A couple of days ago, I received the editorial proofs for the Watauga County in the Civil War book, being published by the History Press. I've not looked at nor thought much about the manuscript in about a month, since I sent it along on its merry way. So, it was a fresh read for me. Is it a definitive, 150,000-word masterpiece on a poor mountain county and the great American tragedy? No... and yes. No, it's not 150,000 words, but I do believe that it is definitive. And most important (at least to me), readable.
Earlier this year, I picked up Martin Crawford's Ashe County's Civil War to give it a read. It is a book I've owned for several years, and while I have dug around it from time to time, mostly when working on the book on the 58th NCT, I had never read the entire book from cover to cover. I now have. And the first third was so arduous, I almost put it aside. But I stuck it out and finished it. One of the top goals of my writing is to make what I write readable for the general public. I do not want you to pick up one of my books, a read a few pages, and quickly come to the conclusion that I am educated, but a bore. History is not boring, or at least it should not be. The Watauga County book is full of stats and numbers, interspersed with story from period newspapers and passed down through families for generations: stories about how men marched away, raids on the countryside, and the shared experience of battle.
Not long ago, someone wrote a review of the Battle of Hanover Court House book. This person did not like the way I had used quotations to tell write the history of the engagement. He would rather have me summarize the information. I find that intriguing. What would you rather hear: me telling you what I think happened, or the people who witnessed it telling you what happened? I think their stories are more important. That's one of the reasons why I have put two books together for Ten Roads Publishing, both collections of letters, one on Chancellorsville, and the other on Gettysburg. They are the ones that have witnessed the war, and their words are the ones that are important.
The Watauga County project has some of their words. I have managed to eke out 40,000 words about the War and the county, not bad for such limited sources. But then again, I collected material for 18 years on the War and mid-nineteenth century Watauga County.
So in the end, when Watauga County in the Civil War is released, I hope you enjoy. And more importantly, I hope you learn something. I surely learned a lot. And I hope the generations of people who come after me, and pick up a copy of the book, will also be learning something as well. Just remember, it is their story, their shared experience. I'm just a collector and storyteller.