Well, today's the day... the 150th anniversary of the conclusion of the battle of Gettysburg. I'll be the first to admit it: Gettysburg is not my favorite. Of course, confessing that one likes any site where thousands of men were killed and wounded might sound a little odd. But as battlefields go, Gettysburg is not a very high on my list. It probably has something to do with the air-brushed t-shirts and the ghost tours on every street corner. Just a few short miles down the road is my favorite: Antietam. But that is another post.
Yesterday, I was thinking on my own connections to the battle. No, I do not have any direct ancestors who fought in the battle (just a slew of cousins). My own ancestors (save one who wound up in the 11th Florida) were all in the Army of Tennessee, or the western theater, getting ready to get surrendered tomorrow at Vicksburg. My connections come from writing about the battle. My first published piece was on Col. Collett Leventhorpe, 11th North Carolina Troops, who was wounded on July 1 fighting the Iron brigade. That article appeared in North and South Magazine in 1997.The next time I had a published piece on Gettysburg was the chapter in the book on the 37th North Carolina Troops. That was released in 2003.
The chapter on Gettysburg in the 37th NCT book was the first chapter that I wrote. The publisher wanted to see a sample chapter, and I chose the July 1863 battle for that chapter. I'm not sure I remember why. It might have had something to do with the primary sources I had collected at the time, or maybe something to do with the wealth of secondary sources, but it was the first chapter that I wrote for the book, and it landed me a contract.
I then set out on a set of articles about North Carolina for Gettysburg Magazine. There are still others that I would like to write, I've just not gotten around to them yet.
In 2011, I returned to the battle - adding my own name to the seemingly countless others who have penned a book about the battle. In the course of my research over the past fifteen years, I have collected almost four score articles written by Tar Heel soldiers about the battle. These were lightly edited and put into a volume entitled North Carolina Remembers Gettysburg. I greatly enjoy this volume - it is like standing on the battlefield and listening to the soldiers themselves telling me about their time they spent on those rolling Pennsylvania hills.
So what is in store? As I said before, I still have an article or two I would like to write about the battle, and, with the recent contract with Savas-Beatie for a book on the Branch-Lane brigade, I will be returning to visit with some new friends. Who knows? Maybe I will write the Gettysburg chapter first.