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Friday, 10 July 2009
Top 10 Gettysburg books (I know I’m late on this but…)

I can't hold off any longer. Too many of our fellow bloggers have participated in TOCWOC's Top 10 Gettysburg Books poll for me to ignore. I have enjoyed all of their lists and am now aware of some new titles I need to add to my library. Although I live and work in the Fredericksburg area, Gettysburg remains my favorite tour stop and "pleasure" topic. The choices below are based strictly on books I've read. Mr. Schulte... here are my entries Sir.

1. The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara I am fortunate enough to have a friendly relationship with Jeff Shaara and I am sure that he hears all the time how his father wrote one of the best books, let alone Civil War books, in the 20th-century. After all, it won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. This is the kind of book that takes a casual reader and turns him into a Civil War buff. The "voice" of Shaara's pen is riveting and the way he captured the ‘character' of the battle is remarkable. I give this winner the top spot for the mass influence it had on the public. How many Civil War buffs can trace their interests back to this title?

2. Stars in Their Courses: The Gettysburg Campaign, June-July 1863 by Shelby Foote I must admit that I am a huge Shelby Foote fan. His writings have always bridged that gap (IMO) between solid research and pleasurable narrative. He wrote non-fiction like a novelist and made history read like a play. This book is entirely self-contained and would be a great introduction or overview to give someone with little knowledge of the event.

3. Gettysburg--The Second Day by Harry W. Pfanz As a former historian at Gettysburg National Military Park, Mr. Pfanz authored what could be the single best study of the July-2 portion of the battle ever published. Although I am by no means a military historian or schooled in tactics, I could easily understand the engagement from that perspective due to the masterful descriptions of the land and the men who fought to possess it. Easily the closest thing I've ever come to a "staff ride." Pfanz's book on the first day is also supposed to be good, but I never read it.

4. Plenty of Blame to Go Around: Jeb Stuart's Controversial Ride to Gettysburg & ONE CONTINUOUS FIGHT: The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 by Eric J. Wittenberg,  J. David Petruzzi, Michael F. Nugent I am combining both of these outstanding books into one entry. I have both personal and working relationships with the authors and do not want to appear too biased by giving them two slots. Honestly, "Plenty of Blame" was the best book I read in 2006 and the follow-up volume did not disappoint. These gentlemen have a talent for writing really enjoyable history that leaves all judgments up to the readers. The inclusion of GPS-data for driving tours is phenomenal. All history books should do that.

5. The Gettysburg Gospel: The Lincoln Speech That Nobody Knows (Simon & Schuster Lincoln Library) by Gabor Boritt I've never been much of a Lincoln scholar, but this book was a wonderfully fresh and original study of a familiar subject. I actually did not think that I would like this book when I first opened it. That said, Boritt's way of teaching me (the reader) about something I thought I had a full appreciation for was startling. I probably learned more new information about G'burg from this book than perhaps any other on this list. The author also does an excellent job of painting the scene after the battle and reminding readers of what the town went through.

6. The Maps of Gettysburg: An Atlas of the Gettysburg Campaign, June 3 - July 13, 1863 by Bradley M. Gottfried As one who thinks and works in visual media, this book is a real treat. The detailed maps are wonderfully illustrated and superbly depict the battle's most significant areas and engagements. This is also a great reference source to refer to when walking the field in person. This book (IMO) is similar to the Electric Map in that it visually explains the battles movements and tactics in a way that people can easily understand.

7. THE COMPLETE GETTYSBURG GUIDE: Walking and Driving Tours of the Battlefield, Town, Cemeteries, Field Hospital Sites, and other Topics of Historical Interest by J. David Petruzzi w/ Maps by Steve Stanley I know this is a brand new release, but our friend JD and Mr. Stanley have combined to create a wonderfully designed and incredibly useful book. Frankly, I can't believe this has never been down before. The wealth of information on G'burg's monuments and sites is priceless. I can't wait to take this book to Adams County and walk through it myself. If you can't book a tour with an expert like J. David Petruzzi, this is the closest you can get.

8. Gettysburg: The Final Fury by Bruce Catton This book would be much higher on my list if it was not so slim. The narrative is classic Catton whose storytelling style is among the best. The maps and photos that compliment the text in this one are equally enjoyable. And although there are far better books in the Catton catalog, a Top-10 Civil War book list would not be complete (IMO) without his name being included. His illustrated book "The Battle of Gettysburg" that was published by American Heritage is also a childhood classic.

9. The Civil War: Gettysburg: The Confederate High Tide by Champ Clark and The Editors of Time-Life Books Say what you will about those cheesy silver-coated covers from the 1980's, the CW collection by Time-Life Books still has some of the best stories and images out there. I was fortunate enough to purchase the entire series and I could spend days flipping through a pile of these gems. Champ Clark did an excellent job presenting the fight and the three-dimensional map depictions really give you a sense of the terrain. I would not hesitate to include a TLB book on any list.

10. The Battle of Gettysburg Cyclorama: A History and Guide by Sue Boardman and Kathryn Porch This wonderful coffee-table book is not only a fact and photo filled gem on the complete history and restoration of the prized painting; it is also the ONLY book on the subject. In addition to including all of the original promotional pieces, programs and ticket stubs, this book outlines the entire cyclorama movement that took place at the turn of the century. This is one of those books that you find yourself flipping through with a big smile on your face as you recall your own childhood visits to G'burg.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 10:45 AM EDT
Updated: Friday, 10 July 2009 10:59 AM EDT
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Thursday, 9 July 2009
Start your Christmas list now

Referred to as the “Crossroads of the Civil War,” Spotsylvania County in central Virginia bore witness to some of the most intense fighting during the War Between the States. The nearby city of Fredericksburg and neighboring counties of Stafford, Orange and Caroline also hosted a myriad of historically significant events during America’s “Great Divide.”

Four major engagements took place in this region including the battles of Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, Spotsylvania Court House and The Wilderness. Today the hallowed grounds that make up the Fredericksburg & Spotsylvania National Military Park are the second largest of their kind in the country. In addition, the area remains home to many historic Civil War landmarks including Chatham Estate, Salem Church, the “Stonewall” Jackson Shrine and Ellwood Manor. Dozens of monuments and roadside markers dot the landscape and more than 200,000 tourists visit the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania region each year.

Similarly from 1861-1865 hundreds of thousands of troops on both sides of the conflict marched through, fought at, and camped in the woods and fields of Spotsylvania County and the surrounding area. The National Park Service christened the region as “The Bloodiest Landscape in North America” stating that over a four-year period, more than 85,000 men were wounded, and over 15,000 were killed. A number of exceptionally significant events also took place in the vicinity including the first clash between Union General Ulysses S. Grant and Confederate commander Gen. Robert E. Lee, as well as the first recorded skirmish between southern forces and U.S. Colored Troops.

“Campfires at the Crossroads” focuses specifically on the Confederate encampments that spread across Spotsylvania County and the adjoining regions during the course of the Civil War. By using the witnesses’ own testimonies and words taken directly from published memoirs, diary entries and letters home, readers will be able to take a glimpse into the day-to-day experiences of camp life for southern armies on campaign in the Old Dominion. Topics include camp duties, cooking, slaves and body servants, crimes and punishment, disease and dysentery, love letters, winter quarters, religious services, death notifications and more. The inclusion of rare photographs and illustrations compliment this collection of author narrative and archive transcripts.

Stay tuned for updates on the release of this highly anticipated title.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 11:14 AM EDT
Updated: Thursday, 9 July 2009 11:22 AM EDT
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Wednesday, 8 July 2009
OK-OK. I’ll share.

Several anxious visitors have been grilling me ever since I hinted below about that reclusive documentary film project that I am involved with. I’ve kept it quiet for several months now, but as the local paper is now covering it, I guess I can finally spill the beans.

A few months back I was contacted by a film director from Savannah Georgia about contributing to a documentary project. The film dealt with the life and legacy of Sgt. Richard Kirkland and was to be shot in high-definition, on location at Fredericksburg VA and Camden SC.

The director's name was Clint Ross and he had contacted me as I had lectured on Kirkland at the University of Mary Washington as part of the FCW Roundtable’s “Great Lives That Touched The Civil War” series.

I was immediately attracted to the project as Clint is a fellow Christian and his vision of the movie was to not only examine the courageous act of humanitarianism that Kirkland bestowed upon the enemy, but additionally HOW and WHY the event has become a leading ‘brand’ of Civil War commemoration.

The image of this young Confederate soldier holding a canteen to the lips of a fallen foe has been memorialized in Felix DeWeldon’s sculpture on the Fredericksburg field and in the courtyard of the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA. It has been captured on canvas by Mort Kunstler in his painting “The Angle of Marye’s Heights” and in countless souvenirs at battlefield gift stores. It has been written about in poems such as the one penned by Walter Clark in 1908 and in song by Canadian musicians Will White, Juanita Brandt & Dale Ulan. It has been celebrated for decades by the Camden United Daughters of the Confederacy and recently portrayed by a 9 year-old boy named Richard Warren from Salem VA.

In essence, the memory of Richard Kirkland is even larger than the selfless act he performed. This moment of mercy has become a major symbol. My own theory is that this rare act of kindness has remained through the years as a bright spot worthy of our praise. In a devastating conflict that has been far too romanticized Kirkland reminds us that we were all "brothers" in the American Civil War. He gives us a reason to celebrate. Perhaps that is the reason for my own attraction to his story.

After taking Clint and his lovely wife on a private tour of the Fredericksburg Battlefield, I humbly accepted an offer to appear in and co-produce the film by acting as a liaison between him and my network of connections here in Fredericksburg. In addition to shooting both interior and exterior scenes at Chatham Manor, the Sunken Road, and of course the Kirkland Monument the crew is also planning on filming in Camden at Kirkland’s home (ruins), at his grave site in a Quaker cemetery, and at a memorial fountain that commemorates him in town.

I will be offering an introductory spot on the theme of the film and “ghost-interviewing” Don Pfanz from the National Park Service and hopefully Eric Mink. They will provide an overview of the Battle of Fredericksburg and paint the scene for Kirkland’s actions. The addition of interviews with the living names I listed above along with SC historians, as well as the inclusion of period photos (ala Ken Burns) with an overlaying narrative (hopefully provided by a familiar star), this film will be both enlightening and informative. The crew arrives in town on July 27th and they will be shooting here until Aug. 1st.

The Free Lance-Star will be doing an article on the event and once the 30-minute film is completed (hopefully by November), it is slated to run at the Civil War Life Soldier’s Museum and later become a permanent installation at the new facility. In exchange for my services they are also generously producing a commercial for the National Civil War Life Foundation of which I am Vice-Chair. Needless to say I will be busy when these days arrive, but I will be sure to post plenty of photos and updates. Who knows maybe The Naked Historian will make an appearance on set?

Honestly, this opportunity is really cool and I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I was extremely thrilled to be a part of it. I'm a lucky dog.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 4:42 PM EDT
Updated: Wednesday, 8 July 2009 5:01 PM EDT
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I’m rollin’ through my To-Do list

And things are going almost too well. This week I finished a review of Jane Hollenbeck Conner’s new book “Sinners, Saints, and Soldiers in Civil War Stafford,” which will be running in the Free Lance-Star on Saturday, I also recorded three new “Off the Beaten Path” radio spots for News Talk 1230 AM, which will begin running Thurs., I drafted the certificate and promo copy for Mort Kunstler’s upcoming fall release, completed the organization of photos for my Confederate camp book and finally scheduled the NPS interviews and site locations for a documentary film project that I am working on. The director and crew arrive here in Fredericksburg on July 27th to begin filming and I’ll finally be able to share the details and some pics then. The local paper is also covering the event. Links and updates to these items will be posted here as they come about.

Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 1:46 PM EDT
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Tuesday, 7 July 2009
I‘m sorry but I have to comment on this…

Let me preface my post by saying that I agree 100% that Michael Jackson was extraordinarily talented and his untimely death is a real tragedy. I grew up in the MTV age when his videos ruled the world and I even own a copy of Thriller. That said, the excessive coverage of his passing is becoming disturbing. Below is a screen capture I took of the front page of at 3:35 pm on Tuesday. EVERY-SINGLE headline and link is about Michael Jackson. What does this say about America’s attention and priorities? When we look back at ‘our time’s’ history will stories like this trump real-world affairs? Is this the only news the media deems important. This is CNN, not VH1... 

And just to prove my point... here is another screen capture taken exactly 1-hour later. Apparently no other significant news has taken place in the world. Really?


Posted by ny5/pinstripepress at 3:49 PM EDT
Updated: Tuesday, 7 July 2009 4:50 PM EDT
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