Preview – Wert, “Civil War Barons”

11 11 2018


51K1poIfnwL._SX329_BO1,204,203,200_

I received a copy of Jeffry Wert’s new Civil War Barons: Tycoons, Entrepreneurs, Inventors and Visionaries Who Forged Victory and Shaped a Nation, but was a little surprised to find that Da Capo Press sent an advanced reading copy (ARC). As a general rule, I don’t preview ARCs here – they don’t lend themselves to previews because they often don’t include everything that may be in the final version (for instance, I really hope they remedy the missing Oxford comma in the subtitle). However, Jeff is an acquaintance and a great guy, so I’m making an exception in this case. I’ll give you the skinny, with the caveat that things could change.

From the publisher:

From prominent historian and Pulitzer Prize-finalist Jeffry D. Wert, a multi-biographical work of a remarkable yet largely unknown group of men whose contributions won the war and shaped America’s future.

You get:

  • 209 pages of text
  • Eleven chapters, preface, prologue, and epilogue.
  • Chapter titles:
    • The Administrators
    • The Visionary
    • The Inventors
    • The Improvisers
    • The Patriots
    • The Investors
    • The Tinkerers
    • The Dreamers
    • The Opportunists
    • The Builders
  • Some still familiar names in the Postscript
    • Philip D. Armour
    • Gail Borden
    • Andrew Carnegie
    • John Deere
    • Cyrus McCormick
    • Edward Squibb
    • The Studebaker Brothers
    • Cornelius Vanderbilt
    • Frederick Weyerhaeuser
  • No Index (yet)
  • 31 pages of end notes
  • A bibliography, including a fair number of archival sources, newspapers, and online sources

Jeff Wert is a prolific author familiar to most readers of this blog. Check out his Amazon author page here.





Interview: Jeffry Wert, “A Glorious Army”

9 05 2011

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BR: How has the book been received so far?

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

BR: What’s next for you?

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

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





Preview: Jeffry Wert, “A Glorious Army”

21 04 2011

I received a copy of Jeffry D. Wert’s new book, A Glorious Army: Robert E. Lee’s Triumph, 1862-1863, from the good folks at Simon & Schuster. I first met Jeff about 13 years ago during a seminar in Gettysburg, and the next year got to spend a few days with him and Joseph Harsh at the back of a bus during a tour of Second Manassas. Good times. Jeff is a very down to earth, good guy (even if he’s a Braves fan), and his writing reflects his common sense approach to history. Back in the day I know he didn’t do email, but I sent a note to Simon & Schuster to see if he’d be able to participate in an e-interview for Bull Runnings. I’ll let you know how that goes – I haven’t heard back from them yet. From the jacket:

A Glorious Army draws on the latest scholarship, including letters and diaries, to provide a brilliant analysis of Lee’s triumphs. It offers fresh assessments of Lee; his top commanders Longstreet, Jackson, and Stuart; and a shrewd battle strategy that still offers lessons to military commanders today. A Glorious Army is a dramatic account of major battles from Seven Days to Gettysburg that is as gripping as it is convincing, a must-read for anyone interested in the Civil War.”