Interview: Garry Adelman, “Manassas Battlefields Then & Now”

7 07 2011

Garry Adelman, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide and Civil War author (among other things), has a new book coming out next week, Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run. He recently took some time to discuss his work with Bull Runnings.

BR: While I’m sure many of the readers have heard of you or seen you on the tube, tell us a little about yourself.

GA: I became all but instantly obsessed with the Civil War at age 16 upon picking up William A Frassanito’s Antietam: The Photographic Legacy of America’s Bloodiest Day. It changed my entire life. I was living outside of Chicago and just started digesting all the books I could. I had never before read history for pleasure. I got a business degree at Michigan State a few years later—Hotel and Restaurant Management to be exact—and then went back to Chicago to run restaurants.  In the meantime I started driving out to Gettysburg and Antietam whenever I could. Ultimately, I couldn’t resist moving to Gettysburg, which I did in the fall of 1992. Save for picking up that book in my high school library in 1983, I would not have met my wife, had my kids or been able to work what I think are the best set of jobs in the world.

BR: Whoa, that’s a lot! What happened after you moved?

GA: I didn’t have a job or even any prospects so I did the only thing I knew how to do—opened a restaurant. While running that place, I started writing for The Gettysburg Magazine, became a Licensed Battlefield Guide at Gettysburg, and explored the battlefield with what little time I had. I sold the restaurant to Gettysburg College in 1995, worked there for a few years and then for Thomas Publications, which specializes in Civil War books. In the meantime, I met my future wife on Gettysburg’s town square, published (with Tim Smith) Devil’s Den: A History and Guide (1997) and started working on more books. I got my Masters in History from Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania in 2002 and then I really entered the history world. After an 8-year stint at a historical consulting firm in Rockville, Maryland, I started working for the Civil War Trust as Director of History and Education, about a year and a half ago. I am still a Licensed Battlefield Guide and I regularly speak to Civil War groups. I have now written, co-authored or edited more than 30 Civil War-related books and articles.

BR: What is The Center for Civil War Photography?

GA: The Center was founded in 1999 and I have served as its vice president for more than a decade. The Center aims to teach people the whos, whats, wheres, whys, and hows of Civil War Photography. We aim to collect digital copies of, place into context and  make available every outdoor Civil War photo ever recorded. We hold an annual seminar at various battlefields every year and this October we are focusing (excuse the pun) on the Western Theater, at Chattanooga. Space is still available! It was a no-brainer to take the Manassas book to The Center as publisher.

BR: Why did you choose the Bull Run battlefields as the subject for your new book?

GA: No matter how many facets of the conflict I may research or address, I always go back to my first Civil War love—then & now photography. Frassanito pioneered the field of the study of Civil War photographs as primary documents and I am one of a small cadre of historians moving that work forward as he has slowed down. No historian had ever completed even a small book on Bull Run’s historic photography and the resources, mysteries and curiosities abound at Manassas and its surroundings. The topic was all but begging to be covered!

BR: Was there anything in particular that surprised you about the photographic history of the battlefields?

GA: Oh, my yes. Upon separating the various images into series by photographic team, it became clear that only one covered the actual battlefields field during the war—this was George Barnard and James Gibson’s team. Despite Matthew Brady’s attempt in 1861, and Timothy O’Sullivan’s coverage of Manassas in 1862, Andrew Russell’s in 1863, no other photographer secured plates of the iconic sites on the Manassas Battlefields. In June 1865, Alexander Gardner’s team was next to cover the field. This is extremely odd given Bull Run’s popularity and its proximity to Washington.  I suppose another thing that surprised me was how much work remained, even with Barnard’s 1862 series.

BR:  Can you describe your research and writing process?

GA: I first became familiar with and aimed to digitally secure every Bull Run-related historic photo I could. I had been doing this for more than five years already and the best stuff came from the Manassas National Battlefield, the Library of Congress, the National Archives and members of The Center for Civil War Photography. Upon collecting these and separating them into series, I did a bunch of field research, trying to find unknown photo locations and getting to know the photographers’ areas of operations.  This is not a lengthy book and yet this process took years.  I made most of the key discoveries, shot most of the modern photos and did most of the writing, however, in the last eight months.

BR: Any particular discovery you’d like the share?

GA: Indeed! I am most proud of having finally divined the location of five 1862 images that are usually labeled as Blackburn’s Ford. In close consultation with Jim Burgess, Museum Specialist at Manassas National Battlefield, who helped with almost every aspect of the book, I was able to pinpoint the location more than a mile upstream from Blackburn’s Ford. Finding a Civil War photolocation, that is, the place where photographers exposed their plates, is among the most satisfying and fun endeavors I know of. To put five photos into context—that’s more than were taken at Shiloh during the entire war!

 

The historic photo here (left), courtesy of Manassas National Battlefield, was found to show a wrecked Confederate Railroad bridge, upstream from Mitchell’s Ford. Next to it is the location today (right). Click the thumbs for larger images.

BR: What’s next for you?

GA:  I haven’t decided. My family, my work at the Trust and my various Civil War side jobs occupy a great deal of my time. I am playing around with the idea of a small Peninsula/Seven Days photo book. That series of photos remains one of the largest collections of largely unexplored Civil War photographs.

Manassas Battlefields Then & Now: Historic Photography at Bull Run can be ordered from Amazon.com or from The Center for Civil War Photography. Also see The Center’s press release here.





Interview: Jeffry Wert, “A Glorious Army”

9 05 2011

I first met prolific author Jeffry D. Wert (and his charming wife, Gloria) during a Civil War seminar almost 13 years ago, and the following summer spent an amazing few days riding at the back of a bus with him and the late Dr. Joseph Harsh during another conference. I probably learned more about the conflict in those few hours than I had up to that point, just by keeping my mouth shut (mostly) and my ears open.

Jeff’s latest book is A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph, 1862-1863, and below he discusses the project.

BR: While I’m sure my readers are very familiar with your works, how about telling us about yourself?

JW: I am a native Pennsylvanian and taught history at Penns Valley Area High School in the central part of the state for 33 years.  I am now retired from the profession.  I am an avid Atlanta Braves and Penn State football fan.

BR: Your new book is about the Army of Northern Virginia from 1862-1863, from Seven Days to Gettysburg.  What prompted you to look at this army for this period?

JW: Lee and the army’s record during those thirteen months is arguably unmatched in America’s military annals.  Although I have covered the army in previous books, I wanted to write a more analytical study on the reasons for their successes and do it, hopefully, in a smooth-flowing narrative.  My book is not a detailed tactical work but looks at leadership, morale, and the common soldiers’ fighting prowess.

BR: What did you turn up during your research that surprised you?

JW:  The amount of straggling in the army was endemic during 1862.  It reached a climax in the Maryland campaign but was a problem with the rank and file until Chancellorsville.  It appears from the evidence that straggling was minor during the Gettysburg Campaign.  Secondly, my research convinced me more that Lee’s aggressiveness offered the Confederacy its best chance for independence.  Admittedly, it is a controversial subject, but the results, I think, speak for themselves.  Finally, I address whether Lee took the so-called “bloodiest roads” and concluded that he chose the tactical offensive when circumstances dictated it, except for July 3, 1863 at Gettysburg.  Malvern Hill resulted in a tragedy because of misinformation.

BR: Can you sum up for us, in a nutshell, how Lee was able to be successful for most of this period, and what caused his setbacks?

JW:  When Lee assumed temporary command of the army on June 1, 1862, it was as though all the stars aligned for the Confederacy.  The Union Army of the Potomac’s subordinate leadership could not match the likes of Jackson, Longstreet, Stuart, Ewell, A. P. and D. H. Hill, and others.  To be sure, the caution of McClellan, the incompetence of Pope and Burnside, and the unraveling of Hooker contributed to the Confederates’ victories.  Lee’s infantry’s incalculable ‘élan in battle was a significant factor.

BR: What is your research and writing process? Did you visit archives and sites, and how much of a role did online research play?

JW:  I am old-fashioned in my methodology.  I put my research on note cards and write my books on legal-sized paper.  I am blessed with a wife who is an excellent assistant, and she transcribes my words into a word document.  I edit from printed pages.  During my research, I visit archives and libraries.  I use the internet to locate manuscript collections and fortunately for historians more institutions are putting letters and diaries online, making it unnecessary to travel as much.

BR: How has the book been received so far?

JW:  The book has been reviewed in a few places and has been praised.  None of the major Civil War magazines have had a review in as of today.  I am gratified to have been a main selection of History Book Club and Military Book Club.

BR: What’s next for you?

JW:  For the first time in many years, I am not under contract on another project.  I may do another book in the future but not at the present.

So for the first time in years, Mr. Wert is taking a break. I have a feeling it won’t be too long before something catches his eye and we hear from his pen – really, his pen! – once again.





Interview: Timothy Orr, “Last to Leave the Field”

2 05 2011

I first met Tim Orr on a tour in 2006. At that time he was a graduate student at Penn State and was on the faculty for that summer’s Mont Alto seminar. The photo below is from that trip and shows Tim and Adams County Historical Society director Wayne Motts. Tim had just opened his eyes after Wayne had placed an original and rare Sharps model 1859 used by Berdan’s Sharpshooters in his hands (you may be able to zoom in and see the two triggers). Tim was – and I believe still is – a Berdan’s Sharpshooters re-enactor. The look on his face when he realized what he held in his grasp was priceless: he had never been so close to one before.

Now Doctor Orr has edited and annotated Last to Leave the Field: The Life and Letters of First Sergeant Ambrose Henry Hayward, 28th Pennsylvania Volunteer Infantry. I contacted him and he agreed to answer a few questions about the book for Bull Runnings.

Tim Orr (L) and Wayne Motts (R)

BR: Tim, can you tell the readers out there a little bit about yourself? Education, where you have worked, anything else you’ve published.

TO: I’ve been a Civil War nerd since I was eight-years-old. It all started when my father put a book about the Battle of Gettysburg in my lap. I read it and I was hooked. I was mesmerized by the story of our nation’s costliest conflict. My father and I traveled to Gettysburg that year, then to Antietam the year after that. When I was ten, he and I became Civil War re-enactors. We did living history presentations at various schools and national parks, and nowadays—although I don’t dress up in nineteenth-century garb as frequently—I can still be found in my wool regalia from time to time. Although my thirst for Civil War knowledge began when I was a buff, it soon drifted toward public history and academia. In the late 1990s, I attended Gettysburg College and during the summers I stayed on campus and worked as seasonal ranger at Gettysburg National Military Park. Upon graduation, I became a Nittany Lion, joining the graduate program at Penn State University, where I earned my master’s and Ph.D., the latter coming last year in May 2010. Presently, I am an assistant professor of history at Old Dominion University in Norfolk, Virginia.  Last to Leave the Field is my first book, but I’ve also published a few articles. Four years ago, I wrote an essay on Union soldiers’ anti-Copperhead resolutions. This essay got published in a delightful collection called The View From the Ground (University Press of Kentucky) edited by Aaron Sheehan-Dean. I’ve published two other essays for Gettysburg National Military Park’s scholarly seminar booklet series, and I have two other essays in the pipeline, one on the politics of promotion in the Union army and another on mutinous behavior and oath-taking in the Pennsylvania Reserve Division.

BR: What brought Ambrose Henry Hayward to your attention? Who was he?

TO: The Ambrose Henry Hayward collection is an assemblage of letters written by a twenty-one-year-old needle-maker who enlisted in the 28th Pennsylvania in 1861. Gettysburg College’s Special Collections Archive owns these letters, having purchased them from a rare book dealer back in 1968. I became interested in the collection during my junior year when a friend of mine who worked at the archives informed me that she was processing them. She said she had just read Hayward’s letter about the Battle of Antietam and it interested her. I asked, “He’s in the 28th Pennsylvania, right? Tyndale’s brigade?” I asked this rather offhandedly, mostly as an effort to practice my nerdy order-of-battle knowledge. “Yes,” she replied, “That’s the officer he carried from the field.” Her matter-of-fact comment surprised me. I had known that Lt. Col. Hector Tyndale suffered a wound at Antietam, but I knew nothing about the man who helped to rescue him. My curiosity awakened, I went to Special Collections and examined the letters myself. I discovered that Hayward had, in fact, dragged Tyndale from the field, while having his clothes slashed by Confederate lead, no less! Hayward’s valor saved Tyndale’s life and it seemed to me the public deserved to know his heroic story. But as I delved deeper into his letters, trying to understand more about the life of this young soldier, I became interested in the raw emotion that Hayward felt as he experienced the conflict and then also how he conveyed it to his family. I considered this—his open and honest explanation of the war’s sorrow and violence—to be the true value of his letters. The earliest letter in the collection—which was written by Hayward on April 14, 1861—declared, “They at the South are slave holders. We at the North are their slaves.” This comment intrigued me. Here was a young man, the same age as me, willing to give his life to bring America out of its “dark days,” as he described them. Right then and there, I thought the Civil War community ought to learn the full details of Hayward’s story: his enlistment during the passionate days of 1861; his rise to the rank of first sergeant; his bravery on the fields of Antietam, Chancellorsville, Gettysburg, Lookout Mountain, Taylor’s Ridge, and others; and his mortal wounding during the Battle of Pine Knob in June 1864. Although Hayward’s frequent moments of bravery enthralled me—and he participated in more reckless acts than just his rescue of Tyndale—I found it most interesting to analyze Hayward as a person caught in a world torn by violence. His story resonated more when I contextualized it as a tale of a young soldier struggling to hold onto his morals in a world gone mad.

BR: What was the most surprising thing about Hayward, either in what he wrote or what you turned up?

TO: The most interesting thing about Hayward was the way he wrote without censoring his inner-most thoughts. He wrote about the war as he saw it, not how he wanted it to be. This was uncommon for Civil War soldiers. Many of them shielded graphic material from their loved ones by self-censorship. Hayward departed from the customs of Victorian letter-writing. He wrote his letters as his stream of consciousness flowed from his mind to his pen. He made it clear to his parents and siblings that letters were to be written in the context of the moment, not as material presented in the “proper” vernacular. In Hayward’s opinion, he considered each and every thought unique, like a diamond of knowledge, and he believed that hiding his thoughts from his loved ones was akin to depriving them of valuable information about his feelings, even if those feelings were unpleasant. But still, despite his garrulousness, Hayward encountered trouble when he attempted to convey the depths of his emotion during those moments when he faced something altogether new and indescribable: the sorrow he felt at the loss of his friends who died in battle. As his pen and pencil scribbled and he tried to define his anguish, he deliberately cut his introspection short, telling his family that he had to repress these painful memories. This was intriguing. It is an aspect that scholars do not often see: the psychological wounds of war. Even more, I marveled at the occasional explosions of anger that appeared in Hayward’s letters. One of my favorite letters, written by Hayward in March 1863, described his irate feelings about the Copperheads, the northern Peace Democrats. Speaking of Copperhead Clement Vallandigham, Hayward wrote, “we thought we were doing much for the Great Cause, and it seemed that everywhere the work went Bravely on and that before another winter should come upon us Treason would have done its worst and this dreadfull Curse would disappear from our once Happy Country and restore us once more to our Homes and friends. but it seems that the good time has not yet come. they say the War must go on. I say let the war go on untill every traitor[,] Copperheads and all[,] are made to kneel to the Godess of Liberty. the army is yet true and Loyal but they feel as if there was not much chance for their lives with enemys on every side. I beleive that if such men as Vallandingham should come here and talk the way he does in Congress the Soldiers would kill him.” At first, I thought this was mere hyperbole, but the more I considered the importance of Hayward’s language, the more I respected the seriousness of his threat against Congressman Vallandigham and the Copperheads. Politically, Civil War soldiers lived within a frightening world of turmoil. Taking my cue from Hayward’s example, I made certain to use his letters to their fullest extent, to restore the sense of wonder and awe that came from the perspective of men who did not know how the Civil War would end.

BR: What was your research and writing process for this project? Did you make any archive or battlefield trips? And how do you go about writing – how does editing  letters and memoirs differ from a narrative project of your own?

TO: My process in writing the book was simple. First, I transcribed the letters, leaving in the spelling errors and grammatical mistakes. Then, I made editorial changes—as few and as un-intrusively as possible—so that casual readers could read Hayward’s writing without interruption. Third, I annotated the letters, going through each sentence and looking for hidden meanings and vocabulary that required explanation. These explanations came in the form of endnotes. Finally, I broke the letters into chapters that conformed to different epochs of Hayward’s military career, writing up short introductions for each chapter in order to place each grouping of letters into an understandable contextual narrative. It seems like a short process when it gets explained, but it’s not; it took a long time to complete.

Researching for an edited volume of letters was far more difficult than I imagined. In some ways, it was easier than writing a narrative project, in that, with these letters, I had a single focus: to tell the story of Hayward’s Civil War. However, to accomplish that task, I realized that I needed to tap into many different subfields of Civil War history to make sense of his letters. I am a military historian by training, so I found it easy to unravel the military jargon. However, when it came to deciphering matters related to politics, economics, or social issues, I had to extend my sphere of expertise. This required me to read more secondary and primary materials, delving into books and articles outside my comfort zone. For instance, in one of his last letters, Hayward wrote to his brother, “What makes you keep Gold up so high in N.Y.?” To an average reader, this offhand comment appears a mystery. But, to Hayward and his brother, it was an obvious reference to the New York City “gold hoax” of May 1864. So, off I went, for several days immersing myself in New York City newspapers to understand the substance of the gold hoax and then locating and reading the few articles and books that mentioned this unusual event. So, several days’ worth of reading helped me explain one sentence in one letter. On average, I annotated probably five to ten times per letter and the collection consisted of 133 letters. In addition to all the reading, I had to learn new research techniques. For instance, to piece together Hayward’s family history, I had to turn myself into a genealogist. I’d never done any genealogical work before, and while I learned plenty of helpful archival techniques at graduate school, none of them helped me decipher individual family history. In essence, plenty of my research skills had to be learned on the fly. I traveled to battlefields to see where the 28th Pennsylvania fought. I went to the Pennsylvania State Archives to look at regimental files and to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania to see related collections dealing with Hayward’s life in Philadelphia. Finally, I went to Chattanooga National Cemetery to see his gravesite. In conclusion, this Civil War letter project involved a wider breadth of knowledge than I initially expected, and honestly, I think it required me to learn a more diverse array topics about the Civil War than I could have achieved within the parameters of any academically-supervised research project.

BR: How has the book been received so far? It’s probably too early for market info, but how was the peer review process: did anyone make particularly valid points?

TO: The book is brand new, so there are no reviews as of yet. I “debuted” the book at Gettysburg College with a talk I delivered to the public, and the folks who came to see it received it well. The peer review process was exceedingly helpful. Reviewers saw things in a way that I did not. For instance, by the time my manuscript went to peer review, I had scrutinized each letter more than fifty times. Even though I understood the exact meaning of each sentence, I couldn’t always “see the forest through the trees,” to use a hackneyed phrase. It takes well-toned advice to get an author to view the subject matter with a different lens. For instance, in 1861, Hayward wrote about how he and his comrades stole fence rails for firewood. I knew what Hayward meant when he said that. I knew my readers would know what he meant. But it was a reviewer who alerted me to the significance of stealing fence rails for firewood. He argued that it showed, by example, the process of confiscation of southern property—the development of “hard war” to use Mark Grimsley’s phrase—on the ground. In the back of my mind, I always knew this, but I needed a push in the right direction to perceive the significance of this and other subtle processes going on. So in this case, I could easily link Hayward’s letters to the work of another historian. That was a good feeling.

BR: What’s next for you?

TO: My next business is to publish my dissertation research. While I was in graduate school, Hayward’s letters were not my top priority; my dissertation was. As it happened, the Hayward project got completed first. Right now, I’m converting my massive manuscript called “Cities at War” into something readers will enjoy. My research examines mobilization in Northern cities. I unveil the complexities that surrounded the raising of troops, the production of materiel, and the maintenance of popular support for the war on the northern urban home front. I argue that Union victory emerged, in part, from Union efforts to strengthen its mobilization processes, but contrary to myth, successful Union mobilization was never a foregone conclusion in the cities. Plagued as they were with dissent and competing visions, northern cities nearly led the North to the path of defeat.

I have some other Civil War-related research projects in the works, but I plan to fill the void left by the completion of Last to Leave the Field with another “single-soldier study,” as it were, although this project will involve a different branch of service and a different war entirely. My wife and I are going to write a biography of a World War II dive bomber pilot named Capt. N. Jack Kleiss, a veteran who fought in the Battle of Midway. Kleiss won the Navy Cross and the Distinguished Flying Cross for his services in the Pacific Theater, and his well-placed bombs struck two Japanese aircraft carriers, the Kaga and the Hiryu, helping to send them to the bottom of the ocean. Last to Leave the Field has given me some perspective in recounting the life of a single person wrapped up in the turbulent forces of war, and I’m eager to interview Mr. Kleiss and take down his incredible story. Ultimately, I believe that these “single-soldier” studies are useful exercises in the craft of history. They remind us that war is a human experience. Too often, scholars are concerned only with the impact of history on rights, politics, technology, communities, nations, governments, gender, race, class, institutions, and other large-scale subjects. It’s all well and good that we historians focus on these elements, but I prefer to believe that we cannot forget the importance of history on the life of the individual. If human life has intrinsic value, then historians must strive to piece together the biographies of individuals, even if those individuals did not win everlasting fame. So far as military history goes, I’m eager to do that, to be the voice of the forgotten.

We haven’t heard the last from Tim Orr. I’m confident Last to Leave the Field is just the first in what will be a long list of valuable contributions he’ll make over the course his career.





Interview: Glessner and Lindblade, Ten Roads Publishing

30 03 2011

Jim Glessner and Eric Lindblade are two Gettysburg residents who hope to build a business based on their love of Civil War history. Together they form Ten Roads Publishing, and as you can see in the photo below one of them is a fan of the greatest professional football team known to man. I asked if they could take some time and answer a few questions for you and they graciously complied.

Lindblade (L) and Glessner (R)

BR: Ten Roads is a new company and may be unfamiliar to some of our readers. Can you tell us a little bit about yourselves?

EL: I was born and raised in North Carolina, attended East Carolina University and have been fascinated by the Civil War since my first visit to Gettysburg in 1989 when I was six years old. I had previously worked in politics in North Carolina and in August of 2008 I moved to Gettysburg mainly to focus more on my research and writing.

JG: Originally I’m from Somerset County, Pennsylvania, and went to school at Indiana University of Pennsylvania. After that I worked for Clear Channel Entertainment in Pittsburgh for a number of years before moving with my family to Gettysburg in 2007.  Along with being a co-owner of Ten Roads Publishing, I also manage The American History Store, in terms of titles carried the largest bookstore in Gettysburg.

BR: How did the two of you meet?

EL: To be honest it was pretty random how we met. In December of 2008, I was doing some last-minute Christmas shopping at The American History Store where Jim was working.

JG: It was a pretty slow day so we started talking a bit and ended up talking for around an hour. After that we saw each other around town and soon became good friends.

BR: What made you decide to go into business together?

EL: I never really thought I would ultimately make a career out of publishing and in a way just sort of fell into it.  Before we formed the company, I had been looking for a publisher for my book Fight As Long As Possible: The Battle of Newport Barracks, North Carolina, February 2, 1864, and had not really found any options I felt comfortable with. I first looked into self-publishing, but knew from a marketing standpoint that would cause some difficulty. I remember talking to Jim about it and really from that conversation what became Ten Roads Publishing developed.

JG: When we talked about it more we decided to look into starting a small publishing house to do mostly reprints of out of print titles, along with a few new titles. Once we realized how feasible it was from a financial standpoint we formed Ten Roads in May of 2009. One of the advantages of being at The American History Store was gaining a pretty good feel of the Civil War book market, along with getting to know a wide range of authors who signed at the store. This has certainly been a great asset for us as a company moving forward and many of those authors have released books through us, or will in the future.

EL: I handle the operations side of the company, along with public relations; Jim is in charge of marketing and our distribution in Gettysburg. Often Jim’s contacts lead to new manuscripts coming in to the company. I think our roles in the company play to our strengths and it works very well.

BR: Why Ten Roads?

JG: We wanted a name that would be unique and have some relation to Gettysburg where our company is based.  But at the same time we didn’t want a name that would be too Gettysburg related, like Devil’s DenHigh Water Mark, or Round Tops – we didn’t and don’t intend to publish only Gettysburg titles.  I think Ten Roads reflects our love of the Gettysburg area and pays homage to the history here as well.

EL: During the time we were thinking of names I was looking at a reprint of an 1858 map of Adams County, where Gettysburg is located, and noticed that ten roads intersect in the town. The light bulb just went on so I called Jim and we realized we had found our name. I think it gives us a great brand identification as a company.

BR: What is the mission, or niche, of Ten Roads?

JG: Our company mission from the beginning was to publish quality books in terms of historical scholarship, along with making them affordable and enjoyable for the reader.

EL: In terms of a niche, books that relate to Gettysburg will always be our bread and butter so to speak, but in the past two years we have been very pleased with our efforts to branch out into other aspects of the war.

JG: Gettysburg is certainly big for us and always will be, and many of our current and upcoming titles reflect that. However, we want to be more than just a publisher of Gettysburg related titles and many of our upcoming titles are indicative of that.

BR: What was your first title, and how many do you have now?

JG: Our first title was Gettysburg Glimpses:  True Stories from the Battlefield by Scott Mingus released in August of 2009. After that in October of 2009 we published The Alexander Dobbin House in Gettysburg: A Short History by Dr. Walter Powell.  Following the Dobbin House book, we released The Gettysburg Bicentennial Album by William Frassanito, which was a thrill for us because we both have long been fans of Bill’s work and consider him a good friend. Along with the books we published we also distributed John Hoptak’s Our Boys Did Nobly: Schuylkill County, Pennsylvania, Soldiers at the Battles of South Mountain and Antietam. We only had one release in 2010, Eric’s Fight As Long As Possible.

EL:  For most of 2010 we focused primarily on bringing in new manuscripts in addition to expanding market share. In many ways we were setting the stage for 2011, since it is the first of the sesquicentennial years, and we have a very aggressive release schedule lined up. Once all of our spring releases are out we will have 10 titles published by Ten Roads, by the end of 2011 we will have 5 more releases bringing us to 15. Our business model is set up for us to publish around 10 titles a year, and by 2015 to have 55 or so titles as part of Ten Roads Publishing.

BR: How do you assess your success thus far – what have you learned, good and bad?

EL: I think the question has to consider in terms of success at this stage in a start-up company is are you still in business and thriving? We certainly are. We’re right on pace for our goals as a company and I feel we’re set up well for the long-term from a publishing and financial standpoint. I don’t really think in terms of failure, since I don’t think there is an area where as a company we have failed per se, but we have learned quite a bit from the missteps of the past two years, and we are definitely a better company because of them and what we learned. There’s always a learning curve with any new venture; at times it’s been tough, but adversity can either break you or make you stronger and with a sense of pride I can say that it has made us stronger. Today we’re in a great position and expect to be for a long time to come.

JG: I feel we’ve been very successful in attracting authors to our company and building up a strong collection of manuscripts for future release.  But we were both troubled this past year when we heard rumors about the company stemming from the fact that we had just one 2010 release. Our business model guarded against expanding before we were ready, and now we’re in a great position to grow. Perhaps we didn’t communicate our plan as well as we could have, but frankly that was an internal business matter and not exactly for public discussion. I like to paraphrase Mark Twain that “the rumors of our demise have been greatly exaggerated.” We have always had a clear vision of where we wanted to go as a company and what our goals were with it. Overall we are surpassing those goals, but as always there is room for improvement and we work every day to improve and be the best company we can be.

BR: What’s next for Ten Roads?

JG: We are excited for our Spring 2011 releases and feel they will bring a lot to the table. In March we released the first two of those with Human Interest Stories of the Civil War by Scott Mingus, Jr. and Dr. Thomas Mingus, and North Carolina Remembers Gettysburg by Michael Hardy. In April and May we will finish up our Spring releases with A Surgeon’s Tale:  The Civil War Letters of James D. Benton, 111th and 98th New York Infantries, 1862-1865, edited by Christopher Loperfido, The 121st Regiment Pennsylvania Volunteers at Gettysburg compiled by Ed Max, and Gettysburg’s Most Famous Address: The David Wills House by Dr. Walter Powell.

EL: We will be announcing our Summer 2011 releases in late April and I think they will continue to add to the great line up of books we already have. We will also be reprinting The Alexander Dobbin House in Gettysburg and Our Boys Did Nobly. Beyond the spring and summer releases, we have a number of manuscripts we have received that have a lot of potential and will be welcome additions to a lot of book shelves.

Eric and Jim appear to be men with a plan. In tight economies there’s often more opportunity than folks realize. Here’s hoping that Ten Roads Publishing can survive and continue to thrive.





Interview: Susannah Ural, Editor, “Civil War Citizens”

23 02 2011

University of Southern Mississippi professor Susannah Ural has edited a new collection of essays from NYU Press, Civil War Citizens: Race, Ethnicity, and Identity in America’s Bloodiest Conflict. It consists of 7 pieces on Northern and Southern Germans, Northern and Southern Irish, Jewish Confederates, Native Americans, and Northern African-Americans. I first met Professor Ural on a Penn State Mont Alto seminar a few years back, and she’s been nice enough to take some time to answer a few questions about her new book.

BR: Prof. Ural, can you fill the readers in on your background and what you’re doing these days?

SU: In professional terms, I’m an associate professor of history and senior fellow in the University of Southern Mississippi’s Center for the Study of War and Society. I trained in history, especially military history, at Kansas State University, where I earned my M.A. and Ph.D. I’ve been teaching at the university level since 1996 and living in the South since 2000. In personal terms, I grew up all over Pennsylvania, with a little time in North Dakota and bit more in Vermont. I miss crisp New England falls, but I can’t imagine leaving the South now, especially my summers and holidays with my family on the North Carolina coast. 

BR:  What was the genesis of Civil War Citizens?

SU: As I was finishing my monograph, The Harp and the Eagle, which looked at the motivations and experiences of Irish Catholic volunteers in the Union Army, I was speaking with an editor about the fact that there were almost no broad ethnic studies of Civil War soldiers and communities. There’s Ella Lonn’s work on foreigners in the Union and Confederacy, and William Burton wrote a great book called Melting Pot Soldiers, but no one had examined this issue in almost two decades, which is unheard of in Civil War writing, especially when you consider how much our approach to ethnic/immigration history has evolved in the last 20 years. I thought a broad study by experts in their respective fields might offer a lot to the historical community, spark interest in the subject, and highlight areas for future study.

BR: Can you describe the essay and author selection process?

SU: I was already familiar with experts in German-American communities during the Civil War from my M.A. thesis on Peter Osterhaus, a German-born Union officer who rose to corps command. My broad interest in the ethnic/racial experience during the war was long-standing, so I was fairly well aware of those scholars as well. In terms of subject matter, I thought about the largest ethnic groups as well as under-studied communities, and other groups I might want to include to enhance the book’s examination of how American identity is formed. Then I contacted the best individuals working in those areas and, thankfully, they agreed to join the project. My only regret is that the chapter on the Hispanic experience in the war did not quite work out, and I am hoping that our book sparks interest in that area in particular, but in the entire field as well. 

BR: What is the relationship between your own essay and your previous book on Irish Union soldiers?

SU: My chapter is grounded in the theories that originated in my book The Harp and the Eagle, but in this essay I included some new material that did not appear in that book. This collection, though, allowed me to show readers how the northern Irish-American experience compared to the southern Irish-American response to the war, and then to compare these with the experiences of other racial, ethnic, and religious communities across the Union and the Confederacy. I could not take that broad approach with my first book, and relished in the opportunity to do this with Civil War Citizens. 

I love looking at individuals responding to war.  It could be soldiers and why they volunteer, their experiences in combat, the impact of the war on their families, or how conflict impacts their larger communities. When you study people or communities at war, you can gain fascinating insights into how they define themselves; how they prioritize their values. There is no vacillating in times of war. People, just like nations, are forced to reflect on their values and take a stand on certain issues or back down. Then, when you apply these questions to groups that were already struggling with their identity—immigrants or other minority groups; those who fell outside the dominant sections of society—these questions and their answers become even more fascinating.

BR: How has the book been received?

SU: So far so good. We have terrific endorsements from historians Peter Carmichael, Aaron Sheehan-Dean, and Chris Samito, and Catherine Clinton praised it as “pioneering” in her recent review in Civil War Times Illustrated.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process?

SU: It usually begins with a curious photo or comment or generally accepted truth. Then I start digging to learn more. In the case of Irish Catholic soldiers, it was the accepted fact that they fought to prove their loyalty to America and gain acceptance. That puzzled me when I reflected on their writings, which more often referenced a desire to gain military experience, a solid income, or preserve American Union for future Irishmen. In the case of the Texas Brigade, I wanted to know what made them an elite unit and why wealthy Southerners sometimes held them up as the beau ideal of Confederate soldiers and at other times seemed embarrassed of their rougher habits. I was curious to see if the Texans could offer us a lens into Confederate wartime identity, and they have.

So, my curiosity leads to more and more digging in archives and private collections, reading every published source I can get my hands on, and then a heck of a lot quiet time in a hard chair, writing away and then revising, then more fresh writing, followed by more revising, and a few more research trips. I’m a better writer in the early morning hours while my son’s still asleep, so I tend to get up at 4 am, write for about two hours, get both of us off to school, and then write more at work, especially on the days I don’t teach. The writing, though, is blended with heated debates with friends and colleagues as I try to make sense of the puzzles that always surface.  There are also a wealth of battlefield hikes to test what I’ve written, followed by more heated debates at places like O’Rorke’s in Gettysburg, where you’ll find us peering over maps spread across the table, held down by copies of the Official Records. That’s followed by more writing and rewriting, and then I send the manuscript out to a few friends for an early read, and then off to the editor who sends it out to even more folks to see if they think it’s ready for publication or if it requires additional work. 

BR: What’s next for you?

SU: I’m finishing my book on John Bell Hood’s famous Texas Brigade, called Hood’s Texans. It’s both a traditional unit history and a socio-military study of the men, their families, and the Confederacy at war. T. Harry Williams once said that a unit history, when done well, is a study of democracy at war.  That’s my goal with this book. As I mentioned earlier, I discuss why Southerners described Hood’s Texans, at times, as the beau ideal of their army and Southern manhood: rugged, independent, honor-driven, and brave soldiers. At other times, though, the Texans represented a side of the white South that elites preferred not to discuss: rough, uneducated, ill-disciplined, and brutal. These contradictions within the unit and the larger Confederacy flow throughout my book, highlighting how the men and their families changed, and in other ways remained unchanged, as a result of the war. The final two chapters examine the veterans and their communities in the postwar period as they struggled to adjust to a strange new world of emancipation, occupation, and defeat, and then worked to shape the way in which future generations would remember their service.

The next book is tentatively titled The Southern Way of War. I want to explore why Southerners continue to dominate the enlisted ranks of today’s American military, and come close to dominating the officer population. Is this simply due to the fact that people from rural areas are more likely to serve in the armed forces?  If so, why does Brooklyn rank so high among enlisted personnel? Is it a matter of economic need and the opportunity the military installations so clearly offer across the South? Maybe, but there seems to be something else, too, and I think it’s tied to the white South and their memory of the Civil War, which is then complicated as increasing numbers of African-Americans and women joined the armed forces in the twentieth century. So I’m tinkering with that now, but first I have to finish the Texas Brigade book.  Speaking of which….

Thanks to Prof. Ural for taking the time to update us on her upcoming works, and for providing detail for Civil War Citizens. It looks like we’ll be hearing plenty from her in the near future, and I’m sure plenty of you are looking forward to Hood’s Texans.





Interview: Hirsch & Van Haften, “Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason”

13 12 2010

Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason (Savas Beatie) is probably the most original thesis (or at this point, is it antithesis?) I’ve run across in a long while.  First-time authors and long-time friends David Hirsh (below first) and Dan Van Haften (below second) have been drawing a lot of attention with their study of Lincoln’s consistent use of principles of geometry in the construction of his speeches.  The two-headed Danvid answered a few questions for Bull Runnings.

BR:  Can you tell the readers about yourselves?

DH/DVH:  We met in the first grade.  David is a Des Moines attorney. For more than 10 years he co-authored the technology column for the ABA Journal.  Dan, who lives in suburban Chicago, retired from Alcatel-Lucent in 2007 after 37 years.  His work involved developing and testing telecommunications systems.

BR:   You have unusual backgrounds for Lincoln authors – particularly Dan.   Can you describe the winding road that led you to the wonderful world of Lincoln scholarship?

DH/DVH:  Dan first became interested in Abraham Lincoln in the 1990s when he attended three-day Lincoln seminars in Springfield. In 2006 David was thinking about researching a column for the ABA Journal on how Lincoln would have fared practicing law with today’s technology. Dan joined David and his wife in Springfield. Dan functioned as tour guide; David did research in the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library. After going through the old Lincoln and Herndon law office, David commented that Abraham Lincoln’s law practice, and small-town midwest law practice in the 1970s appeared to have many similarities. Then we visited the old Springfield train station from which Lincoln departed to Washington as President-elect never to return. David read the plaque outside the station containing Lincoln’s short farewell address. The combination of the touring and the research hooked David on Lincoln. He commented, “I used to think I knew something about Lincoln; I knew nothing.” There is nothing unusual about a lawyer being interested in Lincoln. It is true however that most Lincoln scholars are not lawyers. Added to that is the fact that not much substantive primary source material survives from Lincoln’s law practice. There was no official, court reported, stenographic record back then of opening and closing statements to juries, or of witness examinations. Nor was there recording of appellate oral arguments. Those are the things everyone would love to see. Plus briefs then were truly brief, not what they are today. Modern technology has made more of what survives generally available. That includes many arcane hand-drafted Lincoln legal documents. There are fine source books now like The Papers of Abraham Lincoln: Legal Documents and Cases, and Herndon’s Informants, and others. Things fell into place. It turned out that Dan’s math background was an ideal match for David’s legal background. When the book started there was no thought about how useful the math background would be for the book. It was one of many surprises. A secret was ready to be revealed.

BR:  How would you describe your writing and research process?

DH/DVH:  The process of two people jointly writing a book could be a book in itself. It greatly helped that we have known each other since the first grade. Obviously email, Google Books, telephone, Skype, web access to major sources including Basler’s The Collected Works all made it easier. For instance, we each had a print version of major Lincoln resources like Basler. The ability to digitally search was an added and valued tool. We wanted to focus on primary sources.

The initial plan was to focus on Lincoln’s work as a lawyer. We consciously decided that we did not want to deal with Lincoln’s presidential years and his speeches. Countless books had already done that. We felt his Lincoln’s law practice had been under-treated, mainly because of a lack of data. We wanted to use Lincoln’s law practice as a tool to both illuminate it and, by comparison, examine modern legal issues. Little did we realize where this would lead.

Right around the time of the decision not to write about Lincoln’s presidential years and his speeches, Dan stated, “The first thing I want to do is read the complete Lincoln-Douglas debates and the Cooper Union Speech.” To put it mildly, David thought this was a peculiar place to start given the topic limitation that was agreed on. But, not wanting to limit Dan’s creativity, David made no comment. Dan came back with a seven-page handwritten summary of key items from the Lincoln-Douglas debates. One paragraph included a reference which mentioned Euclid. David immediately became excited. David had always believed there was a relationship between math and language, and in his youth had wasted many hours looking for that connection. He instantly felt that this would lead to the connection between math and speech. David asked Dan to find everything in Lincoln literature that discussed or referenced Euclid.

Dan reported that not much was there other than that Lincoln mastered the first six books of Euclid, and his purpose was to learn what it meant to demonstrate.

So David said to Dan , “Do what Lincoln did; study the first six books of Euclid and find out what it means to demonstrate. Then when you find out what demonstrate means, find the best Lincoln example showing it.”

Dan studied Euclid, and then looked at Proclus’ commentary on Euclid. Proclus was a fifth century neo-Platonist philosopher. Dan determined the six elements of a proposition, which Euclid uses to prove his propositions, were used by Lincoln for the structure of the Cooper Union speech. The rest, literally, is history. Suddenly we were propelled into examining Lincoln speeches and his presidential years, in addition to his law practice. It turns out all of this nicely blended into a unified theme. We continued to rely most on primary sources, letting Lincoln speak for himself as much as possible. Then we turned to what his contemporaries said. Once we knew what demonstrate meant, we knew what to look for. Everything fell into place.

BR:  OK, this is probably the most original premise I’ve seen for a Lincoln study in a long time.   Keeping in mind that I scored higher on verbal than math on my SAT, and that the only time I consciously use geometry is when I play pool, can you briefly explain the principles of Euclidean geometry, how we know that Lincoln studied and mastered them, and how you demonstrate that Lincoln consciously used them when composing his speeches?

DH/DVH:  We cover no math in the book more complicated than 2 + 2 = 4. What we do cover is the hidden verbal template that underlies Euclid’s form, which Lincoln uniquely transferred to political argument and speech. This verbal template is profound, but simple.

We know Lincoln studied and mastered Euclidean geometry because he tells us he did in his short 1860 autobiography for John L. Scripps. Furthermore many Lincoln contemporaries who travelled with him on the Circuit comment on Lincoln pulling out Euclid and studying by candlelight. What Lincoln’s colleagues don’t know, and what Lincoln does not say, is specifically what he learned from Euclid. The common assumption, until now, was Lincoln learned Euclid for recreation or to sharpen his mind, kind of like mental calisthenics.

The actual technique is simple, though it takes a little practice to feel comfortable with it.

Here are the names of the six elements of a Euclidean proposition:

  • enunciation
  • exposition
  • specification
  • construction
  • proof
  • conclusion

Now for the definitions. Bear with us. The definitions, when taken together are simple. The terms themselves can be confusing at first because they are unfamiliar in this context. If you want to use this system you should first memorize the names and order of the six elements, then gradually internalize what they are.

For the enunciation, think in terms of: Why are we here. It contains short, indisputable facts. They are part of the given. It also includes a sought. This is a high level statement of the general issue being discussed.

For the exposition, think in terms of: What do we need to know relating to what is given. These are additional facts, generally fairly simple, and indisputable. These facts take what was in the enunciation’s given, and prepare for use in the investigation (in the construction).

For the specification, think: What are we trying to prove. The specification is a more direct restatement of the enunciation’s sought. While the sought is frequently neutrally stated, the specification is a direct statement of the proposition to be proved.

For the construction, think: How do the facts lead to what is sought. The construction adds what is lacking in the given for finding what is sought.

For the proof, think in terms of: How does the admitted truth confirm the proposed inference. The proof draws the proposed inference by reasoning scientifically from the propositions that have been admitted.

For the conclusion, think: What has been proved. The conclusion reverts back to the enunciation confirming what has been proved. The conclusion should be straightforward, forceful, and generally short.

We go into many more aspects of the technique in the book, simplifying and explaining. We also demarcate about 30 Lincoln writings into the six elements of a proposition. Once a Lincoln writing is demarcated, one is literally able to get inside Lincoln’s head. One sees how and why Lincoln makes his word choices.

In between the demarcations are many Lincoln stories showing his character and his characteristics. These give further insight into the man himself which make it easier to feel like one is truly inside his brain. Harvard professor and author John Stauffer characterizes our book as a sophisticated detective story. It is also a how-to manual. Anyone can be an Abraham Lincoln.

To answer your question of how we show Lincoln used this system, the 30 demarcations are the best evidence. The stories and historical comments that surround the demarcations reinforce the conclusion that this was a secret hiding in plain sight. We even construct an “I say” table that further confirms our proposition. You will have to read the book to find out what that is.

BR:  That’s fascinating stuff!  Was Lincoln unique in his use of Euclid’s template?

DH/DVH:  Yes and no. We discovered (for the first time) that Thomas Jefferson used this format for the Declaration of Independence and for his Virginia Statute for Religious Freedom. Jefferson even refers to the religious freedom statute as a proposition. The Declaration proves the proposition that it is our right and duty to throw off allegiance to the British Crown and become free and independent. We demarcate both Declaration and the Statute for Religious Freedom in Chapter 13 of  the book. Like other discoveries in the book, we could not believe we were able to make this discovery so many years after these documents were drafted, and so many years after so many books had been written about them.

Lincoln was an admirer of the Declaration of Independence, and one can speculate that he recognized Jefferson’s use of Euclidean structure in the Declaration. We will never know. Many long regarded the Declaration as Euclidean, for instance the phrase, “all men are created equal”.  We found no reference to the six elements of a proposition in connection with the Declaration. The six elements had essentially been lost in the dust bin of history.

BR:  Are there any speakers (political or otherwise) today who you’ve identified as using this method?

DH/DVH:  Both of the authors have used the technique. The last person prior to that that the authors know used the technique was Abraham Lincoln. Lincoln brilliantly transferred the language of geometrical proof to the language of political speech. The technique is usable by anyone. But even if you do not want to learn to speak and write like Lincoln, the technique is invaluable for finding weak spots in others’ arguments. It squeezes out sophistries. And if all you want to do is understand Lincoln better, you can reach a level of Lincoln understanding never before possible.

BR:  Did your research turn up anything that either surprisingly supported or contradicted any notions you held prior to beginning the project?

DH/DVH:  We had no significant prior notions. We followed the evidence wherever it led. It led us to Euclid, which led us to the six elements of a proposition. Only at that point did we set out to prove what Lincoln accomplished. We did not initially intend to cover Lincoln’s presidential years or his speeches. But we needed his speeches to prove our proposition. That led us to Lincoln’s great deception in his Cooper Union Speech, explained in Chapter 3. That again was something we did not anticipate. We could not believe that had gone undiscovered for over 150 years. But it was the six elements that indirectly led us to discover Lincoln’s Cooper Union deception. And in the process of all this, we returned to our original theme. The legal system itself proved to be Euclidean. This is what completes the explanation of how Lincoln was Lincoln.

BR:  How has your book been received so far?   In particular, what has been the reaction of the Lincoln establishment?

DH/DVH:  So far we have received warm embrace. There are flattering adjectives like “groundbreaking”, “astounding”, and “wow moments”. From our standpoint the book was a joy to research and write.

BR:  What’s next for you?

DH/DVH:  The is an endless series of topics to carry forward with the discoveries in Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason. If we find time, we will not run out of topics.

I’m not sure how David and Dan, alone or together, are going to top this effort, but if Abraham Lincoln and the Structure of Reason is any indication, whatever they come up with should be unique.  You can keep up with their doings at www.thestructureofreason.com.





Interview: Gary Ecelbarger, “The Day Dixie Died”

8 12 2010

I first met author Gary Ecelbarger about ten years ago on a tour of the 2nd Bull Run Campaign.  Our senses of humor run along the same lines and we got along well, so we’ve kept in touch off and on, and we booked him for a discussion group tour of the Shenandoah Valley a few years ago.  Gary has a new book out on the Battle of Atlanta, and agreed to talk about it with Bull Runnings.

BR: Gary, can you fill the readers in on your background?

GE: The most important thing to know about me is that I have never played the lottery, never took a vitamin, never purchased bottled water for myself, and have never been convicted of a felony.  That said and out of the way, I should add that I have had a life-long interest in history beginning while growing up in North Tonawanda, NY, 10 miles upriver from Niagara Falls; but I chose science as my academic background, graduating with an M.S. from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. I’ve lived in Western NY for 23 years, Wisconsin for 5, and  Northern Virginia for almost 20 years (the math should tally up to 48 years). I’ve been married since 1989 and reside about 20 miles west of Washington D.C. in Annandale, VA with my wife Carolyn (a Georgetown professor) and three teen-aged children. I’ve worked at area hospitals for most of that time, primarily in ICUs, where I’ve taught a little, conducted some research, and primarily have developed nutritional regimens to infuse through IV lines or through tubes into very sick people.

I started writing history in the mid-90s. The Day Dixie Died: The Battle of Atlanta is my eighth book which includes two co-written works. I have also published about 20 articles.  My book, magazine, and journal topics are primarily focused in the mid 1800s.  I also have researched heavily into the life and times of Abraham Lincoln, the American Revolution and Western exploration.  I have spoken at several symposia and conducted tours within all these arenas of yesteryear– hired by touring companies, Civil War Roundtables, and other historic-minded organizations.

For what it’s worth I used to be as crazy for professional sports as I was for history but when your boyhood idol kills his wife and another, and your team loses four consecutive Super Bowls and hasn’t made major waves in 15 years, that interest gets tempered a bit. But I’m still a Bills fan and have followed the Atlanta Braves since the 70s—from the days of Hank Aaron, Ralph Garr, Phil Niekro, Bob Horner, and Dale Murphy. I like hockey and still consider the Miracle on Ice as the most thrilling event I ever saw although my kids will never appreciate it. Sometimes I miss the Cold War!

I must say I enjoy everything that I do which is really what life is all about, isn’t it?

BR:  What sparked your interest in history in general and the Civil War especially, and what made you decide to publish?

GE:  I remember migrating to history books in my elementary school years. My father also shares this interest which he and I discuss more now than we even did when I was a child. I chose American history courses as all my electives as an undergraduate in Buffalo.

My interest in the Civil War has been with me since childhood but it blossomed to a passion more than 20 years ago during my graduate school years in Wisconsin when I took a trip to visit my then-girlfriend’s (and now my wife’s) brother in a Maryland suburb of D.C.  We stopped at Gettysburg along the way and I became so hooked that I finagled a way for us to visit Manassas, Antietam, and Harper’s Ferry during this vacation. I devoured nearly 50 books about the Civil War in one year after coming back to Madison (I remember slipping in chapters here and there between rat experiments in the lab where I worked).  The basement stacks of the state historical library and archives became my morning routine and also where I started researching topics through their extensive and national newspaper collections. I’d be lying if I said that the Civil War played no role in my decision to take a job in Northern Virginia—within an hour’s drive of so many battlefields—at the end of ’91.

My interest and research experience intensified throughout the 90s.  I live 20 miles from the Library of Congress and National Archives. I took an interest in Kernstown with me from Madison and met the people necessary to conduct me on my first trip onto private property to visit the battlefield. I turned that into my first book topic (“We are in for it!”,: The First Battle of Kernstown), urged on by Bill Miller who had recently organized the Bull Run Civil War Roundtable and as then editor of a Civil War magazine, he oversaw my first publications of book reviews and other small pieces, including an editing credit for a wonderful letter I found on the Battle of Shiloh which was still getting cited nearly 15 years after I had it published.  Bill encouraged me to turn my Kernstown research into a book and also got me in contact with the folks at White Mane (they had published his Camp Curtain book) and they took on my Kernstown project.  Perhaps I eventually would have entered the magazine and book writing world, but Bill Miller is the reason that all started in the mid-90s.

BR:  Can you walk us through the progression from your first book to this one?

GE:  I’m really glad you asked that question (not that I was suggesting that your other questions  were subpar!). If someone sees that between the summer of 2005 and today that I have published 4 books, the first thing that would pop in their heads is that these must be the product of incomplete, haphazard research.  That’s what I would think, so it’s important to see how I took advantage of the cycle of researching, writing, and publishing as book.

I finished the Kernstown manuscript in the early spring of ’96, but it would not be published for nearly 1 ½ years.  In that time I was hired by Kirk Denkler, an editor of the Voices of Civil War Series for Time-Life Books (a lucky break for me). Denkler got word of all the unpublished letters I discovered about the 1862 Shenandoah Valley Campaign and had me write captions and battle descriptions for their Valley volume and for the Fredericksburg book that followed. By the time the Kernstown book was published I had already started writing my biography of a Western explorer and general named Frederick Lander. He commanded Shields’s division until 3 weeks before Kernstown when he unexpectedly died.  The first chapter of my Kernstown book was my lead in to him.  I published that book (Frederick W. Lander: The Great Natural American Soldier) with LSU Press in 2000 and was already working on my Front Royal Winchester book in the year and a half between manuscript submission and the publication of Lander. I wrote 8 chapters of that Valley book and then sat on it for almost 8 years after I was unsuccessful at landing an agent to represent it.

In the meantime, before Lander was published and while I was writing Front Royal/Winchester I became fascinated by “Black Jack” Logan and also the Atlanta campaign.  I researched both topics together and separately for a few years and decided to write a one-volume bio of Logan’s life and career.  I made the conscious decision not to craft this as a Civil War book (completely opposite from my approach to Lander), but rather a fairly equal and representation of his entire life—almost a political bio of a Civil War general. I succeeded in getting representation for this, submitted the manuscript in ’04, and got it published (Black Jack Logan: An Extraordinary Life in Peace and War) by Lyon’s Press in the summer of ’05.  I deliberately kept much of my Atlanta campaign material out of that book knowing it would receive a separate treatment someday.

Now comes some major overlap of several book topics and a big career decision. Late in the autumn of ’03 I made my first of what would be at least half a dozen trips to Springfield, Illinois to research Logan material at the state library and archives and also to plan a Lincoln tour for the Civil War Education Association. I decided to expand my research to include pre-Presidential Lincoln, or as I like to call it LBTB—Lincoln Before the Beard. The tour I designed throughout central Illinois included a heavy focus on events leading to Lincoln’s nomination. Two years later with much more Lincoln research completed by the fall of ’05 and a few months after Logan came out, I realized I should get a trade publisher to take a Lincoln topic with the Lincoln Bicentennial approaching, but my research and writing projects were restricted by my full-time (and then some) clinical job.  With my wife’s blessing I took a shot and did what a writer should never do—I quit my day job at the end of ‘05 after 14 years to try to make a full-time career as a writer, speaker, and tour guide.

I went back to full-time hospital work exactly four years later (insert heavy sigh here). I could blame the sudden turn in the economy, but it would have been tough even in a boom.  I was productive, though. In the winter of ’06 I finished the remaining chapters of the old Front Royal/Winchester book and found an excellent home for it with the University of Oklahoma Press. I also landed an agent for my Lincoln nomination project—Ed Knappman of New England Publishing Associates. He struck a deal with Thomas Dunne Books (an imprint of St. Martin’s Press) and I spent the rest of 2006 and the first half of 2007 completing the research and writing that manuscript. Early in ’08 I believe, the good folks at Thomas Dunne suggested to Ed that they would be interested in publishing a Civil War book from me if there was a big battle out there that had yet to be covered. I pounced on that one with the Battle of Atlanta (By this time I had already conducted four of my five trips down there to study what was left of the field and conduct more research) and immediately went to work on it.

This is how I suddenly had three books published on completely unrelated Civil War era topics in the past 30 months. Three Days in the Shenandoah, Stonewall Jackson at Front Royal and Winchester, mostly written between 2000-2002, was published in April of 2008; The Great Comeback: How Abraham Lincoln Beat the Odds to Win the 1860 Republican Nomination, written in 2006-2007, was published five months later in September of 2008; and now The Day Dixie Died, written in 2008-2009 and submitted in October of 2009, has just been released this past Thanksgiving.  And boy am I thankful I got all of that–along with a few articles, several speeches and several history tours, and a fairly extensive book tour—completed before I went back to work again in February of 2010.

BR:  What is your research/writing process?

GE:  I think the previous answer offered a good glimpse into my process.  I can only write in the mornings.  Prior to 2006 I would write from about 4:30 a.m. until I left for work. During my four-year retirement, I began a few hours later but I usually was done before noon.  I would review material I intended to use in my morning’s work the evening before.  I’m not much of a typist and rarely write more than a couple of pages in a stint, but I usually get 5-6 days in per week so I usually could finish writing a book manuscript within 12-15 months from the start date. After Kernstown, my start date for each book usually began the day after I submitted the previous manuscript. That running tradition ended last year after I submitted the Atlanta manuscript. This past year is the first time in 15 years that I have gone more than a month without actively writing a book.

I usually feel comfortable enough to start writing with about 65-75% of the research completed and then fill in the blanks as I acquire new and usable material. My books are outlined in chapter summaries before I write them. This is a requirement for a nonfiction book proposal which is submitted with just one or two sample chapters written. With one exception (the Lincoln book), I rarely begin with chapter one. For example, I wrote the battle chapters first in all three of my battle books and finished with the introductory and concluding material afterwards. Similarly, the first chapter of both of my biographies ended up being the last chapter I wrote. I can never be convincingly charged with having a padded bibliography because I create my bibliographies from my footnotes, so I only reference in the end what I cite within a chapter.  I don’t use index cards or transcribed notes—I am a photocopy animal. I organize my sources as copies of letters, diaries, memoirs, archive material, newspapers, etc. and either group them by subtopic or by chapter where they are intended to be used.  I get familiar with a source by the way it looks as a photocopy—I still remember how photocopied items look many years after I have used them for a book.

If I have a knack about anything as a writer it is the ease at which I can compartmentalize a battle or a life story into distinct chapters. I tend to end my chapters with a little cliffhanger or two to entice the reader to go on to the next one. I don’t hash out disagreements between claims in primary source material in the narrative; instead, I’ll come down on one side or another based on the quality and quantity of the available evidence and then bring out the opposition to my conclusion in the respective footnote. I always try to maintain a strong flow of the story without throwing in speculations and suppositions to break the flow, but make sure to elaborate on “the story behind the story” in the footnotes.

My research techniques have evolved with experience and time. Prior to 2002 or so the Internet was not that helpful to me for history research; now it is a godsend. Except for hiring private researchers to acquire some genealogy and local history work for biographies and researcher extraordinaire Bryce Suderow for archival work for one of my battle books, I usually conduct my own research and gladly accept items generously provided by others. I have already accumulated primary source material for three future projects while on research trips for books that I was writing at the time. I try to keep my book topics finite enough to make research a fruitful and not too expansive effort. For example, I didn’t delve into Army of the Cumberland sources for my Battle of Atlanta book since they were not active in the battle, realizing however, that there may have been opinions or first-hand accounts within that material pertinent to my topic that I missed.  I had to cut off the notion of reading a Union soldier’s Peachtree Creek letter in the hopes he talked about the Atlanta battle two days later because he would not be a participant of that battle and if he said anything, it was likely a hearsay opinion.

I learned to look for things I never had access to or conceived a decade ago.  I purposely spell names wrong in search engines in hopes of – and oftentimes succeeding in – finding a primary account where the soldier misspelled his commander’s name or where he was. For biographies, if I look for an opinion or account of something that occurred, for example, in the first week of January of 1864, I’ve learned to look at handwritten letters also headed with an early January date in 1863, because human tendency was and still is to misdate letters, documents, checks, etc., in a new year with the previous year’s designation for the first week or so. (I wonder how many good Stones River/Murfreesboro accounts are still hidden in letters dated January of 1862 rather than 1863.)  But now I am straying from the topic . . . The most important facet of my research is newspaper letters.  They are a researcher’s dream: they are primary source material, oftentimes contemporary, already transcribed, and not subject to copyright infringement, and although they are technically considered “published,” they have been virtually unseen for nearly 150 years.  I use more than 50 of these in my latest book and placed them under a separate bibliographic heading rather than the misleading “Newspapers Cited.”

BR:  There have been two books on the battles for Atlanta released over the past two years. How does yours differ from those?

GE:  I was aware that both of those books were being written either before or very early into my battle book. From what I heard at the time I was convinced that my subject was much more pinpointed than theirs and when both of those books came out in the summer of ’09 I was relieved to see that they not only don’t repeat my topic, they enhance interest in the period. The Bonfire: The Siege and Burning of Atlanta is primarily a social history about Atlanta during the war and the war’s impact upon its citizenry. War Like the Thunderbolt: The Battle and Burning of Atlanta includes “The Battle of Atlanta” in the subtitle but is actually referring to “the battles for Atlanta.”  That book deals with the last half of the Atlanta Campaign with a focus on its effect on the city. He has two chapters dedicated to the same topic as my book. I believe it is Mr. Bonds himself who proclaims the need for book-length attention to the individual battles of the campaign. Regardless, I read both books with interest and relief that mine was not a copycat of theirs. I think they are both outstanding books.

BR:   Were there any surprises you uncovered in your research, or anything that conflicted with or confirmed any notions you may have held prior to starting the project?

GE:  I approached this book the same way I did with the other battle books I have written. I tried to rid myself of any preconceived notions from other secondary sources and let the primary source research direct me. This battle was more difficult to interpret compared to the Shenandoah Valley battles I covered. There are powerful voices from the past making claims that are absolutely refuted by the Official Records and other solid primary sources.  For example General Sherman in his memoirs insisted that The Army of the Tennessee fought the battle alone without assistance from their northern neighbor, Schofield’s Army of the Ohio.  Yet, it’s clear that 10,000 members of that army were deployed to do just that.  They were never engaged but they were deployed late in the afternoon.  Also, the notion that XVII Corps troops fought a two-front contest on and near Bald Hill by jumping from one side of the earthworks to the other and back again is literally true, but the impression that this feat was accomplished seemingly after every volley or two may only be true for one harried Iowa regiment at the end of the line. Other corps members fought a two-front battle but not against troops that were attacking consecutively from opposite directions.  Instead, one side seemingly attacked within minutes after their comrades converging from the opposite direction were repulsed. I even found that I could not accept the tradition surrounding the deaths of the highest ranking officers on each side. General McPherson could not have been mortally wounded as late as 2:02 p.m. as a damaged watch found by an orderly suggests, but in my opinion, it had to be at least 20 minutes earlier. I also refute the site of Confederate General William H. T. Walker’s death, and place it at 1:00 p.m. instead of before noon and I also place it about a mile northwest of where his monument currently stands.

I came to realize that to interpret this battle General Hood must not be viewed through the prism of the Tennessee Campaign which followed—two entirely different campaigns run by a general who was not the same commander at Atlanta than he was at Franklin and Nashville. I find much less to fault in Hood’s strategy and tactics at Atlanta than most others who have written about him. The similarities to Hood’s circumstances and Robert E. Lee’s in front of Richmond in the late spring and summer of 1862 are remarkable. Both men necessarily sacrificed 20,000 troops to save their beleaguered city from capture. Lee succeeded and Hood failed in the end, but I don’t credit the obvious difference in talent between Lee and Hood to be the major determinant to those disparate outcomes. I also maintain that the Army of Tennessee divisions and brigades defending Atlanta were clearly more experienced and led by commanders who were at least the equals of those in Lee’s army two years before. In my mind the major difference in the outcome was the confidence, efficiency, experience and skill of the Western soldiers fighting within Sherman’s three armies compared to those in McClellan’s Army of the Potomac in 1862. This is clearly apparent at the Battle of Atlanta. On opposite ends of the Union line troops were routed from their entrenchments and yet the panic was isolated, it did not last, and was replaced by resurgence to claim the lost ground. I can only point to Cedar Creek three months later as an example where you see this on a comparative scale to Atlanta on July 22, 1864. Hood’s battle plan perhaps was too ambitious to pull off but it had a chance to work except that the army he struck again and again refused to leave the field. The fact that Hood was applying a go-for-broke strategy—a “Hail Mary” if you will—indicates that he was considering in forethought what I have concluded in hindsight: that the Battle of Atlanta was the turning point of the campaign.

I also have appreciated from my work on this project that the unit of tactical impact in 1861 and early in 1862 appears to be the regiment, but in 1864 this progresses to the brigade and division. Brigades in 1864 were not only close to the size of regiments in 1861-1862 but also the added two years of experience made the brigade a much more cohesive fighting unit. No better example of this can be seen than by the accomplishment of Brigadier General Daniel Govan’s Arkansas brigade (in Cleburne’s Division), who turned in one of the most spectacular performances in the War. In less than half an hour Govan’s men routed a larger Iowa brigade (a unit that had proven the day before and would prove later this day that it was no pushover)  from its entrenchments—earthworks supported by artillery—killing, wounding and capturing more than 400 Federal soldiers and capturing 8 cannons. This was an awesome performance that should not have gone unnoticed as long as it did.

These were some of the many new “takes” on the battle that I have discovered.

BR:  How was this book different to write compared to your others, particularly those about the 1862 Shenandoah Valley battles?

GE:  This book required more pre-planning than any book I have written before, largely because of the inherent impediments that have bogged down writers and readers of the Atlanta Campaign and other campaigns of the Western theater.  The too-similar names of the opposing armies are a good indicator of these troubles: Army of Tennessee versus the Army of the Tennessee. There are six brigade and division commanders surnamed “Smith” in this battle and very few of the generals, Smith or otherwise, in this contest are household names of the Civil War except to those well versed in the Atlanta campaign. My challenge was to not only create a purely nonfiction battle study for them but to broaden the appeal to Eastern Theater Civil War aficionados and general readers of American history without condescending to the Western Theater buffs. Adding to these challenges is working around large-scale attacks (such as that conducted by General Carter Stevenson’s division) which have almost no documentation in the official records or any other useful primary source document.

Not to be overlooked is the mind-numbing challenge to rookie and veteran readers of recognizing Confederate brigades and divisions identified by a previous, popular commander who no longer leads the unit in this battle. For example, General Granbury no longer leads Granbury’s Brigade in this battle—Brigadier General James A. Smith does. So why should I ever mention Granbury’s name? This source of confusion comes up front and center when we deal with Cheatham’s Division of Tennessee soldiers in Hardee’s Corps. General Cheatham isn’t in charge of these men at the Battle of Atlanta; General George Maney is. Cheatham’s in charge of Hood’s Corps in this battle.  See the problem?  If I write “Cheatham’s men” am I referring to the Tennesseans in Cheatham’s Division or to the soldiers in Hood’s Corps, now commanded by Cheatham?  And I definitely wanted to avoid the cumbersome reminder like: “Cheatham’s Division commanded this day by General Maney.”

After working this out and testing it in bar-stool discussions with folks on my tours I found a way to write this narrative far different from most of the styles I have read in the past, and I included a special “Author’s Note” at the beginning of the book to inform the reader of the pitfalls and what I have done to avoid them.  Long story short, I avoid the official names of both armies in the same sentence or paragraph, I always use the full name of Colonel Smith or General Smith (as well as in the maps), and I refer to a Confederate brigade or division only by its commander on the battlefield followed by a lower case letter to designate the unit (i.e., Maney’s division instead of Cheatham’s Division).

I also deliberately chose to describe my attacks at the regimental level as I have done in the past, but sometimes l kept the description at that of the brigade. I experimented with complete regimental descriptions within all brigades but came to the conclusion that while this tact appeals to many readers of military history, it also unnecessarily jeopardized the comprehension of what I was trying to describe if I found that the regiments were working cohesively within the brigade (refer to my earlier position on Civil War brigades in 1864). My maps also reflect this decision; many of them show regiments while others are depicted at the brigade level. I also need to admit here that the occasional dearth of source material available to describe a portion of the battle, particularly on the Confederate side, prevented me from breaking down a brigade to its components because I did not (and still do not) know exactly how all the regiments were aligned within the brigade. A recent and fair review from Drew Wagenhoffer recognizes this decision and appears to understand the reason for it and accepts it.  I hope other readers agree with his conclusion.

BR:  How has the book been received so far?

GE:  Reviews thus far have been positive. I am confident with what I found, what I wrote, and how I wrote it. The book won’t appeal to some and others may have preferred a different emphasis, but I’m certain that all will read a story that either they had never heard before or one that clarifies a previously muddled interpretation.

BR:   What’s next for you?

GE:  There will be a “next” but I need to adapt to a new timetable since I now leave for work at the same time I used to write before work. I’m not sure if this will be the next book yet, but a natural follow up to The Day Dixie Died is a book about the next battle of the campaign fought between these two “Tennessee” armies: The Battle of Ezra Church.

Hopefully Gary can continue to produce good books despite his return to the workforce and retaking his palce as a productive member of society.  I suspect he will.








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