Friday, April 06, 2018

Two new projects...

Pvt. John W. Towson, 39th Batt. VA Cav.  

   A lot of times, I'll show up at an event, give my talk, answer a few question, and at some point, get the inquiry "what are you working on next?" Unless I have a contract, I'm usually pretty hesitant about what's coming next. And I'm not sure why. It's not like there is a whole lot of idea-stealing in the history world. I suspect people want to know if I'm going to be working on a history of their ancestor's regiment or their favorite battle or campaign.

   So, I have two new projects under contract. Two? Am I crazy? Probably....

   A few you know (family and a few old friends) that when I was a kid, I was diagnosed as having ADHD. I could be the poster child for ADHD. Thankfully, my folks chose the Feingold diet and not the drugs for the treatment. (I'd probably be better off if I was still on the diet, or any diet!) So how does a person who has ADHD write books? I mean, we're easily distracted, right? Well, yes, we are, and look! an airplane! It seems at times like my brain is like the browser on your computer. I'll have a dozen tabs open and I will be constantly flipping through them. I compensate by working on multiple projects at a time. In fact, I often have four or five projects going at once. Some days, I might only work on one or two. Other days, I work on all of them. Many people would state that they could never get anything done like that. Well, since I have twenty-three books in print, I guess that odd strategy is working for me.

   Yesterday, I put two contracts in the mail for two new book-length projects. I've been working on both of them since I finished the proofs for Kirk's Civil War Raids Along the Blue Ridge, and both having me diving deep into the history of the Army of Northern Virginia.

   The first is a history of the 39th Battalion, Virginia Cavalry, better known as Lee's Headquarters Guards or at times, Lee's Bodyguards. At times, this battalion of four companies was also known as Richardson's Battalion of Scouts, Guides, and Couriers. As these names imply, they did not function as a traditional cavalry command. Instead, they were attached to the staffs of various Confederate generals, like Jackson, Pickett, Early, and of course, Lee. Their primary mission was to act as couriers, but they also scouted, escorted prisoners, rounded up skulkers, established headquarter sites, etc. Of course, this will not be a traditional regimental history (like the others I have written) since they did not function like a regular cavalry command. I already have several thousand words on paper. This project will be published by the History Press and is due in to the publisher later this year.

   Contract #2 is something I've had floating around for a long time. When I first started writing (almost twenty-five years ago), I kept a list of things or subjects that I came across and that I felt could use an article or a book-length treatment. On that list was an idea to do something about Food Stuffs in the Confederate army. That idea is coming to fruition. I just signed with Savas Beatie (who did a great job publishing General Lee's Immortals) to publish Feeding the Army of Northern Virginia.  (My working title is Hard Crackers and Crackers Hard: Feeding the Army of Northern Virginia. "Hard crackers and crackers hard" comes from a July 1862 letter from a member of the 53rd GA). I have been doing background reading on this paroject for the past six or seven months, and have somewhere around fifty sets of letters under my belt and tons of citations/notes. The chapters include food issued by the army, food from home, food on campaign, and food in the hospital, with appendixes on feeding the generals and feeding camp servants. Like almost all of my other projects, this one will tackle the issue from the boots up, examining how the men in the ranks felt about their fare, how it affected their morale, while at the same time looking at how the Confederate government in Richmond contracted for the food, and transportation issues involved getting it to the rank and file in camps. I am really looking forward to working with Savas Beatie on this project, due to them in the summer of 2019.

Am I abandoning my study of North Carolina and the War? Not at all. There are a few connections with the 39th Battalion Virginia Cavalry and the Tar Heel state (Alvis W. Daniels and Walter M. Rawlings were two members of the battalion who came to North Carolina after the war). Of course, all of my research into the 37th North Carolina and the Branch-Lane brigade made a good starting point for the Feeding the ANV project. I also have two on-the-side projects that deal with local North Carolina counties and the war, but more on those later.

Two new projects... it's the only way I stay sane......

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