16 September 2006 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 8 comments

Now that the Dahlgren project is winding down, I face the challenge of finding a publisher for the project.

I will finish my third editing pass at the manuscript no later than the middle of next week, and then I will put the revisions into the computer. Once I’ve done that, it’s ready to be circulated to a few chosen friends for review and comment. In other words, it’s getting close to completion.

Before anyone asks, I will answer the question. It’s not an appropriate book for Ironclad because we made a conscious business decision to devote all of our resources to publishing only volumes in our “The Discovering Civil War America Series” (with the exception of two other titles that were already under contract when we made that decision), and a biography of Ulric Dahlgren most assuredly doesn’t fit into the Series. Therefore, Ironclad is not an option.

So, I’m left with the challenge of finding a publisher for this project. As fascinating a young man as Ully Dahlgren was, he died at the age of 21 years, 11 months. He was a colonel, not a general. The story is intriguing, the controversy fascinating, and the saga of what happened to his body after his death tantalizing, but the fact remains that Ully was a minor player in the big scheme of things. That, by definition, means that we’re looking at a limited demand for the book. A limited demand means that placing it with a commercial publishing house will be a challenge at best. Ted Savas has passed on it for that reason, and so have Bruce Franklin of Westholme Publishing and Don McKeon of Potomac Books, formerly known as Brassey’s, and which has published four of my books to date.

It would appear, therefore, that a university press will be where it ends up, in spite of my well-known reservations about university presses. The LSU Press has expressed some interest in the project, and I will give LSU the first shot at it. I sent LSU a query letter, and the acquisitions editor asked to see the manuscript when it’s ready. However, I would really prefer NOT to go with a university press if I can help it for the reasons that I’ve spelled out in the past here. The last book of mine done by LSU took nearly three years to find its way into print, and I really don’t want to have to wait that long for this one.

If anyone has any suggestions for me of other potential commercial publishing houses that might be an appropriate place for my Dahlgren bio, I’m happy to entertain them.

Scridb filter


  1. Sean Dail
    Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 10:43 pm

    Wow. I find it hard to believe that any publisher specializing in Civil War/military history would pass on a well-researched, well-written bio of Ulric Dahlgren. I’d expect them to salivating over it. Shows how much I know.

    And then again I am one of those folks who has tracked down the original burial spot of Ully’s leg in the Washington Navy Yard…

  2. Sat 16th Sep 2006 at 11:06 pm


    Frankly, I was surprised too. However, the problem is that the market for Civil War books has been shrinking over the past few years while the market for World War II books, by example, continues to grow. That means that commercial publishers are more concerned about sales potential than ever before, and it means that they’re not biting at books that they would have published without batting an eye ten years ago.

    Here’s one very prominent example: other than publishing those books that were already under contract, Stackpole, traditionally one of the leading publishers of Civil War books, is pretty much completely out of the Civil War publishing business at this point. Stackpole would have been one of my first choices for this project, but it’s no longer even an option.


  3. Jim Epperson
    Sun 17th Sep 2006 at 10:16 am

    Eric, allow me to suggest that you re-think Ironclad’s position in all this. There’s a small mountain of Civil War biographies that need to be written, but which would not attract a commercial press. It seems to me a press like Ironclad would be the ideal vehicle for such things.


  4. Valerie Protopapas
    Sun 17th Sep 2006 at 2:54 pm

    I think you are incorrect in your assessment of Dahlgren’s bio being of ‘limited interest’. It isn’t always the highest ranking, flashiest or even most successful people who garner interest. Often it is someone who is involved in something mysterious, controversial and even a bit scandalous who attracts more attention than better known figures – especially if that event ends in the person’s death. In all the things I have read in magazines, books, periodicals and even contemporary accounts, the Dahlgren-Kilpatrick raid did and continues to attract attention. Furthermore, that attention was magnified MANY times with Lincoln’s assassination and the belief by many that Dahlgren’s documents ‘set the stage’ for that tragedy. As there is ALWAYS ongoing interest in Lincoln’s death, I cannot imagine that your work would be nothing more than a ‘footnote’ arousing the interest of only the most esoteric of researchers.

    P.S. Remember, a movie is being made about the manhunt for Booth – a sure means of increasing the interest in the assassination in a new audience. Maybe some little ‘blurb’ about the possibillity of Dahgren’s last action having a tie – however questionable – to the assassination of the President might well increase YOUR readership as well!

    Even if this is not a book on the raid itself, it is my considered belief that the mere fact that it will serve to enlighten us as to the nature of one of the key players in that drama will make your work of far greater interest than at present you suspect.

  5. Sun 17th Sep 2006 at 9:01 pm


    Unfortunately, that decision is not just up to me–it’s a decision that has to be approved by our board, and I don’t think it’s a good idea. It is inconsistent with our business plan, which is what concernes me about it.


  6. Chuck
    Mon 18th Sep 2006 at 2:05 pm


    Have you checked with Thomas Books? They do quality work………
    McFarland might be interested, but then it would cost $45.00!

  7. Christ Liebegott
    Mon 18th Sep 2006 at 4:09 pm

    I haven’t read it yet, but my copy of North and South mag. arrived in this pm mail, and has a rather extensive article on Dahlgran and the “plot”. Any comments?

    Christ Liebegott

  8. Paul Taylor
    Tue 19th Sep 2006 at 9:26 pm


    I’ll be watching this one with great interest for I suspect I face a similar quandary with my current project. Ted passed on mine for the same reason as yours, suggesting that a university press might be the best home.

    I fear he’s right, in the sense that unless one has written the umpteenth book on Lincoln, Grant, Gettysburg, etc. or some other popular and well-traversed subject, it seems that there’s just not much room at the inn anymore.

    The sesquicentennial of the war is only 4 years away. Maybe that will rekindle interest…

    BTW, the title of the session for this year’s Society of Civil War Historians annual meeting is “The Future of Civil War Publishing.” I’d love to hear that one.


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