Happy New Year! We had a great 2007 here in the Hardy household last year, and we are really looking forward to 2008!
Yesterday, I had to do something I really dread as a writer. I had to write a small bio on myself for an article that I wrote for an upcoming issue of Civil War Times Illustrated. I really hate writing about myself. I’m not sure if other writers feel the same; most probably do not, but I do.
I did not go to Knoxville on Saturday. We found out that we were going to need to go to Johnson City on Sunday afternoon and I stayed at home and worked. J. W. Dugger of the 58th NCT kept a diary, and on September 11, 1863, he wrote the 58th "marched four miles and engaged with the enemy. The firing ceased, at night they rested in line of battle until 10 o’clock." It took me about 1,000 words, all about the affair at McLemore’s Cove, to set up Dugger’s 22 words. And it is only Dugger’s words that I have. I don’t even know in what order Buckner (or Preston) arranged the brigades.
Which leads me to my old rant. I am constantly amazed at the number of books on the war. I probably own a thousand - I’ve added nine in the past week. Yet the number of good regimentals are few. Of the four regiments in Kelly’s brigade at Chickamauga, only the 63rd Virginia has a history - a small history at that. The 5th Kentucky Infantry has no history, neither does the 65th Georgia Infantry. Hopefully this history of the 58th NCT that I am working on will be a small addition to this major hole in Civil War historiography.
Having already written a popular history of the 37th North Carolina, I can understand why historians avoid this type of work. It’s hard. Instead of studying one battle, or even a portion of a battle, one must understand scores of battles. Camp life, drill, supply, politics in state, national politics, conditions on the home front, desertion, sickness, hospital life, ordnance, and a host of other things related to military and civilian life must be mastered.
In my writing, I have often tried to examine different issues. I often write articles about these issues. Sometimes these articles make it to print, and sometimes they do not. Right now, I am working on an article about the problem of fouling during battle. I read a great deal about the issue, I look for other articles, I examine period letters, and I ask a lot of questions. For example, in 1857, Du Pont, which was the largest supplier of gunpowder to the Union army, patented a new method of powder manufacture. They substituted sodium nitrate for potassium nitrate. Well, did gunpowder manufactured the old way, using potassium nitrate, produce more fouling that powder using sodium nitrate?. I don’t know yet (anyone have any ideas? Any chemists out there?). But maybe I’ll find that answer in the near future.
The next year promises to be exciting. I’ve got articles slated for publication, and the book on the 58th NCT will be finished. I’ve even got speaking engagements on the calender. It will be a good year.