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"Roundheads and Ramblings"

Secessionville

The Facebook Ties that Bind

Facebook has come in for a lot of criticism over the past few weeks, and I admit that I don’t like some of their practices. However, there are times when I realize that the friendships I have made on Facebook have also enriched my life. One such incident occurred this week.
 
To set the scene. I write historical fiction and creative biographies based on the lives of historical figures. Two of my early books were based on the letters of my great uncle James McCaskey, who enlisted with the 100 Pennsylvania Regiment (known as the “Roundheads”) during the Civil War. After several months of training and marching, the regiment ended up in South Carolina’s Sea Islands. There, my Uncle James died, along with his friend Jacob Leary, in their first battle. The letter sent to my great grandparents described their horrific deaths—hit by a cannon ball that blew off their legs. They bled out and died on the battlefield and were buried with some 500 others in a mass grave at the site. Their company lost four men, with several others gravely wounded.
 
Now, some 156 years later, the Little Beaver Historical Society in Darlington, Pennsylvania, is planning a Roundheads Reunion for descendants of that regiment. They have made arrangements with me to sell copies of my first book, A Scratch with the Rebels, and to give away two copies of the second book, Beyond All Price, which is coming out in a new edition just in time for the reunion. The first book is already on offer on their Facebook page.
 
This week, an order came in from someone who had just joined the “Society of the Roundheads.” His posting stated that he wanted the book because it might tell him something about his uncle, Jacob Leary, who had been in the Roundhead Regiment. Yes. His uncle and my uncle were friends, and they died together on that fateful day, June 16, 1862, at Secessionville, South Carolina. I immediately posted a comment, telling him what I knew of Jacob’s life in the regiment. We have begun a friendship based on a bond of shared grief at the meaningless deaths of our uncles and the ties that kept them together into their shared grave. We will both be the richer for it.

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