Buford at Gettysburg: A Study in Maps

A few days ago, Mr. Dana Shoaf (editor of both Civil War Times and America’s Civil War magazines) approached me with an article idea:  A four-map study of Brig. Gen. John Buford’s cavalry at Gettysburg with an explanatory article for the July issue of ACW.  Traditionally for the past few years, I’ve had a hand in the July issue of that magazine… an article on Buford at Gettysburg, an article about the first shot fired by one of his troopers, and an article about the July 3 cavalry fight at nearby Fairfield. 

I immediately jumped on this “study in maps” idea, because I’ve long wanted to map out the very obscure actions of Buford’s cavalry at the battle.  Of the four maps, I’ve already completed three, and sent them off to cartographer Steven Stanley.  Specifically, the four maps will detail the following events:

1. Buford’s early morning July 1 dispositions, the firing of the “first shot” to open the battle, Heth’s initial skirmish line (which has never been mapped and identified before) and related details.  In other words, this map will show what one would see if he were flying overhead over the first day’s field on the morning of July 1, 1863 at about 7:30 am.

2. The second map details the height of the fight between Buford and Heth at about 9:30 to 10:00 am on July 1, just prior to the arrival of Reynolds’ Federal I Corps.  Again, this maps has loads of details never mapped previously.

3. The third will be a combination map that shows the very unknown flank actions of Buford’s brigades under Cols. William Gamble and Thomas Devin.  On the left flank of the I Corps, Gamble’s brigade conducts a mounted feint assault.  Then, there is a galling fire laid down by some of Gamble’s troopers from behind the stone wall just west of the Schultz house.  On the right flank, Devin’s delaying action against Blackford’s Confederate sharpshooters is detailed, and against the advance of Ewell’s corps from the north.  Finally, the mounted feint conducted by Gamble’s brigade at the foot of Cemetery Hill as the Federal infantry corps rally there will be shown.  None of this has been mapped previously.

4.  The final map (and perhaps my favorite to have done) will detail the VERY obscure skirmishing that took place mid-morning of July 2 in Pitzer’s Woods by 2 of Devin’s regiments alongside the 2nd United States Sharpshooters against Wilcox’s skirmishers.  This skirmishing further alerted an anxious Maj. Gen. Daniel Sickles of the Federal III Corps of the enemy in his front, and helped lead to his very controversial move forward.  This is the first time this little action will have been mapped in detail with all units and their positions identified.

I’ll finish up the final map and the accompanying text this weekend, and I really look forward to its appearance in the magazine.  Steve does amazing map work (he’s the cartographer for the Civil War Preservation Trust also – I’m sure many of you recognize his work) and I’m excited to see the final work.

Watch for this in the July issue of America’s Civil War which I think will be available sometime in May at a newsstand or mailbox near you.

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Published in: on February 29, 2008 at 2:14 pm  Comments (6)  

From a Norvill Churchill descendant

I just got a very nice note and comment from a descendant of Pvt. Norvill Churchill, who was on the staff of Brig. Gen. George Armstrong Custer.  At the cavalry battle at Hunterstown, just outside Gettysburg, on the evening of July 2, 1863, Churchill scooped up the fallen Custer and took him back to the safety of Federal lines, saving the Boy General’s life.  Richard J. Webb and some of his family will be at the planned monument dedication and festivities in Hunterstown this July, and it will be great to meet them.  Churchill’s saber will be one of the featured items on display.  Richard wrote as follows:

My name is Richard J. Webb and my mother is Leila Jane Webb – maiden name of Churchill. Her father was Harrison David Churchill, son of Norvell Churchill, whom I understand your local Historical Society is honoring this July at a ceremony and monument. I learned of this from my cousin Pat and let my mother, who is now 82 years old and the oldest living female grandchild of Norvell who are still alive, know about this and she, my wife Dianna and I have already made reservations in Gettysburg for that time period in the first week of July and are planning on attending the events you are presenting in Hunterstown. We are excited about this as I heard stories about my great- grandfather from my Grandfather Harrison and his wife about his being an orderly to General Custer in the Civil War and how he had saved his life. They were very humble people and the information was passed on as a matter of pride within the family. I am now 60 years old and have delved deeply into my family genealogy and appreciate the interest your community has taken in their efforts to preserve our national heritage in regards to events that have taken place in your area.

Published in: on February 26, 2008 at 5:15 pm  Comments (4)  

Making the most of it

As Eric posted on his blog, our latest book One Continuous Fight on the retreat from Gettysburg, is going to galley this week.  The galley is the initial published version of the book that is used to do final editing, and also the version that is being sent to various book clubs for consideration.  Our publisher Ted Savas sent PDF files of the galley to us to take a look over, before it goes into galley print.  Eric and I looked it over this weekend, and we picked up on various macro issues that are pretty common at this stage, as well as one major issue:  None of the 29 photos I took for the driving tours (pics of skirmish and battle areas, period homes, etc.) were able to be included in the tours due to space limitations.

We had planned for the photos to appear there (just like the tours in our book Plenty of Blame to Go Around) but there just wasn’t room.  Knowing that we all wanted to include them, Ted called me at home tonite.  Initially, our discussion revolved around the fact that it looked as though none of those tour photos would be able to be included – taking up nearly a half page each (a total of almost 15 pages) would add too much to the pagination.  And it would begin to push the book out of the planned price tag of $34.95.

So Ted and I began to look at what we could do with the manuscript.  As we talked, Ted pulled up the photos on his computer.  We had to add some 29 photos, but keep the page count the same.  Sort of like buying a new tube of toothpaste, and then trying to squeeze more toothpaste into the tube with your finger.  Not so easy.

Here’s where I have to hand it to Ted.  He’s a writer’s dream (as we call him in our Introduction to the book) – but not because of his distinguished receding hair line.  He knew we all wanted to get those photos in, and we only had so much paper to work with.  While we talked, we both had the manuscript up on our computers, each of us scrolling through it and looking for ideas.  After throwing around thoughts such as eliminating the 30-page Order of Battle (not something any of us wanted to do, and Ted refuses to put such a book out without an OOB) or reducing font size in some sections to where you’d need a magnifying glass… we came up with two ideas.

First, I had earlier suggested that our centered, one-column Order of Battle be changed to two columns to a page.  That would save nearly 15 pages.  That worked, and it still was easy to read.  Then we looked at the driving tours themselves, and we determined that having a line space between the list of GPS points at the end of each tour was unnecessary.  Ted took the spaces out, and several more pages were freed up.  Ted began working in the tour photos, and lo and behold, everything fit.  We got everything in, and didn’t add a single page.

After nearly an hour on the phone, we had it done.  I’m not sure how many other publishers would have been as easy to work with than Ted (and on a Sunday night, too) but I bet there can’t be very darn many of them.  With many publishers, they determine in large part what will be in the book, not the author.  That’s why authors can’t get all the maps they want, or all the illustrations, or appendices, and so on.  But Ted (an acclaimed author himself) recognizes what’s important to authors and works with them, like we did tonite, to get it all in.  The final page count is about 576 pages, and it will all be in there – all the maps, all the photos… everything.  And the book retails less than 35 bucks.  This would easily be a $100 book at your local neighborhood University press.

We can’t wait to see the galleys and then the final book.  And Ted Savas has our utmost respect for all he’s done to make sure that the book will be everything we wanted it to be.

Published in: on February 25, 2008 at 1:51 am  Leave a Comment  

Another so quickly?

As an author and public speaker at many events, I get a lot of questions obviously.  Besides questions dealing with the content and scope of the work in my books, articles, study, etc., I get a lot of inquiries about the logistics of publishing.  Folks are very interested in the process of gathering sources, writing a book, putting it all together, and getting it published.  Before my first article or book, I was very curious about the process as well, and it’s a subject I always enjoy discussing and assisting others with.

Recently, I’ve gotten inquiries about how I and Eric (along with our co-author Mike Nugent) were able to complete our latest book – One Continuous Fight – so soon after the release of Plenty of Blame to Go Around at the end of 2006.  This new book is nearly 600 pages long, and has a bibliography of sources some 40 pages long.  In some emails and conversations, folks have wondered whether I “have a job” and if Eric and I just “write all the time.” 🙂

You know you’ve made it in this industry when your last name has become a verb.  For instance, historian Edward Longacre (a long-time cavalry buddy of mine) was a very prolific writer when he was writing Civil War history – he has since moved on to World War II subjects.  Well, more than one person has commented that Eric and I seem to be “Longacreing” regarding our writing.  In other words, seemingly coming out with a new book every year.  Not that the connotation is negative, just that some have wondered how we can put together two such large and wide-scoped books “so quickly.”  And here we are beginning a similar study on Jubal Early’s 1864 Raid.  (Ed – in case you’re reading this, Ed Bearss’ name has been a verb for decades so consider yourself in very good company!)

The truth is this, and it’s what I tell everyone who inquires about the process of putting together such works within such a time frame:  Eric, Mike and I actually wrote about half of One Continuous Fight (OCF) several years before Eric and I took up the Plenty of Blame (POB) project.  We began OCF in about the year 2000 as I recall.  Eric and I are two owners of Ironclad Publishing, and we originally intended to publish OCF by our company.  The entire book would not have been half as long as it is now.  At the time we finished the manuscript (finished then as far as we were concerned), however, we had several other books that Ironclad needed to publish.  There were about 4 other books ahead of ours in the pipeline, so the manuscript sat around for several years, and in the meantime Eric and I decided to begin POB.

We spent about 2 years putting POB together, and the final manuscript was submitted to Savas Beatie LLC in November 2005.  While the book was in production in early 2006, Eric, Mike and I took up OCF once again, with the idea of offering it to Savas instead.  There were several reason for offering the book to Savas instead of publishing it by our own company – first, we are gathering large amounts of research material on an ongoing basis, and the material gathered on the retreat from Gettysburg since we had “finished” the manuscript meant that we would expand the book at least two-fold.  In essence, we could see the book ending up quite a bit larger than the smaller, soft-cover books we put out at Ironclad in our Discovering Civil War America series.  This series by Ironclad consists of books that are deeply researched, very scholarly, and highly acclaimed to be sure, but we knew we couldn’t handle a nearly 600-page book very well – and we wanted to make sure we would do the subject full justice.  Savas had done a beautiful job with POB (as with all of their books) and we came to the decision that Savas was the right place for it. 

Secondly, we saw the OCF book as the perfect companion to POB, so continuity of publisher and appearance was a high concern.  Savas has designed the cover, layout, and format of OCF to mirror POB, so they make a perfect “bookend” pair of the campaign.  Whereas POB details Stuart’s cavalry’s ride prior to Gettysburg, OCF details the fighting and decision-making during the retreat.  Fortunately, when I pitched the OCF book idea to managing partner Ted Savas, he accepted it sight unseen – knowing what we had done with POB.  Once he got a look at the manuscript as we neared the end of the process, he too recognized that we were able to do for the subject of the retreat what we had brought to the table concerning Stuart’s ride, and Eric, Mike and I knew we’d made the right decision.

So, the completion of the two books is not a case of writing one right after the other.  Hopefully this explains how we were able to complete such another large work so soon after Plenty of Blame.  As explained, a good part of One Continuous Fight was actually completed a few years prior to the start of work on POB, and we were able to complete OCF within a year of submitting the POB manuscript to the publisher.

Eric and I are well into the process of gathering material on our new project on Early’s 1864 raid, and we expect to begin putting “pen to paper” very soon.  With good fortune we’ll just about wrap the book up sometime late this fall, and perhaps the book will appear in the spring or summer of 2009.

Published in: on February 21, 2008 at 1:23 pm  Comments (4)  

Savas Beatie webpage for new book up and running

The publisher of my new book, Savas Beatie LLC, just put up their new webpage for the book and it is set for pre-order.  Ted Savas contacted myself and co-authors Eric Wittenberg and Mike Nugent today, in fact, and told us that dealers and bookstores are pre-ordering the book by the bucketful.  We’re very humbled and pleased by the interest in the book!  When you order from Savas’ site, your book will be personally inscribed and autographed by Eric, myself, and Mike.  Here is the link for the page:

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

The three of us will also soon have our own website dedicated to the book and we’ll announce its launch when it’s ready.

Published in: on February 19, 2008 at 11:09 pm  Leave a Comment  

The bookstore at Gettysburg’s new Visitor Center

For those of us who consider a walk into Gettysburg’s present Visitor Center bookstore something of a regular pilgrimage, recent talk about what the new bookstore in the new Center will be like has been interesting.  We’ve long heard rumors that the new bookstore will hold only a few standard Gettysburg titles.  And that the emphasis will be not on books, but on the tourist crap you find at many other stores around town – plastic swords, vinyl kepis and such.

Last week I received my issue of the Friends of the National Parks at Gettysburg newsletter, and therein was an article regarding what the new bookstore is supposed to feature.  Here’s the article, written by Michael Vykoscil:

The bookstore at Gettysburg National Military Park has always had the reputation of being a “destination” bookstore – meaning people will make a special trip to the store to purchase books on Gettysburg and the Civil War.

That reputation will remain intact when the Museum Bookstore opens in April in the Museum and Visitor Center

Work continues over the next few months to prepare the bookstore for opening.  Display racks and bookcases will be installed, merchandise will be arriving and the shelves will be stocked with books, videos, souvenirs, apparel and other items not featured in the current bookstore in the Park Service facility on Taneytown Road.  The Museum Bookstore will be located on the main level of the Museum and Visitor Center and to the right of the main Visitor entrance.

One feature that will set the Museum Bookstore apart from the current bookstore is that it will carry a range of unique merchandise – items you won’t be able to find anywhere else.  So, whether you’re looking for a children’s non-fiction book on the Underground Railroad or a book containing the great speeches of Abraham Lincoln, the Museum Bookstore will be the place to come either before or after your museum and battlefield visit.

Friends of Gettysburg members will receive a 10 percent discount on their purchases each time they visit.

Event Network, Inc. was chosen by the Gettysburg Foundation, in partnership with the National Park Service, to provide retail services for the Museum Bookstore.  The San Diego, Calif.-based organization is the leading operator of gift shops for museums, zoos, aquariums, science centers, botanical gardens and other cultural attractions throughout North America.

Well, the only dispute I would have is that for non-fiction books on the UR, or of Lincoln’s speeches, I can point you to at least a dozen locations in and around town where you can find those.  But as for the rest of the information, let’s hope it indeed pans out that this bookstore will be comprehensive.  After hearing rumors that the books selection will be very limited to claims that it will have “everything,” I guess I’ll believe it when I see it for myself.  I’m glad that Friends members will receive a discount… the main competition for this bookstore, the one at the Farnsworth House, has long offered such a discount.  So have many others.

The new Museum and VC will open on April 16 of this year, and I will be visiting shortly thereafter.

Published in: on February 18, 2008 at 2:28 pm  Comments (2)  

Houston, we have a title

Last night, I was able to take a little time to continue combing the books in my library for sources for the book project Eric and I will soon begin on Early’s Washington Raid.  As I was looking through the letters contained in Charles Minor Blackford’s memoirs (Letters From Lee’s Army) a line in a letter he wrote to his wife on July 11, 1864 jumped out at me:

The sinking of the Alabama gives us great concern, and we are very anxious to hear from Early. I fear he has undertaken more than he can do with his small force, and he is likely to come to grief.

How apropos, I thought.  I emailed this to Eric, and we came up with the title for the book:

Likely to Come to Grief: Jubal Early’s Washington Raid, the Battle of Monocacy, the Johnson-Gilmor Raid, and the Fight at Fort Stevens

A little long, but not nearly as long as the title on our book on the Gettysburg Retreat.  Blackford’s sentiment, likely written in a backdrop of anxiety on his part – since his little brother Gene was commanding Rodes’ sharpshooters and would be on the front line of any action – seemed very apropos and echoed the sentiment of many commentators I’ve read.  Eric and I enjoy using just that right comment from a soldier for the main titles of our books, and I think we’ve hit on a good one.

Published in: on February 15, 2008 at 11:49 am  Leave a Comment  

Good karma indeed

Eric posted yesterday about the wonderful assistance we’ve been receiving lately from our good friends in the Civil War community in researching for our new book project on Jubal Early’s 1864 Raid and the battles of Monocacy and Ft. Stevens.  Eric called it “good karma” and he’s absolutely right.

In our search of primary sources, we compiled quite a list of material in the form of letters, diaries, recollections, manuscripts, etc. that are in the repositories of historical societies and universities around the country.  Unless we suspended our jobs for several months and bought a handful of plane tickets, there’s no way that Eric and I could travel around and procure these sources by ourselves.  They range in geographical locations such as Vermont, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and just about every state that was in the Confederacy.

Over the past few weeks, once we had our list of sources (which gets revised constantly) we put out a couple calls to our good friends that live near these areas… and also an email post to active online forums that we belong to, such as the Gettysburg Discussion Group and the Civil War Discussion Group.  Several good-hearted folks answered us, volunteering to visit these repositories for us and to go through the material.  (We are compensating them, of course, but they are as excited about doing the research as we always are.) 

We have nearly a dozen people, including our own full-time researcher, working on procuring material at this point.  And a good deal of the material has not been mined previously, or used in a treatment of these July 1864 actions.  These folks are emailing us and letting us know what they’ve found, and it’s generating a lot of excitement for all of us.

The point, as Eric also makes it, is that this sense of volunteerism (whether a person is paid or not) and willingness to help on such a project is amazing and gratifying to see.  We are going to have a considerable amount of folks to thank in our Acknowledgements section of the book – and they will be as responsible for its completion as we are.  There is no way that we could complete this book, and it wouldn’t be as detailed and documented as we expect it to be, without all of their help.

In our previous two joint works, the book on Stuart’s Ride to Gettysburg and the book on the retreat from Gettysburg, the reader will see a lot of folks that we’ve thanked for their help.  And moreso in the retreat book.  If there were really justice in publishing ( 🙂 ) all of their names would appear on the cover with our own.

From both Eric and me, thanks to all of you for your ongoing assistance.  Among my closest friends are those that I’ve made in the Civil War community.  We move away from, and lose touch, with those friends we make when we’re young – but your base of friends then begins to change and solidify when you get older.  In my case, when I got married to my lovely wife nearly 5 years ago, all but one of my groomsmen were friends made in this community over the past decade or so.  That speaks volumes about how tight the friendships were, still are, and will continue to be.

No man is an island, and no writer can afford to be alone when so much help is needed – and freely offered.  When this book appears, it will be a cooperative effort from not just two guys, but a whole community of folks who truly care.

Published in: on February 14, 2008 at 11:01 am  Leave a Comment  

Well, that just hit home

I posted recently about the current case involving Daniel Lorello and his theft of items from the New York State Library, some of which he’s sold on eBay over the past few years.  There’s been a good deal of it on the media, and I felt pretty disconnected from the whole thing until I opened my mail this morning.

In it was a letter from the Attorney General’s Office of the State of New York.  What the heck could I be getting from them? I thought.  Once I got my hands to stop trembling… I opened it.  In it was a letter from the Deputy Bureau Chief.  After an opening paragraph that described the Lorello case and his eBay sales of some items, the letter continued:

“An analysis of eBay records shows that on January 5, 2006, you purchased an item from Mr. Lorello for which you posted a positive feedback on the eBay internet web site.  Please notify me by letter… with a description of the item.”

The letter goes on, instructing me to look at the item for State of New York markings, etc. and to scan and photograph it.

Once visions of becoming a ward of the Empire State, donning one of those funky orange jumpsuits, and being some huge fella’s girlfriend passed from my mind, I took a moment to try to think of what the heck I might have bought from Lorello.  To my knowledge, the only items I bought from anyone on eBay in about the last 4 years were an engraving of Gen. George Stoneman, and an official document signed by him.  I believe that it’s the latter that probably came from Lorello.  The document is currently custom framed and hanging on a wall in my library, along with other autographed documents of Civil War cavalry figures (none of them purchased from eBay).  Looks like this one, however, will have to be packed up and eventually sent back to New York.

So, after thinking I have no reason to think I’d have any involvement in this case, it came home for sure.  Regardless, I am working with the AG’s office (we’ve already had two-way contact today) and they will certainly be getting this document back in order to get it where it rightfully belongs.

Well, the wife tells me that there are flashing lights at the house, sirens going off all over, and fellas in ATF jackets with sunglasses are putting up that yellow ribbon across my library.  Pictures of everything on the walls are being snapped, stuff is being dusted for fingerprints, and some guy with a clipboard is apparently asking exactly when I will be home from the office.

Um, gotta run…

Published in: on February 6, 2008 at 12:31 pm  Comments (6)  

Plugging away…

Eric and I have been working pretty hard the past week or so putting together our sources for the book on Jubal Early’s 1864 Raid that we’ll be starting soon.  As of tonight, our bibliography just reached 15 full single-spaced pages.  We’re not nearly done gathering material, and it wouldn’t shock me a bit if the bib nearly doubles in size by the time we’re done.

Contemporary newspaper sources alone already take up an entire page of the bib.  Eric put up a couple posts recently on his blog regarding the online searching of papers we’ve been doing, as well as putting our researcher on more at the Library of Congress.  Marc Leepson, in his recent book on the Battle of Monocacy, didn’t use a single newspaper (other than a couple quotes from a Harpers issue).  Not a single paper.  [Correction (see comments section): Leepson did use a half dozen contemporary newspapers or so, but they are not listed in his bibliography.  One can find them, however, cited in the pertinent footnotes.] 

As usual, Eric and I have been finding some of our best material in these papers.  We employed very heavy use of newspapers for our books on Stuart’s Ride to Gettysburg and the Retreat, and they added immensely to the story.  In my opinion, authors who do not use, or choose to ignore, the contemporary accounts in newspapers do so at their own peril.  Soon, I’ll be putting a page for the Jubal Early Raid book up on my personal website so folks can get early information and particulars about it.

On other fronts, the third printing of our Stuart’s Ride book just went to press.  We couldn’t be happier with the sales of this book.  Its first printing sold out 5 days after release back in September 2006, and the second printing just got exhausted.  Thank you to everyone who purchased the book and for the many kind comments we’ve received and continue to receive!  It certainly sparked an enormous amount of discussion on Stuart’s ride and his role in the Gettysburg Campaign, and that’s what we truly wanted to see.

The book by Eric, Mike Nugent and myself on the Gettysburg retreat – One Continuous Fight – is going to the printer this week for galley.  We’ll be receiving the galleys to edit, and various book clubs will be looking at it for inclusion in this year’s offerings.  From the pdf files of the book I’ve seen, our publisher Ted Savas has done a wonderful job laying it out.  Everything is on track for a May 1 release.

Published in: on February 6, 2008 at 12:07 am  Comments (3)