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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Secessionville

Birth Announcement: A New Book Has Arrived!

Sometimes publication happens really fast.  The "Second Edition Revised" of A Scratch with the Rebels is now available in all e-book formats on the Smashwords website at: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/403375 .  The Kindle version should be available sometime this eventing or tomorrow.  (Never fear!  I'll let you know as soon as it appears.)

Readers will find several changes. 

  • Most obviously, this version has a new cover, designed by Cathy Helms of Avalon Graphics.
  • The book is now listed as Book 1 of the series, "The Civil War in South Carolina's Low Country."  That puts it in its rightful place as the progenitor of several of my other books.
  • The endnotes have been incorporated into the text of the book so that it reads more smoothly. Anyone who absolutely needs specific page numbers will still find them in the print version (First Edition).
  • I have also removed the pictures, which simply do not translate well in most e-book formats.  Those who want to see what the characters look like -- or who want to check the maps or scenery --  will find several photo collections elsewhere in this website.
  • The original Chapter 5: “Grinding the Seed Corn,” now concentrates on the Confederate side of the story, while the Union story forms a new Chapter 6: “ A Task Worthy of our Greatest Efforts.” The original Chapter 6: “This Cursed Soil of South Carolina” is now Chapter 8 and is more narrowly focused on military matters. A new Chapter 7: “Gideon’s Band” looks at the problems of slavery, which had an enormous effect on how the military handled the occupation of coastal South Carolina.

Enjoy!

Updating Yesterday's Blog

The picture albums are now up and running, so you can start to become acquainted with the people and places that fill the pages of  A Scratch with the Rebels.


  • Pictures of some of the leading figures: http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/People-Roundheads-Knew.html.

  • Familiar scenes and settings: http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/Places-Roundheads-Knew.html.

  • A selection of maps:  http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/Roundhead-Maps.html.

And if you'd like to get a review of the book, here's part of what a scholarly journal  from South Carolina had to say: 

  • www.katzenhausbooks.com/Scratch-with-Rebels-Review.html

Important News for Civil War Buffs

I will have a "new" book coming out in a couple of weeks.  Back in 2007, I wrote and published a straight historical monograph about The Battle of Secessionville and the impact it had on the Civil War. You can read about that book on my website at: 
Now I am pleased to announce the coming of a Second Edition.  If you missed this book, or failed to get it because the paper version was too expensive, or found the Kindle edition hard to work with, here's your chance!

The opportunity to create the second edition of A Scratch with the Rebels arose in 2014, when the original publisher of the work decided to remove all electronic editions of their books from publication on Kindle and Nook.  In that event, the electronic rights reverted to me, and I decided to revise and reissue the book in all available electronic formats. This edition contains all of the material from the original volume, but the reader will find several changes, particularly in formatting.

I have removed all endnotes, since they do not translate well to e-book formats.  Wherever possible I have incorporated the important information in the endnotes into the main body of the text.  For those who have a need for full academic documentation, such as specific page numbers, I refer you to the paperbound first edition, which is still available on Amazon
[http://www.amazon.com/Scratch-Rebels-Pennsylvania-Roundhead Carolina/dp/097937720X]
or from the publisher, Mechling Books [1124 Oneida Valley Road – Rte. 38, Chicora PA 16025-3820].

The pictures contained in the paper edition are also missing from this format.  Enlarged and clearer prints will be available shortly in three slideshows on my website.:
 Pictures of some of the leading figures in the story can be found at http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/People-Nellie-Knew.html. Familiar scenes can be found at http://www.katzenhausbooks.com/People-Nellie-Knew.html.
A selection of maps will be coming shortly.
The new e-book  will have a new cover, loosely based on the original but updated and modernized.

The text itself has undergone some necessary revisions to correct or clarify content.  Readers will find passages broken into shorter paragraphs for easier reading and to make clearer the separation of original quotes from the author’s commentary.

I also split two of the lengthiest chapters to allow some needed reorganization of material. The original Chapter 5: “Grinding the Seed Corn,” now concentrates on the Confederate side of the story, while the Union story forms a new Chapter 6: “ A Task Worthy of our Greatest Efforts.” The original Chapter 6: “This Cursed Soil of South Carolina” is now Chapter 8 and is more narrowly focused on military matters. A new Chapter 7: “Gideon’s Band” looks at the problems of slavery, which had an enormous effect on how the military handled the occupation of coastal South Carolina.

The book should be available in all electronic forms by the end of February.  Stay tuned for updates.
 

Civil War Soldiers' Experiences in Battle

This week marks the 150th  anniversary of the Battle of Gettysburg, and the internet is overflowing with articles to commemorate that fact.  If I had to choose just one of them, however, I think I would pick the op-ed piece that appears in today's New York Times. David Brooks examines "Why They Fought." He bases his argument on existing letters from the soldiers themselves, and he identifies some important ways in which they differ from the 20th-century soldiers whose wartime experiences are more familiar to us.

Most of you know that I have been exploring the problems of America's Civil War for the past six or seven years, and it was a small collection of  letters just like the ones he talk about that got me started. My great-uncle James McCaskey was killed in the little-known Battle of Secessionville in June 1862.  I was moved by the letter of notification written by his commanding lieutenant -- and particularly touched when I realized that on that letter the blotches were caused by someone's teardrops that had made the ink run.

The letter that really got my attention, however, was written by a fellow soldier who described the experience of the battle in a letter to his sister.  It was full of bravado -- almost exhilaration -- as he talked about those who had been wounded or killed.  He said things like, ""Not me! I didn't duck, neither.  I stood up cause I wanted to see where the bullets was comin' from." For a long time I couldn't understand why the sister had passed this letter on to James's parents.  It didn't feel comforting to me.  It seemed almost heartless, as if the neighbor had thoroughly enjoyed his experience.

In one way or another, I've been working through those conflicting emotions of cockiness and grief ever since.  This David Brooks article helps me understand the neighbor's reactions a little better.  You can find it on my ScoopIt page:  http://www.scoop.it/t/the-historian-s-point-of-view

Reenactors in Town?

Charleston is about to be overrun by Civil War reeenactors getting ready for the 150th anniversary of the Battle of Secessionville.  I checked the schedule to see if there was a way I could manage to crash the party and pick up a bit of atmosphere, but my schedule will not allow it.  The only free day I have is Friday, when they are putting on a program for schoolchildren. (don't think I can pass!)

However, it may be for the best.  I just looked at some of the pictures from previous years and decided that the historian in me would best be served by staying away.

First of all, the battle was waged on June 16th, 1862 -- not early November.  Oh, I understand.  There are no mosquitoes now, but if the soldiers of 1862 had to deal with them, why not make it more realistic.  

Then there's the terrain. The reenactment is out in a large flat pasture on Boone Plantation, while the real battle took place over cotton stubble, overgrown forest areas, and swamp. Here's what the battlefield really looks like:


You need Flash Player in order to view this.
Secessionville 1.mov
a look at the inside of Fort Lamar


I took that bit of video with my iPhone on Monday, when we went out to the actual battle site and walked the ground once again.  My Uncle James is buried in a mass grave near the spot where the video ends, so it has special significance for me.

And here's the reenactment.




I could go on about the ladies' tea (really?), the sutler's tents (not in that swamp!), the officers on horses (uh-uh!), and the uniformed nurses out in the grassy battlefield. 





But what I really don't understand is why these guys do this if the reenactment bears no resemblance to what actually happened. I'm sure they have fun, but as in all cases like this, I worry that too many people see the play-acting and accept it as gospel truth.  I know, I know! I'm a kill-joy!