29 August 2012 by Published in: Research and Writing 14 comments

As you may recall, last month, I announced that I had decided to do a book on the role played by James A. Garfield in the Civil War. Before deciding to do so, I polled a number of the professional historians that I know, asking them whether they thought that the project was worthy and whether they thought that it would spark interest in the topic. I asked about 10. Nine answered me. All were unanimous in their support, which prompted me to decide to run with the project.

One of the professionals whom I polled was Prof. Brooks Simpson of Arizona State University. I’ve known Brooks for nearly 15 years now, and have long wanted to do a project with him. In fact, we’ve discussed ideas for projects previously, but never could find one that seemed appropriate. Of all of the people I polled, Brooks had the most good suggestions for me for the Garfield project, so I asked him if he might be interested in doing the project with me. To my excitement, Brooks said yes.

And so, I am pleased and proud to announce that Brooks and I are going to collaborate to do the study of Garfield in the Civil War. Brooks really understand the nuances of Garfield’s political career during the war, including his complicated relationship with U. S. Grant, and will be able to bring insight that I would not be able to bring to bear, even though I was a political science major once upon a time. I’m really looking forward to getting a chance to work with someone whom I have always respected and admired (even if he is a New York Islanders fan), and I think it’s going to make for an excellent project.

A couple of weeks ago, two friends and I toured the sites associated with Garfield’s campaign in eastern Kentucky in the winter and spring of 1861-1862 in preparation for doing this project, and I will post some photos from that day soon. We saw some sites that few visit, which made it all the more interesting.

The ordeal with my parents that I related here in April has finally come to its sad but inevitable conclusion. At the end of June, and left with no choice, I had to place both of my parents in the secure dementia unit of a nursing home, and we then had the unhappy and incredibly difficult task of closing out their home of 37 years, a miserable job that we completed this past weekend. The numerous and exhausting trips to Pennsylvania are the reason for the lack of any posts here over the past month. Saying goodbye forever to the last remaining vestige of one’s childhood is not a fun thing to do, but it’s now behind me and I can move forward now with the knowledge that they are safe and being well cared for by some truly remarkable angels on earth. Give me a few more days to regain my perspective and get some rest, and I will be ready to get back to work. I’m looking forward to starting this next chapter in my life, and getting back to the research and writing work that means so much to me.

I will keep you advised as to the progress of our Garfield project as it proceeds. And I thank you for your support and patience with me as I weathered this ordeal.

Scridb filter


  1. Chris Evans
    Wed 29th Aug 2012 at 10:08 pm

    I am glad you are going forward on Garfield. I’ve just gotten into reading more deeply about him from Margaret Leech’s wonderful book ‘The Garfield Orbit’ (which has some good chapters on his Civil War experiences) and ‘Garfield of Ohio: The Available Man’ by John M. Taylor.

    The detail you and Brooks Simpson can bring to Garfield’s Civil War career should be great.


  2. Dennis
    Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 4:51 am

    Thanks for the update on the Garfield project Eric. I can sympathize with you on the process you had to go through with your parents. It is a tough row to hoe.

  3. Brent Oman
    Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 9:18 am

    I understand exactly what you’re going through with your parents. My parents suffered from Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s and long term care was the only option. A difficult, difficult time, but I can tell you that while it was a difficult decision, it was the only one and best one for you and your parents.

  4. Mike Peters
    Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 3:26 pm


    Let me know if there’s anything I can do.


  5. John Foskett
    Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 6:47 pm

    Well, in hockey terms that’s a bit like putting Crosby and Malkin out on the same line (or, as i’m sure Brooks would pefer, Bossy and Trottier). Excellent news for what should be a definitive study. And allow me to join in on condolences regarding the very difficult family decision which you had to make.

  6. Breck O'Donnell
    Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 10:03 pm

    (Hello, I’m a new commenter to this blog. You’ve been talking recently with me via PM on Armchair, Eric)

    Very unfortunate to hear about your parents Eric, but at least they’ll be well looked after. I wish both them and you the best.

    On a more positive note, definitely excited to hear about the Garfield project! And with Simpson no less. I’ll certainly buy that book.

  7. Mike Fitzpatrick
    Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 10:04 pm

    Glad to see you getting back into action. I hope all works well with your parents. You are a dedicated son!! And lastly………
    “Let’s go Rangers!!”

    Mike Fitz

  8. Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 10:05 pm

    Thank you, Breck. I appreciate your kind words. And welcome aboard here. I’m glad to see you here.

    I’m really looking forward to the Garfield project. As I said, I’ve long searched for an appropriate project that Brooks and I could do together, and this provided the perfect opportunity.


  9. Thu 30th Aug 2012 at 10:06 pm

    LOL. Thanks, Mike. I guess we will see which Rick Nash shows up in New York. You either got a great player for a steal, or you got another Nikolai Zherdev. Only time time will tell.


  10. Dennis
    Sat 01st Sep 2012 at 6:23 am

    HOCKEY!? They don’t have a labor agreement so we may be watching them play in Europe!

    Besides, the Buccos are playing their first meaningful baseball in 20 years…..oh and the NFL is here. Not quite time for hockey yet.


  11. Denny
    Sat 01st Sep 2012 at 11:25 am

    Hello Eric, Sorry about your parents. I’m glad to know you are working through your struggles. I will be looking forward to your Garfield book. I’ve read a little about his ordeal from being shot, to his death. What a terrible circumstance.

    Take care,
    Denny in Coshocton

  12. Mike Gronski
    Mon 03rd Sep 2012 at 12:34 pm

    I always enjoy all of your posts, whether at Armchair Gen or here.
    I try to give a dollar here or there to the Preservation Trust and can’t think of a better “push” to purchase that valuable site.
    I suppose if any of us won the lottery, the cash would be plunked down pronto, but alas, another dream delayed.
    Best of luck with the Garfield book!

  13. Wed 05th Sep 2012 at 8:38 am

    Sounds like an excellent project and the two of you will definitely knock it out of the park!

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