Interview: James S. Price, “The Battle of New Market Heights”

18 10 2011

Public historian and blogger James S. “Jimmy” Price is the author of the recently released The Battle of New Market Heights: Freedom Will be Theirs by the Sword. I’ve never met Jimmy, but am acquainted with him via his blog and Facebook. So when I learned of this new study of a relatively little known engagement involving US Colored Troops I was intrigued and thought maybe some of you would be, too. So I shamelessly begged a copy, looked it over, and did my thing.

BR: Jimmy, we usually start off here with a little background information. Can you tell us a little about yourself?

JP: I had the great privilege of being born in the best sports town in America (and by that, of course, I mean Pittsburgh, PA). My family moved to Richmond when I was five years old, which was just in time for the 125th anniversary of the Civil War. History soon became my passion and I got involved with re-enacting at the age of 15. I was also fortunate enough to have wonderful parents who supported me while I made peanuts working at some local museums and battlefields. I was able to gain some great work experience at places like Petersburg National Battlefield and Richmond National Battlefield Park. This opened the door to doing more serious work at Pamplin Historical Park and The American Civil War Center at Historic Tredegar. At the same time I was pursuing an academic career in history, completing my undergraduate work at Virginia Commonwealth University in 2005 and grad school at Norwich University in 2009. I currently live in Fredericksburg with my beautiful wife and our two kids and I’m working with John Hennessy and the fabulous staff at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park developing a web-based curriculum entitled “Community at War.”

BR: What got you interested in the Civil War as a line of study?

JP: My Dad taking me to the battlefields around Richmond initially spurred my interest. Shortly after that I got a free subscription to the Time Life Civil War series and managed to get my hands on a copy of the American Heritage History of the Civil War by Bruce Catton. After that it was game over, and I knew that I wanted to pursue Civil War history as a career. Over a decade later when I came to work for the County of Henrico, I had to spend a lot of time familiarizing myself with the battles that took place there, and it was then that I did my first real research into the Battle of New Market Heights (I had known about it since my days at Richmond National Battlefield, but hadn’t done any significant research). This prompted me to launch The Sable Arm: A Blog Dedicated to the United States Colored Troops of the Civil War Era as a means to force myself to learn more about USCTs and the battle that led to fourteen of them receiving the Congressional Medal of Honor.

BR: New Market Heights is not an action that pops to the top of most Civil War enthusiasts list of well-known engagements. What first got you interested in it?

JP:  The thing that really piqued my interest at first was the amount of Medals of Honor that were issued for just one action. Add the fact that they were issued to African-American troops and I started to think that this battle was at least as important as the more famous charge of the 54th Massachusetts at Battery Wagner that was immortalized in the motion picture Glory. To have United States Colored Troops attacking a position that was defended by some of Lee’s best troops within a few short miles of the Confederate capital seemed to be a story worthy of more exploration.

BR: Since some readers may not be familiar with the battle, how about a brief synopsis?

JP: New Market Heights was part of a larger two-day action known today as the Battle of Chaffin’s Farm, fought on September 29-30, 1864. It took place during the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign of 1864-65. In late September of 1864, Grant prepared an offensive to strike at Petersburg, prevent Robert E. Lee from reinforcing his troops in the Shenandoah Valley, and – if possible – seize the city of Richmond. Grant planned a two-pronged assault with the Army of the Potomac striking at Petersburg while Maj. Gen. Benjamin F. Butler’s Army of the James struck north of the James River to threaten the rebel capital. Spearheading one prong of this attack would be Brig. Gen. Charles Paine’s Third Division of the XVIII Corps, a unit comprised entirely of United States Colored Troops. Their objective would be New Market Heights. Early on the morning of the 29th, Paine designated Col. Samuel A. Duncan’s 3rd Brigade to take New Market Heights. Duncan’s men deployed in a skirmish line 200 yards long and soon encountered obstacles that hampered their movement. A marshy stream called Four Mile Creek ran across their line of advance and slashing, abatis, and chevaux-de-frise blocked access to the Rebel entrenchments. Duncan’s men advanced into the thick fog and, in the words of one survivor, were “all cut to pieces.” Intense musket and artillery fire shredded the ranks of the oncoming Federals and soon Col. Duncan was down with four wounds. His brigade was forced to withdraw, losing 387 of its 750 effectives. Paine then sent in his 2nd Brigade under the command of Col. Alonzo G. Draper. As the sun began to rise, Draper’s men went in over the same ground that Duncan’s men had crossed and they were soon entangled in the slashing. For thirty brutal minutes, Draper’s men endured a barrage from the Confederate lines before the Confederates began to withdraw.  Draper would lose 447 out of his 1,300 men. They had taken New Market Heights, but as the day’s events played out, they would not capture Richmond. That being said, one former Confederate did write that “upon [the] 29th [of] September, Richmond came nearer being captured, and that, too, by negro troops, than it ever did during the whole war.”  While Butler met with only partial success that day, the fighting prowess of the African-American soldiers under his command was put on full display for all to see. Throughout the entire course of the war, only eighteen black soldiers were awarded the Medal of Honor. Of that number, fourteen were awarded to the black troops who stormed New Market Heights.

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

JP: I was happy to find some unpublished accounts that backed up some of the more famous incidents that have been called into question. For instance, the story has always gone that Butler rode up to the men of Duncan’s brigade who were about to step off and exhorted them that their battle cry should be “Remember Fort Pillow!” People tend to doubt anything that Butler claims to have said or done, but I did find an account from a Texan who spoke about the attacking USCTs shouting “Remember Fort Pillow!” and how mad that made him. I was also happy to find an unpublished account from Alexander Kelly, who was a member of the 6th USCT and one of the Medal of Honor recipients. That, plus some great photographs from the collection of a gentleman named Rob Lyon that he graciously allowed me to reproduce in the book were very pleasant surprises.

BR: If your work impacts how the Battle of New Market Heights is remembered in one way, what would you hope that is?

JP: Well, the longstanding tradition about New Market Heights is that, while the USCTs displayed bravery and heroism during the assault, we shouldn’t read too much into the fact that there were 14 Medals of Honor awarded to those who fought there. Skeptics claim that the nefarious Beast Butler hatched up the idea of New Market Heights being a grand victory to further his political interests. I’ve read one author who referred to the idea of the black troops winning a legitimate victory at New Market Heights as being “hoopla” while another refers to this notion as “militarily irrelevant Negrophilia.” I hope that folks who read my book will view the battle in a more balanced light.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process?

JP: In terms of researching USCTs, Record Group 94 at the National Archives and Records Administration is a treasure trove of good information. Richmond National Battlefield had been compiling information on New Market Heights for over 20 years, and I was fortunate enough to be able to go through every scrap of paper they had concerning the battle. I was also astonished at how many good sources I could find through Google books and http://www.archive.org/, www.footnote.com, and Accessible Archives. I used the information gathered through these various sources to guide the rest of my research and then had to sift through what I could use and what I had to leave behind (keep in mind I was working with a 40,000 word limit).

BR: What’s next for you?

JP: Well, I have a few things cookin’ on my plate right now. I’ve had my first two experiences with Hollywood as of late. I had the privilege of serving as a historical consultant for the upcoming miniseries To Appomattox, which was a great experience. I reviewed the scenes having to do with USCTs and, from what I’ve seen of the script, this is going to be a fine production. I’m also working as one of the extras in the upcoming Lincoln film, which gives me the ability to brag that I’ve been in the same room as Steven Spielberg. And in other (breaking) news, I recently just signed a contract for my second book with The History Press! This time I will be examining the First Battle of Deep Bottom, fought from July 27-29, 1864, where Winfield Scott Hancock and Phillip H. Sheridan both failed to add any battlefield laurels to their respective careers. Life is busy!

It sounds busy! Pick up a copy of The Battle of New Market Heights. It’s a quick read at just over 100 pages, nicely illustrated with photos, drawings, and maps. Jimmy Price has helped bring this event into sharper focus.





Interview: Terry Johnston, “Civil War Monitor”

21 09 2011

Terry Johnston and I have never met, but we’ve been corresponding and talking on the phone for at least a couple of years. Terry was instrumental in publishing my first ever Civil War writing to appear in print, a long letter to the editor that ran in an issue of North & South magazine a few years back. Over  a year ago Terry called me about an idea for a new American Civil War publication he was considering. At the time, it was nothing more than a vague notion – at least, it seemed that way to me. But after a few phone calls it started to flesh out. Terry didn’t just pick my brain – he talked to a lot of folks and you may have run across a few announcements to that effect already on the web (see here and here, for example). At long last, everything’s set to hit the fan. I received a copy of the new magazine last week, and it looks great. At left is the cover of the premier issue. But the project is more than a print magazine: Terry has integrated a strong web presence into the whole enterprise. Rather than tell you what I think it’s all about, I thought it better for you to hear from the source. In the interest of full disclosure, I appear on the masthead of the magazine as a digital history advisor, and may also contribute to the magazine’s website periodically.

BR: Terry, while I’m sure most of my readers are familiar with your work, can you tell them a little bit about yourself?

TJ: Well, I’m a native of New Jersey. I received my B.A. from Tufts University and my M.A. (history) from Clemson University. I’m also, at long last, nearing completion of my Ph.D. in history—my dissertation focuses on Irish immigrants who served in the Union army. I’ve written a few articles and one book, Him on the One Side and Me on the Other, an edited collection of the wartime letters of two Scottish-born brothers who fought on opposite sides [see extracts here]. I also spent eight years (between 1999 and 2007) on the editorial staff of North & South magazine, the last two as lead editor.

BR: What got you interested in Civil War history?

TJ: Basically, it was a children’s book on Abraham Lincoln. When I was a kid, my mother, a former high school English teacher, was so determined to get my sister and me to read that she’d excuse us from minor chores whenever we would sit down with a book. On one such occasion, the book I picked up was something called Meet Abraham Lincoln. And I was hooked. So, technically, it is true when I say that I became a Civil War enthusiast to avoid taking out the trash.

BR: So tell us about The Civil War Monitor.

TJ: In a nutshell, it’s a new quarterly magazine, the first issue of which will hit the newsstand toward the end of the month (9/27, to be specific). Our tag line is A New Look at America’s Greatest Conflict, which to us means we intend to provide our readers with well-written and engaging articles that either break new ground or cover well-known topics with a fresh slant. To help accomplish this, we’ve gathered together a terrific team of editorial advisors (with the exception, perhaps, of one fellow with the initials HS) and a battery of top authors, all of whom are well in tune with the latest avenues of Civil War scholarship.

BR: There are at least four other Civil War focused periodicals out there today. What will set CWM apart?

TJ: A number of things, we hope. For one, we’re excited about the magazine’s look. Our art director, Patrick Mitchell (www.plutomedia.com), a veteran designer of several nationally renowned publications, has brought his unique vision to the project. And frankly we’ve been blown away by the results, which I think stylistically might best be described as a perfect blend of old and new. Beyond appearance, we believe our content is of the kind you won’t find in the other Civil War magazines. This is not to say that everything we intend to do isn’t being done, in some fashion, in the other magazines—like footnoting articles, for instance. But in other respects, we will be offering—or delivering—content in ways our competitors do not. Take our book section, for example. We have no intention of publishing the cursory reviews that are regularly found elsewhere (you know, those 200-word appraisals of 600-page books that invariably conclude with some version of the sentence, “These faults aside, this is a book that should find its way onto the shelf of every Civil War buff”). Instead, our book section will consist of a rotating lineup of bookish columns. In our premier issue, these are: Russell McClintock’s take on the essential readings on the coming of the war; Robert K. Krick’s musings on recent battle books; and Steven H. Newton’s reflections on the various books that influenced his interest in, and writing on, the Civil War.

Another way in which we’ll be delivering content is through our website (www.civilwarmonitor.com), something we’re equally excited about. Visitors will find a variety of free material there, including regular photo essays and our two blogs: The Front Line (www.civilwarmonitor.com/front-line), where a diverse lineup of scholars, public historians, and talented buffs will post on a wide array of Civil War subjects; and The Bookshelf (www.civilwarmonitor.com/book-shelf), our blog devoted to author interviews and clear, insightful, and substantive reviews of recently released books (the kind we like). Lastly, we’re also producing a digital edition of the magazine for our subscribers, viewable at our website, so that they’ll be able to read The Civil War Monitor online whenever they’d like.

In short, we truly believe that our coverage—in breadth, depth, and style, both in the magazine and on our website—goes beyond what you can get from the other popular magazines.

BR: Two blogs? Hmmm…not sure how to feel about that! How else can we follow CWM?

TJ: Facebook (www.facebook.com/CivilWarMonitor) and Twitter (www.twitter.com/#!/civilwarmonitor), of course! Our social media guru, Laura Davis, is a grizzled veteran of both, and while I must admit I’ve been learning about it all as I go, I’m starting to see the possibilities they offer for presenting Civil War history to a new generation of enthusiasts.

As far as I’m concerned, we can never have too many outlets for good Civil War writing. From the looks of the first issue, Terry is off to a great start.





Notes on Letter to Pvt. Albert Penno, Co. D, 1st RI

4 08 2011

The following notes accompany the transcription of this letter and can be found at The Civil War Day by Day, maintained by the Louis Round Wilson Special Collections Library at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The good folks there have given me permission to add some of their wonderful collection to the resources here – more to come.

Letter from Lucinda M. [Hayne?] to her husband Albert B. Penno, a private in Company D of the 1st Regiment of Rhode Island Volunteers. The following words are written on the front of the envelope included with this letter, “Found on field, Bull Run, July 21 ’61.” This note is believed to be in the hand of Edward Porter Alexander, a Confederate officer who was also present at the Battle of Bull Run.

Albert Penno was wounded on 21 July 1861 (three days after the date of this letter), at the Battle of First Bull Run. Penno was then taken as a prisoner of war to Richmond, Va., and died on 2 August 1861 of his wounds.





Bull Run Sesqui on the Web

25 07 2011

Over the past week or so I’ve been sharing on Facebook and retweeting on Twitter various articles, images, and videos relating to the Battle of Bull Run (Manassas) that have swamped the web as the 150th anniversary of the battle approached and was commemorated. There were a bunch of them. Here are links to a few of the more significant items (I’ll add to this any that pop up afterwards, too). There are some worthy of posting to the resources section, and as I check them out and get any necessary permissions I will do so. Get comfortable, this will take a while. If I missed anything big, let me know!

Update 8/3/2011: I noticed I had fouled up a few of these links. I think they’re fixed now, so check them out again if you couldn’t get through.

Good Battle Stuff

Miscellaneous

Opinion

Sesqui Events

Videos





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.





Bull Runnings Goes to Gettysburg

5 07 2011

I just finished up a great week of activities in Gettysburg. I arrived in town on Tuesday, June 28 and checked into my room at the Gettysburg Hotel where The Civil War Institute was putting me up while I served on the faculty as a tour guide for their annual conference. I then headed over to Gettysburg College to let them know I was around, pick up my gear and take in the tail end of a panel discussion on Edward Porter Alexander. Afterwards I ran into a few familiar faces including Ethan Rafuse, Susannah Ural and Tim Orr, who were also on the faculty for this year’s program, as well as a couple of friends from Penn State Mont Alto tours past and fellow blogger Keith Harris. After a meal in the dining hall (nice seeing NPS rangers Chuck Teague and Matt Atkinson there) it was back to the Union Building ballroom to listen to Gary Gallagher on the subject of his new book, The Union War. The most surreal moment for me occurred when I was seated in a group with “fellow” faculty Ural, Rafuse, A. Wilson Greene, Joseph Glatthaar and Gabor Borritt.

On Wednesday morning I sat at breakfast with Ed Bearss, another of the guides for the day’s Manassas bus tours. A total of seven busses were scheduled for the day. Four would meet up with NPS guides at Manassas National Battlefield Park. Ethan Rafuse, Ed Bearss and myself would accompany our tourists on our busses as they departed from and returned to Gettysburg.

I had forty-two attendees on my bus. They were a great group, and admirably suffered early delays due to traffic. It was a hot day, but the terrain was manageable and I think everyone enjoyed themselves and learned something. My assistant was Jessica Slevin, an intern from Northern Ireland who kept everything running smoothly and on schedule. We left at 8:00 AM and got back to Gettysburg at 8:30 PM, a long but productive day. Click the thumbs below for larger images of Jessica and tired tourists returning to Gettysburg.

 

Thursday I was on my own. I did a little shopping and visited friend Jim Glessner at The American History Store. Then I checked out of the Gettysburg Hotel and moved out to The Wyndham at Gateway Gettysburg, where The Gettysburg Foundation was putting me up until Saturday. Then it was back to town to meet up with friends Chris and Alyce Army. First we walked over to the National Cemetery to help place flags on the graves of the men killed during the battle 148 years ago. Despite the fact that there are about 3,500 battle casualties buried there, the group flagged all the markers in about 15 minutes.

Afterwards I had dinner with the Armys and Wayne and Tina Motts and a few others. A nice relaxing evening.

Friday morning I drove over to Reynolds Ave. and took in a three-hour tour of the Park’s newly acquired Harman Farm on the old Gettysburg Country Club property west of Willoughby Run. The tour was led by NPS historians Scott Hartwig and John Heiser and was very informative. This piece of land will be a real jewel in the park’s crown once a few changes are made. During this tour I saw quite a few battlefield stomping pals and rangers from other parks, including John Hoptak, among the crowd of about 400 people.

After the tour I had lunch with friend Dana Shoaf, then headed up to the Visitor’s Center to take in a Gettysburg Foundation Sacred Trust talk by Dr. Allen Guelzo. I decided that, despite some great offers to join folks later in the evening for a few refreshments, it was a better idea to go back to my room and prepare for my talk for the Sacred Trust series at 9:30 AM Saturday.

I drove out to the Visitor’s Center a little after 8:00 AM, just to make sure that all the technical details for my PowerPoint presentation were in order and to get a parking space within the same zip code as the venue. They were, I did, and Cindy Small and Sue Boardman of the Foundation had everything running smoothly. Somewhere between 50-60 folks showed up, and I think they enjoyed my program on Patrick O’Rorke at First Bull Run. Friend Craig Swain drove up for the show and took a few pictures.

I stayed a while and took in the talks of Wayne Motts and Tim Orr, then set out on the road back home. It was a great week, despite the heat and the crowds of Gettysburg during the anniversary. Thanks to everyone who helped make it possible!





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.





A Giant Passing

13 09 2010

Tom Clemens called me this evening with the sad news of the passing of historian Joseph L. Harsh.  Read his tribute here and here, and read an obituary here.  Dr. Harsh will be laid to rest, fittingly, on September 17, the 148th anniversary of the event that was so central to his career.

Joe Harsh had a huge impact on how I read and research.  I first met him about eleven years ago, at one of Carol Reardon’s Mont Alto Civil War conferences.  Joe’s mantra was “chronology, chronology, chronology”, or “what did they know, and when did they know it”.  It sounds simple, but especially when it comes to Dr. Harsh’s particular area of expertise, the 1862 Maryland Campaign, it’s surprising the number of folks who seem incapable of keeping those things in mind.

Joe was a wonderful conversationalist, and I have fond memories of sipping scotch into the wee hours in the gazebo outside Mont Alto’s dorm listening to his stentorian tones (think Charles Kuralt) as he opined on a variety of CW topics.  (I took the photo above in the gazebo in 2001 – that’s Keith Alexander on Joe’s right, and my nearly empty bottle of 12-year-old Macallan in the foreground.)  I remember how proud I was to stump him with his own book, Sounding the Shallows, the last installment of his three-volume legacy, asking how the regimental commanders of  Hood’s Texas Brigade managed to make it all the way through the Maryland Campaign without a scratch.  I felt pretty smug for a few seconds, until I remembered the magnitude of his work and mentally put myself in my place.  Joe was considerate enough not to do it for me.

A giant has passed – we may see his like again, but I doubt it.  Rest in peace.





America’s Civil War September 2010

22 07 2010

Inside this issue:

  • An interview with Antietam National Battlefield Superintendent John Howard, who will be retiring at the end of this year.
  • Harold Holzer’s Cease Fire asks When will all of us finally admit what caused the war?  This one is sure to raise eyebrows for more than the reason obvious in the title.
  • Ron Soodalter on Hampton’s Beefsteak Raid of September, 1864.
  • A look at the correspondence between William T. Sherman and John B. Hood at Atlanta in September, 1864.
  • Winston Groom examines the causes of the war in Irreconcilable Differences.
  • Charlie Knight (look for an interview with him on his new book Valley Thunder here soon) on Franz Sigel’s Shame in the Shenandoah.
  • Antietam National Battlefield Chief Historian Ted Alexander’s Witness to Battle discusses soldier/artist James Hope’s paintings of the September 17, 1852 battle.
  • Ron Soodalter shows up again with Getting Away with Murder, a study of officers who met their ends during the war in ways less typical.

Book reviews/previews in this issue:  





I Have Always Depended on the Kindness of Stangers

1 05 2010

OK, well maybe not strangers, but certainly folks who are under no obligation to help me.  I’m back from my day trip to Antietam.  NPS historian Ted Alexander provided me with more information on my In Harm’s Way subject house than I could ever fit into an article of under 1,000 words.  I could have read through the material all day, but I only had a couple of hours and with the help of my buddy Mike waded through the material and made copies of the most essential stuff.  Cultural Resources Specialist and historian Keven Walker took us over to the house and gave us a fine tour of the structure along with detailed history of the building and its occupants.  Thanks to both Ted and Keven for their expert and enthusiastic assistance.

We decided to drive back to Pittsburgh via Gettysburg (kind of like Uneasy Rider driving to LA from Jackson, MS via Omaha).  We ran into Antietam ranger John Hoptak on the street there, outside the Farnsworth House bookstore.  It was a beautiful, warm day – lot’s of folks milling about.  Curiously, many merchants stuck to their 5:00 PM closing times.  Of course I’m not privy to their financial records, but it seems odd to me, especially considering many of these are small businesses actively staffed by their owners, implying more flexibility in scheduling operating hours (that is to say, “Look Marge, the hotel parking lot is full and there are a bunch of people eating outside O’Rorke’s.  Maybe we should stay open until 6:00 or 7:00”).  I’m just sayin’.

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