Lincoln Disneyfied

I look at Brian Dirck's series on "Lincoln's Warts," then think about what motivates the series. It seems to be a reaction to saccharine.

Then, it occurs to me that the Abraham Lincoln Museum and Presidential Library has not been Disneyfying Lincoln. Lincoln was long ago Disneyfied - the ALMPL is a lagging indicator of that. The shocking thing about the ALMPL and the streets of Springfield is that they deliver to us the visual equivalent of the history we love to read.

When we see beloved readings rendered as 3-D trash, our reflexive reaction is defense of our understanding gained from reading. This can't be the essence of the Lincoln story!

Oh but it is - and it is faithful to the story as currently received.


Civil War term papers for sale

And man, do they look bad...

"This 3-page paper discusses the contributions of African-American soldiers to the Civil War."

"This 3-page paper discusses the North's naval blockade during the U.S. Civil War and how it ultimately defeated the South."

"This 4-page paper tries to answer the concept of "slave power," how the North offered solutions to the South on this, and how the South responded."

"Benign deity" or golden calf?

McPherson's new book is out, and the reaction is typical. From the Washington Post...

One of the many reasons why James M. McPherson is the pre-eminent contemporary historian of the Civil War -- perhaps the pre-eminent historian of that war, period -- is that he knows historical truth...

... another reason why McPherson ... stands above all others: Not only does he read everything, but he is always open to judgments that differ from his own and facts that demand new interpretations.

McPherson presides over it [ACW history] like a benign deity, issuing occasional thunderbolts of disagreement but generally cheering on his fellow historians as they pursue ever elusive Truth.

Over and over again, McPherson seeks to separate myth and fantasy from fact ...

(Found on Amazon.)

Pause to salute these headline writers

"Civil War battle has two names." Whoa!

I like this one too: "Cashing in on the Civil War - Georgia looks to 150th anniversary."


Speaking of blogs

Is Mike Koepke's kaput? In IE it flashes and then blanks out.

Update: it's back and it works (2/27/07). But Eric Wittenberg's seems to be on the blink.

Or maybe I should just switch browsers.

Death of Randy's blog

Randy's "Battle of Gettysburg & the American Civil War" has been officially abandoned. As with so many previous postings, Randy has taken pains to explain. Have a look.

There is a sadness in the last postings tending towards morbidity, a worry about ennobling war, and fretting about failing to secure Joe Avalon's attention, oddly enough.

Blogs of this type are rare. Each entry in BGACW represented a major writing and thinking effort and taken together with the copious (good) photo stills, each entry represented a small production. Nothing coming down the pike is going to be this atmospheric or produced.

I found it strange that Randy wanted to protect his identity by showing half a name; that he eschewed the all-pervasive blogroll; that his internal post links, rare they were, tended to link to himself only; strangest of all, that he put such stock in the weakest of all his writings, the analysis of Gettysburg casino development.

But bloggers are idiosyncratic and his work was the unmistakable emblem of a personality. The result was a damn fine blog.


Civil War Talk Radio looks at publishing

Ted Savas ("Savas Beatie") is featured in this episode of Civil War Talk Radio. Asked which published Savas Beatie title is his favorite, he did not hesitate: Wittenberg's and Petruzzi's Plenty of Blame to Go Around.

The tone was positive. Ted offered only one author horror story. Compare that to an October piece in Gawker, where a trade house editor was much harsher on these craftsmen: "... authors are the craziest, meanest, strangest, cluelessest people you've ever met."

Don't ever imagine that applies to blog authors like myself. No way.

Ted's former publishing partner David Woodbury ("Savas Woodbury") tells an author story in his latest blog entry ... it would even scare Gawker's anonymous editor, if she were to read it.
I was recruited by one author to do some maps for his Civil War installment in the University Press of Kansas' Modern War Studies series, about 9 years ago. I spent whole weekends on three difficult maps, got them to the publisher on deadline, and never heard from the up-and-coming professor again—not even in response to my email informing him that they were delivered. Eventually the book came out. No mention of maps in the acknowledgments, no credit lines on the maps themselves. No simple "thank you" by email. I had offered to do them for free—for exposure in the university press world—so wasn't looking for payment. Just courtesy. I had to write to the publisher to get a copy of the book.
How awesomely strange, mean, crazy and clueless. (Do you think this is a story about Earl. J. Hess, Craig Symonds, or Michael Fellman?)


Lincoln and Taney

I had hopes for Lincoln and Chief Justice Taney. It took a certain amount of brass to elevate Taney to the level of a weighty anti-Lincoln and I liked that. But the warning signs were there too.

The title told all that this was aimed at audiences who don't know Taney was chief justice. Uh oh.

The index then told that there would be no discussion of Seward's many illegal arrests and incarcerations, nor Stanton's: in other words, that the broad criminality of the Lincoln Administration (if that is what these arrests suggest) would be veiled in favor of spotlighting a few manageable showcase issues involving Lincoln himself, such as the use of martial law and Burnside's arrest of Vallandigham. Trouble!

Worst of all, my litmus test for a book of this sort would be to see how it managed the evidence (or absence of evidence) concerning Ward Lamon's claim that he carried an arrest warrant for Chief Justice Taney signed by Lincoln himself. No mention of this famous claim here. This would be the very book for it.

In fact the Taney vs. Lincoln approach almost guarantees a narrative format in which legal and constitutional issues are personalized ... and here they are. The narrative bent is so strong that although the author gives himself a summing up sort of analytic epilogue, even there the analysis is little and feeble.
Are the few legal nuggets scattered here bona fide? It would take a lawyer to vett them.

Furthermore, the book alternates chapters between Taney and Lincoln as a storytelling strategy. As a Taney ignoramus, I enjoyed the Taney material while wincing at the stale stuff in the Lincoln chapters.

We have the germ of a very interesting idea here. A full bore treatment would have been thrilling. Sooner or later we will need a serious study of the claims Lincoln made for his war powers; of Taney's counterpoints; and of the general atmosphere of conspiracy, transgressions, and lawlessness that shaped Taney's Civil War milieu.

Where to begin reading?

A poster on Usenet asks where he should begin reading about the Civil War:
I have been reading James M. McPherson's "Battle Cry of Freedom", Larry Schweikart's "A Patriot's History of America" (the Civil War sections), Bruce Catton's three part series, and General Grant's memoir. I assume many of you are more educated on the Civil War, and are better read on its various subjects. What do you think of these books? Will they contribute effectively to my understanding of the war? Will they give me good insights into the essentials of what caused the war, how the war was fought, and what the war caused?
Somebody got this fellow started on a reading list, selecting "the usual suspects" for him (with the exception of Schweikart). I like the fact that he's suspicious of these authors after starting his reading.

After thanking people for encouraging him, he asks just the right follow-on question:
I'm also interested in a study of the relationship between the philosophy (the ideology) of the time, and how it motivated the start of the war and the actions of the generals in the war. I've studied a bit, and writers usually have used the terminology of Whig, Know-Nothing, Republican, Democrat, etc. These party names don't tell me much about the uniting and fundamental ideology of each side, and how these ideologies lead men to take cerain actions. Sometimes the constant switching of parties and party titles and party ideology is just plain confusing. Is their a book particularly devoted to explaining these things...
I felt compelled to answer the second post at length:
Why not start with The Rise and Fall of the American Whig Party, a great introduction to the parties leading up to the ACW with plenty of background on the pre-ACW activities of major personalities of the war? Then, when you go to a McPherson or Catton, and they mention the name of a political personality, you'll have the full dossier.
There's lots more here.


Book sales 2006: Goodwin's numbers

Goodwin's 2006 sales numbers, estimated here, were scrutinized here earlier this month, evoking promises to look deeper into the matter.

I have done some follow-on research. Before getting into that, a mea culpa. I equated low hardcover sales with total sales performance and misled you (and myself) based on that. I failed to check for paperback and other formats, check their ISBNs, and total their sales. I have now done that for 2006.

You will recall that a Publishers Weekly sales number of 620,000 was given in this article. The article is dated 3/27/06 and purports to be total sales figures for 2005. If these numbers hold for 2005, then my Ingram based estimates are absurd for 2006. Or are they? In fact, Publishers Weekly explains its figures this way[emphasis added],
"As always, all our calculations are based on shipped-and-billed figures supplied by publishers ... These figures reflect only 2005 sales, and publishers were instructed not to include book club and overseas transactions. We also asked publishers to take into account returns through January 31; it would be safe to surmise that not all did.
As we shall see.

For Team of Rivals, I surmise that Simon & Schuster submitted "shipped but not returned figures" - not sales figures per se. I had said there was a large overhang of unsold Rivals and I still believe this to be true. Here's the nub of the matter. The hardcover came out Oct. 25, 2005. Applying the standard 90-day book returns policy, returns of Team of Rivals would not begin shipping back to the publisher until January 25 and the shipments would not begin arriving until several days later crowding the January 31 target set by E&P. Simon & Schuster could not comply with the instructions it was given but it submitted "sales" figures anyway.

Team of Rivals even has a double asterisk in Publishers Weekly denoting that "Sales figures were submitted to PW in confidence, for use in placing titles on the lists." [Emphasis added.] S&S has given us a valuable clue as to the size of the ordering but not the succes of the title.

I should mention that in dealing out Ingram numbers, I have the option of giving out order numbers or warehouse stock but I tally sold copies. Here are the 2006 copies of Team of Rivals sold through Ingram:

HB: 15,545 (released October 25, 2005)
PB: 39,033 (released September 26, 2006)
CD: 1,535 (released October 25, 2005)
Cassette: 235 (released October 25, 2005)

Total: 57,639

You'll notice the HB total just slightly higher here from what I gave earlier. I learned from this drill that if you call too soon after the new year, Ingram gives you a number not accounting for all the returns made in December. Better to call in February for annual sales totals.

Can we reconcile the Ingram figures of 2006 with those given by S&S for 2005? No, because we have two different years and for 2005, S&S gave a hypothetical figure based on shipped copies, not sales and not including returns.

Do we have to treat Ingram-based estimates with care? Yes.


Museum of the C*********y

Yesterday's news:
The Museum of the Confederacy will likely drop the word "Confederacy" from its name when it moves its collection to a new home.
They don't want to use the correct, historically meaningful word in polite company, it seems.


Simon Cameron needed this?

If you want to understand then versus now, picture this organization under Simon Cameron providing him with "decision support." All this to determine "Centerville now or later?"

Never mind the blurry typography, you get the idea: cumbersome. Also, just as in Civil War literature, the political is missing. It's a closed loop between the decisionmaker (secretary off to the top right corner) and his huge input feed.

Yes, the secretary is a political appointee, but this scheme imagines strategy decisions being made away from political influences (Congress, the president, the press).

If Lincoln taught us anything at all it is that political leaders will never, ever set strategy during war waged by a republic. The contingency-loving politico understands, in a way few Civil War readers grasp, that strategy commits resources now to events later in a constraining way; strategy is measurable, meaning the policymaker will be held to a standard and graded; strategy marches to a timeline oblivious to changing political will and fortune; strategy solicits the public's support on specifics, much more difficult to secure than public support for general principles; strategy is a very dangerous political trap for the politician-in-chief.

We don't find Lincoln reviewing and approving strategy, despite the material submitted to him by McClellan and Grant. What we find is presidential approval (or rejection) of specific operations of limited scope and duration. That is, we find political pragmatism driving operations within a limited window of opportunity. As Archer Jones has suggested, the optimal outcome in Lincoln's concept of war was a series of victories generating ever larger headlines thus increasing political support for the GOP while sapping enemy and Democratic Party support. It would not matter where the victories occurred, nor in what geographic sequence, nor need they be associated with any military concept.

Take this political conception of war to an extreme and understand that the ACW could have been fought entirely in Antarctica and won there based on glowing newspaper coverage. You would not need strategy or geography, just a series of encounters that could be "won" in newspaper terms and broadcast as victories. The loser, in headline terms, would have been voted out of office. That is something like what is happening in Iraq and Afghanistan even now. You have a military that cannot devise a strategy, or make a case for one, and you have a political class with no use for strategy, which however inspired works against expediency (which is a higher value in political terms).

Of strategy in the Civil War, there was none. Of strategy in the future, there shall be none.

Some ideas will always be bruited about but no national strategy. If WWII appears rich in U.S. geostrategy - an exception to this rule - it is an illusion, a post-facto stitch-up of ad hoc decisions taken as situations put decisions within reach. So it will ever be. Kings and dictators may have strategies, republics will not.

The SecDef (SecWar) is therefore always more in need of politcal decisionmaking machinery than strategy vetting processes. Politics is where Cameron went wrong, anyway.

The diagram comes from a proposal from these people. (Click link to read the whitepaper and see the diagram clearly.)

Publishing factoids

If you string some disparate publishing data together into a storyline, you can really depress yourself. These bits were collected on Dan Poynter's site:
* 58% of the US adult population never reads another book after high school.
* 42% of college graduates never read another book.
* 70% of US adults have not been in a bookstore in the last five years.
* Only 32% of the U.S. population has ever been in a bookstore.
* Most readers do not get past page 18 in a book they have purchased.
* 2002: 37% of the books sent to stores were returned.


A note for prospective Civil War authors

Book proposals. Compare and contrast.

I would add the following ingredients to Nathan's recipe:

(1) Where he says "clearly differentiate your project from the other books that have already been published on the subject," that is also a good place to use your Ingram numbers to present rough sales information - order of magnitude info - for the niche you will occupy. In Kevin's case, estimate sales for books on Civil War memory and public history.

(2) Give your marketing plan. Your own marketing plan for how you will sell your book. Not the publisher's plan, your plan.

(3) You must provide a page count.

(4) Keep rewriting until the overview is irresistible.

Here's the point: your agent or editor must act as your advocate. You are equipping someone to paint a picture of achievable success and helping them to overcome objections.


Civil War opera

Who can get enough of it? Not David Woodbury. (Check out Manny's comment on that post.)

Not me. Not me. Not me. Not me. Not me. Not me. Not me. Not me.

Not Lincoln: noticed a great anecdote about Abe and Gen. James Wilson attending the Magic Flute together. Must post it this weekend.

(Cartoon via Tony Millionaire.)

Backlash against Faust

Written by a fan of "public history" - Faust has carved out a niche for herself all-too-typical of the intellectual provincialism characteristic of many of this generation’s scholars, having fashioned a career scribbling about vacuous constructions of “gender” and “ritual” during a time period in which they had little acknowledged meaning.

Anti-Faust conjurers predict the future - Stephen H. Balch... said that he feared that Faust would push to use gender and perhaps racial criteria in hiring and tenure decisions. “The greatest worry”, Balch said in a statement, “is that as president, Faust will further ratchet up the pressure on Harvard’s great scientific research centers to subordinate personnel decisions to the needs of social engineering.”

Her name seems to be a byword for group preferences - Drew Faust ... head[ed] a Task Force on Women Faculty. That Task Force won a $50 million commitment to increase faculty “diversity efforts” at Harvard. In the past, the call for such “diversity” has been a code name for greater ideological conformism, since those appointed through it are expected to share the ideological premise that brought them the job.

She keeps company with a bad crowd - Faust runs one of the most powerful incubators of feminist complaint and nonsensical academic theory in the country.

I am ashamed to admit that I care more for Civil War history than for Harvard. If she ruins that place, I don't care. The ACW books she has written needed to be written; the example she now sets the public historians needs to be set; if her example can influence the direction of Civil War history towards analysis, monographs and cross-disciplinary work, that's long overdue.

Meanwhile, if a brand-name college collapses into faddish navel-gazing, that is a problem for the alumni, not society at large.

Am I polarized, yet?


Good luck Jenny

"The Learned Foot is the pen name of runner, attorney, and Civil War buff Jenny Goellnitz." She likes Rosecrans but today, like Rosie, she is suffering certain "duck hit over the head" symptoms.

Very best to you.

(I didn't use that word you hate, Jenny.)

This is progress?

I said it about today's Army; it applies to today's Marines as well. The U.S. land forces are "second generation" Civil War armies

... committed to "alignment, synchronicity, spatial management, and the micromanagement of undertrained subordinates" and all new technology is put at the service of these values.
In terms of tactics, this second generation warfare culture is committed to the artillery (or air power) destroying and the infantry occupying as it was in the days of Verdun. Under our current WWI/2GW approach, moreover, the infantry is a 19th Century militia in terms of capability, reliability, and fragility*. It polices the streets, it occupies bombed terrain, it awaits the foe behind earthworks, it is never out of supporting range. Unlike 19th Century militia, however, it is rarely entrusted with live ammunition or discretion in using it.

Now, columnist William Lind notes a certain Marine general is promoting "distributed operations." He concludes that what is meant is operating as classic light infantry. He quotes his general as saying that in distributed operations
"... general purpose forces, operating with deliberate dispersion, where necessary and tactically prudent, and decentralized decision-making consistent with commander's intent to achieve advantages over an enemy in time and space. Distributed operations relies on the ability and judgment of Marines at every level..."
This does not point to a return to older light infantry doctrines to me but to temporary suspension of the requirements of strict control at the highest levels and synchronicity with all surrounding forces. Problem: under current norms, "decentralized decision-making" could mean that full colonels should boss tiny squads instead of generals bossing them. Look at the quote with my additions:
"... general purpose forces [infantry], operating with deliberate dispersion [patrols, pickets, outposts, ambushes, recon], where necessary and tactically prudent [temporarily permitted by the brass], and [exercising] decentralized decision-making consistent with commander's intent to achieve advantages over an enemy in time and space [not letting the enemy get away while awaiting approval to shoot]. Distributed operations relies on the ability and judgment of Marines at every level..." [Not just the Pentagon level.]
Is this even a tiny step forward out of the 19th Century or is it random noise?

One of the many failures of American generalship as it stands now is a complete breakdown of the concept of hierarchical work. In the Civil War, a mass levy of amateurs needed pro guidance in realtime down to the squad level. The colonel was operating in near-real-time and depended on his real-time company-grade officers to run things. The modern mode is to use technology to insert the genius of generals into platoon operations. Martin Börjesson recaps this in non-military terms, but the point stands:

Focus on Quality - a time span of 1 day - 3 months
Focus on Service - a time span of 3 months - 1 year
Focus on Praxis - a time span of 1 - 2 years
Focus on Strategy - a time span of 2 - 5 years
Focus on Intent - a time span of 5 - 10 years

You might substitute for the first item, focus on tactical operations and take the metaphor from there. The point is that time horizons change as one ascends the hierarchy and assumes different responsibilities.

The mania for control at the general officer level is sometimes attributed to pathological risk aversion - the events of but a day during a two-year tour of duty could spoil a career. Each day bears close watching!

And this is where the system breaks down - in the temporal realm. As Martin writes, "at this level of work [proper level for say the general officer's level] we have almost completely left the realm of managing the current and entered into the realm of steering into the future – a place without either feedback, right or wrong. Instead this realm is full of theories, models and ideas." Our generals reject that realm.

Work not being hierarchically organized, the wrong centers are expending the wrong effort in the wrong places. Lind's general is proposing a loosening of puppet strings that works against every general's perceived self-interest (career), every general's temporal sense (now!), and every general's rejection of the responsibility inherent in hierarchical divisions of labor.

Our 19th Century military shall therefore continue to march on the route selected.

* Fragility or brittleness refers to a threshold, expressed in stress or casualties, where the cohesion of a unit breaks down and it becomes ineffective. The less brittle or less fragile units will break up under stress later rather than sooner.


Harvard and the Civil War

I have been missing the excitement surrounding the appointment of Harvard's new president. She's a woman, which seems to be one of just two complex facts the news outlets can digest. The other is that she's a social scientist - a history professor.

More imporant, for us, is that she's a Civil War author of long standing. (Hat tip to Richard F. Miller for wakening me from my news slumber.)

The elevation of Drew Gilpin Faust in combination with the retirement of James McPherson from the academy and from the presidency of the AHA sets up the expectation for a potentially new "greatest living Civil War historian." I'm not going to ride this McPherson hobby horse any further today, except to say that Faust writes an infinitely more respectable sort of history than "the people's historian" with his gross simplifications and impossible generalizations. To the extent that she rises while he diminishes, we will be well served.

Consider this blurb from LSU Press:
Drew Gilpin Faust argues that coming to a fuller understanding of southern thought during the Civil War period offers a valuable refraction of the essential assumptions on which the Old South and the Confederacy were built. She shows the benefits of exploring Confederate nationalism “as the South’s commentary upon itself, as its effort to represent southern culture to the world at large, to history, and perhaps most revealingly, to its own people.”
That is the most Voegelinian statement I have read in the last five years. History as understanding a people's representation of itself to itself in the midst of an epochal crisis. That breaks the Voegelin meter.

On a more frivolous note, I have long had this habit of referring in private conversation to a certain kind of Civil War narrative as pornographic. Faust also uses the term pornography to characterize certain Civil War history - and in the same way.

HNN notes that the Manhattan Institute issued warnings about Faust's radical feminism. But Faust's concerns strike me as profoundly conservative in a way today's movement conservatives will not easily grasp. The radical meme of "meaningless war," for example, she rejects. She is paraphrased as saying, Thus we [historians] are the ones who give meaning to war. Her "Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South" - a Faustian book topic - has interested the Unionist right since Mencken's seminal "Sahara of the Bozart".

The point is not to deduce her politics, but rather suggest that she represents an earlier type of public intellectual and that here is a cultural conservatism that interests itself in truly large and complex historical problems. She appears to me therefore to be a credit to the field of Civil War history.

A couple of background notes. She is publicly aligned with the Gilder / Lehrman / Boritt camp of Lincolnology rather than the Holzer crew. She has been a Virginian teaching at Harvard following a University of Pennsylvania higher education. As to the count of books she's authored, here's my own tally:

(1) Mothers of Invention: Women of the Slaveholding South in the American Civil War
(2) James Henry Hammond and the Old South: A Design for Mastery
(3) A Sacred Circle: The Dilemma of the Intellectual in the Old South, 1840-1860
(4) The Creation of Confederate Nationalism: Ideology and Identity in the Civil War South
(5) The Ideology of Slavery: Proslavery Thought in the Antebellum South, 1830-1860
(6) Southern Stories: Slaveholders in Peace and War
(7) A Slaveowner in a Free Society: James Henry Hammond on the Grand Tour, 1836-1837
(8) Moment of Truth: A Woman of the Master Class in the Confederate South

There's more here.

Now let's see if this corner of the nonfiction world can get a little respectability.


p.s. Good to see Brian salute what he calls a "real scholar." Kevin is happy with Faust's "level of scholarship and sophistication." Those are criteria I like. Good-bye "readable and popular." You had your turn.


"Colonizing" ACW studies

McClellan's War author Ethan Rafuse recently posted on the Ivy League PhD brain trust surrounding the Iraq pacification commander David Petraeus. The story plays into an observation by Reverend G:
This expansion of the war discourse has also opened the war discourse to colonization by other intellectual discourses. In my analysis, at least on an intellectual level, these other discourses are more mature, that is to say developed with greater rigor, than the discourse of war.

Reverend G is responding to a sudden abundance of writing on "Fifth Generational Warfare (5GW)" - which seems to take as its ethos a higher level of complexity and cross-disciplinarianism than even 4GW. But if you think colonization is too strong a word, you haven't been paying attention to what the legal field has been doing to warfare, or rather lawfare.

This has everything to do with Civil War history. The intellectual poverty at large in institutional military analysis is a pass-through affecting popular history writing. For example, as noted here previously, military historians and teachers follow primitive - even laughable - pop history memes and structures in analyzing their own realms. This has been their level of self-confidence and self-reliance.

Those same characteristics that make Civil War history such a prime destination for second-raters also makes it susceptible to takeover by the more "mature" discourses. Johns Hopkins just sent me a volume in masculinity studies (!?) connecting Southern white culture to the origins of the war, for example. "Masculinity studies" is not a mature field, is it, and yet it doesn't mind strolling on the ACW beachfront, kicking sand into the faces of all those fools retelling their Catton/Nevins/Williams/McPherson stories.

And so, if even "immature" discourses are well poised to have their way with us we are in trouble. Our respectability quotient is still too low, there are too few Rafuses currently at large. In fact the "greatest living Civil War historian" himself has denounced postmodernism, so engaged is he with new thinking.*

The authors, editors and prize committees who have manufactured consensus since the Centennial now face an eruption of ideas, arguments, and suggestions that will not only sweep them away (thanks be) but will in the course of so doing bend the trajectory of a discipline that needs to mature in peace on its own terms.

"There is more emphasis placed on archival research, on innovative methodology, on new breakthrough interpretations, on methodology in academia, and increasing specialization. There is increasing focus on fields like environmental history and women's history and social history and cliometrics, which is a sort of quantitative economic history with a specialized language. All of this makes what a lot of academic historians write either unintelligible or uninteresting to a broad lay audience." - James M. McPherson

Another hiatus

... announced at the always thoughtful Battle of Gettysburg blog.

Somewhere it's Lincoln's Birthday

And that somewhere is New Jersey, which has yet to abolish it.

But New Jersey being New Jersey, someone is angry about having "one holiday too many."

Good-bye to Brett Schulte's blog

... which has ceased publication. Brett's was the second blog to appear on the scene after this one and it filled an interesting niche. I will miss it.

I wish Brett every kind of good luck with his house construction. Watch out, mister. You think you know something about games but you're playing with contractors now.


Beatie interview - read it

If you joined us late this week, read Monday's interview with Russel Beatie. It encapsulates the whole point of this blog.

Book sales 2006: Goodwin revisited again

Have resolved to derive a provisional Ingram factor this weekend by taking Publishers Weekly's sales number of 620,000 (which covers sales of all formats of the book) and checking every ISBN for a grand total of Ingram sales, then doing the division.

My 14,000 figure was based on the first edition hardback only. Will post the second analysis here.

Update, 2/12/07: still collecting data.

Publishing 2006: More on Lincoln books

Harold Holzer was on C-SPAN radio this morning talking with Brian Lamb. Some interesting points:

* He said that he himself knows of 10 books coming out on Lincoln between now and the Bicentennial. These include (1) Holzer's own study of Lincoln for the period between election and inaugural (2) A book by McPherson of Lincoln as commander-in-chief (3) A title by Craig Symonds evaluating Lincoln as admiral-in-chief.

* He said that in honor of Lincoln's Cooper Union address, two political laughingstocks, Mario Cuomo and newt Gingrich, will debate each other at Cooper Union on February 28.

(Note what Herndon said about Lincoln's preparations for that speech: "No former effort in the line of speech-making had cost Lincoln so much time and thought as this one." I hope that the staffs of Cuomo and Gingrich will exert similar efforts in writing these Feb 28 speeches for their bosses.)

* A caller asked should the Republican Party collapse per the Whig Party, might another Lincoln emerge from the ruins and Holzer not only answered "yes," but that there were "plenty" of Lincolns in both parties.

* Brian Lamb asked Holzer weren't "all these Lincoln books" a "self-reinforcing" activity of "Lincoln lovers"? More surprising than the question was the answer, "This is market driven." Holzer went on to explan that if there were only 50 authors writing books for themselves and their friends, major publishers would not be interested. (He sounded nervous and missed the thrust of the question, I think.)

* In discussing bicentennial resources and events, Holzer pointed listeners to his own commission without making reference to the ALPLM or its bicentennial leadership under the cryptic mysterion "Rick Beard."

If I can make an observation without passing into the political psychosis currently dominating pop culture... It has long seemed to me that the backbone of the Lincoln book market is the culturally conservative political liberal. I don't know why that is or what it means but am tempted to fold in Holzer's "many Lincolns" analysis. In other words, I suspect that the nostalgia for Lincoln among culturally conservative political liberals is also associated with an urge to somehow redeem present-day politics with a Lincoln connection or template.

Something to mull over this season besides mulled wine.

(Note: where quote marks appear above, I have am reasonably sure the quote is verbatim.)


Book sales 2006: Goodwin revisited

A reader of Kevin Levin's blog, Russell Bonds, has weighed in to say my Ingram-formula-derived 14,000 sales figure for Goodwin's Team of Rivals is impossible and I see a lot of merit in this view. Have a look.

Let me highlight some of RB's points with comments.

Quote: The book was the #1 New York Times bestseller and was on the hardcover nonfiction bestseller list for 19+ weeks (and then spent another 15 weeks on the paperback bestseller list - see NYT Jan. 28).

Comment: The reader must keep in mind what this list is and how it is compiled. It is not a record of sales volume nationally, it is a record of the rate of retail sales in a select number of venues over the period of a week. The number of stores used to be tiny and publishers used to game the system by buying their own books from the polled stores. Currently, the survey is much broader and it would therefore be impossible to sustain many weeks on the list with a total of 14,000 sales. I find this information interesting.

Quote: Publishers Weekly puts sales at 620,000 copies for 2005 alone!!

Comment: These numbers were supplied to PW by the publisher - but it seems unlikely that S&S would inflate sales by large magnitudes.

Quote: Even now, the book is still the #1 Civil War title on Amazon.

Comment: Again, this one is another rate of sales metric and an odd one at that: "the ranking does not depend upon the actual number of books sold, but rather, on a comparison against the sales figures of the other [top] 9,999 books within that same hour." It involves computer modeling based on extrapolation, as well. Nevertheless, I would be very surprised if a title could sustain high ranking here over a long period with a sales cap of 14.000.

Quote: The problem is with this revered but baseless "Ingram x 6" formula, which does not take into account the fact that Amazon, B&N, and Barnes & Noble all stock certain titles--especially large titles like Team of Rivals--direct from the publisher or from other wholesalers and don't go through Ingram at all--not to mention library and book club sales (which for Team of Rivals must have been huge).

Comment: This is the trend that will render the Ingram formula worthless eventually, if it is not worthless now.

I ask my readers to take these sales estimates with a grain of salt - and will make the cautionary stronger in the future. The correction is appreciated. I should have done more research.

A closing note: the author's sales success is never absolute based on total copies sold but relative based on copies sold versus publisher's expense. Strong initial sales have misled many a publisher into ordering too large of a second printing too soon, into holding too much stock thereafer, and thereby generating (paradoxically) ill will toward the author. In sum, an author can sell a million copies and still be considered a commercial failure. Meanwhile, let us toast Goodwin's sales success.

Corinth - what is it worth?

Can the Corinth campaign attract 100 visitors a day?


The ACW Bloggers versus Joe

Joe Avalon is getting backlogged.
Due to the increasing number of Civil War blogs, and the practicalities of devoting the time necessary for a full weekly review of each, we are establishing a blogroll to be found in the uppermost box in the column to the left. This will include sites which for one reason or another we are unable to accommodate in TWIB, or which were listed therein but have failed to update for a protracted period.
His summaries have been excellent. Don't give up Joe.

Mannie mania - count me in

This guy does a lot of Web stuff.

(Hat tip to Michael Aubrecht)

Victim of your own success, cont.

J. David Petruzzi puts some meat on the bones of this post. A must read.

A bridge too far for Stonewall - and me?

Reader Will Keene - who knows more about Stonewall and the Valley than I do - sent in some excellent objections to my position, "No such campaign as Romney." He says,

You say that "Readers have erroneously written to tell me Romney was [the target]." To support this claim that the rest of us are erroneous and that you have mastered the truth, you claim that Jackson "disclosed his intentions to none once his winter offensive began" and "'Romney' never crossed Jackson's lips and he wrote no more about it after November."

He attached some compelling OR quotes, which appear below. Before commenting on those clippings, let me shamefully backpedal to say that I should have written that author Tanner makes a point of the fact that at no point in the winter march did Jackson's subordinates learn what their objectives were. But that he "wrote no more about it" is disproven below. Material in brackets is Will's:

Quote: "In accordance with your views, indorsed by this Department, [Loring] has commenced a movement for co-operafion with you, which will place at your disposal quite an effective force for your proposed campaign". -- J.P. Benjamin, December 6 [The camapign Jackson had proposed at that point was Romney]

Comment: Jackson proposed attacking Romney, the SecWar refers to the coming action as a "campaign." So far so good for the "Romney Campaign."

Quote: "It appears to me very important that his [Loring's] force should come as a unit to this point for not only are General Kelley’s forces in Hampshire County at this moment near 7,000 strong, and more expected from the West, but additional troops may at any time cross the Potomac at a lower point, and enter this district. In addition to these reasons for bringing his entire command here may be added the great importance, if successful, in recovering this district and capturing many of the enemy, and disorganizing the mass of such forces as are threatening this region of wintering on the waters of the Ohio, as expressed in my letter of the 20th ultimo." -- Jackson, December 9 [The letter of November 20th described his plan to attack Romney.]

Comment: Three days after Romney is linked to "campaign" in Benjamin's letter, Jackson is broadening the scope of the enterprise. "Hampshire County" replaces Romney and then the "county" gives way to the even broader "district." The focus, perhaps, is the enemy rather than Romney. To me it seems "district clearing" is now the aim. To complicate matters, Jackson then alludes to forces beyond the district; those that might cross the Potomac at a "lower point" could be Lander's or Banks' commands or both. More baffling is the reference to "disorganizing the mass of such forces as are threatening this region of wintering on the waters of the Ohio." Those would be Rosecrans' command. What is Jackson up to? I think, myself, he is writing himself a blank check for the use of Loring's command as he sees fit. The priority is still the county or district, but other to-dos are now sprouting.

Quote: "If it is the design of the Government to commence offensive operations against Romney soon, the troops asked for should move to my aid at once. ... There are noble spirits in and about Romney who have given up their earthly all, and are now for our cause and institutions exiles from their homes. I have endeavored to cheer them, and to deter those who remained behind from taking the oath of allegiance to the enemy by holding out to them the prospect of a speedy deliverance..." -- Jackson, December 23

Comment: Here "in and about" Romney is mentioned; the town and by implication county are held out as political objectives, the population needing protection. The context reinforces the Romney objective of Jackson's letter from earlier in the month but now we have to infer Romney-clearing is the point of the campaign rather than an incidental benefit.

Quote: "I have good reason to believe that the enemy in Hampshire are nearly 10,000 strong ... it appears to me that my best plan is to attack him at the earliest practicable moment, and accordingly, as soon as the inspection of General Loring’s forces shall be finished and the necessary munitions of war procured, I expect to march on the enemy" -- Jackson, December 24 [Hampshire County = Romney]

Comment: Here, Jackson is making the enemy his objective and he places them in the county, not just in Romney. If more enemy are across the river from Hampshire than are in Hampshire, would they become the prime objective?

Quote: "If there is a probability of a junction of the troops of Kelley and Banks, General Jackson’s plan of attacking the former soon is undoubtedly most judicious." -- J.E. Johnston, December 25

Comment: If this quote refers to Jackson's original letter it does not help the case of a "Romney Campaign." If it reflects Jackson's thinking as of Christmas, it makes the troops of Kelley the objective wherever they were. On a side note, there appears to be an intelligence failure here: it is Lander who may connect with Kelley.

Quote: "I had an interview this morning with General T. J. Jackson ... Here at Romney the enemy is concentrating all his forces from Western Virginia, leaving, as I am informed, very few troops on Cheat Mountain. Let us without delay meet them with our western forces." -- T.S. Haymond, December 26

Comment: This does not disclose Jackson's thinking, the way I read it. It does suggest that if Union forces are the object, the object is at Romney.

Quote: "To-morrow I hope to recover Bath, and before leaving Morgan I desire to drive the enemy out of this county and destroy the railroad bridge which has been recently constructed across the Big Cacapon." -- Jackson, January 2 [Leaving Morgan = entering Hampshire]

Comment: Again we see Jackson piling contingencies onto his wish list. This quote works against the "Romney Campaign" by subordinating entry into Hampshire to clearing Morgan. Bath, in Morgan, is not a feint it is a clearing operation, a major objective. When the Union's Bath garrison joins Lander at Hancock, Hancock becomes an objective. Giving up on Hancock, Jackson leaves Morgan County with Lander in pursuit and chewing up his trains. That is to say, "before leaving Morgan" - a higher priority than Hampshire and Romney - he fails to drive out the re-entering enemy.

He recovers Morgan, he loses Morgan; he recovers Bath, he loses Bath. He assails Hancock, he abandons assailing. He occupies Romney, he loses Romney.

I regret the tone conveying a mastery of truth and I appreciate the correction Will has offered. I now think that "Romney Campaign" is a reasonable term of convenience to cover Jackson's ever-shifting intentions. It is conversational.

Should historians use it? No, it's inaccurate. Call me simplistic but however it was sold to Benjamin and Johnston, this was not a campaign for Romney and therefore not a "Romney campaign."

Publishing 2006: Can't sell a Bible?

An interesting - and short - overview of the publishing scene in 2006 apart from the ACW niche. The author is the head of Thomas Nelson, the Bible publishers.

It would seem that traditional book retailers took a major hit, while Amazon sales grew.

(Note to marketers: in the future, do not equate Amazon with book selling. The growth could have come from non-book "stores" on Amazon's website.)


A bridge too far for Stonewall (3/3)

We started this series with a link to a news story about a group in West Virginia trying to get backing for something like a "Romney Campaign" trail. "What is the Romney Campaign?" one might ask. The trail backers wanted to answer that question for the public and came up with a summary of events that could easily have come out of Robert G. Tanner's Stonewall in the Valley where Tanner calls out a "Romney Campaign" in a substantial section.

If you read Monday's interview, you know that Russel Beatie also presented extensive information from the Union perspective on many of the same events in Volume II of Army of the Potomac without referring to a "Romney Campaign." (We even had some fun here comparing a few details in the two accounts.)

Let me propose that there was no Romney campaign. Tanner needs such a term to make tidy literature and Beatie, I think, scorns it as a dubious piece of nomenclature.

Generally, the side on the offensive not only has the initiative, but in working the initiative, sets up a narrative framework that often results in a naming convention through later retelling. Think of Henry Halleck's Corinth Campaign, a simple example. Objective, Corinth. Beauregard is defending Corinth, so there is even a nice symmetry, a specious "fairness" to the naming convention. Likewise Vicksburg.

This symmetry is something of a mania in Civil War history. For postwar political reasons, this had to be or the side with the greater number of offensive actions - the Union - would have produced a prepondernace of Union-driven names for campaigns. In McClellan's first Richmond campaign, for example, McClellan has the initiative, the Rebels are passive/reactive, Richmond is the objective, but the moniker attached to this episode is the Peninsula Campaign, a neutral beauty that reduces the matter to some fighting that happened in a certain geographical area. The same logic seems to have produced the "Red River Campaign," which should rightly be known as the "Shreveport Campaign."

You see my assumption: the geographic objective set by that side that is on the offensive is the natural campaign name. Where this is not the case, I look for hanky panky.

Jackson's failed attempt on Hancock might have been called the "Hancock Campaign." That would resemble the naming logic of "Gettysburg Campaign." But Jackson failed at Hancock and he succeeded in occupying Romney as a consolation prize. If you call it the "Romney Campaign" he is a winner. "Hancock Campaign" makes him a loser.

Was Hancock his objective? Readers have erroneously written to tell me Romney was. No one knows. All we do know is that Jackson and Loring waged a winter offensive and it covered certain ground.

Stonewall proposed to his government in November '61 to borrow Loring's command to secure Romney as a base for northward offensives but - after a wait for Loring - went to Hancock instead in January. He disclosed his intentions to none once his winter offensive began. Hancock - feint or failure? The word "Romney" never crossed Jackson's lips and he wrote no more about it after November. His commanders had no hint of his intentions on the march.

Naming this the "Romney Campaign" overlays an assumed objective on top of undisclosed intent. It tips the already dubious "fairness" impulse in naming way over the line and makes this an exercise in Jackson PR.

Moreover, the command situation in the North is symmetry-defeating. Romney was on the eastern edge of Rosecrans' command. Lander's command was a small strip of territory on either side of the B&O Railroad track. And Lander borrowed troops from Banks' more easterly Valley command. Jackson was stepping on a number of bunions in his operational space. Thus, Jackson-centered storytellers tend not to mention commanders facing Jackson above regimental level - their readers would be needlessly confused.

So about those markers along Jackson's route. What would be wrong with "Jackson's First Independent Campaign"? The same tourists who don't know anything about a "Romney Campaign" cannot object to learning a different name... especially if it is simple and true. At the same time, we could all dodge the bad history that gives us a "Romney Campaign."

"Failing better" again

Some new posts have me thinking about the "Failing better" series again (which started here).

Michael Allen asks if you'd pause to think about a prolific author who has turned her back on the publishing business:

Suppose this person sits back, abjures all contact with, and all reading about, what the rest of the literary (or commercial) world is up to; forgets about, or rather doesn't even trouble to find out, who is flavour of the month this time around; ignores the bestseller list; ignores the small magazines, print or online, which consciously form an armed resistance to the various establishments. And instead of all that, just does the work, according to her own lights.

And suppose, further, that this person makes her work available in any one of the numerous ways which are now just a click away, my own current favourite being Lulu.com. Our retiring writer does not even bother to set up a Lulu storefront, let alone write press releases or send out review copies, or pay to get listed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble. She just posts it up. And goes on posting it up, as and when she's finished the stuff. Year after year after year. Over a whole working lifetime.

How about that? We also have the model of Cory Doctorow (via Bob Baker) who gives away free e-book versions of his printed, trade sci-fi titles. "My problem isn't piracy, it's obscurity."

In Civil War history, we have to fail better.

To be a victim of your own success

Ask any celebrity!

Wait, that's the conclusion of this post. Start over.

We have in this country a kind of crank you all know very well. "It was my idea," or "I thought of that years ago." The flip side of this is "My idea was ripped off."

In order to protect itself from these people, the recorded music industry stopped accepting unsolicited demo tapes in about 1983. Someone got in front of a jury and convinced them that a partial sequence of notes - maybe it was just a chord change - appearing on a submitted demo tape was recycled on some hit record. The jury awarded millions and that was the end of unsolicited submissions. I don't know why print media never followed suit. Perhaps they need to be sued to abandon their unsolicited "slush piles."

The "I invented" geniuses I have met tend to couch their inventions on the highest plane of generalization. I would say they generalize "at 50,000 feet," but two weeks ago a colleague at work corrected me: "That's my phrase, at 50,000 feet." Have you ever met someone who said something like, "That was my idea, years ago, shirts that don't need to be ironed"?

I once worked for a company whose technology was 15 years out of date. Employees were very careful because the CEO was convinced that there were plenty of companies out there sitting on piles of cash waiting to reverse engineer our laughable technology from the meager clues that might be found in a sales brochure or tech manual.

And so we see the news in Eric Wittenberg's blog. EW and JDP think they have been accused (wrongly) of plagiarism per se. No. Not at all.

At first, I thought "The crank confronting Eric Wittenberg and J. D. Petruzzi is telling them in his twisted way that they "stole" his idea for a book. After all, there are thousands of us wandering around with the time, energy, and discipline needed to write books - we only lack a single idea for a book. That's why we need - and exploit - cranks, er, idea men. Delaware cavalry charge? I'd steal that idea in a minute. My ticket to riches.

On the other hand, given a little reflection, I reached a different conclusion. This character wrote a threatening letter himself (sans lawyer) to an attorney- talk about a crank.

So this is about stalking, not publishing rights.

Civil War authors who reach a certain level of celebrity have earned not just fans but stalkers.

Congratulations, guys!


An interview with Russel Beatie

The third volume of Army of the Potomac will appear this month and I was able to interview Russel Beatie last week through the good offices of his publishing partner Theodore Savas.


DR: If you meet people who have read Nevins, Foote or whomever and they ask "why another series," what do you tell them?

RHB: In my opinion, no one has done what I am doing, which is an in-depth study of the officer corps of the Army of the Potomac, nor has any one done it the way I am doing it. I am going back to the original sources, doing my best to ignore secondary studies, and thinking about what the participants wrote, using my training as an attorney of longstanding to sift through the evidence and reach reasonable conclusions about what the sources are telling us. People can and do differ with some of my conclusions, but each is honestly and thoughtfully reached.

DR: How many volumes do you have planned for the series, and how many have been written?

RHB: I really have never given the idea of a set number of volumes serious thought. I research, ponder, write, and move on. Each installment appears as it is written. I am currently writing the fourth installment.

DR: In your books, you praise Bruce Catton, James McPherson, and others, and yet reading the “old masters” triggered decades of personal research. What motivated your research if Civil War history was in such good hands?

RHB: I have praised James McPherson, Ethan Rafuse, and similar original thinkers. There aren’t many. I have never praised Catton. In my opinion, he did not engage in deep analytical thought, his research was not that good, and he wrote like a journalist (“they went swinging down the road,” a colloquial style like that would have made any student sorry in the classes I took as a young schoolboy). Many people love his style, and he triggered widespread interest in the war, which is a good thing. But I have not praised Catton as a Civil War historian. As for the research, I think there are far fewer serious original researchers in the field of Civil War than one might expect to find. There is no substitute—none—for working with original documents, walking the ground whenever you can, and reaching your own conclusions.

DR: Given the amount of research you conducted, why did you choose a narrative format in which to share it? Did you consider editing document collections, or a series of analytic monographs, for instance? I wouldn't blame you if did not trust historians to apply your discoveries without showing them how.

RHB: Editing document collections does not provide the field for analysis that narrative history does. I have found only one collection of letters and one diary I would consider editing for publication: The Henry Ropes letters in the Boston Public Library (which won’t even let me copy them), and the diary of the Comte de Paris, which I had fully translated from French into English. Very few researchers have used more than a few pages of the count’s diary, which is really an indispensable source for studying G. B. McClellan and the AOP.

DR: Can you give readers a sense of the kind of discoveries you made and the effects of same on our understanding of the ACW?

RHB: As for discoveries, I am not sure what you mean. I am not certain I have made any great discoveries. My overall goal is to apply powers of reasoning and analysis to facts often well known to others who have come to the subject with a predisposition and (in my opinion), too little serious thought. Whether I have been successful to date is up to each individual reader.

Squeezing tiny pieces of evidence for all they can give, perhaps stretching at times, I have found the relationships between the officers to be far more important than I initially thought they would be. I think or at least hope my study demonstrates this.

DR: What kind of major documentary gaps did you find? I understand there are no collections of McDowell's and Halleck's papers, for instance.

RHB: Documentary gaps? Where do I begin! McDowell is one of the most baffling figures of U.S. military history and one of the most important, and he left us with virtually nothing: no memoirs, no articles, and no manuscript collection. Except for what has been reproduced in the Official Records and a few other scattered items, that’s it for McDowell. Generally speaking, no personal papers survive for Griffin, Hooker, Burnside, and Pope except in the collections of recipients. One can find gaps looking in nearly every direction.

DR: You write using a fog-of-war technique using multiple Union perspectives immersed in real-time events and the understanding of the moment. Most writers coddle the reader with easy-reading omniscience, but you deliver a rigorous staff exercise. Do you think they appreciate being challenged? In other words, what kind of reader are these books for?

RHB: I use the fog of war because I like it and because I write these things for myself, not for the world at large, The makers of history do not begin their performance on stage with a crystal ball in hand, and we cannot fairly evaluate a man’s performance if we attribute omniscience to him. I am aware that my style is out of today’s mainstream, and so different than what most readers are used to digesting. Whether I am successful in what I do and with the approach I utilize is something each reader will have to decide for himself.

DR: I seem to notice an avoidance of canned concepts and labels in your work. For instance, there is no mention in your new volume of the "Romney Campaign" per se; relevant incidents are richly described at a level of detail readers have never seen before but the storytelling framework is that of Lander getting a handle on his command (and working out his relations with McClellan). What is your view on the many hard-and-fast ACW conventions and categories? Should we use some, none, all?

RHB: It is interesting that you picked up on that. By now, I think you have concluded that I am an independent thinker who does not care about conventions and the like. I have introduced some minor concepts of my own with my own names for them, e.g., the Scott Rule for promotion, the Great Conspiracy (even though it existed only in the mind of the McClellan clique), and so forth. If old names do not serve a purpose, I do not use them.

DR: One of the marvelous things about these volumes is the evidence handling; not just the weaving together of many unknown and known sources to refresh or revise a famous incident, but the justness in evaluating materials. Is this not diminished by converting indirect quotes to direct quotes? This practice seems to serve a literary purpose only.

RHB: I greatly appreciate the compliment from a man who passes my test for being a thinker himself. Yes, the practice you mention serves a literary purpose. I am not a slave to Douglas Southall Freeman, but I first saw the practice in Lee’s Lieutenants, my Bible for permissible conduct. Initially, a reviewer or two took issue with this and publicly complained about it. I thought deeply about this before utilizing it, and would not do it if I thought it detracted from the final product.

DR: There seems to be a lot of new thinking in ACW history. You have praised Rafuse; can you comment on Joe Harsh, David Detzer, Mark Grimsley, or any others?

RHB: I believe I praised the quality of historical research on the Civil War and military history in general in one of my Introductions. The thoughtful monographs published by University Press of Kansas, Kent State Press, and others have contributed to our understanding of the things that make military history a valuable contribution to the public knowledge. This was ridiculed when I was a schoolboy. I read new works about the War to find new concepts, a better understanding of a particular issue, clues to new sources, etc. Whenever I pick up a new book, I go straight to the bibliography. As for the historians you mention, I enjoy Harsh’s original thinking. I do not go to school on all the new publications, and so cannot comment on the others.

DR: How would you characterize reaction to your Army of the Potomac series thus far?

RHB: Reactions have generally been fair and complimentary unless I am missing the boat somewhere. I know that there are (or were) a couple historians planning studies along similar lines, and so they were not altogether thrilled when my work began appearing.

DR: You allude to other military reading in your footnotes. Are you doing original research in other areas?

RHB: No. I wish I had the time and could do so, but my command of foreign languages is inadequate. I would like to be able to read ancient Greek, Latin, German, Russian, and ancient Hebrew for Josephus. For now, I will focus on finishing this series, which is going to take me a while.


Signed copies of Volume III of the Army of the Potomac are availble per inquiry from Savas Beatie publishing.


Gettysburg fanatics

Where will you find them next? From Jawbreaker: the Attack on Bin Laden and Al Qaeda ...
At 0600 I arose from the warmth of my sleeping bag and greeted the cook boiling water ... He was one of the Afghans who'd listened to me tell the story of Gettysburg in Farsi during my previous deployment.


Publishing 2006: Lincoln books

In the post introducing this series, I had said that Lincoln books in 2006 were a washout. Let's start with what should have been the sales leader, Goodwin's Team of Rivals.

This Simon & Schuster title came out at the end of 2005 and racked up an Ingram sales total of 2,236 in the remainder of the year. If we apply the industry rule of thumb to that number (multiply by six), it indicates over 13,400. It is hard to compare partial data, so the more interesting Ingram number is the complete year's sale for 2006: 1,535. Applying the Ingram factor to the total for 2005 and 2006, we surmise that through Dec. 31, 2006 this title sold under 25,000 copies. If a blockbuster was anticipated - and remember, Hollywood bought the rights to this title sight unseen - an initial press run of 50,000 would have been conservative. Publishing and other entertainment industries do not forgive failure on this scale.

A comparable effect is seen in David Hackett Fischer's Washington's Crossing: a major author of historical narrative writing for the same audience as Goodwin racked up only 2,858 sales for that title through Ingram in 2005 after a 2004 debut. The book then collapsed to a level of 306 sold in 2006. However, Fischer is no Goodwin in terms of marquee value and therefore expectations would have been lower.

Getting back to Lincoln books, I was likewise surprised at the steep decline in sales in Tripp's Intimate World of Abraham Lincoln. Debuting in January 2005, it sold 1,686 copies through Ingram that year; last year just 103 sold through the same channels.

Garry Wills' Lincoln at Gettysburg, an essay intended for cafe society, was released in paperback in 1993 and seems to have found its plateau with 295 Ingram sales last year. David Donald's Lincoln came out three years later in paperback is is a near place with 386 copies sold last year through this same wholesaler.

One very bright spot in trade press Linconology comes from Gabor Boritt's Gettysburg Gospel which debuted in November and sold 4,033 through Ingram between then and then end of the year. The number Ingram sold between Jan. 1 and today (Feb. 2) totals 1,387. That's well north of 32,000 copies, using the factor-six rule of thumb. I would be very surprised if Simon & Schuster did a 50,000 copy first run - much less anything more than the minimum marketing - on a Gabor Boritt title, so they must be very pleased.

This had to be the minimum they expected from Goodwin and Boritt's sales are just getting started.

(See here for help with jargon.)

Book trailers!

What an idea. Unfortunately, so far bodice rippers are over-represented on this new site.


Pros and amateurs

Decided to transcend this debate by styling myself a critic of Civil War literature.

More revisionism

Ayers' revival of J.G. Randall's revisionism (i.e., the Civil War could have been averted) has gotten reinforcement in a new book - Cry Havoc - which is getting major attention.