Monday, March 09, 2015

Why Capitals of the Confederacy?

I'm about a month out from the publication of my twentieth book, The Capitals of the Confederacy. As we lead up to the event, I thought I would write a few posts dealing with the project, what I learned, and maybe answer a few questions from you.

One question I get from time to time is "how do you come up with book ideas?" That's a really good question. The simplest answer would be this: whenever I am researching and writing, I notice holes in the "canon" of military history literature. I by no means have the world's largest collection of books pertaining to mid-19th century American history. But my collection is respectable. As I am working through a project, I always have my eyes open for areas that need to be covered. That was true when I wrote Civil War Charlotte: Last Capital of the Confederacy, just as it is true for The Capitals of the Confederacy. This new title looks at the places that served as Confederate capitals. It gives the reader a glimpse of the places before the war, and how the war changed (or maybe did not change) these locations during the time they spent as Confederate capitals.

Someone might say (my editor did) "I can't believe there is not a book on the Confederate capitals already?" Surprisingly, no. There are books on the various cities: Montgomery, Richmond, Danville, Greensboro, and Charlotte, but nothing that really looks at all five places. The closest would be various biographies on Jefferson Davis. I think it might be safe to say that he was the embodiment of the Confederacy itself. And at times, it was a challenge to not have a running, day-to-day discussion about Davis. In the chapters covering Montgomery, Richmond, and Danville, I worked hard on chronicling life in the various cities and towns, while trying to keep Davis at a distance. When the president and cabinet moved from Danville to Greensboro, and then to Charlotte (and eventually into Georgia), Davis is at the center of the narrative.

So that was the challenge of this book: keeping the focus on the places, while also telling the story of the people involved.

To return to the original question about why we needed a book on the Confederate capitals, well, I'm not aware of a book that looks at all of these places, hence the need for a book that someone with an interest could pick up (affordably) and get an idea about what was going on during the War years. 

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