This weekend I received an urgent voicemail from a gentleman in Warsaw VA who wanted to speak to me about my book The Civil War in Spotsylvania County: Confederate Campfires at the Crossroads. According to the message, his grandson had given him the book as a gift and he was bothered by a missing unit in the registry that I had included in the back. Despite the fact it was Saturday morning, I immediately returned his call.
After explaining the source of his disappointment I kindly explained to him that I had used the National Park Service’s Orders of Battle from each of the four major engagements to create the registry and that the unit he was referencing did not make the list because they did not participate in any of those battles. I also grabbed a copy of the book and read the introduction which stated:
…The challenge of pinpointing the exact geographic locations of all Confederate encampments in Spotsylvania County and the surrounding regions remains a difficult one. …Despite this difficulty, we are able to identify what troops from the Army of Northern Virginia were amassed in the Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania area from 1861-1865 and can assume with relative confidence that they were encamped there. By using the Orders of Battle from each of the four engagements, we can identify what forces from the ANV were present. This does not account for every southern unit that may have passed through the county during the course of the Civil War, but it does give a good impression of the majority of units that were represented in local camps…The following units were present during the Battle of Fredericksburg: December 1862, Battle of Chancellorsville: April-May 1863, and the Battle of The Wilderness and Spotsylvania Court House, May 1864. All were encamped at one time or another in Spotsylvania County and the surrounding region.
Realizing his misunderstanding, the gentlemen immediately apologized. I thanked him for his interest and for having the forethought to contact me. That is what brings me to my post today…here we have a guy who literally had to seek me out. He probably read the Authors Bio in the back of the book, but then he went the extra mile by tracking down my phone number. He did this because the content of my book mattered to him. It really mattered.
As historians we can sometimes get so caught up in the pursuit of publishing that we lose sight of the fact that the material we publish really matters greatly to our audience. Whether it’s a book, or lecture, or film project, people who really and truly care about this kind of history, really and truly care about the quality of our work. Even something as simple as a listing can bring about an emotional response.
PS. We have quite a bit of press coming up on the opening of All-Access Battlefield Tours. I will compile a list of links in the coming weeks. I also have a couple of new blog pieces to post including a familiar look at flags of the Revolution and Civil War.