Maryland Voices

I've reconsidered my opinion of Maryland Voices and posted new thoughts at the bottom of this post.

BTW, manpower - our false ideas of Union manpower especially - has been a theme here. I was therefore interested in this bit from a letter written by an officer of the Second Maryland USV to Ambrose Burnside after Antietam:
General, at reveille his morning, less than 100 men answered the roll call out of 953 men who reported to you in North Carolina in April, not five months ago.

One regiment does not an army make. And obviously 853 were not killed in one battle, but I hope you find this nugget suggestive.

If you are a conventional historian and the payroll muster is your authority to make statements like "Union forces outnumbered Rebel forces by X to Y," and "McClellan's inexcusable failure to pursue," you need desperately to meditate on the Zen of 1/10th of regimental strength. And Meade's letter to his wife in which he tallies Hooker's present for combat numbers. And the entire Lincoln-McClellan dialog on shirking and wastage. (The least part of it is filed in pop history under "Fleas, barnyard shoveling.")

Fortunately, the Union surgeons compiled and published the numbers from morning roll calls just like these. Forgive me for flogging that dead horse yet again. Surgeon's numbers have been available to reseachers forever - and they paint an irrefutable picture of the baseline of Northern strength figures contrary to muster rolls and what "everyone knows." Some day, even Pulitzer-winning Civil War historians will discover the morning roll call tallies and the eternally awful state of the AOP.


"History at its best"

From the pen of a marketing copywriter:
The agony of festering wounds, and the misery of typhoid fever and pneumonia grab the reader as does the loneliness and yearning for contact with loved ones. [...] The stink of black powder, the blast of musketry and cannons flood the senses and keep the pages turning.

This blog is rated PG

It really is, by this bunch, because they found one use of the word "crack" and three uses of the word "dead." Damn.

Civil War cruises

They're here. I'm picturing seven nights of drunken arguments but the brochure is more upbeat:
Guests can relive the drama of the Civil War era aboard the Delta Queen as recognized experts highlight major battle sites along the breathtaking Ohio and Cumberland Rivers cruise route, regaling the courage, struggle and historical significance of the war that united and shaped the country. Guest performers in the evening will delight passengers with Civil War era music or a surprise visit from Abraham Lincoln himself.

Genealogy - the next step

The small 2005 film, "Strike the Tent," has been issued on DVD as "The Last Confederate," and as of this moment is ranked by Amazon an impressive 3,590th in DVD sales. (Note that Amazon sales rank is based on velocity of sales - sales per unit of time - times the number of sold units.)

Concurrent with the DVD release, there were some screenings of the title in movie form.

The interesting thing about this film for me is that it represents the next step in genealogical research, or rather one troubling answer to the question, "So what do you do with that family research you collected?" I don't want to say that it's cheap or easy to make movies, but it's been getting cheaper and easier.

Are most genealogists romanticists? Are they narrative-driven?

It bothers me that discrete historical artifacts (like letters, family stories) which can transport one vicariously into specific and authentic historical moments are strung together with invented transitional material to produce an inauthentic experience. In other words, a novelization of family history would trade the rich and the real for fakery (sprinkled with an occasional truthful nugget). To then film this debased, novelized material adds an additional layer of falsehood. We have actors pretending to be ancestors, we have all those "authenticity" issues (dialog, clothes, furnishings), and we have the reorganization of human experience around literary conventions, in this case, Romantic narrative formulas.

Never trust a genealogist with history. Is that the right lesson to draw here?

Review here * Another review * Website * Rotten Tomatoes

Sounds reasonable

The SCV wants a Confederate soldier statue in front of the courthouse in Appling, near Savannah. The NAACP says put it a block away, in front of the museum/heritage center.

Since the current government has no connection whatever with pre-Reconstruction Georgia, the NAACP is right. This is a statement about personal, not political, heritage.


Never for want of audacity

I am experiencing a book that is the publishing equivalent of Cinerama. It's called Never for Want of Powder: The Confederate Powder Works in Augusta, Georgia.

The New York Times once reported on Cinerama's effect on an audience, saying it was "as though most of them were seeing motion pictures for the first time." And I am looking at what a Civil War book can be.

When Cinerama re-engineered filming and showing technologies, movies had to be written, directed, and produced in a new way to accomodate the heightened potential. This book presents a similar effect - content organized around an extremely demanding technical and presentation ethos. Or perhaps, the content came first and then the technical decisions. Let me explain.

The format of the book, a hardback, is set at 11"x14.5" and the paper is a fine glossy stock.

It contains 14 chapters, each either a scholarly essay or an outright monograph on the subject of the powder works, its principal figures, its production system, or its architecture. Additionally, there are three appendices.

There are 46 figures, 74 color plates, 11 tables, 19 pages of notes and five pages of bibliography on this obscure subject - all told, 344 pages.

The nearest equivalent experience is in an expensive art book. But it would be a slight to call Never an art or coffee-table book. In the case of those types of tomes, (a) the pictures are the thing, (b) the ambition is to have the best collection and/or rendering of the images, and (c) the text tends to be subordinate to picture delivery.

In Never, the plates (architectural and engineering drawings) are done well but subordinated to the text; the sub-mission implied by their inclusion is to save them as a complete record and make them accessible to future researchers, beautiful as they may be.

The coffee table book says to us, "You won't see a compendium like this again for a few years, at least not at this price or with this level of completeness or with this quality of presentation." Never says to us, you will not see another study of the Augusta Powder Works again in your lifetime or your childrens' so we did our duty to the utmost."

This is a labor of love issued as a starting point for future work and an act of pre-emption against anyone considering cobbling together a few gray pages and a grubby illustration or two in a conventional publishing project. The level of effort, the size, the production values, the conceptual completeness, and the content itself transcend any ordinary ink and paper effort that might be mounted here.

Imagine, to take one instance, getting five authors to work in tandem, each on a complimentary topic relating to the works. The best known of these authors is Ted Savas and I have to wonder, with his publishing expertise, if he is not the one who shepherded the final result. The other authors are C.L. Bragg, M.D.; Charles D. Ross; Gordon A. Blaker; and Stephanie A.T. Jacobe.

There are some small coffee-table aspects to this. This is a big book that lays on a big surface. You walk by it on a weekend, in an idle moment and say, "I think I'll learn how gunpowder is made today." And you sit and read the monograph on that topic and in an hour you know; and you know also how Col. Rains preferred to make it. Perhaps, after the reading, you even clear a small spot in your wokshop, then pop over to the computer to seach the web to order small supplies of sulfur, charcoal, and nitre for some harmless experimenting.

That last bit is more of a Popular Mechanics effect and certainly anyone fascinated by machines, inventions, and how-to can get lost in this. I get lost in the drawings for hours. Perhaps it's the failed architect in me.

Before more metaphors sprout accidentally, let me offer one on purpose. It has to do with John Henry, a steel-driving man.

When I say in this blog that certain publishing projects are impossible anymore I envision something like Never. I consign them to the Internet or some sort of collaborative electronic medium where cost, production, and other issues of scale are tamed. Never is the kind of book proposal that, I think, will wind up on the Web in the future.

And yet here comes the University of South Carolina Press, an art director, and five authors to take on the steam drill. Will they succeed?

This book succeeds on its own terms. It is audacious.

Stupid T-shirt jokes

Formerly, "Abraham Lincoln, Great Emancipator."


Touched by the Civil War

Three Pennsylvania charities have just learned they will split $10 million left by a Civil War vet who died eight decades ago.

It's a frustrating story inadequately reported with few details on exactly how this could transpire legally. You can read it here.


Tim Sherman's immortal name

None of us early war snobs would ever confuse General Thomas West ("Tim") Sherman (the General Sherman) with a certain politically-connected, unkempt, USV joker named after an Indian chief. Harry Smeltzer blows the whistle on this all-too-common editorial error while reminding us of Sherman's immortal bequest - an eponymous battery.

Further down the post, he traces errors by Hennessy and Bearss.

Excellent use of the medium.

A new Civil War literature blog

Craig Warren has just this week started a blog devoted to ACW literature. If the first few posts are any indication, this will be must reading: see especially his speculative connection between Red Badge of Courage and re-enactment.

See also his Ambrose Bierce website - quite an eyeful and mindful.

In Wheeling, the blame game begins

The failed effort to get Congressional approval for a "National Civil War Memorial" in Wheeling has entered the blame phase. To read a spicy he said/she said roundup have a look at this article.

The reporter captures the hideous motivation behind the memorial:
In early 2005, public officials and civic leaders in Wheeling, W.Va., embarked on an endeavor they hoped would transform part of the city's downtown and bring millions of tourists and their dollars into town.
At least the city fathers spared us the pain of a hypocritical "We seek to honor the dead." But in dodging spoken hypocrisy, they opted for monumentalizing it by building a structure that would have memorialized nothing except their own greed and moral depravity.

To get a sense of how crazy the victims of the heritage tourism fever can get, consider the attraction that was going to draw "millions of tourists and their dollars" ...
The National Civil War Memorial as planned would be 90 feet in diameter and contain a series of bronze panels mounted on stone that would depict historical tableaus in bas-relief. Also included would be 32 portraits of notable civilians and military leaders of the Civil War and statues of ordinary Union and Confederate soldiers.
At least the sculptor had confidence in its drawing power:
"This was basically a no-brainer approach to bringing in millions of dollars to the state and Wheeling."
A "no-brainer" that was also "no ethics" - this was a small project designed on the cheap that could not attract enough (minimal) funding without Congressional backing - this was a failed memorial that will soon be forgotten. The madness that fueled it will be with us for some time, however.

p.s. The committee's website is still up.


A living cycloramic blogorama

What a delightful morning to tour Antietam Battlefield. Eric Wittenberg and J.D. Petruzzi stopped by en route to Ohio and no less than Manny Gentile gave us our tour in perfect summer weather. It was totally blogadelic. In fact, Eric said Jenny Goellnitz might have been there had it not been for pneumonia (get weller Jenny). My camera batteries died in the heat, so check J.D.'s and Eric's sites for photos.

I dislike tours and have issues with public history and yet Manny did a great job. He gave me a framework for exploring the battlefield on my own - something I have not done in the last few years I've lived here because I find the terrain overwhelming and the park layout baffling. Nor had I known that all the farming going on the battlefield is done at the pleasure of the Park Service (tresspass away, dear visitor).

Eric showed me his favorite monument - McKinley bringing hot coffee to the troops at Antietam (shown right). It's the biggest combat service support monument I've ever seen. Manny said people leave coffee cups there.

Ah, the droll wit of the battlefield tourist...

J.D. and Eric walked me around Burnside Bridge. Fascinating that the Rebel rifle pits are still there and that a contemporary tree next to the bridge during the fight - I make it a sycamore - has now reached maturity.

Given the number of (higher quality) visitors and residents I suggested we have some sort of annual blogger/webmaster ACW get-together hereabouts.

Any takers?

p.s. (6/26) Eric says "yes" in this photo-rich posting.


Appomattox is casting

The Philip Glass opera Appomattox is casting in San Francisco. Grant and Lee are going to sing.


New Civil War blog

Laurie Chambliss at Civil War Interactive has radically expanded her weekly blog roundup making it almost irresistible.

I noticed there a new (to me) Civil War blog called Civil War History. The blog started on May 14 and (under Masters candidate Daniel Sauerwein) has an "Old Northwest" focus. Daniel seems to be positioning this as a multi-poster blog.


New French ACW wargame

European game developers have released a new ACW strategy game, American Civil War: The Blue and the Gray, which is available through the Web. A downloadable demo is available at the linked site.

One feature interests me especially [text edited from Frenglish]:

Units can be organized into brigades, divisions, corps and armies. This will depend on the nation’s military structure, as well as the presence (or absence)of a leader of appropriate rank. Armies [get] combat and march bonus[es] as well as some of the abilities of the overall commander (hence the interest of having a competent general at the head of key armies). Player[s] will have to promote the right leader at the right place, paying a political cost if more senior leaders are [passed over] without command.

This reminds me of Britannica's Civil War game from 25 years ago, No Greater Glory, where every passing over of rank was dealt a political shock. The game notes continue,
With only a few but well integrated and explained constraints, this optional rule will let players experience how generals like McClellan influenced the outcome of the war.
The designers have set McClellan up with the lowest ability rating and woe unto the player who tries to relieve him. See this list for the gory details.

Another interesting feature is the provision for French, British, Indian, and Mexican units in play. There must be triggers or random events at play here.
One aspect of the game Civil War buffs are bound to hate: supply lines.
Players must supply their units either through foraging or by building and maintaining supply lines, depots and wagons. Supply lines and depots are expensive to build and must be defended (or they will be captured or pillaged) and thus players must plan their deployment very judiciously.
That would be my favorite part, actually.

Juneteenth 2007 = disaster

Drudge is carrying three Juneteenth stories today:

Austin: Crowd kills man
Milwaukee: Wild teens pull man from car, beat him
Syracuse: Celebration cut short after youth violence


Ferguson vs. the Blob

Author Andrew Ferguson faced the music at a Springfield talk after calling the town "a faceless, politicized bureaucratic blob that engulfs Lincoln activities in the state capital."

Guest appearance in this story by the Cryptic Mysterion.

The news today

Lots of silly news today:

Landon House, a Maryland mansion where Confederate General J.E.B. Stuart held the "Sabers and Roses Ball" in September 1862, is going to have a McDonalds built nearby - a McDonalds that is ACW themed. (How do you theme a McDonalds?)

A model of the CSS Shenandoah has been built with popsicle sticks. It was made "as authentic as possible."

An Alabama town is moving a Civil War graveyard to make way for a recreational site. Pleasure before honor, always.


Third Military History Carnival

Brian Downey is hosting a military history linkfest ("carnival") over at his blog.

Juneteenth news

The Juneteenth news stories are pretty thin on the ground today and I'm having a hard time finding anything special worth linking to. Will check back later in the day and post again.

Update: Have been browsing the website of the National Juneteenth Holiday Campaign and there was anger about the lack of coverage last year:
America has a 2nd Independence Day, officially recognized by the Congress of the United States for many years. Officially recognized in 19 states as either a state holiday or state holiday observance, and referenced as a special day by Gubernatorial Proclamations or state legislative resolutions in many more states, Juneteenth was totally ignored by the national media again this week.
I see that this year Massachusetts has joined the roster of states observing Juneteenth and that President Bush is being portrayed as a Juneteenth boycotter and obstructionist in this release.

Even the French have a "National Day of Remembrance and Commemoration of Slavery and Its Abolition."

"Be prepared for a challenging experience"

Russel Beatie's third volume of the Army of the Potomac has been reviewed in the Washington Times.
There is a lot to recommend this study, with some reservations and desire for modification in future editions. Civil War enthusiasts cannot afford to overlook Mr. Beatie's "McClellan's First Campaign," but be prepared for a challenging experience.
One gripe from the reviewer:
Historian James McPherson's advice "not to tell the reader more than he wants to know" is applicable.
There are readers who don't want to know and readers who want to know everything. This book is for the latter.

p.s. Drew comments on this same review here.


Gallagher, Carmichael, CWTI

That Civil War Times Illustrated (CWTI) issue in which Gary Gallagher asks publishers to “stop the madness” has reached stores and can now be bought by non-subscribers. July 2007 is the cover date and a “special report” called “Glory in Gettysburg” dominates the cover.

There is a Gettysburg theme throughout, one that extends to the Gallagher interview, which has been headlined “Gettysburg Then and Now.” Civil War historian Dr. Peter S. Carmichael (below, right) did the quizzing and the Q&A was live, not via email, with Gallagher’s laughter noted. I assume the print order of questions followed the oral order and that the material was not rearranged during editing.

There are number of impressions in store for the reader and these gain more force with each rereading.

First, Carmichael asks sophisticated questions looking to engage Gallagher at a high level of discussion; Gallagher persistently gives dumbed-down responses – as if he were addressing an 18-year-old student or a random tour group. As the Q&A winds its way into the 22nd question, the gap between the complexity of Carmichael and the simplicity of Gallagher creates a strain for the reader. Gallagher - who knows he is talking to an academic - actually becomes wilder, more primitive in his responses as the questioning continues, eventually tipping over into the crazy talk that has fueled the current backlash against him.

See what you make of this, in interview order:

A lot of it was very Lost Cause-ish in its approach – this was the great lost moment, Longstreet hadn’t been doing his job, that kind of stuff. [On GG’s early reading]

He is on the scene; he is making the key decisions, not these other guys. [On Lee and his lieutenants]

He sort of came to Longstreet’s defense, but not really. [On the writing of E.P. Alexander]

Here’s a guy… [On Alexander himself]
After more of the same, we arrive at the foot-in-mouth portion of the interview: “Do we need multiple books…” “I can’t believe there is anything new to say…” and “All the arguments have been laid out…”

Here is an example of the kind of deep question Gallagher faced from Carmichael: “You edited a number of volumes on Gettysburg. Can you tell us how that body of work addresses the historical debates about the battle?” Excellent; tell us. Where do you fit in, Gary?

But here is an example of the form of the response that Gallagher delivers across the board (this for another question): “So you either pick your John Mosby school that says Stuart was pretty much doing his job, acting within his orders, and even Alan Nolan sort of fits into that, or you go to other side where it’s Jeb Stuart’s fault.”

Badda bing, badda boom? Youse can pick yer Johnny Mosbys or...

That piece of chatter (above) represents the highest level the interview reaches in the matter of historiography. And it’s not the interviewer’s fault.

A total of 22 questions and answers made it to print; thirteen of these were historiographic; eight of these try to force Gallagher to locate himself within Civil War schools of controversy. That's a good thing. He will not be allowed to stand above the fray casting judgements as if they were truths; he will be identified as a partisan in the arena of ideas; the opposing schools of thought will be discussed; influential literature pro and con will be named and considered; that is the plan of the interview.

Gallagher kills it dead.

It takes a couple of historiography questions – which Gallagher answers with minimal specificity – before he cues in on the game and becomes as vague a babbler as circumstances will permit. Specificity evaporates. Broad generalizations are dealt out in sound bites. Judgements are handed off without sources, influences, or authors ever being named.

It’s a sight to see, really, and well worth the cost of this magazine.

Where Gallagher gets specific, the modern, up-to-date, non-Centennial reader is in for some stunners. Asked pointedly by Carmichael, “What books in the last 10 years do you think have made some useful contributions to our understanding of the battle?” He answers, “I think we need a new overview of the campaign.”

That, of course has nothing to do with the question. He blusters on, “Coddington did the last really good one … that was in 1968.”

One can read GG's response as saying, in effect, I am unaware of any.

Having reformulated the question to his own liking, he heads off into the shallow end of the pool: “I think enough new scholarship has unfolded since then [1968!] that it was worth having a new synthesis.”

Synthesis? Of what? Name a study we need to synthesize. Go on.

“Two good books of that type [synthesis!] came out within the last few years… I think Stephen Sears’ Gettysburg does a good job on everything, and Noah Andre Trudeau’s Gettysburg: A Testing of Courage is also well done. But now I don’t think we need any more one-volume treatments of the battle. I just don’t see any point in that.”

Sears and Trudeau – synthesizers of 40 years of new scholarship. Sears - good job on everything. Who would have guessed? And who would have believed they could have concluded their mighty works with such comprehensive finality?

I read this part of the answer as saying, "These folks get into the new studies so I don't have to." Not that they actually do, that's obvious within 60 seconds of browsing their notes and bibliographies, but this is a story GG tells himself, one that he would like to believe.

Well, at least in this answer, Gallagher named a few books and authors. And at least, thanks to Carmichael and CWTI, he stands revealed “warts and all.”

Don't miss this cat and mouse interview. Gallagher's outbursts may have been induced by a canny interrogator. Go have some fun.

p.s. Kevin thinks me unwise to look for serious historiography in a glossy mag, but the questions posed were deep questions and deserved deep answers.

Biography and history

Richard G. Williams has picked up on comments by George Rable that suggest the academy does not view biography as history.

Mr. Williams, a biographer, is not pleased.

My own feeling is that the current form of scholarly biography is over-influenced, driven even, by the forms and conventions of popular biographies: sidereal linearity, half-baked genealogy, infantile behaviorism, and an unconscious devotion to the great man theory of history which takes the form of insufficient attention paid to collaborative outcomes. (I see the latter especially in modern military biographers where principals are divorced completely from their staffs.)

The new media and new technology allow us to transcend paper publishing in order to provide monstrously ambitious biographies: letter collections, documents, recollections of third parties, evaluations, interviews, all rolled up into a package that includes narrative - if we must have narrative. Why not use the new media? And maybe also crack the consumer whip over the heads of bad biographers (hello Walter Isaacson).

If a solon is scanning the biography rack at Borders and stroking his gray beard in perplexity, don't be too hard on him.

New Civil War Blogs

More have sprouted.

Blue and Gray Stew devotes itself to "tidbits and miscellany." Author John McCrea launched the site last month and says, "This site is my way of sharing some of interesting facts and trivia I read or come across."

Brent Harty, styling himself "CSA Brent," has launched 8th Missouri Cavalry CSA: "First and foremost, it is to honor my direct ancestors who fought in the 8th Missouri Cavalry, Co. B, Confederates States of America." Despite the narrow mission statement, the topics range widely.

There are two new blogs called "Civil War." This one seems to be a student's experiment... a student who likes the colors pink and purple but who can carry a thought. This one also seems to be a student project and the prose is completely experimental and borderline psychedelic - no pinks or purples needed.

Civil War Interactive continues to run its blog roundup in which I noticed My Civil War Notes authored by one "Thomas." Thomas says, "The purpose of this blog is simply to share my notes on the people, places, and events of the American Civil War I find interesting and about which I wish to know a little more."

Michael Zak runs a blog specializing in the history of the Republican Party, Grand Old Partisan. The tone is polemical but the material is interesting (takes one to know one?).

Stories that make no sense

As reporting standards fall further each year, it becomes increasingly difficult to untangle the gibberish news services put out.

Here's a story about an enthusiast identifying bodies in graves with unreadable or uninscribed headstones (dear print media professional: what is an "anonymous headstone"?).

If he can't read the headstones how does he know which grave holds which discovered identity? Or has he simply identified the grouping of three?

This is an AP wire story and I though the local editor might have cut it to fit. But as I travel the Net I see it is the same length everywhere, including the source.


Thank you, Congress

One of the oddest heritage tourism stories to come out in several years involved West Virginia's idea to build a National Civil War Memorial (to attract visitors rather than honor the dead) in a place well off the Civil War trail - Wheeling.

It was an extreme case of build it and they will come, in this case, build Civil War-themed stuff and they will come.

Today's news gives hope (although one can't tell if this is a purely accidental outcome):
The city of Wheeling most likely will not be the site of the National Civil War Memorial as once hoped. Frank O'Brien, Director of the Wheeling CVB, [said] Wheeling didn't get the congressional designation for the memorial, something needed for fundraising.
The Wheeling deal would have been gasoline on the already fired imaginations of avaricious state tourism officials nationwide. There would have been construction of National Civil War Memorials across the entire country.

Now, if you truly gave a fig for what this is really all about, you could raise funds regardless.

Civil War Talk Radio

It seems to me that Gerald Prokopowicz was seriously messed over and that his new Webmasters are not doing their jobs. This was an irreplaceable resource. I hope the site returns to the richness of old.


Faking Lincoln

Friendly, active, Civil-War-content-rich blog Elektradig has read Andrew Ferguson in the pages of the WaPo.

At issue is the new writing of a former vice president who quotes Lincoln as saying
"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. As a result of the war, corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
Ferguson debunks the quote using the newly invented WMD rule of rhetoric - if I can't find it, it was never there. (This is an inversion of Rumsfeld's favorite archaeology bromide, "Absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.") He points to the Lincoln letters online as a resource.

A lot of people followed Ferguson off that cliff: see here, here, and here for starters. The issue is not that Ferguson is wrong but his methods are wrong.

To make sure it is fake we have to strike at the actual citation. Ferguson did not notice Al Gore's end note: Abraham Lincoln, "Letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864," The Lincoln Encyclopedia, ed. Archer H. Shaw (New York: MacMillan, 1950), p. 40. This blogger did. So also others. But none went deeper into the Elkins letter issue; they declared victory and closed the casebook simply because Gore cited an authority.

The people interested in validating this quote publicly cited this source long before Gore came on the scene. See here, for example. The debunking of the quote thus must begin with that source. That Ferguson failed to do so suggests he is not familiar with the controversy surrounding the Elkins letter. Odd for a self-styled Lincoln buff, but in character for a journalist.

Snopes.com has something to say about this. We can expect journalists like Ferguson to be unfamiliar with Web landmarks like Snopes: what is shocking is the number of bloggers who failed to check in here and then retool their arguments. The gist is here, even if we want to know more about the forgery aspect:
Pedigree for this quote is often asserted by pointing to the 1950 Lincoln Encyclopedia, compiled by Archer H. Shaw, which "authenticates" the quote by citing a purported 1864 letter from Lincoln to one Col. William F. Elkins found in Emanuel Hertz's 1931 book, Abraham Lincoln: A New Portrait. However, this source is fraudulent: Hertz was taken in by a forgery, and Shaw, a sloppy compiler, added the bogus letter to his encyclopedia

p.s. On the same topic, how do quotes of actors portraying Lincoln on Star Trek migrate into folklore as actual Lincoln quotes?


I was touring a German palace once when I walked into a room filled with upright metal forearms standing on tables.


One of the noble owners of the palace had collected reliquaries, a lot of them, like the one shown at right.

I think of that room when I read about Civil War museums like this one.


Lego does the Civil War

"If any Rebel troop trains approach, aim for the engine, boys"
(Image courtesy of Mike.)


David Woodbury noticed that American Heritage has gone under.

This periodical taught us (in its heyday) that when pop magazines do history, editorial policy becomes historical dogma.

New Civil War blogs

These are not really new blogs - more like newly discovered by myself.

Don writes Crossed Sabers, a cavalry blog. It has a hefty (and healthy) research journal flavor and dates back to February of this year.

Jim Schmidt in his Civil War Medicine recycles a little material now and again from his "Medical Department" column from The Civil War News. He writes long posts on interesting subjects like "Medical aspects of slavery." This offering seems to have been launched last month.

Scott Mingus in his Charge! Civil War wargaming & news does surprisingly little wargaming writeups per se. He is a miniature collector but his posts tend toward the more general type of Civil War travel and reflections fare. This project started in march and is somehow tied in with his newsletter, also called Charge!

(I noticed these three on JD's blogroll)

John David Hoptak, an Antietam NP Ranger, in January began The 48th Pennsylvania Veteran Volunteer Infantry, which is broader than it sounds. When he is "narrowcasting," JDH concerns himself with personalities of the regiment, historical problems, research, and a lot of "hands on" topics. When he is "broadcasting," the blog touches on regional Maryland and PA ACW material.

(I noticed this link at Harry's place.)

The USS Monitor Center has maintained a blog since May 2006; it keeps to something like a biweekly posting schedule and includes pictures galore. The fare includes snippets of news leavened with outbursts of enthusiasm.

Grapevine Dispatches is very visual with good taste in layout and image selection. Its anonymous author - I should call an editor - writes nothing, instead presenting all sorts of snippets from here and there. It's a potpourri that draws from poetry, contemporary articles, Wikipedia and more.

Steve Soper began the Third Michigan Infantry Research Project last November and is weighting his posts towards regimental soldier biographies and cemeteries. There are contemporary letters, too.

(These links were culled from Mike Koepke's list.)

Finally, I should look after my own business as well by reminding readers that my old (circa 1997) website Civil War Book News has this month been recast as a blog.

As a postscript, note also that there is a goodly number of ACW postings appearing on Chris Smith's Yankee Tirade.

Contrary views

It appears a public rejoinder is being prepared for the pages that recently printed Gary "Stop the Madness" Gallagher's rant.

Must reading

Drew has comments on Beatie's Army of the Potomac Volume III that cannot be improved upon. As Drew notes, the editing in this volume is much better than in the first two (Da Capo apparently banked a publisher's normal editing expenses). This means fewer distractions and annoyances.

I blurbed the jacket. Drew should have blurbed it instead. My squib:
One must read Beatie's Army of the Potomac series to understand the war in the Eastern Theatre. Built on a trove of unknown and neglected sources, his decades of research have produced an electrifying retelling of the Civil War marked by fairness to facts. Beatie makes his audiences feel intimate with events - not superior to them - and the gems of his original research are scattered like treats for the experienced reader. Thrilling, delightful,profound, each new volume in this series is a major event in Civil War publishing. After 40 years of reading Civil War nonfiction, I rate this the one title or series that is indispensible.
If I could again emphasize the scale and scope of this work, let me do so: your average retelling of the war, however long the book, is an HO train set. You look down at the little toy figures and equipment like a giant. In this book, you walk among life-sized figures and struggle with them to reach correct decisions.

A book like this takes time and a setting aside of "what everyone knows" but the payoff here is what the enjoyment of history is all about.


"Stop the madness"

If there is such a thing as "old media" or "legacy media," Gary Gallagher is the Civil War equivalent, as his recent comments show.

J. David Petruzzi writes a stinging post about a Gallagher interview.
Eric Wittenberg joins in
here and here.
Kevin Levin says there is no need to take offense at Gallagher.

I join in with this post to say Gallagher's comments offend us all regardless of which histories he had in mind, regardless of any amateur versus professional dimension.

Let's "fisk" a few of Gallagher's remarks.
“But for most people, those who want to understand the Civil War, or even the war in the East or the Gettysburg campaign,” Gallagher stated, “do they need 450 pages on two hours in the Railroad Cut? I don’t think so. I just don’t see that this literature takes us anyplace.”
Here's where it takes us: command relationships; friction of war; commander's intent; weight of alternative outcomes; nearness each individual what-if; modes and habits of important generals. Not to mention any new documents discovered in the research phase. Is that trivial? This literature takes us nowhere only if all the historiographic issues have been decided. For Gallagher they were decided by 1965 and ratified when Battle Cry of Freedom codified Civil War doctrine for all time.

One of my favorite examples of this blindness appears in McPherson's Antietam book where he repeats the conclusion (from his own earlier works) that McClellan obtaining the lost order is a not just a unique happenstance for the Civil War but probably any war. We also see this claim in the essays edited by his friend Gallagher for two Maryland Campaign collections. In his own Antietam book McPherson lavished praise on John Hennesy Return to Bull Run. But in Hennesy's book we see Lee, Pope, Jackson, and Longstreet capture each other's orders five times in 40 days. To McPherson that never registered. It was just noise - it doesn't "take us anyplace."

The details in Return to Bull Run cannot or could not change the master narrative or its conclusions. So it is with Gallagher. He has learned what he has learned.

Another example comes to mind. McPherson, Gallagher, and Sears hold to the view that after discovering the Lost Order, McClellan issued no new march orders until after 6:00 pm, when he wrote instructions to Franklin. Those who read micro-tactical history understand that this opinion stands or falls on march orders issued by GBM during the day the order was found. This is too down-in-the-weeds for Gallagher or McPherson; they are oblivious to the "micro-tactical" activity that happened after the S.O was brought to GBM's attention.

Sears, on the other hand, surveying and citing a number of books concerned with the march routes and times, understands snakes live down in those weeds and can bite you. He offers his readers a nuanced (and futile) defense of his/McPherson's/Gallagher's position.* In Gallagher's and McPherson's views march routes can never mean anything except stops on a tour bus.

Gallagher illustrates his willfulness when he says:

I just can’t believe that there is anything new to say about Jeb Stuart in the Gettysburg Campaign. I really believe there is not. All the arguments have been laid out, pro and con.
Could this perhaps serve also as an argument against all journals and all academic publishing?

Or is this a misguided sports fan's approach to history; we see it again when he tackles the "Lost Cause" historiography with his us-versus-them, pro versus con analysis. Understand one thing: any Stuart work, no matter by whom, is implicitly committed to solving huge problems - about the commander's intent, his relationships with subordinates, the contemporary concept of "role of cavalry," and the command system of the Army of Northern Virginia. Why would you ever stop exploring that?
All the key documents have been available for a very long time…
And all the inventions have been invented. And all the ways of putting things together have been exhausted. Self-parody anyone?

But the notion that there would be a lot that’s new, enough to support new books - and not just one new book but maybe two or three - I just say, stop the madness.
Madness? That is inflammatory and cruel.

Regardless of whom he is referring to, J.D. and Eric set out to write the touchstone book on Stuart's ride - not the last word, because there can be no last word, but the best and most complete study ever. They produced a history that will be consulted as long as ACW material is published. They deserved prizes and this "expert" hasn't even noticed their work. Then he makes a principle out of his own ignorance.

We owe a tip of the hat to Civil War Times for drawing this fellow out.

(Gallagher pictured top right via Hal Jespersen)


* i.e. that all these afternoon movements represented units already in motion and McClellan's adjustments and changes represented modifications of previous orders not new activity in the light of new data. Naturally, this argument is impossible; once you know something your decisions are affected by what you know. In Sears' world, at least movements were noticed.


Sears at American Heritage

Stephen Sears was reading some back posts here and gave me some corrections I'd like to post:,
... please allow me to correct a couple of things about me personally. My connection with American Heritage Magazine lasted only in its first days, 1954-57, as a lowly editorial assistant. The rest of my twenty-one years at the company was in the book division or related areas. I was never the magazine’s editor, despite the fact that a Houghton Mifflin flap-copy writer mixed up “of” and “at.” Even the best publishers have morons writing flap copy. And, my goodness, I’ve never won a Pulitzer Prize or even contended for one!
I always appreciate corrections. Great stuff.

Pomo in slo-mo

Johns Hopkins recently sent me Southern Sons: Becoming Men in the New Nation by Lorri Glover and I have to admit, it's a pleasant read. In fact, it's a good candidate for summer hammock reading, being 184 pages of familial anecdotes.

The anecdotes are compiled mainly from primary sources and I imagine social scholars of the antebellum South would find these very interesting. "Hedonism and irresponsibility frequently gave way to acts of violence." "Fights broke out with great regularity." "Students did frequently and effectively organize themselves in resistance against school regulations." Each of these remarks introduces a small number of stories. And so it goes.

The problem is, where is it going? How far can you take historical anecdotes to make generalizations about culture?

Southern Sons should not be easy reading: it's part of a post-modern (pomo) discipline called Masculinity Studies. Never heard of it before. Neither has Google (barely so, in any case).

Southern Sons, unlike other pomo material, seems to lack an analytic framework, or a few touchstone works to refer to, or a few gurus or teachings to invoke. It just sits there - information organized topically with a few generalizations, a little bit of analysis, and no intellectual lineage. What to do with it?

Treat it as entertainment, perhaps.


Hush-hush Lincoln discovery (cont.)

What a huge Y-A-W-N.

Long yawn from Brooks Simpson as well.

If this is what the Lincoln bicentennial is going to go like (people who know better embarassing themselves publicly), the backlash will start sooner rather than later.

To do unto Google

Richard Charkin did unto Google what Google is doing unto authors.

Eric Wittenberg would be pleased.

And the wind keeps going

Another Gone With The Wind book sequel is scheduled for release in November: Rhett Butler's People. The New York Times notes that
When Alexandra Ripley's "Scarlett," the first sequel, was published in 1991, it was a blockbuster bestseller - it has sold more than 6 million copies worldwide - but suffered a critical drubbing.
You might wonder why an author who sells six million tomes is not re-engaged.

Well, it seems the Mitchell estate has editorial authority over the "product." One author's output has already been spiked.
[The] contract specified that she [author Tennant] retain Mitchell's tone, vision and characters. It forbade Tennant from including "acts or references to incest, miscegenation, or sex between two people of the same sex. When Tennant submitted a 575-page manuscript, entitled "Tara," the lawyers for the estate and editors at St. Martin's thought it was too British in sensibility. They fired Tennant and legally prohibited her from ever publishing her manuscript.
There may be more story in the making of Rhett Butler's People than in the novel itself.

Maneuvers at Resaca

Some time has been spent on this blog decrying the avarice in Georgia's tourism culture. Readers will recall that against the background of an obscene revelling in projected tourism spending during the Sesquicentennial, very little value has been promised future tourists.

One of the few vague allusions to value included maybe, possibly, fixing up Resaca battlefield in time for the 150-year anniversary of the Civil War. The talk had to be vague - there was no money allocated and (if I understand the situation) no plans approved.

The news from Georgia recently has been what you would expect from previous news reports. Funding to build facilities at Resaca was cut from the 2008 budget by the state legislature.

Was the tourism marketing budget also cut? Perhaps not. You don't need steak as long as you can sell the sizzle.

The governor of Georgia has an interest in creating something besides Civil War t-shirts, it seems. The news on Tuesday was that
... when Perdue signed the 2008 budget, he authorized the Department of Economic Development to spend the $2.5 million earmarked for the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center “for the continued development of the Resaca Battlefield project or other priorities in accordance with the purpose of the Tourism program.”
Can he do that? In any case note that "Perdue had initially asked for $5 million in the supplemental budget for the project..." He asked for $5 million, got nothing, and has swiped half the amount he needs.

As long as the state legislature keeps on funding art centers, Resaca may eventually get its ACW visitor facilities.

Gettysburg hours

Volunteers contributed 51,000 hours to the Gettysburg Park last year. One wonders: could volunteers run the park entirely?


"Ultimate failure" and the Centennial

This historiography looks irresistible:

Troubled Commemoration: The American Civil War Centennial, 1961-1965

It's a new book:
Robert J. Cook recounts the planning, organization, and ultimate failure of this controversial event and reveals how the broadbased public history extravaganza was derailed by its appearance during the decisive phase of the civil rights movement.

Hush-hush Lincoln discovery

The National Archives is preparing a press conference on Thursday to unveil a newly discovered Lincoln document.

The Washington Times writes, "We can only surmise that the document pertains to the Civil War, as [head archivist] Mr. Weinstein will be joined at Thursday's unveiling by Archivist Trevor Plante, a specialist in Civil War materials."


Francis Hamit on Amazon Shorts

I asked Francis Hamit to tell us a little about his experience with Amazon Shorts and he graciously sent me these comments:

This began in August 2005 as a way to promote established authors and their books. Amazon sells books. Authors usually have unsold stories, articles, extra chapters and like materials laying around in their files. In recent years magazines have published less and less fiction, and some longer forms , like the novella, have virtually disappeared. Smaller magazines are often overwhelmed by submissions. In other words there are less opportunities for even well established authors to publish their work. Added to that is the abdication by mainstream book publishers, to literary agents, their role in scouting and promoting new talent. No one wants to do smaller works, especially in fiction, because there is no money in it. Amazon.com saw an opportunity, but avoided being submerged in amateur work by specifying that only those who already had a book in their catalogues could submit. They also have an editorial review process.

Submission is no guarantee of acceptance. And the Amazon Shorts team is small. So the main effort is simply devoted to filling the shelves. Publication in any form demands a lot of mechanical work first. Copyediting, typesetting, and layout must be professional if the underlying text is to have any hope of being read by anyone. This is also a cost.

Amazon Shorts are offered in forms that can be e-mailed or printed out as well as read online. You can download them to your PDA. Reviews by readers are encouraged and authors are requested to maintain personal blogs to increase reader interest. Despite all that, and over 400 authors in a wide range of genres and topics , with (so far) over 1,500 titles, most people have never heard of the program. It takes awhile for an innovation like this to gain traction in the public imagination.

The Law of Unexpected Consequences has also been at play here. I am one of several authors on Amazon Shorts who has chosen to return to the serialized novel as a means of distribution. It worked well for Charles Dickens, but he didn't have to compete with the one hour television dramatic serial form for attention. Printed books and magazines are the most convenient means for readers, but my neighbors in this very rural part of California not only do not read, but are proud of the fact. They buy audio books, which is a whole other level of production. The current electronic serial form of The Shenandoah Spy is what is available now and while the royalty is great, this form of distribution is, and always will be a niche market. I get a big royalty compared to print, but that is balanced by the fact that fewer people are buying electronic text publications. Maybe that will change in the future, but this is the current reality.

Publication this way does qualify the novel for various awards. It does get it reviewed. That will eventually lead to a print version of the entire novel down the road. However, we tried offering a free electronic review copy to various publications and had no takers. Having been a book reviewer myself for the Los Angeles Daily News for several years (those old reviews can be found on the Newsbank database at your local library), I know the huge volume of printed books that are sent to reviewers. Literally hundreds for every book that is reviewed. This is where the major publishers, with their publicity departments and ability to put a book into every bookstore in the land, have a huge market advantage. There is no point in reviewing a book which cannot be found in a bookstore. Simply put, most people are lazy. They are not going to to make a big effort to find any book when there are so many choices out there and so many ways to satisfy their appetites. Awards committees demand printed copies to read, and so do reviewers. We obliged them, at some expense, with a replica of the Amazon Shorts version, which was, yes, produced with Print on Demand technology. This allowed us to do a short run for publicity purposes, but creating a version for sale at an economical price would require reformatting the entire text to reduce the page count; a lot more labor than we can handle just now. A retail price on the current version would be about forty dollars because distributors and retailers have to make their profits as well. Better to wait for a conventional published version. In the meantime, those really eager to read "The Shenandoah Spy" can buy the entire serial for less than seven dollars and print it out themselves. (I recommend three hole paper and a three ring binder).

And we are having trouble even finding reviewers. Newspapers everywhere are cutting back on book reviews and those that still have them tend to buy syndicated features that have already run in publications like the New York Times. This is actually less expensive than paying a local freelancer like myself to do them. But it limits the conversation about new books. Especially those only available online, which tend to be mislabeled as "amateur" or "self published" because so many are. Blogging has blurred the line here and professional standards have also eroded. A certain amount of "noise" has crept into the conversation.

Amazon Shorts may migrate from a promotional device to the world's largest literary magazine. There are now message board conversations there as well. Amazon.com has done American literature a valuable service by creating a venue and forum for new work of all kinds and picked up the torch that conventional publishers threw away. Our biggest problem is that most people still don't know about this feature, which is a shame, because, at 49 cents each, Amazon Shorts are the best reading bargain around.

Authenticity and letters - a comment

We are all indebted to Stephen Sears for his summary description here of the origin of "McClellan's letters to his wife." His pointing out the location of May McClellan's notes was useful to me - I had missed those going through the microfilm in the past. I had also missed the inscription "Extracts" on McClellan's book of notes.

Let me draw your attention to something at the end of his communication:
In sum, then, I believe everything points to the accuracy and authenticity of both McClellan’s and May’s extracts; and I have done everything possible to insure the accuracy of my transcriptions of the letters. They had no reason or motive or agenda to do otherwise. Nor, I stress, did I.
My point, to mount that hobbyhorse again, is that these documents are not letters. I previously proposed a universal author disclaimer in handling these materials:
As the author of this work, I use the expression ‘McClellan’s letters to his wife’ as a convenience to the reader and myself fully aware that these writings cannot be validated as actual wartime correspondence.
In his handling of these notes, particularly in his volume of McClellan's correspondence, Sears explains to readers what the documents are - he doesn't need this disclaimer (above) because he has provided much more information than is in the disclaimer. After he explains their origin, he should be absolutely free to call them letters or telegrams or emails or whatever - the reader has been informed, his duty is done.

It is other authors who rely upon Sears' work without explaining the documents who have not done their duty - they offend. Those who toss around the term "letters" without explanation have been irritating me to the point of writing these posts. Let's recap where we are with these documents.

* We have two sets of notes.
* We have two editors of said notes (Prime and Sears).
* We have blended the two sets of notes with reference to each other but without reference to original letters.

Stephen Sears came to a point in handling these materials where he believed they were authentic letter extracts - there comes a point where one has earned that opinion. Moreover, he did not hide what they really are from the rest of us.

But Sears' readers and modern writers who use the term "letters" are not entitled to use that term without explanation. If they want to supply less information than he supplied, let them use my disclaimer.

I regret any imputation of an agenda to Mr. Sears - but I'm not sure we can absolve the note takers (May and GBM).

It was very good of him to weigh in this corner of the ACW forum, and I appreciate it.


Stephen Sears on authenticity and letters

To: Dimitri Rotov

Re: Authenticity of McClellan’s letters to his wife, in Sears, ed., The Civil War Papers of George B. McClellan.

Ref.: Your post of 4/4/06

From: Stephen Sears

There are two sources for my transcriptions of these letters, both in the McClellan Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress. The first is McClellan’s letterbook headed “Extracts from letters written to my wife during the War of the Rebellion.” The letterbook is in vol. C-7, microfilm reel 63, starting at frame 201.

The entire contents of this letterbook is in McClellan’s hand. This can be easily demonstrated by comparison with any number of original McClellan letters to other parties. You term the contents of this letterbook “notes,” but in fact they are (as McClellan labeled them) “extracts,” that is, full and complete copies of portions, some quite extensive, of the original letters. There is a world of difference between notes and extracts. The ellipses in the transcriptions are McClellan’s.

The second source is another set of extracts from the general’s letters to Mrs. McClellan, these in the handwriting of May McClellan, the McClellans’ daughter. This set is in vol. D-10, reel 72, starting at frame 348. That they are in May’s hand is confirmed by comparing them to her diaries for 1881 through 1884, in vols. D-5 and D-6, reel 68. (Mrs. McClellan’s diaries for 1865-66, in reel 66, are in a hand different from these extracts.)

The context for the compiling of the letterbook and for May’s copies is important. I’ve covered this ground in the epilogue of my McClellan biography, George B. McClellan: The Young Napoleon; in the introduction to Civil War Papers of McClellan; and, most extensively, in my article “The Curious Case of General McClellan’s Memoirs,” in the journal Civil War History, 34:2 (June 1988), 101-14. These detail literary executor William C. Prime’s “crimes and misdemeanors” in preparing McClellan’s Own Story for posthumous publication.

McClellan began drafting his memoir #1 in 1865-66 in Europe with a series of memoranda; by the mid-1870s it is documented in the LC Papers that he was hard at work at the task. By the logic of the case, it was then that he filled the letterbook with extracts from his “active-service” letters to Ellen, forming a quick day by day record—a veritable diary. These extracts contain business-only material, certainly intended as a guide for his memoir writing. His ellipses indicate personal or extraneous material; this is confirmed (directly, in many cases) by the content of May’s extracts.

From the blunt content of these letterbook extracts (terming Lincoln “the original gorrilla,” for one example), it is obvious McClellan had no intention whatever of publishing these letters, nor had he any reason to pull his punches in extracting them. He did briefly quote from one letterbook letter on p. 70 of Story, and had he completed his ms. he might have done more of this, but surely with discretion as to content. McClellan had no reason to be anything less than honest and accurate in his extracting.

The same is true of May McClellan. Prime says he asked for “fuller extracts,” and that is what he got—largely personal matter such as the general’s affectionate regard for Ellen and baby May. The fact that there are often overlaps in the letterbook copies and May’s copies means that she was working from the original letters c. 1886, as I have said in previous writings. The overlaps further confirm the accuracy of McClellan’s copies, and made it possible for me to put the two pieces of the letter together accurately. I saw no reason to distinguish between McClellan’s and May’s copies, for there is no reason to doubt either’s authenticity.

Memoir #1 was destroyed by fire in 1881, but McClellan soon set to work again, and had completed memoir #2 only as far as Hanover Court House on the Peninsula (just 166 ms. pages) when he died. That ms. formed about the first third of Story; the rest is Prime’s bastardization. You trust Prime unduly. If there are discrepancies between my transcriptions and Prime’s, I’ll wager Prime will be found wrong in every case.

There are eight “complete” McClellan letters to his wife (1863-64) in Civil War Papers. They give the true flavor of his home letters, and are testimony at least to the authenticity of May’s extracts. Ellen McClellan spent most of the rest of her life after the general’s death in Europe—she left even before Story was published. I suspect she regarded Story, with its published letters, as a terrible invasion of her privacy (as indeed they were) and consequently destroyed McClellan’s original active-service letters to her, and nearly all of her letters to him. Just five of hers survive in the McClellan Papers, all written during the Second Manassas campaign, suggesting an overlooked packet.

In sum, then, I believe everything points to the accuracy and authenticity of both McClellan’s and May’s extracts; and I have done everything possible to insure the accuracy of my transcriptions of the letters. They had no reason or motive or agenda to do otherwise. Nor, I stress, did I.


The Shenandoah Spy

Author Francis Hamit recently sent me his new novel, The Shenandoah Spy, and it was full of surprises.

The story, liberally sprinkled with historical figures, moves at a good pace. There is a lot of dialog, perhaps too much. There was a Belle Boyd sex scene and it gave me pause (do we want our historical figures imagined that way?).

Overall, the characters were rendered somewhat flatter than their reality. Two examples. David Hunter Strother was an opinionated and idiosyncratic artist-in-uniform; here he comes across to me as Pvt. John Q. Doe. Gen. James Shields strikes one here as bull-headed and forceful; his hesitancy and nervousness are missing.

The Strother many of us met in his Virginia Yankee is not in this book. Likewise, the Shields we knew from Maria Lydig Daly's diary - a general in constant need of reassurance, constantly justifying himself - seems absent from these pages.

[Passage from original post cut 6/4/07. Your blogger confused a reference to the Pope in Rome with a reference to the Pope in Virginia. An easy mistake to make?]


I want also to talk about the technology behind this book. It is sold through a medium called Amazon Shorts. Amazon, acting as a publisher, puts out e-files in exchange for micropayments. Mr. Hamit has here written a book, then broken his chapters up into sections for Amazon to render into PDF files. The result is a serial novel avalable for 49 cents per installment.

The deliverable is laid out like a book; instead of 8.5" x 11" (letter) format pages, the electronic pages are book sized. For reviewers, Amazon prints out the whole volume and binds it in a glossy paper cover - as if it were print-on-demand. Spacing is at 1.5 lines for reading off a screen, I suppose. This "review copy" is the only paper artifact that will ever exists unless the buyer prints the book off on a desktop printer. There is no print edition made available to Amazon customers.

The paper artifact does not seem to have an ISBN - although there is a 13-digit barcode on the back of my review copy - it does, however, have the Amazon equivalent for stocking, an ASIN code.

Amazon describes its Shorts program here and I notice it promotes this delivery system as one means for authors to get their out-of-print backlist into circulation.

Well worth some study, I think.

p.s. added 6/4/07.

Had a very pleasant conversation with Francis Hamit this evening who said that every character in the novel was authentic save one - and he challenges readers to identify that one. He said also that the sex scene with Belle Boyd helped to address a newspaper charge that she was a very accomplished prostitute. His description of the research done and the stories behind some of his characters was made for a very rich historical conversation.

Mr. Hamit is working up a series of novels on female spies, each of which requires considerable research.

Remarking on my failure to read the novel through, I told Francis that historical novels are not my cup of tea. But for those of you interested in this form, Amazon has made it cheap and easy to sample the Shenandoah Spy. I will be revisiting my own hardcopy.


Overkill in the North Pacific

Exactly how many popular retellings of the tale of the CSS Shenandoah can the market bear? Hill and Wang want to find out.

Giving your all for the publisher

Civil War publishing is, for the publisher, a pay-as-you-go business. For medical and scientific publishers it seems to be a series of free rides. Look at this devastating piece and try even to imagine having this same conversation in our space.