Interview: Boardman, Brenneman, Dowling: “The Gettysburg Cyclorama”

15 08 2015
Brian Dowling, Chris Brenneman, and Sue Boardman

Brian Dowling, Chris Brenneman, and Sue Boardman

Sue Boardman, Chris Brenneman, and Bill Dowling, Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides, are the authors and photographer, respectively, of The Gettysburg Cyclorama: The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas, new from Savas Beatie. See my preview here for a recap on the books vital stats. I’ll just repeat that it’s a beautiful book and an interesting concept. The guides recently and graciously took the time to answer a few questions from Bull Runnings:

BR: How about some background on yourselves for the readers?

SB: I am a graduate of Danville Area High School (PA), Penn State-Geisinger School of Nursing and attended Bloomsburg University. After a twenty-three year nursing career, most of it in the ER at Sunbury Community Hospital, I moved to Gettysburg and achieved my Licensed Battlefield Guide License in 2001. I am proud to be a two-time recipient of the Superintendent’s Award for Excellence in Guiding. When the new visitor center was being built, I joined the staff of the Gettysburg Foundation to do research, locate artifacts for inclusion in the museum, and work with the conservation team, as a research historian, to restore the Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama.

I have been an avid collector of Gettysburg images, mostly from the 19th century. My images of the four versions of the Gettysburg cyclorama proved to be especially useful during my work on that project.

CB: I am 44 years old, I am married to a very supportive wife, Laura, and we have a daughter, Mary, who is 3. I was born in York, PA and I lived in Newark, DE and Lancaster, PA before we moved to Fairfield, PA (just outside of Gettysburg) about 8 years ago. . I have a degree in Psychology from the University of Delaware. For many years after college, I ran a bowling center in York, Colony Park North. While I have had several different careers, history and the Civil War have always been my hobbies. My wife and I have visited most of the major battlefields on the east coast. I became a Licensed Battlefield Guide in 2010 after 5 years of study. As a guide, I have taken many different groups of people on tours of the battlefield at Gettysburg. I also work for the Gettysburg Foundation as the Assistant Manager of the Visitor’s Services department. As part of my job at the Foundation, I have spent hundreds if not thousands of hours looking at the Gettysburg Cyclorama. My curiosity led me to try to identify every person, unit, or place pictured in the painting. After a few years I realized that I had a good portion of a book worth of material, which got me started on this project. Our new book is the first book I have ever written.

BD: I’m a native of Connecticut and relocated to the Gettysburg area in 1999 with my wife Lynn, where I pursued my interest in photography and Gettysburg history. My images have appeared in local, regional and national publications, textbooks, corporate publications and commercial advertising and book jacket covers.

BR: What got you interested in the study of history in general and the Civil War period in particular?

SB: I have always appreciated history as an avenue to discover who we are as a culture and how I fit in to it. I love to read works of non-fiction, especially biographies of historical figures. Learning about these people in the context of the times in which they lived has often inspired me to broaden my range. When I read a biography of Paul Tibbetts, who piloted the Enola Gay, I was deeply affected by the impact of the bombing on the people of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and read as many personal accounts as I could find. After meeting Elie Wiesel and reading a biography about Simon Wiesenthal, I began to study Holocaust history. Again, it was the personal accounts that affected me the most. My interest in Gettysburg was also inspired by the human side of the story. I acquired a Civil War diary written by a man who lived in the same area that I did. His name was Michael Schroyer and he served in Co. G, 147th PA Volunteers. Schroyer and his story pulled me into Civil War history and I have never left! The license plate on my car reads “147th G”. I love the questions I get from people who don’t immediately recognize the meaning, and the knowing smiles and nods from those who do. Human connections are such a powerful way to experience history!

CB: As a young boy in the 70’s, my grandparents, Lois and Corky Brenneman used to bring me to Gettysburg several times every summer. We would see some of the sights and have a picnic. At that time I just loved to climb on the rocks and cannon and pretend to fight a mock battle with my wooden rifle. My parents also took me to many historic sights on our family vacations like Yorktown and Fort Sumter. In general, I have always loved history (colonial, W.W. II, medieval, roman times, etc..), especially the Civil War. After college I started reading more history books and as I read about Gettysburg, I could picture the various places from my childhood explorations. Besides trying to visit other battlefields, my wife and I would always be sure to go to Gettysburg a couple of times each year. After a while, we liked it so much that we decided to move into this area. I really have to thank my wife for being so supportive of me and my dreams. She helped me change carriers and relocate here to Gettysburg while I was studying for the Licensed Battlefield Guide exams.

BD: I visited Gettysburg when I was a young boy on a family vacation and was moved by the human drama of the events that unfolded on these lands.

BR: Gettysburg Cyclorama is really two books in one, (the story of the Cyclorama, and a tour using the painting as a guide.) Can you tell us about what you were responsible for, and what it contributes to the Gettysburg literature?

SB: I have a strong desire to know the back story about people, events and things in general. So my part of the book is the back story of cycloramas – the history of how cycloramas came to be such a big part of life in Victorian America, as well as who made them and how. Since the Gettysburg painting had not been displayed as a true cyclorama for many decades, I thought it was important to let readers know what a cyclorama was supposed to look like so they could fully appreciate the restored Cyclorama.

CB: My part of the book focused on everything that is in the painting. I tried to name every unit, individual, farm, or geographical feature that I could find. I used modern photographs of the painting that could be enlarged in order to see distant objects in extreme close-up. I then compared them to modern pictures of the terrain, maps, historic pictures, and the actual battlefield. The last ten chapters of the book are my analysis of the ten sections of the painting (based on the ten terrain photographs that the artist had taken in 1882). Another important resource were the historic keys to the painting. The key was a circular drawing that came with the historic souvenir programs in the 1800’s. Viewers of the 19th century would look at numbers on the circular drawing and the key would have descriptions of the various people and places. We knew that these keys were changed in different cities, presumably to market the painting to the local audience. Thanks to my partner Sue, who collects the historic programs, I had access to all of the historic keys. Nobody had ever tried to catalog every historic key (along with the modern keys from the 20th century) and identify exactly who was who and where. So I think our first contribution to the literature of Gettysburg is that we have thoroughly examined this painting for the first time and given it the treatment that such an important piece of history deserves. The analysis of the keys also is very interesting because it shows how the painting  – and the Civil War – were viewed in the 1880’s and 90’s. Many of the people mentioned in the keys were more important in 1884 than they were in 1863.

BD: I was the principal photographer whose role it was to faithfully record, document, and accurately prepare the images for printing that supplemented the text.

BR: Can you describe how long it took to write your part, what the stumbling blocks were, what you discovered along the way that surprised you or went against the grain, what firmed up what you already knew?

SB: I had some basic knowledge about the Gettysburg Cycloramas because I had collected images and memorabilia in the years before it was restored. When the restoration project got underway around 2005, I was given the opportunity to share the images and provide research support. The chief conservator, David Olin, was very much aware of the historical significance of our cyclorama as an artifact but also as a historical document. He had done work for the Library of Congress and the National Archives, among other institutions, and recognized that integrity in restoring the content of the painting was paramount. Therefore, even the tiniest detail, such as a tree added to the canvas during a 1960s conservation, needed to be carefully researched, and removed when it was found to be not original to the painting. There were a number of these interesting challenges, each one requiring research to inform the final outcome. The biggest of these challenges was the need to restore 14 feet of missing sky which had been cut away before the painting came to Gettysburg in 1912. Although we had some historical documentation by Michael Jacobs, a professor of math and science at Pennsylvania College, as to what the cloud cover looked like that fateful third day of July, it was hard to put the words “a few white, fleecy cumulus clouds floating over from the west” onto canvas with a degree of certainty that it was being correctly interpreted. Then a stroke of absolute good fortune intervened to help us overcome this particular challenge. We found the original oil-on-canvas scaled study made for the purpose of informing the larger work! I had been sent by the museum design team to look at some artifacts at the Chicago History Museum for possible use in our new exhibits and while there, I found the studies among the general collections. I will never forget how exciting it was to bring back digital copies of those studies! Needless to say, our beautiful cyclorama sky is historically correct.

The biggest surprise for me in researching the Gettysburg Cycloramas was discovering that there were more of them than Philippotaux’s original four. Once I was able to establish that there were others – all copies of Philippoteaux’s work, known as ‘buckeyes’ – it became clear that the Gettysburg Cyclorama stored at Wake Forest University was not the original Chicago version as it has been purported to be, although it was shown in Chicago at the 1933 World’s Fair. I am still getting calls from individuals asking me to prove it which I happily do.

CB: The entire process of writing, getting it published, editing, and lay-out took almost five years. The layout and editing were extremely time-consuming for such a complicated book with so many pictures (over 400). You also forget about things like sources and captions, which also take a lot of time. As a new author, much of the process was new to me. Luckily, the staff at Savas Beatie were extremely helpful with some of the more complicated issues.

During the process of examining the painting, I made a really fascinating discovery. With the help of a few of my co-workers at the Gettysburg Foundation, we realized that several areas of the painting had been changed. With some detective work I eventually discovered that the changes were made in 1889. The artists added extra troops, flags, cannon, and even General Meade. Over the years, it had been forgotten that these changes ever happened. Some more investigation helped me to discover that it was the suggestions from the veterans of the battle that led to these modifications being made to the painting.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process?

SB: I love to research but tend to get bored when I don’t find anything new after a lengthy period of time. However, it only takes the discovery of one elusive little tidbit to get me re-energized and back on the hunt. Early on in my cyclorama research, it seemed as if there was nowhere to go to find cyclorama related information. In the larger scope of Victorian life in America, the cyclorama phenomenon lasted barely a decade before giving way to motion pictures, thereby limiting the quantity of documentation able to be amassed for future reference. Eventually, the isolated tidbits of information I was able to find began to connect and lead to other sources. As the project was getting underway, a visit by participants of the International Panorama Conference offered a wonderful opportunity to network with other researchers and scholars. Two of these individuals, Suzanne Wray of New York City and Chicagoan Gene Meiers, often sent research notes they encountered while doing research for their own projects. This proved invaluable since two of Philippoteaux’s Gettysburg cycloramas were located in those cities. The park archive at Gettysburg has a decent amount of information but it was unorganized until Museum Technician Beth Trescott put it in useful order. Much of it was amassed by Alfred Mongin, a park historian who began to research Gettysburg Cycloramas in 1933 in anticipation of the park acquiring the painting from private hands. Mongin’s work was laborious, consisting of numerous form letters mailed to museums across the country. He meticulously followed up on leads from respondents but seemed to struggle to fit the pieces together. He also conducted lengthy interviews with people who had personal connections to the world of cyclorama exhibitions. My favorite one of these was Mongin’s interview, in 1942, with Charles Cobean, who had served as manager for the painting from 1918 until 1942, the year it was acquired by the National Park Service. Cobean met Philippoteaux during the artist’s visit to Gettysburg sometime before 1920 and remembered the artist telling him that the dog in the painting was his own pet.

The writing process for me is always more difficult than the research. I tend to write like I speak (I am Pennsylvania Dutch!) so there is an ongoing need to tweak, review and repeat a number of times before the work becomes reader-ready, or at least, ready for an editor.

CB: The first part of the process came from having spent many hundreds of hours inside the Cyclorama looking at the various details and answering visitor’s questions while doing my day job for the Gettysburg Foundation. I would then compare the view with the same views on the battlefield today. Thanks to the tree cutting that has been done in the last 20 years by the park, the views today are very similar to the historic pictures that the artist used to create the painting. In order to answer questions from my co-workers and the visitors, I started adding to the modern key more and more items that I could identify. I also designed a tour of the battlefield that visited all the places that you could see in the cyclorama. Eventually, I realized that I had enough material for a book about the painting. I had been a big admirer of Sue’s first book about the Cyclorama, but I knew that she had made several new discoveries about the history of the painting. I also thought that a larger book with hundreds of close-ups was needed to do the cyclorama justice in book form. I approached Sue and said that we could combine our efforts and write one comprehensive book that covered every known aspect of the painting and its history.

As far as sources are concerned, I used the historic keys and pictures of the painting from Sue’s collection to compare every key to both the modern painting and the pictures of the 4 different versions painted by Paul Philippoteaux. I also read through all of the files on the cyclorama at the Gettysburg National Military Park. The Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies and my own personal collection of maps and books on various subjects were relied heavily upon. My colleagues in the Licensed Battlefield Guides were extremely helpful in answering many of my questions. I was also assisted by many of the park rangers at Gettysburg, and the Adams County Historical Society.

BR: The book’s design is bold. Can you describe how that was conceived and evolved?

SB: The inspiration for the book’s layout stems from the diagrammatic keys that accompanied the souvenir programs which were unique for each version of the painting. They changed to cater to the interests of each new target audience, and reflected ongoing input from veterans. Co-author Chris Brenneman, who spends considerable time on the platform in the course of his work, was inspired to find out how many of the faces looking back at him from the canvas had unique identities. Such a concept required good quality images, and lots of them. That’s how Bill Dowling, a professional photographer as well as a Licensed Battlefield Guide, was brought into the project.

CB: I came up with the layout as I was writing, knowing that it was going to be a very visual book. The first thing we did was rent a scissor lift and re-create the 1882 terrain photographs that the artist used to make the painting. Then, during the writing, I had a large digital picture of the entire cyclorama. I used this large image to focus in on specific areas and crop out the areas that I was discussing. At the same time, I used Microsoft Publisher to make a crude layout of which pictures went with what text. I gave this layout to Bill Dowling so he would know exactly which close-up shots I needed him to take. Bill did a tremendous job, and even the shots of objects in the extreme distance are very clear. I knew that this was very important, to have high-quality images, or else the whole book would not have the desired effect on the reader.

When the book got to the publisher, I made a mock-layout of the first 3 chapters to help the publisher envision what I had mapped out. I also gave them the crude mock-up of the last 12 chapters that I had made while I was writing the book. I really have to thank the layout specialist who worked for Savas Beatie, Ian Hughes from England. He did a tremendous job following my sometimes extremely complicated plans. Ian also used his skill to make everything fit together and flow really well. One of the biggest challenges was getting everything to fit in the space allotted. Ian did a tremendous job and we did not have to cut out any of the pictures (we did reduce a few in size, but out of 400+ pictures, that is not bad at all).

BR: Bill, can you describe your photographic process, and basically what you had to consider producing the required images?

BD: The manuscript authors, Sue and Chris, spent countless hours of research, writing, editing and fact checking to ensure that the, development, creation, preservation and history of this “American Treasure” that we know as the Gettysburg Cyclorama was accurately told. I owed it to them, to the people who would purchase this book, to myself, and primarily to Mr. Paul Philippoteaux and his team of artisans to ensure that the images I recorded were clear, sharp and color balanced. Initial interest in a book is dependent on its subject matter. With a book containing hundreds of photographs that illustrate and explain the words of the writers the images take on a more meaningful role – especially if what is being illustrated in an iconic work of art. Many inter-dependent factors need to be considered and balanced to produce a worthy image. Lighting – its source, color temperature, intensity and direction is of primary importance. The human eye and brain work flawlessly to instantaneously compensate for these variations – a camera lens cannot. These variations need to be addressed and adjusted, if required, in the photographers editing processing. Image size, clarity, exposure time, aperture setting, depth of field, resolution measured in pixels per inch (ppi) are still more variables that require attention if a tack sharp image is to be reproduced. All competent photographers must deal with these laws of optics before and after the shutter button in pushed.

All of this work is for naught unless the publisher is committed to producing a quality product. Ted Savas and Savas Beatie Publishing were certainly invested in this project for which we are very grateful. The Savas Beatie staff and Ian Hughes combined the manuscript and
images into its final eye pleasing form which was faithfully reproduced by the printers.

Some people may never have the opportunity to visit the Gettysburg Cyclorama. Perhaps with this book they can examine Paul Philippoteaux’s interpretation of one of the most dramatic events in all of United States military history – Pickett’s Charge – in the comfort of their favorite easy chair.

My favorite image is the overhead shot of the Cyclorama taken from the catwalk above the painting. This perspective is one that few people have the opportunity to see first hand.

I hope I did justice to the people who produced The Tuning Point of the Civil War on Canvas.

Examples of my photography can be viewed on my web site:

BR: Sue and Chris, what’s next for you?

SB: Since 1991, I have been researching the men in Co. G, 147th Pennsylvania Volunteers. The first item on my bucket list is to publish their story. Meanwhile, I am excited to be able to watch the restoration of the Atlanta Cyclorama currently underway. It is truly wonderful that soon, history buffs will be able to see two beautifully restored Civil War cycloramas!

CB: I do not know what is next for me. When it comes to books about Gettysburg, there are many books about every conceivable part of the battle. I felt lucky to find a subject that did not have a book (or dozens of books) written about it. I hope that this book will be the definitive book about the cyclorama for many years to come. Unless some amazing discovery is made about the painting (like if someone finds a Philippoteaux diary), there is not much more to uncover about the Gettysburg Cyclorama. For now, I will be quite content to spend time with my wife and daughter, give visitors tours of the battlefield, and work for the Gettysburg Foundation. Maybe someday I will travel the world and try to write a complete book documenting all the cycloramas in the world, but for now I am quite happy here in Gettysburg.

Interview: Hessler, Motts, & Stanley – “Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg”

10 07 2015

I previewed Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History earlier, and you can read all the book particulars and get ordering information here. Since its release, Pickett’s Charge has received some great reactions from the public, and signings have been well attended. The book’s authors and cartographer recently took the time to answer a few questions for Bull Runnings, and I’ve attempted to cobble together their responses to my questions below.

L-R, Wayne Motts, Steven Stanley, and James Hessler

L-R, Wayne Motts, Steven Stanley, and James Hessler

BR: Tell us a little bit about yourselves.

JH: I have been a Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide since 2003, although I work full-time in another industry. I am very proud of my prior book, Sickles at Gettysburg, which won the Bachelder Coddington and Gettysburg Civil War Round Table distinguished book awards. More recently, in 2012, I was one of the primary content designers for the Civil War Trust’s Gettysburg mobile application. That had an influence on my eventually working on this Pickett’s Charge book.

WM: I grew up in central Ohio. My parents currently operate the Motts Military Museum where my father is founding director. I went to school for military history at The Ohio State University where I graduated with a BA and then earned a master’s degree in American History from the Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania. I have been a Licensed Battlefield Guide at the Gettysburg National Military Park for 27 years. I am currently the CEO of The National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, Pa. I published the only biography of Confederate General Lewis A. Armistead who fell mortally wounded in Pickett’s Charge.

SS: I was born in Maryland and spent the first 17 years of my life there. After high school, I went directly into the United State Air Force. During that time in the USAF, I spent 2 years working as Graphic Designer for Headquarters, Tactical Air Command in Langley, Virginia and the last two years of service, I was stationed in the Pentagon working in the graphics department of the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. After the Air Force, I started my own design/typesetting firm working for various clients from simple printing companies to McDonald’s Corporation. In 1996, my family and I moved to the Fredericksburg, VA area. I already had an interest in the Civil War so I joined the local preservation group, Central VA Battlefields Trust (CVBT), where I volunteered my Graphic Services to help promote their cause and spent several years on their Board of Directors. During that time, my work caught the attention of the National Park Service in Fredericksburg, especially Bob Krick, which led to my working on a project with Frank O’Reilly, to map the entire campaign and battle of Spotsylvania Court House. After the project was complete, in looking over those maps I realized that they weren’t as user-friendly as I’d like. I started to develop a style that I felt more comfortable with and it eventually evolved into the map style that I have today. During my time with the CVBT, I helped start another preservation group, the Richmond Battlefields Association of which I was a founding Board Member. I was president of the Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields from 2001 to 2003 and through that relationship I met my wife, Kyrstie, at a movie shoot the Friends was funding for the NPS. I also helped establish and launch the Friends of Cedar Mountain, again as a founding member of the board. From 2001 to 2007, my work graced the pages of America’s Civil War magazine. In 2009, J.D. Petruzzi and I released our first book, The Complete Gettysburg Guide, 2009 winner of the U.S. Army Historical Foundation‘s Award for Excellence, Reference Category. Then in 2011, we released The New Gettysburg Campaign Handbook and finally in 2013, the Gettysburg Campaign in Numbers and Losses was released in time for the 150th of the Battle of Gettysburg. 

BR: What got you interested in the study of history in general and the Civil War in particular? Who/what were your early influences?

JH: For nearly as long as I can remember I was interested in the battle of Little Bighorn, or as a kid I more likely knew it as Custer’s Last Stand. Flamboyant general surrounded and killed to the last man fighting hostile Indians. But as my interest matured beyond just Custer, I became more interested in the Civil War careers of the participants. Plus, about 25 years ago or so, the novel The Killer Angels sparked my interest in Gettysburg specifically. Yes! I am probably in this position today due to The Killer Angels and THE MOVIE. Haters of “historical fiction” are probably cringing at this moment.

WM: My father was a great student of Civil War History. At age 14 he received a set of diaries that belonged to a Union soldier killed in the war. As a small boy he would read entries from the diaries to me. I became fascinated with Civil War History.

SS: I’m not sure when and how my love of history started. As far as I can remember, I’ve always had an interest in history from colonial times and the Revolution through the Civil War. Until recently, I haven’t given 20th century US history a lot of time but I’ve been more and more intrigued with the US involvement in World War One. As for my love of the Civil War, I can pin point what sparked my interest – in high school, I picked up (from the school library) Bruce Catton’s trilogy and was I ever hooked. 

BR: Why another book on Gettysburg, and Pickett’s Charge in particular? What makes your study stand out – what does it contribute to the literature that has not already been contributed?

JH: I admit I get annoyed with Civil War scholars & buffs who question the need for another Gettysburg book. Yet those are usually the same people who buy another Gettysburg book, write another Gettysburg book, or are out on the Gettysburg battlefield giving tours. So I will never apologize for being interested in Gettysburg. And with all due respect to enthusiasts from other battles, when most of us think Civil War, we think Gettysburg. And when we think Gettysburg, we often think Pickett’s Charge. (See the massive turnout for the 150th Anniversary of Pickett’s Charge in case there is any doubt.) So the interest in this topic is still there among readers.

But what do we contribute to the literature? In a field of ever-increasing battlefield tour guides, do you realize that none had ever been produced for this most iconic of attacks? So we created a battlefield tour guide for the charge. Like the best tours, we mix the battle with personal stories, controversies, monuments, terrain analysis, reunions, color maps, and lots of photos. Trust me, you may have other Pickett’s Charge books but you do not have one that tells the story in this way.

WM: This is the first and only tour guide published of Pickett’s Charge, so for that reason this work is different from all others published on the subject.

BR: Steve, since Jim and Wayne are responsible for the narrative here, perhaps you can describe your role in the publication of “Pickett’s Charge?”

SS: For Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg, I was brought on-board to create maps using my unique and user-friendly style. We went through the process of the tours and determined how many maps were needed to really tell the story and we came up with (at the time) about 35 maps. Since that was a large number of full color maps, it was much simpler to bring me in as a partner in this endeavor.

BR: Can you describe how long it took to write Pickett’s Charge, what the stumbling blocks were, what you discovered along the way that surprised you or went against the grain, what firmed up what you already knew?

JH: Officially, it took us slightly more than three years. But it was also based on stories, and tours, and research that Wayne and I had accumulated over our careers and that was a help in getting us moving. We got serious about this when we were asked by Garry Adelman in 2012 to write the third day’s content for the Civil War Trust’s Gettysburg app, in part because a mobile app could only hold a fraction of what we actually wrote.

The biggest stumbling blocks with two authors and a mapmaker/designer was getting three people together to work on it. We are all busy and have other things, so that was simply the hardest part. Not only getting everyone to work on it, but with multiple people you have to work really hard to maintain consistency and make it sound like you are speaking with one voice.

With all of these maps – if we said in our text that a regiment was ‘here’ then we needed to make sure the maps reflected that. With this many maps….boy, maintaining that consistency was a lot harder than we had ever envisioned when we started this. So many maps and so many regiments per map. But we think the final product paid off for the readers.

For me personally, I came to a new appreciation of how much blame Lee did lay on his artillery for this. I was also surprised at the number of personal stories that we used that I did not really know at first. We both like writing about the people who made the events happen, and we have some stories in here that I was blissfully unaware of previously.

WM: I believe the time-frame was about three total years. Much of the work was over the editing and format of the work, most especially with the detail we placed in the work. I was most surprised with the study of numbers showing that the in modern times the numbers involved in the attack, most especially for Pickett’s Division, were larger than most likely was the case on July 3.

BR: The mechanics of a tour guide-book are interesting – on what basis did you design the sequence of stops?

JH: Our book has four tours: 1) The Confederate line, 2) Walking the Pettigrew-Trimble Charge, 3) Walking Pickett’s Charge, 4) The Union line.

I think Wayne and I had an advantage on the mechanics because we have so much experience giving tours at Gettysburg. As Licensed Battlefield Guides, it was really a matter of taking what we already do and putting it on paper. But the National Park roads that we use in the tour are primarily one-way roads, which kind of dictates which direction to move, and unfortunately it becomes hard in a book-format to follow a complete chronology of events. So then we had to write, sometimes out of time sequence, in such a way that the less experienced readers are hopefully not completely lost. That was difficult on the Confederate side of the field especially, trying to maintain a relatively logical sequence of events.

WM: The stops are based on the best flow we think both driving and walking. This allowed for a complete treatment of the Confederate line and Union line as a whole plus walking both halves of the attack.

BR: Can you describe your research and writing process? What online and brick and mortar sources did you rely on most? How is the co-author process coordinated? How was the work divided up? Who was responsible for what?

JH: My process is once I get interested in a project or idea, I think of it as I would a story or a movie. So I map out chapter outlines with a logical story flow (beginning, middle, and end) and then start filling in the gaps with quotes and research. I don’t think it’s a really efficient way to work, because I often end up doing lot of re-writing (the Sickles version that was published was my 9th draft) but I guess it’s the only way I know how to do it. Although once I get motivated on a topic, I usually keep going until it’s done. Some people like to be writing books forever. I like to finish.

As for how we divided this up, I wrote a first draft, a “shell” really. Wayne then went through it and suggested various stories to add here or there and we built it up from there. Then we would proof it (repeatedly) and make further suggestions about what to add or subtract. We did not always agree on each other’s conclusions so there would be debates about whether one was being too hard on someone or vice versa.

Wayne and I worked well together because we both like doing things that the other doesn’t. He likes the research and the fact-finding; I like putting it all together. So it was a great partnership in that perspective. We also learned that I like texting (I already knew that) and he prefers to talk on the phone.

As for resources – obviously Gettysburg National Military Park and the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guide Library access are huge assets to us. I should add that I ALWAYS start my writing with the Official Records if the Union and Confederate Armies (ORs). Wayne dipped into the archives at his own National Civil War Museum. The National Archives and pension records were used quite a bit by us. You will see many sources in our bibliography. Am I allowed to say that Google Books is an amazing resource? I think some folks look down their nose on it because it eliminates wading through dusty archives to hold real books, but that is complete rubbish.

WM: I cannot image a better partnership in working on this book. Jim did the writing for the work so it would look, appear, and flow seamlessly. This was by far the largest amount of labor. I was glad Jim completed this task for I really do not enjoy the writing part and I believe Jim does. I contributed to the research of course with a lot of material I have collected over the years. The park/guide library files were key sources for our work. I also compiled the orders of battle in the back of the book. These have been a work in progress for many years and I was assisted along the way by several of our guide colleagues. I also contributed the human interest stories included in the work. And the maps as created by our cartographer were essential to the book. After all this is a tour guide.

BR: Steve, can you describe your map production process? How do you work with the authors when producing a map? What resources do you use (programs, etc…)?

SS: Wow, my map production process, how much space am I allotted? Just Kidding!! Obviously the process starts with the request for the creation of a map, either the Civil War Trust sends it or it is coming from an author for their book. I have a whole Power Point presentation on this but hey, here it is in a nutshell. As I tell people, the first thing I do is actually locate and define the battlefield. Yes, everyone knows where Gettysburg is or Antietam is, but how many know where the battlefield for the Battle of Natural Bridge, Florida is? So yes, defining the battlefield is key to where I start. I start to gather all my source material together then locate the oldest topographic map of the battlefield I can find. As an example, for my Gettysburg maps I used Bachelder’s base-map as my template. Now the actual work can begin. Using CorelDraw as my primary graphics program, I create the layers for each element, i.e. topographical lines, roads, water, etc. being their own layer. I will then draw in the topographic lines using the previously found base-map as a guide. Then water features are added, as well as modern roads, historic roads, structures and finally historic trees. Depending on where the battlefield is located, this process can take anywhere from several man-hours to tens of man-hours. Now I add in the troops and the final step is adding in the drop shadow behind the troops themselves. After getting a map ready using what resources/materials I have, I will send out the map to historians for proofing. Then when they send back their recommendations, I take care of those changes right away. As for how I work with the authors, some do send me hand drawn maps, but most send me the request for specific maps covering specific time-frames that relate their manuscript. There are even occasions when the author or authors have asked me to look through their manuscripts and make recommendations to what maps they will need. Case in point – for both of the latest Army War College Guides, one a revised Gettysburg edition and the other a guide to the Richmond-Petersburg Campaign, the authors asked me what maps I felt could tell the story best for their guides. For the Gettysburg edition, I came up with 38 maps and for the Richmond-Petersburg edition, I came up with 42 maps.

BR: The book’s layout/design is bold. Can you describe how that was conceived and evolved?

WM: This was all left up to our cartographer Steve Stanley who did a great job in creating the overall presentation of the work.

JH: From day one, we had a collective vision that we wanted this book to “look great.” Color, maps, photos, etc. We also had a concept in mind that included lots of sidebars – topics of discussion that might not fit into a specific tour. I love sidebars – they have no pressure! You like the topic, you read it. You don’t? Then you move onto the next one! So we have lots of sidebars.

Steve and Savas Beatie obviously have a lot of experience putting great visual books like this together and Steve had the skills to make it happen. As an example, one of the coolest photos in the book was an aerial photo taken by our friend Mike Waricher from Gettysburg’s notorious and short-lived hot air balloon. (Or was it helium? I forget already.) So Mike takes these great shots but the gondola and strings are in there. Steve cleaned the images up with photoshop or whatever and the result is pretty cool. You do not have pictures from the balloon in any other Pickett books!

SS: During our meetings/conference calls, both Jim Hessler and Ted Savas, of Savas Beatie, wanted a book that had the feel of the Complete Gettysburg Guide. I think Jim’s words were, “I want to do the Complete Gettysburg Guide but for just Pickett’s Charge.” The format for the Guide was so well received that everyone wanted this to draw the same following. In creating the look and feel for the both the Guide and Pickett’s Charge, I did not want a guide book that was just tons of text, some photos and a few maps. Actually, during the process of designing the maps and gathering the photos for the Guide, I kept throwing ideas out about how would this look and that look – eventually Ted Savas (I think I wore him down with my emails) asked if I just wanted to design the entire book. I found out later that he had never at that time let authors design their own books so that meant a lot coming from him. One thing I wanted to establish in both designs was a fun, colorful, almost magazine feel to both books. My graphic background was with smaller publications and magazine formats so that was the direction I wanted to take. Now that I was designing the book, I was able to take care of one thing that has always bugged me about most books – maps. They never are in the place where you need them. You are reading about an action or movement and you go to consult the map. You have to flip through the pages to find the map that relates to what you are reading. I made sure that my maps were in the place you needed them to be, readily available on the facing page or just a page or so away. With Pickett’s Charge we wanted the maps oriented in the direction the reader needed them to be. Maps for the most part in print are oriented to the north, but some of ours are oriented to either the east or west. It was determined by which way the reader should be walking and viewing the action. All of the maps for the North Carolinians and the Virginians walking tours are oriented to the east, while the Union maps along the area around the Copse of Trees are oriented west. We felt it would make it easier for the reader to follow the fighting and the tours.

BR: What’s next for you all?

JH: I have three ideas I’d like to work on but it’s probably safe to say that you won’t see another one from me in print for 3-5 years. It’s a lot of work to do these right and then take some time to recharge before doing it again. But I do think I shall return. It’s an enormous relief to have the Sickles follow-up done!

WM: Wow, that’s a good question. It should be to finish my full length work on Lewis Armistead but I have many interests.

SS: What’s next? J.D. Petruzzi and I are working on our next trilogy of books, like we did for the Gettysburg Campaign, for the Maryland Campaign of 1862. We hope to have the Complete Maryland Campaign Guide (working title) out by late spring of 2016, followed by the Maryland Campaign in Numbers and Losses and the New Maryland Campaign Handbook. Also, Kyrstie and I are working on a book that will be a study in maps and photographs of America in World War One. I am still working on how the entire concept will be handled but this book will be ready by Spring of 2018, just in time for the 100th Anniversary of America’s involvement in the Great War. More on that as I get a more clear picture on the final concept.

Preview: Ryan, “Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign”

25 06 2015

51BWOF0G-OL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_I’ve corresponded with Thomas J. Ryan a few times over the years, enough to know he’s been working on Spies, Scouts, and Secrets in the Gettysburg Campaign: How the Critical Role of Intelligence Impacted the Outcome of Lee’s Invasion of the North, June-July 1863 (Savas Beatie) for a long, long time. Tom is well suited to the topic, having worked for the Department of Defense in intelligence related areas for many years.

In this new study, Ryan looks at how the opponents in the campaign used various sources (cavalry, newspapers, civilians, and spies for Lee, and cavalry, signal corps, and Bureau of Military Intelligence for Hooker/Meade) to guide them in the theater of operations. After laying out the assets and structures of the armies, the narrative follows a chronological path, from mid-May 1863 through Lee’s “escape” July 14, and concludes with the author’s assessment.

Spies, Scouts, and Secrets… consists of 448 pages of text, a 15 page bibliography, full index, and footnotes on the text pages. There are plenty of illustrations, including 23 (!) Phil Laino maps. I’m looking forward to digging in. Check out Tom Ryan’s website here.

Preview: Hessler, Motts, Stanley – “Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg”

1 06 2015

51mkgt+rutL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_Two weeks ago I received a couple of new releases from Savas Beatie. Both are Gettysburg books, and both are visually stunning. I took the books along with me to a seminar I attended, tested them out on a couple of folks whose opinions I respect, and elicited enthusiastic “thumbs up reactions.” Both books will be getting the Interview treatment from Bull Runnings, and as they both have multiple authors it will take a little time to put those together. To tide you over I’ll give you the lowdown preview-wise.

Pickett’s Charge at Gettysburg: A Guide to the Most Famous Attack in American History, by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides James A. Hessler and Wayne E. Motts, with cartography by Steven A. Stanley, is another attractive, hard cover book on heavy, glossy paper. It’s beautifully laid out and includes nice, sharp modern photographs and colorful graphics. It also has the appearance of a home run, and a real, National League home run at that, not one of those watered down, 43-year-old-fat-guy-who-can’t-field American League dingers.

Jim Hessler has proven himself a more than capable narrator with Sickles at Gettysburg, and Wayne Motts, C. E. O. of the National Civil War Museum, perhaps knows as much about Pickett’s Charge as anyone who wasn’t there for the event (to call his command of the organizations and men involved encyclopedic is too generous to encyclopedias.) This volume has Stanley maps and illustrations and sidebars aplenty. The “distressed” format of some of the pages can be a little distracting, but overall the layout is quite handsome. The work is end noted, with orders of battle, bibliography, and index. It’s broken up into four separate tours: Confederate Battle Line; Pettigrew-Trimble Charge; Pickett’s Charge; and Union Battle Line. A total of 268 pages, and a must have for planning your next foray onto the Day 3 field. Hopefully a soft-cover or e-reader version will become available, as durability in the field is questionable.

Preview: Brenneman, Boardman, Dowling – “The Gettysburg Cyclorama”

27 05 2015

613FOyqKbBL._SX258_BO1,204,203,200_Two weeks ago I received a couple of new releases from Savas Beatie. Both are Gettysburg books, and both are visually stunning. I took the books along with me to a seminar I attended, tested them out on a couple of folks whose opinions I respect, and elicited enthusiastic “thumbs up reactions.” Both books will be getting the Interview treatment from Bull Runnings, and as they both have multiple authors it will take a little time to put those together. To tide you over I’ll give you the lowdown preview-wise.

The Gettysburg Cyclorama: The Turning Point of the Civil War on Canvas, by Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guides Chris Brenneman and Sue Boardman, with photography by Bill Dowling, is one gorgeous book with a cool concept. The first 73 of these oversize, glossy pages draw on Sue Boardman’s extensive research to describe cycloramas in general, their history in this country, and the tale of Paul Philippoteaux’s work depicting the three day Battle of Gettysburg in 3-D. No stone is left unturned.

Then the really interesting part: a tour of the battlefield and cyclorama, in which the painting is broken down into nine “views,” with multiple tour stops in each view, color details of the painting for those stops, and period and modern color photos of corresponding battlefield scenes and individuals. It sounds wacky, but it works! My only complaint is that the oversize hardback format may not hold up out on the field. But then, you may want to leave this on the coffee table for friends to ponder. OK, maybe you’ll need two – or maybe the publisher will put out a paperback edition at some point.

A similar preview on that other book is coming soon…

Preview: Mackowski, White, & Davis – “Fight Like the Devil”

21 05 2015

51aBL53hU8L._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_New in Savas Beatie’s Emerging Civil War Series is Fight Like the Devil: The First Day at Gettysburg, July 1, 1863, by Chris Mackowski, Kristopher D. White, and Daniel T. Davis. Gettysburg nuts fall into one of three categories, typically: Day 1 guys; Day 2 guys; and Day 3 guys. If I fall into one of those categories (though I don’t consider myself a Gettysburg nut, or a more seriously afflicted Frassanidiot), it would have to be Day 1. And to prove it, I joined along with a couple hundred other folks a few weeks ago for an all day walking tour of the Day 1 battlefield. It would have been nice to have this little book along for the ride. It weighs in at 116 pages of text through the epilogue, with another eight (8!) appendices by such luminaries as Matt Atkinson, Dan Welch, and Eric Wittenberg. Nine maps and dozens of modern photos are sprinkled in. And this one’s not without some controversy. I have long wondered at the basis for John Reynolds’s now sterling reputation, given his performance up to July 1, 1863, and it appears Kris White thinks along the same lines for the same reasons in his appendix on the general. And John Cummings weighs in on the location of the famous Gardner “Harvest of Death” photos (I do believe that one has to be either all right or all wrong in these cases.) Other appendices look at Dick Ewell’s decision, J. E. B. Stuart’s ride, shoes, and Pipe Creek. Check it out.

Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours: Iron Brigade

19 05 2015

This past weekend I attended the Chambersburg Civil War Seminars & Tours event, On the Trail of Those Damn Black Hats: Weekend with Lance Herdegen & The Iron Brigade. I did so as the guest of friend and facilitator Ted Alexander, in return for coverage of the event on my Twitter and Facebook accounts. Hopefully you are all followers and were kept up to date of all the happenings – if not, just subscribe using the links over to the right. But I’ll give a recap here.

Friday featured presentations at seminar HQ the Hampton Inn by Lance Herdegen (see an interview with him here) on The Iron Brigade at Gainesville; Tom Clemens (see an interview with him here) on the Black Hats’ Memories of Antietam; and Dan Welch (with the Gettysburg Foundation) on Beyond the Sobriquet: The Men of the Iron Brigade. After a break for dinner, the evening concluded with Lance and “Forward! Forward! Charge! Align on the Colors!”: The Unfinished Railroad Cut at Gettysburg.

Bright and early Saturday the 40 or so attendees boarded a bus bound for South Mountain (where we stopped on the National Road at Mt. Tabor and Bolivar Roads where Lance described the brigade’s move on Turner’s Gap.) Then it was on to Antietam, and discussions at the Visitor’s Center and the Miller Farm. Finally we arrived at Gettysburg, and after lunch at the Dobbin House Lance held court near the Reynolds Wounding marker and covered the brigade’s actions in Herbst Woods and the Railroad Cut. Of course, time in the bus was spent talking about the brigade’s actions on other parts of the field, and Lance unleashed a small portion of his vast knowledge of the men and events of the Iron Brigade as well.

I decided to stay over Saturday night for a slate of talks on Sunday morning, and I’m glad I did. Lance kicked off with a more complete history of the Iron Brigade (by the way, Lance is one of the most upbeat, happy guys I’ve ever seen on tour, and it wasn’t just this time – a hail fellow well met); fellow Save Historic Antietam Foundation board member and founder of the National Civil War Medical Museum Dr. Gordon Dammann gave a delightful presentation on Civil War Medicine Hollywood Style: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly; and Gettysburg Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides President Joseph Mieczkowski concluded the formal talks with a really interesting talk on Rufus Dawes & the 6th Wisconsin at Gettysburg and Beyond. Joe is apparently a “thread puller” like me and shared some fascinating tidbits.

The seminar and tour were well-organized. Raffles and auctions held Friday and Sunday raised about $500 for battlefield preservation, which will go toward purchasing available land at Antietam (see Civil War Trust info here.) And to top it off, I got to spend some time with a couple of fellows whom I had not seen in ten years, friends from prior battlefield stomps.

Next up for Civil War Seminars & Tours is The End of the War: Richmond, Petersburg, & Appomattox, July 22-26 (see brochure here.) Speakers feature Ed Bearss (see interview here) and friend and blogger Jimmy Price (see interview here), among others (like Bud Robertson, Richard Sommers, R. E. L. Krick, John Coski, Chris Calkins, the list goes on.) Sounds like a great event – register soon if you agree!


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