Happy New Year wish

From my family to yours, a very happy, healthy, safe, and productive New Year!  Throughout 2007, I got to meet many, many new folks at Civil War Roundtables across the country, and made many new friends.  I was treated with the utmost kindness and hospitality everywhere I went, and I appreciate all of the kind words about my work.

This year has certainly seemed like a long one – about 600 days long rather than 365, and I look forward to 2008.  It will be very interesting with the release of my new book and some new articles, and there’s lots more work to do.  I’m an outside-type guy, so I’m already ready for spring here in Western PA (which unfortunately won’t be coming for another 3 months or so).  Until then, I guess I’ll be shoveling snow and bracing against the cold.

There’s only a few hours left in this year, so I hope everyone is safe tonite however you celebrate – and hold your loved ones close.

Happy New Year to all!

Published in: on December 31, 2007 at 4:44 pm  Comments (3)  

Gettysburg Battlefield Guides to leave new Visitor Center behind

The following appeared in the Dec. 28 Gettysburg Times:

A dispute over payment and scheduling procedures at the Gettysburg Battlefield has resulted in the 125-member Licensed Battlefield Guide Association opting to move its base from the park visitor center to a downtown facility.

“The Executive Council of the Association of Licensed Battlefield Guides voted unanimously Dec. 14 to move our center of operations from the visitor center to an in-town facility,” group President Rick Hohmann said. “The membership must approve the move at our January meeting. We will (still) do tours from the new visitor center, but it’s clearly time for us to go out on our own.”

The Times has learned that the group might move into a facility along South Street in Gettysburg, adjacent to the historic Farnsworth House on Baltimore Street, owned by Loring Schultz. When reached via phone this week, Schultz acknowledged that discussions were taking place, but said nothing had been finalized. “In our view, this whole issue is about control,” Hohmann said. “The park wants to control how much and when we are paid, and when we work. We are independent contractors — not employees.” Gettysburg National Military Park spokeswoman Katie Lawhon said the group’s move might be auxiliary in nature. “We’ve heard that they might move an office there,” Lawhon said regarding the proposal.

The guides maintain that the opposite is true. “It is obvious that the time has come for the guides to go out on their own and operate from their own headquarters,” Hohmann wrote in the December edition of the Battlefield Dispatch, adding that the guides plan to move their office, library and “essentially” the guide room to the building. “Guides would still do tours from the visitor center, but our center of operations would be elsewhere.”

Most of the guided tours on the Gettysburg Battlefield, according to park officials, begin at the Taneytown Road visitor center. “Even if the guides would decide to move, I think the majority of the tours would still leave from our building,” Lawhon said. “We’re still the main starting point for park visitors.”

The group’s decision comes months after tedious — and sometimes stagnant — negotiations with Gettysburg National Military Park administrators and Gettysburg Foundation leaders regarding new unilateral rules that are being imposed upon the guides, primarily involving payment and scheduling protocol. Hohmann wrote an Oct. 23 letter to GNMP Superintendent John A. Latschar, expressing the concerns of the guide group, but Hohmann said Latschar hasn’t responded to the letter. “There is a group of guides that was appointed by Rick Hohmann that we’ve been working with for 18 months,” Lawhon said. “They were appointed by the president of the association to work with the National Park Service and the Gettysburg Foundation to set up this new system, and those particular guides were satisfied with how this was working.”

Guides will be paid twice a month — instead of the per tour payments they’ve grown accustom to receiving — by the Gettysburg Foundation, the non-profit operation that plans to manage the new $105 million Baltimore Pike visitor center once it opens in April. People taking tours of Gettysburg National Military Park have paid guides directly since 1915. “Over the last 10 years, we’ve always backed down. The park knew we wouldn’t fight,” said Hohmann. “We’ve been manipulated… but we’re not backing down now.”

The park also wants tours scheduled in advance, while the guides prefer to choose when they work. “Right now, there is a problem. Visitors can’t schedule tours ahead of time,” Lawhon said. “If you want a guide, whether you’re an individual or family, the only way to get one is to get here at the visitor center at 8 a.m. and get in line. Sometimes, you’re out of luck. That’s the problem we’re trying to address. We don’t want to leave it up to chance.”

Advanced reservations and advanced payments, park leaders maintain, are industry standards. “We see no reason for the (Gettysburg) Foundation to collect our money in advance and hold it for several weeks after a tour has been given,” said Hohmann. Battlefield officials insist that the scheduling format will be accommodating to every individual guide.

“It will be flexible enough to match their personal schedules, and flexible enough to match visitors’ schedules,” Lawhon said. “When visitors want to go on a tour, they can pick the times. We’ll match it with the schedules that are provided by the guides.” The Guide Association, which makes up 80 percent of the licensed guides in Gettysburg, isn’t convinced.

“The visitor choosing the time of the tour is like movie-goers calling the theater and telling the manager what time they want to see the latest Harry Potter film, as opposed to the theater determining show times,” Hohmann said. “Their plan will result in fewer tours, fewer visitors served, less income for guides, (and) less productivity.”

For years, guides have operated out of the GNMP Visitor Center, located along Taneytown Road. But recent disagreements between the guides and park administration resulted in the group branching out to other locations, such as the Gateway Gettysburg complex at the Route 15/30 interchange, because those venues offer guides an ability to set their own schedules.

“In the past, the guides said they wanted to run tours out of other places, and the National Park Service doesn’t have a problem with that,” Lawhon said. “They have a right to start their tours anywhere they want to start them. In the old days, they used to start them right on Lincoln Square. They have a lot of flexibility.”

When the new $105 million visitor center and museum opens this spring along the Baltimore Pike, guides still plan to staff the facility, but not as their headquarters. “To this date, we do not have one word in writing from the park, or the Gettysburg Foundation, about our involvement in the new visitor center. We’ve been repeatedly asking them to put something in writing, but they simply refuse to do it,” Hohmann said. “At this stage in the game, we do not feel that we can trust them on the basis of their word.”

Park leaders say they already have a contract with the guides: their individual licenses, which cost $360 annually to renew. “We don’t have an agreement with the guide group, because we work with each individual person who is a guide with us,” Lawhon said. “There are 150 licensed guides. The National Park Service licenses an individual, not a group.”

In a recent secret mail ballot of the Licensed Battlefield Guide Association — non members were also invited to participate, and several did — the “clear majority,” Hohmann said, rejected the park’s payment and scheduling proposal. Subsequently, the group launched a search process for alternative operating venues.

I find all of this highly interesting.  Like the Guides, I am also an independent contractor (IP).  I “work for” a primary insurance company (in addition to being a full-lines broker) but I am not an employee of the company.  Several times over the years, this company has attempted to treat us agents like employees – mandating office hours, controlling our schedules, licensing, etc – but each time they’ve met with defeat according to laws governing IPs.  In essence, this company, like the Gettysburg Park, has been trying to treat the Guides like employees but without taking on the expense as such.  If the Guides were employees, they would have to pay payroll taxes, benefits, insurance expenses, liability, pension, etc.  Currently, Guides foot the bill for everything.  IP laws are meant to protect the workers – to not be treated like employees without getting commesurate benefits.  Companies such as my insurance company love to try, every few years, to control its agents as much as possible but not foot the bill for it.  You can’t have it both ways, and the law says so.

Earlier this year, in fact, I got into a discussion concerning this issue with the Guides on a popular Gettysburg email forum.  This issue of the Guides possibly going out on their own was being floated then, when mention of the Park trying to control the Guides more at the new Visitor Center was made.  As an IP myself, I got into an exchange with an attorney, which became a bit heated toward the end.  As an IP with experience, I made observations exactly like what the Gettysburg Guides are facing today, and predicted that this split was going to happen.  The attorney, in effect, told me I was nuts, and that there wasn’t any issue with the IP laws in this case.

Well, I think she’s been proven wrong, and my suspicions panned out.

I would also say, as I did then, that if what the Park was attempting to do (controlling payroll, hours, etc. without the resulting expense of employer-employee relationship) was brought before the Labor Department, the Park would lose.  Just like every other entity that has tried this in the past – try to get the benefits of having employees without having to shoulder the expenses of having them.  Like in my situation, if you want to control my income and my work day, then you pay my secretary, office expenses, insurance, social security, pension, and everything else.  The reason I have to pay for everything now is because I get to set my own schedule.  I’m “independent” just as the law defines it.  An employer-employee relationship is a whole ‘nother ballgame, and the Park is finding that out now in regards to its Guide program.

Of course, the ideal situation would be for the two sides to work something out, something that can keep the Guides in the new Visitor Center.  But as long as the Park is attempting to treat them like employees without having to pay for it, then I say kudos to the Guides – and get outta there.  The sooner the better.

And I also feel a bit of vindication in regards to the debate I had with that attorney over this issue.  I hope she’s reading this and seeing what’s happening at the Park.  And…

Told ya so.  🙂

Published in: on December 29, 2007 at 9:22 pm  Comments (6)  

Comment from descendant of 9th New York Cavalry trooper

I recently received a comment from a descendant of a trooper who served in the 9th New York Cavalry, known as the “Westfield Cavalry.”  Kenneth L. Vogt writes from Rome NY.  I know the places he speaks of – my wife is from a small town not far from Dunkirk, and the regiment was drilled early in the war in Westfield.

Here’s what Kenneth writes:

Charles Fowler Brown; 1st Sergeant Company F 9th NY Cav Volunteers, wounded at Brandy Station and missed Gettysburg by injury received while on picket duty in June 1863. Was in military hospital at Washington, DC.
According to Pension records, Sgt Brown was asleep and holding his horse by halter. A noise alarmed horse and he was dragged over 40 rods of road and then a wood pyle of ties used for fortifications.
Due to his injuries from the war, Charles Brown could not perform manual labor as a farmer. He served as a clerk for his former commander Captain Martin at Martin’s Mercantile store near Jamestown, New York.
!869, he went to Greely, Colorado for about 3 years and then about 1872 went to join his brother Oscar Brown (His brother Oscar was in Missouri at the outbrake of the war and served as a Cavalry Officer assigned to a gunboat on the Mississippi, a very unique assignment) in Schuyler, Colfax County, Nebraska and obtained 160 acres from the “Homestead Act”. Again he was severly limited on his manual labor and could only farm 40 acres of the 160 acres. In 1879, he went to Illinois and worked briefly as a sewing machine salesman.
He returned to Nebraska and stayed until the 1890s. He then joined his son Persey in Santa Barbara, California and died in 1928.
This Civil War Veteran and his wife lie in unmarked graves in Santa Barbara, California. My cousin Donald Hotchkiss from Las Vegas, Nevada recently obtained over 46 pages of Charles F. Brown’s pension application papers that outlined his injuries during the war and provided an insight into the veteran’s life from 1857 to 1928.
Cousin Donald is a Civil War reanactor and has made arrangements for a stone to be placed on Charles Brown’s cemetery plot and a service honoring him on Memorial Day 2008.
I am Charles Fowler Brown’s GG Grandson and grew up in Chautauqua County at Dunkirk. I have a 1921 family picture of six grandfathers at my brother Jack’s baptism in Westfield, New York. Grand father Brown sent a picture of himself from Santa Barbara, California which was included as an insert to this picture. I am planning on making a pamphlet on Grandfather Brown and his life.
Kenneth L. Vogt from Rome, New York

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 5:20 pm  Comments (1)  

“One Continuous Fight” book distributor’s webpage

One of my co-authors, Mike Nugent, notified me that Casemate Publishing has just put up its webpage on our upcoming book, One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg and Pursuit of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863It includes a wonderfully detailed synopsis of the book, and all the technical data.  The book has come out to 576 pages.  Wow.

Check it out here if you’d like.

UPDATE:  The Amazon.com page for the book is also up.

Published in: on December 27, 2007 at 11:31 am  Comments (2)  

Happy Holidays to All!

I’d like to wish all of my readers a very Happy Holiday Season and a Prosperous and Safe New Year.  This blog has really grown over the past year or so, garnering some 300 or so readers daily.  I appreciate all of your support, kind words, and assistance.

Later today I will be joining my wife and daughter at the in-laws’ in upstate New York, where we will spend Christmas.  We’re then coming back Tuesday night for our traditional Christmas Day evening in front of the fireplace, opening gifts, and enjoying family time.  To everyone who is likewise traveling, please be careful and safe.

The very best from my family to yours!

Published in: on December 24, 2007 at 12:19 pm  Comments (3)  

Where’s the personal touch?

My regular readers know I rarely “rant” here on my blog.  But this particular subject has been bugging me now for a couple weeks.  And it has to do with the Christmas season.  No – I’m not going to spout off about the commercialism rampant this time of year… although that’s another bug in my craw… but something a bit more inane.

I and my family both send and receive a lot of Christmas cards each year.  We take the time to write them and sign them by hand.  We always have.  Yep, we have the latest in computer technology at both home and office, but I’ve always felt there’s nothing like the personal touch – we use pre-printed return labels (usually ones I get from the Civil War Preservation Trust or other historical groups) but we always address the envelopes by hand and sign the cards by hand.

However, a large percentage of the cards we receive are now coming with computer-printed envelopes (both address and return) and… and here’s what’s been bugging me… computer-printed signatures on the inside of the cards.  And these aren’t the cards from businesses I’m talking about.  Cards from friends and families.  Our names are printed inside the cards, and the sender’s names are also printed inside.

In other words, not a single thing is hand-written by the sender anywhere.

Sure, I love the technology as much as anyone.  Here in our office, we print everything by computer, including envelopes and such.  Looks more professional.  But I’ve always felt that holiday cards are different.  Even when we send them from the office, we hand-print them instead.

But when I get a card from a friend or neighbor these days, and I see that the envelope is computer-printed, I figure that the card inside is also printed instead of personally signed.  And without exception, I’m right.

Maybe it’s just a difference in taste, but I much prefer to at least personally sign the card.  I know, I know, the thought is there regardless… but I think putting the card in the printer, etc., actually takes more time than just signing it by hand, so pre-printing isn’t really a time-saver.

Maybe we’re still in the “gee-whiz” mindset when it comes to personal computers.  Even after all these years.  Maybe some folks like the look of the finished product, computer-printing their signatures out in cool script and such.  But if there’s one thing that perhaps ought to stay “personal,” maybe it’s the holiday card.

Or maybe I’m just old-fashioned.  As I said, I’m as much of a techie as the next person, but I will always be filling out such cards by hand.

Ah well.  If you include a sawbuck or money gift card, you can send the greeting to me any way you want.  I’ll overlook the pre-printed envelope and the pre-printed card inside.

Seriously, maybe it’s time we get back to the personal touch.  With all the e-communication and impersonal nature of the networks we all depend on every day, perhaps some things still ought to be done by pen on paper.

Well, off to churn some butter, bring in some water from the well, and adjust the TV antenna for better reception of those three channels I get.

In black and white, of course.

Published in: on December 19, 2007 at 12:30 pm  Comments (5)  

Advance Praise for “One Continuous Fight: The Retreat From Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863”

Eric Wittenberg, Mike Nugent and I were very flattered recently with some kind words from two very respected Civil War historians about our most recent book, set for release by Savas Beatie in May 2008.  Eric and I have both blogged about the book in anticipation of its publication, but I thought I’d post a few quotes here from these two respected fellows. 

Authors Eric J. Wittenberg, J. David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent have brought together an impressive array of primary materials, so that much of the action unfolds in the words of those who were there.  An important extra dimension is added by the driving tours that accompany the narrative text. History is not an armchair pastime, and following in the footsteps of the commanders and their men provides wonderful opportunities for a personal linking of yesterday with the present. It opens the way to a vicarious appreciation of how everyday people passed through one of the seminal events in the making of the United States. To stand where they stood, to see something of what they saw, adds immeasurable value to the weight of their words and memories. The authors of this book have taken the time and care to get the story right and the tour directions correct; I encourage you to take full advantage of both.
– Noah Andre Trudeau, Civil War Historian and Author

[Eric, J.D., and Mike have] trekked many times on the back roads with me and followed my suggestions on seeking out sources and making corrections when needed. Even more this merry band of Retreatistas has combed the countryside more thoroughly than Albert Jenkins’ cavalry in order to bring us scores of previously unpublished soldier accounts of the retreat.  Now, in this scholarly study you will be able to read about Monterey Pass, where two Medals of Honor were earned. By the way, next to the Battle of Gettysburg, this was probably the largest and bloodiest Civil War action in Pennsylvania. You will find out about the actions at Hagerstown, Williamsport, Funkstown, Boonsboro and Falling Waters. At these places the old saw “who ever saw a dead cavalryman?” was proven to be a lie.  The enormous amount of vivid first hand accounts gleaned from letters and diaries that are to be found in this book will illuminate and bring to life the events that took place at these now forgotten landmarks along the roads from Gettysburg. The driving/walking tour section alone is worth the price of this book. Be prepared to drive off of the beaten path to places never before seen by most Civil War students. [This book] is one of the most original, most deeply researched, and scholarly works to come out on the Civil War in many years. With it, Civil Warriors can finally make some sense out of the tangled series of events that occurred during the ten days after the Battle of Gettysburg.
– Ted Alexander, Chief Historian, Antietam Battlefield and Gettysburg Retreat Expert

Andy has graciously written the Preface that will appear in the book, and Ted provided the Forward.  We can’t thank these two gentlemen enough and we appreciate their endorsements.

Published in: on December 13, 2007 at 11:08 am  Comments (4)  

Launch of “JDPetruzzi.com” website

For a while now, I’ve had the idea of launching such a website, to be an all-in-one portal for information about my works, projects, blogging, etc.  Last week I finalized the set-up of JDPetruzzi.com, and put the first few of its pages online today.  The website will also allow me to bring back much of the content of my old “BufordsBoys” website (which a lot of folks have asked me to do) and have it with everything else in one place.  I know that a lot of folks have missed the content of, and updates to, that site.  Soon, I also plan to bring this blog under that domain, and will announce it when that gets completed.

The few pages on the site now highlight my book projects and a few other things.  Check it out if you’d like, but please bear in mind that the site is in its very early stages.  I’ll put notices here of important updates to the website.

Please stay tuned!


Published in: on December 10, 2007 at 4:40 pm  Comments (3)  

Faded Hoofbeats: Pvt. Norvell Francis Churchill, 1st Michigan Cavalry

History hardly remembers young Pvt. Norvell Churchill of the 1st Michigan Cavalry, one of Brig. Gen. George A. Custer’s orderlies.  However, the actions of Churchill at the Hunterstown battlefield just outside Gettysburg early in the evening of July 2, 1863, literally changed history.  There may have been no “Custer defeat” at the Little Big Horn thirteen years later… indeed, there may have been no George Custer at all after that warm July 2.

Late on the afternoon of July 2, 1863, Jeb Stuart’s tired Confederate cavalry brigades had just made their way to the Gettysburg area after being out of touch with Robert E. Lee’s army for over a week.  Brig. Gen. Judson Kilpatrick, commander of the Federal Third Cavalry division, had also made his way to the area after battling Stuart at Hanover on June 30.  Ordered to protect and scout the Federal right flank near Hunterstown, Kilpatrick’s advance guard came into contact with the rear guard of one of Stuart’s brigade commanders, Wade Hampton, in the main street of Hunterstown.

Falling back under a fighting withdrawal, Hampton’s rear guard proceeded down the Hunterstown-Gettysburg road near the Gilbert farm.  Pulling up rein at the top of the Felty farm ridge, Custer, commanding one of Kilpatrick’s brigades, ordered Co. A of his 6th Michigan Cavalry to charge into the Confederates.  Before company commander Capt. Henry E. Thompson could spur away, however, Custer drew his saber and shouted, “I’ll lead you this time boys – Come on!”

Custer, a newly-minted brigadier, led that single company down the road and crashed into Hampton’s defiant rear guard near the Gilbert home.  Some of Hampton’s troopers had begun deploying on both sides of the road at their position, and Custer’s did as well on their side.  In the hand-to-hand melee, Custer’s horse went down, trapping him underneath.  He was soon nearly surrounded, with at least one Confederate trooper bearing down on the hapless general.

Seeing his general’s plight, Pvt. Churchill acted quickly.  He aimed his revolver at Custer’s assailant and shot him.  Reaching down, Custer grabbed onto Churchill’s arm and pulled himself into Churchill’s saddle behind him.  Hell bent for leather, Churchill galloped back to the Federal position atop Felty ridge with the survivors of Company A on their heels.  Custer had been saved from certain capture or death by the quick thinking of his 23 year-old orderly.

According to his family, Churchill was born on June 11, 1840 in Berlin Township in Michigan.  He joined the 6th Michigan Cavalry in August 1861.  After the Hunterstown fight, Custer made Churchill his “Special Orderly” in honor of his deed that day.

Following the war, Custer made a visit to Churchill at his farm at Romeo, Michigan, and stayed for three days before heading off to the Indian Campaigns.  Custer reportedly asked Churchill to join him, but he declined. 

Churchill died at the age of 65 on June 25, 1905 in Echo Township in Michigan.  His family still retains his saber.

The pictures are from the Hunterstown1863 website of the Hunterstown Historical Society, and please see the webpage posted there by Churchill’s great-granddaughter, Pat H. Stephens.

The recounting of Churchill’s actions can also be found in the book by Eric Wittenberg and myself, Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart’s Controversial Ride to Gettysburg on page 173.

Published in: on December 7, 2007 at 12:02 pm  Comments (7)  

Dr. Ted’s medicine

Ted Savas, Managing Director of Savas-Beatie LLC, has been putting some very revealing and insightful posts on his new blog.  Just as I thought he would.  He has really been giving his readers the perspective from a book publisher’s point of view, which we don’t often hear (a lot of us authors have blogs and websites, and mostly you get to hear only our own rants).  Ted’s blog post should be required reading for any budding author, published author, or anyone interested in the business end of the publishing universe.  A sampling of his posts gives you the message loud and clear… for instance, “How To Guarantee You Will Not Get Published,” and “Why Do You Write?”

His most recent to date is titled “Are You An Active Participant In Helping Make Your Book A Success?” as as one of his authors, I found the refresher course in self-promotion quite revealing.  Okay, so maybe J.K. Rowling doesn’t need to make the talk-show rounds to promote ol’ Harry Potter, but J.D. Petruzzi needs to do everything Ted espouses.  Every suggestion that he has in the post – giving tours, talks, establishing a website/blog for the book, attending book signings, etc. is just what Ted emphasizes with each of his authors.

And I’ve heard from him some of the horror stories that he eludes to in the post.  For instance, there are a lot of authors in, for instance, the Civil War genre, who do absolutely nothing to promote their book(s).  They simply sit back and wait for it to hit the New York Times Bestsellers list, I guess.  They don’t speak to Round Tables, do signings, or any promotional activity.

When my first book came out (co-authored with Eric Wittenberg) I tried to do everything that Ted told me to promote it… booking signings and talks, mailing fliers (one day I spent $150 in postage sending them to Round Tables), establishing a website, and anything else I could think of.

It had to have helped.  We believe that the book stands on its own merits, and has received terrific reviews, but no one will buy it if they don’t know about it.  It has sold tremendously for a narrow-focus hardback, blowing through the first edition in the first five days, selling out the second edition, and now going into a third edition barely a year after its release.

And I’ll add this to Ted’s thoughts – the author certainly doesn’t do all this promotion for the money (if you do, you’re in for disappointment!).  You do it because you have something to say through the book and you enjoy discussing it with others.  I don’t mind saying publicly (as I’ve done in conversation many times) I’ve probably spent 10 times the amount of money researching, writing, and promoting the book than I’ll ever make from it.

And that’s perfectly fine with me.

As I said, it’s all about having a voice.  In the historical genre, there are probably one or two folks who could actually live off the proceeds of their books in this country.  That’s it.  And I certainly ain’t one of them and never will be.

So for all budding and published authors, I would tweak Ted’s post title just a bit… Are You An Active Participant In Making Yourself Heard?  If you love all this as much as I do, you’ll want to promote your work simply for the enjoyment of discussing it with folks, and hearing and learning from their opinions too.

Published in: on December 4, 2007 at 5:30 pm  Comments (3)