I literally just got back from a spectacular 9-day family vacation to Walt Disney World. We had an incredible time and I feel like I need a vacation from our vacation. It appears that a helluva lot has happened since we first left "the real world" and I am still catching up. John and Kate finally split. Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson AND Billy Mayes died. Two commuter trains crashed in D.C. and Orange County dropped the ball on The Wilderness Wal-Mart. I have a virtual stack of emails, an actual stack of snail mail, and a bunch of house chores to catch up on. I'll be back to blogging in a few days. I also have several CW-related projects to post about including two book reviews, a new Kunstler painting essay, local radio spots, documentary shoot, webpage updates, and a new episode of The Naked Historian coming soon. Check back in a week (or less) and I'll have several links to share. It's good to be home, but I have to say that it will take a while to shake off the Magic Kingdom "buzz". It really is the best place on earth and nowhere else compares. View PDF of some vacation photos
The 4 year-old boy on the left is standing in the Fredericksburg National Cemetery at the grave of Cleora Stuart Segar Harrison, wife of Captain Gunyon M. Harrison. She was born Feb. 14, 1892 and died on Nov. 9, 1975. Her husband was a VMI graduate, organizer of a rifle club at Westhampton College, commander of Company K in Fredericksburg’s first National Guard Unit, and the director of public safety for the city. The nearly 18-year old man on the right graduated with honors from Massaponax High School and will be attending the University of Northwestern of Ohio in August as part of their High-Performance Motor Sports program. He plans to engineer and fabricate race cars. Congrats Dylan, we are so proud of you! (One down, three to go.)
Please see the post below (for context) before reading this one.
Now that I have a newfound sense of time and the precious ability to enjoy it, I would like to extend an open invitation out there to one of my beloved readers to join me in the game of kings. Simply put, I love Chess. I have written an article about chess, been quoted on ESPN Classic about chess, I’ve even done a radio show on chess but I have not played it in a very long time. So…I am looking for someone who would be interested in playing a long-distance game. My son is busy preparing for college and I have no one to play with. This could be done via emailed-moves and the board could be displayed online with an updated digital photo and move list. I would even post a link here so viewers could follow the action. I’ve used online chess sites before and they are way too impersonal. I want to play someone who I ‘know’ or can ‘get to know’ on a real physical board that would be set up. I have several nice chess sets, but I think a little travel one would work well for this approach. There would be a weekly time limit (min. one move per week) and the victor could claim bragging rights across the blogosphere. I think it would be great to eventually get a CW-blogger tournament going on as I know there are many chess players who are also historians and history enthusiasts. So to quote the great Garry Kasparov, “Chess is torture.” Who’s with me? The game begins in 2 weeks. Accept challenge here.
Today feels like a different kind of day for me.
It is the first time in 5 years that I am not working on a book deadline. 2009 will see the release of my 5th and 6th titles as yesterday I finished off a draft manuscript and expect to receive a proofed version back of another in the coming weeks. It takes a tremendous amount of work and time to research and write history books (or any book for that matter) and I have sacrificed countless hours with my family and friends in order to pursue this passion of mine. At 37-years old, I have been very blessed and I am absolutely certain that my successes as a writer are not at all due to my own efforts, but from the grace I receive from above, and the support I have around me down here. I’m proud of the books that I’ve published to date and feel that I am getting better as both a historian and author. (The first book I released back in 2005 had 80+ pages. This last one I co-wrote will have over 400.)
My plate isn’t completely emptied as I still have the occasional article, tour, lecture, and media piece, but for the most part I am finally freed up from the major tasks that demand the majority of my attention. It feels… relaxing and I haven’t felt that way in a very-very long time. I can actually go home at night and not have to work after the kids go to bed. Spending 12 hours at a keyboard is ridiculous. It’s summertime. I have a beautiful pool, and now I can finally use it without looking at the clock and worrying about my schedule. Getting back to a 9-5 lifestyle is something I absolutely crave – and require.
Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not done writing books, but I am taking a much-needed break as in no new publishing contracts for the rest of this year. (Honey, you can bookmark this post and use it against me at any time.) I am also never-ever going to work on two books at the same time. That’s nuts. Thank God one of them is a chronicle-collection, which required more quoted transcripts than original narrative.
As of today, my attentions are going to be better spent. I’m taking the family to Disney World on vacation. I’m having lunch today with a dear friend I haven’t hung out with in years. I even had a celebratory cocktail for the first time in 3 years and it tasted g-o-o-d. Sometimes we can get so caught up in our professional pursuits that we neglect the personal ones that really matter. I’ve been extremely lucky as I have an understanding wife and co-workers who give me the space to do my thing, but I have not been practicing work moderation in any way. It has cost me many relationships and tarnished my sense of priorities. Thank God I have my church to keep me grounded. So now seems like the perfect time for me to get a life, regain some friends, pay attention to my wife, and walk away from the keyboard when it’s quitting time.
Of course I’ll continue to blog, I’m not crazy or anything...
Only 9:50 a.m. and already a great day!
I just printed out the completed rough draft for “Confederate Encampments of Spotsylvania County: Campfires at the Crossroads” AND I’ve been busy this morning recording radio spots for AM 1230's TravelHost segments. (Plus there's bagels in the kitchen!) It doesn’t get any better than this folks.
UPDATE: In an effort to leave you, my beloved readers, with something that is actually interesting to read and not just a self-centered mention of my salivation over free bagels and a microphone, below is a short excerpt from the Winter Quarters section of my upcoming book “Confederate Encampments of Spotsylvania County: Campfires at the Crossroads.” This highly-original study is not all painful recollections of camp life and death. I also include some fun pieces and little-known events. For instance…
It is understandable that troops who were stuck in winter quarters would search for new forms of merriment in order to break up their day-to-day routines. Although a thick blanket of snow made for uncomfortable sleeping arrangements it did allow men to be boys. Sometimes snowball fights would erupt, pitting large groups of soldiers against one another. It has been said that the largest military snow exchange occurred in Northern Virginia on January 29th, 1863 when a group of Texans initiated a battle against their compatriots from Arkansas. The melee spilled over into other camps and resulted in a scuffle involving over 9,000 soldiers from the Army of Northern Virginia. Similar friendly engagements took place across the county of Spotsylvania.
Entry from the journal of John Elsten Cooke, staff officer with General J.E.B. Stuart, ANV Cavalry:
Camp “No Camp” (Spotsylvania, VA)
Jan 30th ’63 …A great snowball battle among the Brigades which was worth seeing. Yesterday Hood’s Texans & Georgians issued from their camp near Lee’s Hdqrs. and led by Gen. [Brig. Gen. Micah] Jenkins attacked and routed [Brig. Gen. Joseph B.] Kershaw’s SZ. Carolinians camped toward Mrs. Alsop’s. Inflamed with victory the Hood boys today advanced in battle array with flags flying and led by their officers against [Brig. Gen. Thomas R.R.] Cobb of [Maj. Gen. Lafayette] McLaw’s Div. (as Kershaw is). The camp is just back of ours in the pines. The scene was a lively and funny one. The Hoodites charged into the camp, drove out the Andersonites [Wofford] and put them to rout. But they rallied got reinforcements, and drove the Hoodites from the woods, across the Telegraph road, and into the fields, with storms of balls (snow).
What was the horror of the Hoodites to see Kershaw’s men, drawn up on their left flank, ready to attack. They halted and their leader rode forward and parlayed – he demanded assistance against a common foe – the Yankee Anderson [Wofford]. A long parlay, refused at first, but compliance at last, and the combined forces attacked the enemy. Anderson was drawn up on the crest of a hill, and fought with desperation but numbers overpowered him. He fell back in confusion, his foes pursued; and burst into his camp. “Come on boys!” was the cry “here’s your blankets, your cooking utensils, and everything!” Some thought they were in earnest. Then Hood as usual conquered.
The scene was a very good mimic battle. The men advanced and fell back, deployed, and charged – turned the enemy’s flank, and “carried on” generally like real fighters. They had guidons for flags; and the regiments marched in very good order to the battle. There were many officers galloping about with irresistible air of leading their men – others were shouting in furious tones to stragglers – and snow balls flew as thick as leaves in an autumn wind. I saw it from horseback and laughed heartily I think I will write it out for the Whig or the News.
Source: Trout, Robert J. With Pen and Saber: The Letters and Diaries of J.E.B. Stuart's Staff Officers (Stackpole Books, January 1995)