As Eric posted recently on his blog, the two of us have formally decided to tackle the July 9, 1864 Battle of Monocacy with our trademark brand of detailed narrative and driving tour. The format of this work will mirror our book on Stuart’s Ride to Gettysburg and the soon-to-be-released book of the Gettysburg Retreat.
Last summer, after attending a Gettysburg event, Eric and I drove to the Monocacy Battlefield since we had previously discussed the idea of doing a work on it. Marc Leepson’s book on the battle, Desperate Engagement: How a Little-Known Civil War Battle Saved Washington, DC and Changed American History had just been released. I hadn’t yet read it, but picked up a copy at the Monocacy Visitor Center – which had just been built and completed.
I had only visited the battlefield once previously – back when I was a teenager. When it came out in the mid-90s, I picked up Ben Cooling’s book on the fight, Jubal Early’s Raid on Washington. Old Jubilee has long been a favorite character of mine, and I was decently familiar with the battle and its place in the war, but 20-odd years between battlefield visits makes the recent visit seem brand-new. It indeed was. As I mentioned, the new Park Service Visitor Center was beautiful and impressive, and Eric and I had a great time driving around the field and then spending a couple hours walking much of it. We also spent considerable time orienting ourselves to the maps of the fight, plotting out Federal and Confederate attack movements for ourselves. The day was pretty hot, as I recall, and we worked up quite a sweat out there.
We continued to talk more about doing a book on Early’s advance, the battle, and also about Fort Stevens. Since Leepson’s book had just appeared, that was a consideration for us. When we got back to the Visitor Center, we spoke to the Rangers there about the possibility of doing such a work – and they were actually quite receptive, Leepson’s book notwithstanding. We learned that one of the Rangers was also doing some research and preparing some sort of manuscript of his own, but no one was sure of its scope. Or if it were ever going to be published. Eric was later able to have an email exchange with this Ranger, but it didn’t appear that any type of book was imminent.
Over the couple months after my return home I was able to read Leepson’s book. I was duly impressed – he’s a terrific writer, the book was well-organized, and the story is well-told and the context of Early’s raid in the events of 1864 is well-done. I recommend the book to anyone interested in this battle.
Those familiar with the work that Eric and I do, or more specifically, the way we treat a battle/campaign in our writings, know that we really enjoy going into our research head-first. Beyond Cooling’s work, or Leepson’s book, and the several other treatments done on the battle or segments of it, Eric and I knew that there was still a wealth of primary source that no one had used yet. Especially when it came to the resulting events at Fort Stevens on July 12. We have been finding a truckload of primary material on Fort Stevens, and there hasn’t been a single modern treatment of it yet.
Like our other two books, we enjoy plotting out and including a driving/walking tour that allows the reader to become a student of the terrain and see all there is to see for himself/herself.
After we recently began compiling a ponderous amount of material of Early’s advance, Eric contacted our publisher, Ted Savas, about our doing this as our next narrative project. Ted agreed to have us proceed. We recognize that the door is still wide open to fully tell the story of this infinitely interesting little fight outside Washington with some of the most interesting figures of the war – Early, Lew Wallace, John B. Gordon, and… oh yeah, there’s a bit of cavalry involved, too.
Lots of work to do. Watch for this one, hopefully, sometime next year.