Although COVID-19 has pretty much ruined this year for me and other writers who like to make public appearances, all is not lost!
There is a lot happening behind the scenes, so here is a quick update to fill everyone in.
First, publication of The Guns of September has been delayed yet again by the public health crisis. I had expected it to be out already, but now the new date is Spring 2021. Editing of the manuscript is 2/3 done and I think the book looks fantastic. I’m really looking forward to this one coming out and think readers will enjoy it. I’m working with Savas Beatie on potentially publishing a chapter here on this site, so stay tuned.
Next, I’m still out there in virtual land discussing Six Days in September. The Civil War Round Table Congress posted a presentation recently that we recorded in April 2020. In it I discuss the difference between writing small “h” history vs. big “H” history.
The former is novelized history that does not follow the convention of relying entirely on documents. The latter is standard history written according to the usual methodology. Is one better than the other? It depends on the proficiency of the writer and on what readers want. One thing I can assure you, however, is that books often published as “history” contain significant errors and even contrivances that render them as fictional as anything a novelist would write.
Consider for example the long-held argument that Robert E. Lee issued his order in the early morning for James Longstreet to attack the Union army outside of Gettysburg on July 2, 1863. For decades this claim has been repeated despite the evidence showing that Lee never issued the order early in the day and that he never expected Longstreet to start his attack until the afternoon. In other words, the “history” everyone has been reading for decades is flat-out fiction.
In my presentation I ask readers to consider what they think history is and suggest its claims to the truth are not as reliable as one might think. Reading with a critical eye is more important now than ever. If as a reader you cannot go back to a source for the idea or argument being promoted then you are reading someone else’s later claim and not what the evidence actually says. Go back to the sources is the lesson!
Finally, I’ve completed a book of essays examining certain issues of importance to the history of the Confederate campaign in Maryland in September 1862. Here is a mock up of the cover.
The book is not a comprehensive history of the campaign. It contains chapters that focus on specific subjects and analyze what the available evidence tells us. I wrote the book after doing years of research on the subject for Six Days in September. Readers will thus have an ability to go back see where I may have gotten an idea for certain scenes in the book. Other readers interested strictly in the history can read it from that perspective. I make an effort to clear up some common misconceptions and to correct the historical record, which has over the years taken on a life of its own as writers pile layer upon layer of interpretation onto the story of the events. Eventually what the sources themselves say is what we need to go on. I try to take us back to that foundation.
Good luck to every one in these crazy times. Stay safe and be well.