Well, it's gone. I emailed the Branch-Lane manuscript to Savis Beatie this morning. No, I have no idea when it will be published. It took longer to write than I thought. But I think it is good. Detailed. And it’s even under my 150,000-175,0000 word estimate (just barely). Twenty years of research went into that one.
I can't really put my finger on just when I commenced my research into the brigade. Of course, it began when I started working on the history of the 37th NC regiment. That was my first book. But I don't have an actual date. It was in Boone, in the Belk Library at Appalachian State. And it was probably something like, "hey this regiment was local (two companies from Watauga County), and hey, there is no book about them." So, I set out to tell their story.
Given all the years that I have spent as an interpreter and reenactor, like the book on the 37th NC the Branch-Lane brigade history is written from the soldiers’ perspective. It is not a top-down approach, looking at grand maneuvers and the theories of war. Instead, it comes from the smoke-filled trenches and vermin- infested winter quarters that the soldiers shared with family and friends. As I've said all along, it is their story. I'm just trying to fill in the pieces surrounding them as they tell it.
Over twenty years, I've collected thousands of pages of material, many that never got used. When I started working on the 37th NC book, I found and photographed as many graves of members of that regiment as I could. I think I used two, maybe three in the final manuscript. So I've got maybe three hundred photos of graves that never made it. I took all of the primary source material that I collected and put it in six three-inch notebooks, one for every regiment, and one for the brigade. This does not include books of letters or diaries, like Harris's book on the 7th NC, or Speer's 28th NC letters which was published several years ago. At some point, I'll probably break down those notebooks, moving the contents to other notebooks for future projects. For now, they'll probably stay here next to the desk, the same spot where they've been for two and a half years.
But then, this project is more than just words. It's been a part of my life. I've visited every field where they fought, save Ox Hill (figured I'd probably just get arrested). I really can't tell you how many times I have driven Jackson's flank march, or stood next to the North Carolina monument at Gettysburg, looking across that field (Lane's brigade was to the left of that piece of bronze and stone). I've been to the graves of Branch in Raleigh, and Lane in Auburn, and countless other cemeteries like the ones in Winchester and Spotsylvania. I've had the chance to portray members of the brigade at reenactments and living histories, like Sharpsburg, Gettysburg, Petersburg, and seemingly countless other sites. And, on a few occasions, I've given tours, speaking about the brigade and its members at New Bern, Hanover, and at Pamplin Park.
It's kind of odd, sitting here, able to see the top of my desk. I've still got some filling away to do, but almost everything is back in its notebook. There they sit, waiting for me to pick it up, and trace down some source that I had jotted in my notes.
I'm going to take a little time off from the ANV. Not too much, but a little time. I've already got another ANV project on my mind, but I need to go and write something else in between (that is the ADHD in me). And when I get started on this new ANV project, I'll be building upon my research in the Branch-Lane brigade, it will be the foundation stone for this new idea (you'll probably not hear anything about this one until the first of the year).