24 January 2010 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 8 comments

My first book, published in 1998, was titled Gettysburg’s Forgotten Cavalry Actions, and it won the Bachelder-Coddington Literary Award, given by the Robert E. Lee Civil War Roundtable of Central New Jersey for each year’s best new work interpreting the Battle of Gettysburg.

It’s a short book, only 130 or so pages, but it was the first really detailed treatment of the aspects of the battle it addresses–Farnsworth’s Charge, Merritt’s fight on South Cavalry Field, and the Battle of Fairfield–and it was well received. It was published by Thomas Publications, and was a very steady but not spectacular seller. It sold nearly 7500 copies before Thomas, over my objections, permitted it to go out of print. I believed that there was still a market for it, and I was very unhappy when Thomas decided not to do a second printing. Consequently, it’s been out of print for four or five years now, and it’s become EXTREMELY rare. There are five copies for sale on Amazon as I write this, and the cheapest of the five is priced at $114.50. Considering it’s a short book that was only ever published in softcover, that’s really remarkable. I have two copies here. That’s it.

For the past several years, I debated what to do about it. I definitely wanted to see it back in print, but I was torn between bringing it back out as originally published or doing a second edition. There were compelling reasons for both. If I brought it back out as originally published, there was minimal work to be done. I thought long and hard about bringing it back out myself, and actually had one of my few copies cut apart and scanned. I then paid a friend of mine to clean up the scan so it could be sent right to the printer and a new printing of the original edition published with a new colophon and new publishing information. Other than that, nothing would change.

At the same time, it was my first book, written in 1997. Fifteen books and thirteen years later, my writing has improved dramatically, and there are some things about the writing style I would like to fix. Back in those days, I had a problem with over-use of the passive voice, and by doing a new edition, I can fix those issues. Further, over the years, I have accumulated a lot of new material that I did not have when I wrote the original version, some of which has never been published. As just one example, after the book was published, I purchased a letter written by Capt. William M. Graham–a nephew of George Gordon Meade–to his first cousin, George Meade, that discusses the fighting on South Cavalry Field. It’s never been used by any historian, I own it, and I have long debated what to do with it. There’s also one map in it that I don’t like that really should be replaced.

I ultimately decided that bringing out a new, revised second edition was the way to go, and Ted Savas of Savas-Beatie, who has published three of my other titles, has agreed to publish it. Ted has given me carte blanche to do pretty much as I please with it, and I am working on the revisions. I will largely re-work the chapter on Farnsworth’s Charge and will add some significant new material to the chapter on Fairfield. The map that I don’t like will be replaced (John Heiser, who did the original maps, has agreed to come out of cartographic retirement for that one map, so that they all match, for which I am very grateful–I’ve always loved John’s maps, and I am really pleased that he’s agreed to do this for me). Since the appearance of the area where Farnsworth’s Charge occurred has changed dramatically due to the Park Service’s tree cutting program, I will shoot all new photos of the monuments, etc. I will also be adding a walking/driving tour with GPS coordinates. And the full 5500 word essay that J. D. Petruzzi and I wrote in response to an article that was published in Blue & Gray magazine will be an appendix to the book (a dramatically edited version was published in the magazine). Although that piece has been available here on this blog for some time, it’s never been published. The new edition should be out about this time next year.

In short, the new edition will be significantly different from what was published in 1998, and I am absolutely convinced that what started out as a good book will end up being even better as a result. I am excited and pleased that it will be back in print again, and I am having fun working on it. Although I thought I was finished with it along ago, it’s like visiting an old, dear friend again.

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Comments

  1. R A McDonald
    Sun 24th Jan 2010 at 10:27 pm

    Hi Eric,
    This is great news!
    I have an original copy, and I look forward to add the updated version to my library.
    R A McD

  2. Don
    Sun 24th Jan 2010 at 11:37 pm

    Fantastic news, Eric, especially since I’ve been too cheap to pay the $100+ for the original! 8^) We’ll need to chat next month about primary source Fairfield material. Really looking forward to this one next year.

  3. Chris Evans
    Mon 25th Jan 2010 at 12:01 am

    That’s sounds very interesting. I’m proud to say I own an original copy and find it one of the best books on the cavalry actions at Gettysburg. I found the different accounts of Farnsworth’s death to be very fascinating. I look forward to what the revised edition will be like.
    Chris

  4. Christ Liebegott
    Mon 25th Jan 2010 at 3:41 pm

    Eric,
    Glad to hear this. I just started reading the original for about the third time, and will look forward to the revised edition.
    Regards,
    Christ

  5. P. J. O'Neill
    Mon 25th Jan 2010 at 7:01 pm

    Looking forward to it.

  6. Bill Satterlee
    Mon 25th Jan 2010 at 10:10 pm

    Eric,
    The new book is on my “must have” list. I have the first edition. You said you would sign it, as well as the others I have, the next time we saw each other but unfortunatly we have not crossed paths since.

  7. Joseph Gartrell
    Tue 26th Jan 2010 at 6:36 pm

    Mr. Wittenberg,

    Allow me to introduce myself as the Ohio Commissioning Editor for The History Press, a publisher of local and regional history books. I’m quite interested in publishing a book on the history of Ohio and Ohioans during the Civil War and am hoping you might have some interest in working on this project.

    Of course, this would be the perfect time to begin work on a book of this nature. At The History Press, we have a Civil War Sesquicentennial Series, and we’ve done quite well with those titles; each book in that series focuses on a specific battle of the war. We’re also in the very early stages of a book project that takes a look at Maine during the Civil War and will be publishing a book on Notre Dame during the Civil War in the coming months.

    Before I continue, let me assure you that we are not a vanity press. There’s no fee when publishing with us. Our authors are paid in royalties.

    At this point, we have eight Ohio books in print and about 16 more on the way. I’d love to add a Civil War title to the mix.

    Again, I do hope you have some interest in this project. If it’s something you’re not keen on tackling, I do hope you’d be willing to help me get the ball moving on this by passing my information along to historians/ authors who may be interested in working on a book of this nature.

    I hope to hear from you. In the meantime, I encourage you to visit our website at http://www.historypress.net. You’ll find that we publish beautiful books.

    Regards,

    Joseph Gartrell
    Commissioning Editor
    The History Press
    18 Percy Street
    Charleston, SC 29403
    Office: 843.577.5971 Ext. 156
    Fax: 843.577.6712

    http://www.historypress.net

  8. Deric Bardo
    Wed 10th Feb 2010 at 10:17 pm

    Congratulations Eric:
    Our American History Store will be delighted to carry your new edition upon publication. And would be pleased to have you come to our store in Gettysburg for a book signing at your convenience.
    Kindest regards
    Deric

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