation in another city and Jeopardy comes on at 7:00 p.m. instead of 7:30.

12. Her hair glistened in the rain like a nose hair after a sneeze.

13. The hailstones leaped from the pavement, just like maggots when you fry them in hot grease.

14. Long separated by cruel fate, the star-crossed lovers raced across the grassy field toward each other like two freight trains, one having left Cleveland at 6:36 p.m. traveling at 55 mph, the other from Topeka at 4:19 p.m. at a speed of 35 mph.

15. They lived in a typical suburban neighborhood with picket fences that resembled Nancy Kerrigan’s teeth.

16. John and Mary had never met. They were like two hummingbirds who had also never met.

17. He fell for her like his heart was a mob informant and she was the East River.

18. Even in his last years, Granddad had a mind like a steel trap, only one that had been left out so long, it had rusted shut.

19. Shots rang out, as shots are wont to do.

20. The plan was simple, like my brother-in-law Phil. But unlike Phil, this plan just might work.

21. The young fighter had a hungry look, the kind you get from not eating for a while.

22. He was as lame as a duck. Not the metaphorical lame duck, either, but a real duck that was actually lame, maybe from stepping on a land mine or something.

23. The ballerina rose gracefully en Pointe and extended one slender leg behind her, like a dog at a fire hydrant.

24. It was an American tradition, like fathers chasing kids around with power tools.

25. He was deeply in love. When she spoke, he thought he heard bells, as if she were a garbage truck backing up.

This stuff is every bit as bad as Snoopy’s “It was a dark and stormy night….” stories. 🙂

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