21 December 2009 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 23 comments

After 16 books, I think I have proven that I can write and publish a decent account of a Civil War battle. I have lots of ideas for more running around my head, and probably will never run out of ideas.

At the same time, after 16 books on the Civil War, I am ready for a change of pace. I’ve long had an interest in the Revolutionary War, and for the past three or four years now, the bulk of my pleasure reading–meaning what I read that’s not related to either my legal work or my work on the Civil War–has been on the Rev War. Consequently, I think I am ready to try my hand at something Rev War-related.

There are a couple of reasons for this. First, and foremost, I like a new challenge, and I’ve never written anything substantive on the Rev War before. Second, it’s a change of pace, and I really need that.

For a long time, I toyed with the idea of doing something on Guilford Court House, which desperately needed a good modern treatment. That idea got scotched when what will probably stand as the standard reference on the battle was published earlier this year. I then shifted my thoughts toward Monmouth, which has not had a real modern treatment ever. I was headed down that road until I learned that old friend and ace New Jersey historian Joe Bilby is finishing up a manuscript on Monmouth that will be delivered to the publisher in 6-8 weeks. That brought that idea to a screeching halt.

I asked a friend what he suggested, and he suggested the 1780 Battle of Camden, SC. I looked into and liked what I saw; there’s lots of interest here, and I think I have decided to write a detailed, book-length tactical narrative on Camden. I have one more book on the Civil War under contract, which I will begin writing next month. Then would come Camden. Other than chapters in books and a one-volume compilation of primary source material, there is no book-length treatment of the battle out there, so this is blazing new territory. Camden represents a terrible defeat for Horatio Gates, who fled the battlefield and didn’t stop running for sixty miles, the death of Baron de Kalb, the presence of Tarleton and Cornwallis, and lots of implications for the future of the southern campaign, since the defeat of Gates led to his replacement with Nathanael Greene, who did a superb job.

Before I take the plunge for certain, I wanted to hear what y’all think about this idea. Am I insane? Should I undertake a challenge like this by moving into a completely different area and era? Or should I stick with what I know and what’s in my comfort zone?

Please don’t be shy. Your candid and honest opinions are what I’m looking for here, and please know that they will be a major factor in the final decision. And fear not. If I do tackle this project, it will not mean an end to my Civil War work. I doubt that anything will ever cause that to halt altogether.

Thanks, and happy holidays to one and all.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Bill
    Mon 21st Dec 2009 at 7:53 pm

    Go for it! The war in the South during the Revolution was more like a Civil War anyway, you’ll feel right at home. Will look forward to it like all your other books.

  2. PHW
    Mon 21st Dec 2009 at 9:09 pm

    I never got into CW Cavalry events until I started reading your books because of this blog, so I say, “Go for it!” I also enjoy Rev War books, but am appalled by the relative lack of treatments for the founding crisis of our nation.

  3. James Durney
    Mon 21st Dec 2009 at 9:43 pm

    Eric, I do not like seeing your talents used for other than ACW books. However, you have to do the work and you should work on what you enjoy. I hope that you will return to the ACW ASAP.

  4. Chris Van Blargan
    Mon 21st Dec 2009 at 9:58 pm

    Eric,

    My recollection is that Landers’ 1929 text on Camden is the last significant study, so it would clearly be a good area for an updated work. Dr. John Maass of the MIH published a text a few years back, but at less than 100 pages, and $50+ for an out of print copy, it’s not likely to crowd out the market. However, I have seen a few recent online publications by Dr. Maass, so you might want to check to see if he has anything else in the works. At a minimum, he should be a good source for primary material in addition to the recent document study of the battle.

    Would have loved to see your treatment of Monmouth, but I am glad there’s at last a new study on the horizon. Any chance of interesting you in filling the remaining gap in the literature, i.e., Washington’s 1778-1781 maneuvers in New Jersey, New York and Connecticut? Aside from a few studies of Stoney Point, the dearth of studies makes it appear as if the war ended north of Yorktown following Monmouth.

    Chris Van Blargan

    .

  5. Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 12:34 am

    It would also be nice to see a military history of the engagements after Yorktown and before the British withdrew.

  6. Chris Evans
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 1:34 am

    I enjoy reading about the American Revolution just behind my readings of the Civil War and World War II. I think it would be interesting to see your take on the Southern campaigns of the Revolution. I have always been fascinated by them. But on the other hand I really enjoy your output on the Civil War and would look forward to what you would cover next in that field. I think that a work on the Revolution could be interesting but I hope you return soon to the Civil War. Sometimes military historians can have a hard time going between different conflicts because the personalities and the time periods are so different. I hope you enjoy whatever you decide to undertake.
    Thanks,
    Chris

    PS: Mentioning Tarleton- here is a link to a very fascinating website on him I don’t know if many readers have seen:
    http://home.golden.net/~marg/bansite/_entry.html
    It contains very good primary source material and shows readers how different the historical terrain of the Revolution is compared to the Civil War.

  7. Phil Spaugy
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 9:07 am

    How about a study on the battles and campaigns in the Ohio Territory ? You have Kenton, Boone, Clark and a host of other great personalities to feature. I know the engagements were small in scope compared to the east, but I do believe they were of tremendous importance in both winning the war and the growth of the country afterwords.

  8. Stu Younkin
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 9:38 am

    Eric, as I loyal reader and blog-follower of yours, I think that a work on the Rev War would be a capital idea! After recently doing all the leg-work on my family line to join the SAR, I was amazed at how much I had forgotten about this crucial time period in our country’s history. It is also a subject, in my humble opinion, that often gets overlooked in the mainstream. Best wishes to you, and I look forward to your new endeavor.

  9. Charlie Knight
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 10:06 am

    I say give it a go! Rev War has always lagged behind as far as the amount of quality works out there. It surprises me even down here in Yorktown country how few Rev War books there are on the bookstore shelves.

  10. Mike Peters
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 12:10 pm

    Eric,

    Super idea! What about Cowpens? Is there a definitive study on the battle?

    Mike Peters

  11. Scott Stemler
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 12:26 pm

    Eric,
    I would welcome any new material on the Revolutionary War. I have not had a chance to read anything on Camden, so that would definitely be of interest. I would also be interested in reading more on the battle of Brandywine.

    Thanks, and happy holidays!
    Scott

  12. Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 1:36 pm

    Mike,
    “A Devil of a Whipping: The Battle of Cowpens” by Lawrence E. Babits is relatively recent and generally considered the best (I believe). I thought it was a great book.

    Drew

  13. Chris Evans
    Tue 22nd Dec 2009 at 7:00 pm

    Yes, the Cowpens book by Babits is truly excellent. I second the recommendation of it. I think readers would also enjoy, ‘The Road to Guilford Courthouse: The American Revolution in the Carolinas’ by John Buchanan. It is a good overview of the Southern campaigns.
    Chris

  14. John Gourlie
    Wed 23rd Dec 2009 at 12:39 am

    Eric,

    I have never left a message on your blog post before, but I am an avid follower of your blog and an even bigger fan fan of your books of which I own several to date. Concerning your post regarding tackling the Battle of Camden, I think this is a capital idea!! What better author to tackle a detailed tactical narrative than you sir. If this book follows what you have done for the ACW, then I think everyone will be in for a treat indeed. This battle (Camden) is screaming for someone good to write it and other than Lawrence Babits, I can think of no one else who could possibly do a better job than yourself. Since, Larry is currently engaged in researching Hobkirk’s Hill, The Ninety-Six, Eutaw Springs etc. I don’t think Camden is high on his list at present. I am quite sure followers of the AWI and followers of your books in general, will well receive this title when published. I for one will be first and foremost to purchase a copy. I do hope you continue with this endevour and send Camden to the forefront that it so much deserves.

    Phil,

    In regards to your query concerning the Ohio Valley in the Rev War, you might want to try ‘Wilderness War on The Ohio’ by Alan FitzPatrick. Probably the most definitive account concerning this area of the AWI that has been published to date. Alot of it regards the British and the Indian Department operations from their view/standpoint, but it also does give tons of info concerning such notables as George Clark, Simon Girty, William Caldwell (Butler’s Rangers), Daniel Boone and many many others. One of my favs for sure. A very well researched tome.

    Regards, John Gourlie

  15. Ralph Hitchens
    Wed 23rd Dec 2009 at 12:34 pm

    Civil War cavalry actions & personalities have been fascinating to this reader of your blog, but I share a strong interest in the Revolutionary War and clearly the southern campaign was a decisive failure even without considering the trapping & capture of Cornwallis’s force. How much longer the British would have pressed the war without the shock of Yorktown is an open question, but I suspect it could not have been much longer. I applaud your interest and intent to write about the campaign.

  16. Wed 23rd Dec 2009 at 5:41 pm

    Eric: This is an excellent idea. Like many, I suspect, I have an interest in the AR mostly from the perspective of comparison to ACW tactics and operations. (It’s good to know, by the way, that somebody is finally tackling Monmouth after 80-some years). Camden is an obvious and good choice. Others, which may not be as apparent, are Brandeywine and Germantown. Modern scholarship on those (e.g., McGuire, Taffe) are campaign-level, for the most part. A solid, tactical monograph on either/both would be welcome. I feel the same way about Long Island and Manhatten. Schecter’s book is the most recent modern study, if I recall correctly, and that’s also a broader, campaign-level treatment. “Write it and they will buy…:”

  17. Barry Dusel
    Wed 23rd Dec 2009 at 11:18 pm

    Do it Eric! I’ve gotten just about all you’ve done on ACW . I’m anxiously awaiting Brandy Station now.
    However, like many others my interests do go beyond ACW. My family goes far enough back in the New World that I’ve got Ancestors who fought for the King and the Continental Congress . I will await your decision and because of your past endeavours it would be a safe bet to say. I’ll take up whatever you author on AWI.

  18. dan
    Thu 24th Dec 2009 at 12:05 am

    This is a fantastic idea, Eric.
    Now, the real challenge will be to find the Pat Cleburne, Stonewall Jackson, and Nathan Bedford Forrest of the Revolution!
    Bravo!

  19. Lee White
    Thu 24th Dec 2009 at 2:17 pm

    Eric,
    Definately do it, for my own selfish reasons I would love to have a good history of Camden to go along with Babits’ works. Another one to consider would be King’s Mountain though, it needs a strong history too.

    Lee

  20. Don H
    Thu 24th Dec 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Hello Eric

    I’ve left you messages in the past. I like many of your readers enjoy many aspects of our history. I try to pick up good books on all topics. Not that this is a recommendation as much as it is a wish list. After all it is close to Christmas.

    Regarding the Amer. Rev. there are many topics and subjects that seem in need of a good analysis. As you are well aware the same is true for the CW. A while back you asked your readers about what biographies and what battles needed a book. This raised quite a few valid ideas, similar to some responses here. I agree with almost all of the other readers suggestions. Seems like the Revolution is full of subjects.

    With the CW still being my favorite topic, I do think there are more cavalry subjects that need a look.

    I thought at one time you considered doing a book on some cavalry ops in the Western Theater? I was anxiously awaiting Longacre’s book on the confederat cavalry in the west. Waiting for Drew to give his review on his blog. Seems like there are plenty of subjects there?

    What I would like to see done on the CW would be some biographies of cavalry leaders on both sides. Of course, Stuart, Sheridan, Hampton, etc have pleny of coverage. I’d be more interested in some brigade and divison leaders. I’m sure there are a few that you could think of that merit a biography. This is easy for me to say as I’m just the reader. I don’t have to dig up all the research, write the book and then find the publisher. Maybe yourself or someone else will tackle some of these cavalry leaders at a future date?

    I’m sure whatever you write about will be first rate. Good luck with your next book, I believe on Yellow Tavern? I wish you the same with Camden. I’ll certainly be getting both.

    Happy Holidays and looking forward to your blog entries.

    Don

  21. Sun 27th Dec 2009 at 1:03 pm

    Eric: A further thought about an alternative to battle studies. There is a glaring absence of modern studies of units/organizations and tactics in the AR. Recently from the British side we have Urban’s “Fusilier” about the 23rd Foot and Springs’ “With Zeal and With Bayonet Only” about British tactics, etc. Those books stand out precisely because they have entered unstudied terrain. There is probably an opening for someone to extend this to something similar in the AR regarding, for example, “cavalry” operations and tactics. Given your deep background in ACW cavalry operations, who better to tackle it?. Of course, the relative dearth of primary sources, the more limited role of cavalry, and the use of hybrid organizations such as “legions” and “dragoons” might make this more challenging but it is sorely needed.

  22. billy
    Mon 28th Dec 2009 at 11:35 am

    The RevWar in the South is my favorite historical subject. Camden (as well as Cowpens and Kings Mountain) are day trips from where I reside. I would love to see a new study of the battle of Camden. From a practical viewpoint, the only caution I would have is that I wonder how many books would sell. The number of persons interested in the American Revolution is very small compared to the CW. I’m just sayin’. Billy

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