23 January 2008 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 21 comments

In the 1980’s, a publisher from Lynchburg, Virginia named Harold Howard undertook a magnificent–and pretty much unparalleled–project when he decided to publish a history of EVERY regiment, battalion, or battery fielded by the Commonwealth of Virginia during the Civil War. The scope of the project is really pretty staggering. The series itself is a mixed bag. The books are of mixed quality. Some are definitely better than others, and some are really bad. Fortunately, they were always very affordable, with many of the volumes priced at $19.95.

There are a number of gripes that spread across the spectrum of the series. The production values are inconsistent at best. There is almost no detail in the history section of each book, and there are no footnotes. As research resources, they leave a great deal to be desired. Few of the maps are original, and most of them appear in more than one volume. They contain very little detail. The duplication of photos is pretty shoddy–they’re universally very dark and often hard to make out.

The best aspect of the series is that each volume contains a complete regimental roster, and those rosters often contain extremely useful information. I don’t know this specifically, but I’ve heard this several times from several sources, which is that the information contained in these regimental rosters came from the extensive files accumulated by Bob Krick.

In spite of everything, the series is unique–there is nothing else like it. Overall, the series is useful and has been a worthy addition to the body of knowledge.

Today, in corresponding with Clayton Thompson, one of the booksellers I regularly deal with, I learned that Mr. Howard has allowed nearly 60 of the titles in the series to go out of print, and that many of the remaining titles are in very low stock. In short, the series will be extinct before much longer. For those who are interested in adding volumes from the series to your libraries, I highly recommend that you move quickly to do so.

Personally, I think it’s sad. As I said, it was a unique and groundbreaking series that has added a lot to the body of knowledge, and I hate to see it drift away.

Scridb filter

Comments

  1. Wed 23rd Jan 2008 at 11:08 pm

    As you know (and like yourself) I own nearly every volume in the series – all the cavalry, most of the infantry, the battalions, batteries, battle studies, bios, etc. Indeed, the rosters are the most valuable part… I’ve used them extensively and wouldn’t part with them for their weight in gold.

    Many of them are getting pricey, too. They were originally $19.95, but a lot of them are being sold in bookstores and on the secondary market for upwards of $60-70 now. If you don’t get them soon, you either won’t be able to find them or they’ll be awfully dear price-wise.

    J.D.

  2. Wed 23rd Jan 2008 at 11:59 pm

    A useful project would be to compile all the rosters onto a cd.

    I doubt that too many other authors will do this to keep them in print, but Jeffrey Weaver, one of the more prolific HEH series authors, is reprinting his volumes POD from Lulu. I bought “Bushwhacker’s Paradise” a while back because it was unobtainable otherwise. Print quality and illustrations are terrible, but probably little worse than the original editions.

  3. Ken Noe
    Thu 24th Jan 2008 at 9:52 am

    Eric and Drew:

    I’ve used them extensively. And having spent the last few years working on a Confederate soldiers project, I can promise you that the series (and especially the rosters) made my life a lot easier and my project a better one. If the authors will permit it, I endorse Drew’s ideas of making the rosters available on CD, or perhaps even scanning the pages and making them available online for free or for a fee.

    Ken

  4. Wade Sokolosky
    Thu 24th Jan 2008 at 1:01 pm

    Eric,

    Thanks for the heads up, I will be sure to grab up the ones that have connections to actions in NC.

    The series is a great source for a “snapshot” of the service records on individual Va Soldiers, which proved helpful in determining the Va losses during the Carolinas Campaign. I went a step further and cross referenced the rosters in the book against the individual Soldier’s CSR at the archives to make sure nothing was missing that could be considered “juicy information.”

    The great thing is the Va Compiled Service Records are now online at http://www.footnote.com.

    Wade

  5. Sean Dail
    Thu 24th Jan 2008 at 4:12 pm

    Ted Mahr’s volume on the Battle of Cedar Creek, which is part of this series, is fetching upwards of $150.00 on the secondary market. I really wish I had snatched it up when I heard Bob Krick praise it upon its release…

  6. Don
    Sat 26th Jan 2008 at 7:32 pm

    I received notice yesterday that Owens & Ramsey Booksellers (www.OwensandRamsey.com) in Richmond has a complete set available. This is the only complete set that I’ve seen available in a long time. I’d love to own them, but don’t currently have an answer to the inevitable “and where do you plan to put them?” question. 8^)

  7. Sat 26th Jan 2008 at 10:59 pm

    Sean,
    No worries. Just wait until the new expanded & revised edition comes out. Unless of course, you are talking collector concern rather than just content.

    Drew

  8. Sean Dail
    Sun 27th Jan 2008 at 2:11 am

    Thanks the heads up, Drew. I didn’t know there was a new edition coming out.

  9. Art Bergeron
    Wed 30th Jan 2008 at 12:47 pm

    I hope that this does not get lost or ignored because the stream is a few days old. My recollection is that Harold gave thought at one time to expanding his regimental series to include units from other states. Perhaps too ambitious, it never happened.

    A couple of questions: (1) Is there a market for a series for another former Confederate state or all of them? (2) What would it take to see such a series get into print?

    No university press would touch such a project. I doubt that there are many, if any, other presses that would attempt it either.

    Art

  10. Theodore C. Mahr
    Fri 14th Mar 2008 at 6:44 am

    Hi Eric and “A reply to Sean & Drew”:

    First, “Hi,” to my old friend Eric W. from a fellow Buckeye. Long time. First time at your website-blog, etc. Lots to read; wish I had hours to do so.:-)

    Happened to be browsing, of course, and saw reference Harold E. Howard’s series and, also, to my book on the Battle of Cedar Creek ( Sean & Drew ), originally published by HEH in 1992.,.

    First, HEH’s two series on Virginia regimentals and , also, Battles and Leaders of Virginia, was / is a unique and hugely vital endeavor.

    I know some have criticized the quality of some of the works, but there were a number of mitigating factors involved in many of the efforts.

    in brief, HEH left it up to each individual author as to “how much” to research / write re: the text, etc. Harold allowed me to publish my complete M.A. thesis text [ from which the first edition came ] with no editing down—something not all publishers offer their authors.

    Many of the regimental authors’ chief goal was to simply get complete [as possible] rosters into print for the Virginia units in question [ a much-needed and, also, titanic effort]. The accompanying “historical narrative text was pretty much up to each author’s ability, desire, and leading toward detailed research and unit history to be described in the text.

    In some cases authors opted to present a detailed account of the unit’s “life” through the “eyes” of its soldiers; this being as important as the roster in these cases. In other authors’ approaches, just getting the roster “right” and complete as possible was the main aim, the historical narrative being only a secondary factor.

    As far as I know, though, Mr Howard left this decision
    ( narrative / roster detail ) up to each author with the least amount of editorial intrusion possible.

    In all, I think the series ( and the vision for such ) was and is still a hugely inportant comtribution to the Civil War historiography for the Army of Northern Virginia. Many of the regimental histories are “the” only source available on that unit for general reading consumption or historical research.

    Granted, the Battles and Leaders series has seen fewer real, substantive efforts, but some have proven to be quite exceptional. That Bob Krick, Gary Gallagher, Jeff Wert and others have placed their seal of approval on my Cedar Creek book is flattering to say the least, but Frank O’Reilly’s book on Prospect Hill-Fredericksburg, John Hennessey’s, First Manassas monograph, and Greg Eanes’, Wilson-Kautz Raid effort ( among others ) are first-rate campaign studies in their own right.

    Simply put, there are a lot of fine books in HEH’s two series that deserve a much-wider audience.

    I do not know why HEH has allowed many of the titles to go out-of-print, but I do realize how difficult it has been for Mr. Howard to manage and perpetuate this huge endeavor; no easy task I assure you. HEH has done its best, I believe, and has not only given many an autgor his / her “start” in writing in this field, but has more importantly achieved its initial main goal of setting in stone a permanent record of Virginia soldiery during the Civil War.

    I, for one, am very grateful to Harold for giving my book its first printing.

    On a side note for Drew and Sean ( and others interested in the 1864 Valley Campaign ), my book on Cedar Creek has been completely revised and expanded for re-release in the near future. It covers so much more than the original, which was, out of necessity, more focused from the Southern side of the battle.

    As Drew pointed out ( I believe?), unless one is looking for the “collecting” value of the original HEH edition, there will be no comparison between that edition and the content of this revised/ expanded one
    ( much new davalry ops, mss. sources, detail etc. ). One thing I’m sure of is that price won’t be nearly as prohibitive as the O.P. edition!

    And if I may, I’d like to simply thank all of you out there who continue to express interest in my Cedar Creek book. After all these years, it is both a very humbling yet motivating experience indeed. Thanks to your support, there will be more coming in the future.

    Thanks, Eric, for sharing the space for this posting and my very best to you personally!

    Ted Mahr
    Dayton, Ohio

  11. Robert Murrell
    Mon 03rd Nov 2008 at 9:42 pm

    Where can a complete listing of the Virginia Regimentals Series be obtained?

  12. Son for the south(steve)
    Tue 18th Nov 2008 at 10:32 pm

    I am looking for any information out how to contact mr. howard he cited my Great x(4)grandfather of in the 34 Virginia or any one that would know about the 4th Virginia Artillery or latter became the 34th Virginia Inf. please fell free to post to other BBS or e-mail me @ rancarlton@aol.com

  13. Marilyn Canfield
    Sat 29th Nov 2008 at 1:05 pm

    I am having a hard time finding an phone number or a listing of books still available in M.E. Howard Inc. series..in particular 6th N. Carolina Cavalry.. 65th N.C. State Troops 6 Reg. I believe Jeffrey Weaver wrote that book.
    I ‘m trying to find a listin for a Richard Daniel Alley or Daniel Alley as he went by most time . He was from Tn. and joined this group…We know he was in N.C.
    but we don’t have a validated death date.. or date of surrender to the No.. sometime I believe in 1864.
    The point being..he never returned.. descendants have no knowledge of whern or where he died..
    If anyone has any suggestions or help..it would be appreciated..
    M Canfield mlcan@cox.net

  14. Brady E Fitts
    Sun 08th Mar 2009 at 5:05 pm

    Looking for information on Capt. Henry D Dickerson of the 32 and 53 VA. I know from his records on 5 May 1862 he was not elected Capt. again. I would like to know what happen to him after that vote. I have found a Henry D Dickerson who joined the 18th VA Inf. just before the war ended but do not believe he was Capt Dickerson. I based this on Capt. Dickerson being able to sign his name to several different documents and pay vouchers and the Dickerson in the 18 made his mark. Can anyone help me with this gentleman would be appreciated, we are planning a family reunion at the Butterwood Church where he and his wife are buried.

  15. Jeff Kincaid
    Fri 09th Oct 2009 at 4:59 pm

    Had Mr Howard for a HS history teacher. It was interesting, given the complaints in the post here re: imcomplete histories and lack of footnotes. This was something about which he was quite strict. Our year consisted of one nine-week period of everything up to the Civial War, two nine-week period of the Civil War, and one nine-week period of everything since. It was amusingly obvious where his interest lay. I saw him recently at the babrbershop and asked him if he still did the reenacting at Appomattox surrender grouns as he did years ago. He stated “We did not do reenacting, what we did was living history.” I thought the speaking in third person was great.

  16. Bryan Crews
    Mon 16th Nov 2009 at 3:55 pm

    I too had Mr. Howard as a History teacher. I am currently finishing a Bachellor’s Degree at Lynchburg College. We have his entire collection in our library. I think the reason that Mr. Howard has given up publishing is because he is getting up in age and because he does not have anyone to help him with his publishing endeavours. Like many others’ in this post, I have also noticed that his books are rapidly growing in price.

  17. joe cress
    Fri 19th Mar 2010 at 4:41 pm

    Hello all, I have a collection of the volumes and ask a couple questions. Is Thomas M Rankin still with us and how do I contact him ? Where can I find a cashe of the remainder of volumes to fill in my collection…..I am aware of ebay, bookfinder, bibliofind….loooking for individuals with volumes to let. Thanks very kindly, Joe

  18. Tue 19th Jul 2011 at 11:58 am

    I have your 1st and 2nd Stuart Horse Artillery book and it has been most helpful.

    I have additional service information on a private (Addison Epperly from Confederate Pension Records) that extends beyond the NFI in your book. Do you update this series with added information? Would you want the additional information and its source? If so, I will be most happy to send it along.

    Mason Epperly
    403 South Main Street
    Winston-Salem, NC 27101
    hmepperly@att.net
    678 938 4128

  19. Matt Gardiner
    Fri 06th Nov 2015 at 6:50 am

    Just wanted to add my 2 cents re: Virginia Regimental Histories. I should qualify what I’m about to say by admitting I’ve probably only read about 20 or so and currently own 12. As others have said, the rosters make them worthwhile on their own, but more and more rosters are becoming available online. I wonder if the existence of these books has discouraged the writing of Regimental Histories of Virginia units, as I notice there aren’t as many books coming out about units from this state as some others.
    I too have noticed the difference in quality and size in different volumes of the H.E Howard set, so I hope writers out there aren’t considering these works as being definative. I note Mr. Petruzzi’s comment from 7 years ago about the prices. Most of these books cost well into 3 figures now.
    As for works on other states, would just remind you about R.J Driver’s books on the Confederate Maryland Units. All really good books.

  20. Sat 11th Feb 2017 at 8:55 pm

    My gg grandfather was George Allen Houpt. He served with the 28th Virginia Infantry Company G. For reasons listed above the 28th by Frank E Fields Jr has become difficult copy to find for anything under $100. I owned it, lost it and would like to find a copy. Used would be alright.
    hhouptjr@gmail.com

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