14 December 2005 by Published in: Civil War books and authors 6 comments

As some of you know, I’ve been working on a new regimental history of the Sixth Pennsylvania Cavalry, also known as Rush’s Lancers, for more than a decade. The actual writing has taken over six years of working on it on and off, typically more on when the next new batch of information appears. The manuscript is largely complete; all that remains to be done on the manuscript side is to complete the review of a few Record Groups at the National Archives, and incorporate any pertinent material from those Record Groups. The gathering of that material is underway, and should be completed by March 1.

This book was to be a joint project between Ed Longacre and me. I was to do the first half of the war, and Ed the second half. Ed, however, had too much on his plate and was unable to do his half in anything close to a timely fashion for the original contract that we had, which was with Combined Books. Ed backed out of the project, and then Combined was sold to DaCapo. There was no way that I was going to have DaCapo publish this book, so I terminated the contract, repaid the miniscule advance that I had received (a whopping $250.00), and was left to finish it, and find a publisher for it, on my own.

I had always contemplated the inclusion of a roster of the regiment with the new regimental history. However, this particular unit had more than 1500 men pass through its ranks over the course of its service, and compiling a new roster has turned out to be a monumental–and cost prohibitive–task. Given the number of men, it would also add 50-75 pages to the book and would increase the cost significantly. Considering that I already have about 100 illustrations and about 15 maps for this project, adding that much material will significantly increase cost, which, in turn, will significantly increase the retail price.

Just a week ago, after a lot of contemplation and searching for the right publisher for my labor of love, I signed a contract for the book with Westholme Publishing of Yardley, PA, a suburb of Philadelphia, to publish the book. The owner of the company, Bruce Franklin, has impeccable credentials–he is descended from both Benjamin Franklin and Wade Hampton, and has been in university press publishing. Bruce recently published Joe Bilby’s excellent new book on the history of repeating weapons in the Civil War, which really impressed me. I am quite confident that Bruce will do an excellent job on the book, and he’s pretty much given me carte blanche on illustrations and maps. Of the illustrations, I have many that have never been published before, and which come from private collections. After all of these years of work, I’m really excited about it.

Another big selling point for having Westholme publish the book is that Bruce is willing to handle the indexing, meaning that it is not my responsibility in any fashion. Those who read my rants on a regular basis know my feelings on that subject, so it’s a very valuable thing for me to have him handle it. ๐Ÿ™‚

I recently introduced regular reader and fellow lawyer Russ Bonds to Bruce, and Bruce has apparently offered Russ a contract for his first book, which is a detailed telling of the story of the Great Locomotive Chase.

The problem, however, is that after much discussion and gnashing of teeth, I have had to abandon the idea of including the roster in the book. It’s just not possible to include the roster, keep the book affordable, and get it out in a timely fashion. Although I would love to include it, it would make it impossible to include everything else that I want, and when push came to shove, the maps and photos were more important to me than was the roster. Bruce came up with a great idea–the roster will be available on his website as a downloadable PDF file, and anyone who wants it will be able to get it for free. That’s a compromise that I can live with.

At the same time, it was an extremely difficult choice, and one that I never expected to have to make. I am comfortable with the choice that I made. In a perfect world, the roster would also be included, but I understand the economics of the thing, and I also understand compromise. When it came down to making a decision, I decided that it was more important to publish the book as I want it to be without the roster than to include the roster and have to compromise on the illustrations and maps.

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Comments

  1. Thu 15th Dec 2005 at 8:54 am

    I would say that an online searchable document or archive is a functionally superior form for things like rosters. Rosters are more datasets than anything else. Another argument for e-books, really.

  2. Thu 15th Dec 2005 at 10:16 am

    Mitch,

    I tend to agree, which is why I agreed to the arrangement.

    Eric

  3. Andy
    Thu 15th Dec 2005 at 11:53 am

    Mitch, I think a website based roster is a great idea if you can’t get one printed. Clarence Woodcok hosts a site dedicated to the First Maine heavy Artillery (http://cwoodcock.com/firstmaine/) which the unit roster is foundation. He used to orginal roster published in 1903 as a starting point and has updated it with new information.

    Regards,
    Andy

  4. Vince Slaugh
    Thu 15th Dec 2005 at 2:39 pm

    Hello Eric,

    Congratulations, I look forward to seeing the book. Last year, I set myself a optimistic twenty-year goal to complete a regimental history on the 79th Pennsylvania (the Lancaster County Regiment–one of the units that fought in the West). So, I’m impressed by it taking you “only more than a decade” while working on other quality research projects.

    Just out of curiousity–Do you know off the top of your head what degree your roster differs from that in Bates’ History of Pennsylvania Volunteers? Since I’ve found a good number of discrepancies with Bates, I’m trying to get a feel for how accurate it is.

    Thank you very much,
    Vince

  5. Thu 15th Dec 2005 at 3:33 pm

    Vince,

    Thanks for your kind words…it’s been a real labor of love. Good luck with yours. I feel your pain. ๐Ÿ™‚

    I used Bates as the starting point and have been trying to correct things as I find them. However, it is the basis of what will appear, corrected by me along the way.

    Bates is a great resource, but as you point out, there are a lot of errors in it, and a TON of incomplete information.

    Eric

  6. Fri 03rd Feb 2006 at 3:47 pm

    Love your blog!! though I sometimes disagree with you, you really are intelligent. Always good to read you.

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