Civil War Naval Encyclopedia

Hello

ABC-CLIO publishers have initiated a project for a Civil War Naval Encyclopedia.  Spencer Tucker is the lead editor on the project.  Paul Pierpaoli and myself are assistant editors.

We should have the final headword list completed this week.  If you know of any scholars or graduate students interested in working on this project please contact me for details.

Considering the rifled musket

I am currently taking a readings class on Material Culture, which interprets the past through objects, as opposed to strictly documents. In addition to various readings, we also are expected to prepare three source reports and a paper. The first source report was exploring our midden (trash dump) at least 100 years later to see how someone would interpret our lives by the objects left behind. The second report focused on us exploring an object and the third will deal with a building. For the second report, I chose to explore an 1861 Springfield rifled musket. There were several in a collection of Civil War artifacts at the Myra Museum, home of the county historical society. With that brief introduction, I hope you enjoy this short report.

This piece is part of a nice collection of Civil War era military weapons and equipment at the Myra Museum, home of the Grand Forks County Historical Society.  According to a conversation with Leah Byzewski, this collection was originally owned by the Grand Forks chapter of the Grand Army of the Republic (GAR).  It consisted of nine rifled muskets (Model 1861 Springfield), eight black leather belts with brass buckles containing initials “US” on them, five leather cartridge boxes, with brass “US” plate on the flap, two non-commissioned officers’ swords with one scabbard, two sabers (one possibly cavalry) and two scabbards, four percussion cap boxes, six bayonets and scabbards, and one McClellan saddle.  This collection is part of a larger military collection in the museum containing uniforms and articles of military life from the Civil War to the Korean War.  The Civil War collection is quite impressive for this area given the distance from the major theaters of the war.

1861-springfield-musket-11

Figure 1: Picture of 1861 Springfield rifled musket examined at the Myra Museum.

The weapon studied is identical to the other eight rifled muskets in the collection.  It is between four and a half and five feet long, and weighs approximately ten pounds.  It is not a heavy weapon, but is particularly awkward to hold given its length.  The length of the weapon appears to make it a cumbersome piece of equipment for a soldier of the period, especially since the average soldier was only five feet, eight inches tall.

The weapon itself has a rather simple mechanism for operation.  The firing mechanism consisted of a metal hammer and nipple, upon which a percussion cap was placed.  The cap allowed the weapon to fire by igniting the gunpowder in the barrel.  The weapon was a muzzle-loading rifle, meaning that it loaded from the end of the barrel, or muzzle.  Since the bullet was loaded in this fashion, the rifle contained a ramrod, which is located in a slot underneath the barrel of the rifle.  The ramrod is a slender rod with a metal bell-shaped end that slides down the barrel.  Though not removed from the slot under the barrel for equipment preservation, the ramrod is slightly longer than the barrel.

The stock of the rifle was made of wood and stained in a dark brown stain.  The stock was pitted with many nicks and scratches, which likely resulted from service during the war.  In addition, the inscription of the initials “CS” was present near the trigger guard on the left side of the rifle.  These initials may either be the initials of the soldier who used it, a postwar owner, or CS for Confederate States, which would be an intriguing twist if the weapon was captured by Confederate sources for a time during the war.  There were three sites on the weapon, which flipped up and had numerical markings of 1, 3, and 5 on them.
1861-springfield-sight-1
1861-springfield-sight-2

Figure 2: Two of the three sites on this weapon flipped up to assist in viewing.

There were other markings present on the rifle, located on the lock and the breech of the barrel.  The markings on the top of the breech included 1861 (likely the year of manufacture), “H & P”, which is likely representing the division of the Springfield armory, as indicated by other examples from the Springfield armory website.1 Other markings are found on the right side of the weapon underneath the lock and may indicate the distributor of the weapon and city that distributor was located, which are M. T. Wickham and “Phil.”, which likely refers to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

1861-springfield-markings-1

1861-springfield-markings-2Figure 3: The various markings found on the metallic portions of the weapon.

This weapon was, according to Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics, was loaded and fired through nine motions.  The motions are:  load, handle cartridge, tear cartridge, charge cartridge, draw rammer, ram cartridge, return rammer, and shoulder arms, which includes ready, aim, and firing.2 It seems a complex series of commands, but, with training, the soldier would be able to fire three rounds per minute.

This weapon fired a .58 caliber round, which was called the Minié ball, and was accurate to around five hundred yards, which was a significant improvement over previous technology.3 The Minié ball was a conical-shaped round with three grooves in the base of the round, which allowed the round to grip the rifling in the barrel.  When the weapon was fired, the gases from the burning powder forced the hollow back of the round to expand and further grip the rifling, giving the rifle increased accuracy.  The round is quite heavy for its small size and, with the velocity provided by the rifle combined with its mass, was capable of producing horrendous wounds, which could be fatal in many cases.  Since the bullet and powder were separate, the rifle had an increased likelihood of jamming and appeared to need constant cleaning, however no evidence of this, in terms of cleaning materials, existed in the collection.

Given the tactics used in the war, coupled with the improved technology evident in the rifle studied, the incredibly high casualty rates of the Civil War are logical.  With soldiers firing in massed ranks at close ranges, more men suffered wounds or death, as they relied on tactics designed for weapons with less accuracy than the 1861 Springfield rifled musket.  Studying the rifle in the collection at the Myra Museum allows a greater comprehension of Civil War soldiers and their lives in combat.  Holding such a piece raises questions about what events the rifle participated in, who the soldier (or soldiers) was that carried it and what that soldier (or soldiers) experienced.  Thank you to the Myra Museum for allowing the inspection of part of their collection.

1Springfield Armory National Historic Site-Collections website found at:  http://www.museum.nps.gov/spar/vfpcgi.exe?IDCFile=/spar/DETAILS.IDC,SPECIFIC=8774,DATABASE=objects,ORDERBY=CATNBR,LISTIDC=/SPAR/BROWSER.IDC,RECORDMAX=10,RECNO=129,WORDS=valejo.  Accessed 02 March 2009.

2Hardee’s Rifle and Light Infantry Tactics.  Reproduction copy (Decatur, MI:  Invictus, 1997), 32-38.

3Paddy Griffith, Battle Tactics of the Civil War (New Haven, CT:  Yale University Press, 1989), 26, 73-74.

Another exhibit in the New York City area

Here’s another great exhibit in the New York City area that was sent to me by Timothy Wroten of the New York Historical Society.

We have a great Civil War show at New-York Historical Society called “Grant and Lee in War and Peace”. It is running through March 29 and I’m sure any of your readers living in or visiting the New York area would love it. An online version is available for those who cannot physically attend:
https://www.nyhistory.org/web/grantandlee/

Also, we have “Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words: An Intimate Portrait of Our Greatest President,” a smaller but rich exhibition of original documents on display through July. Here’s information about that exhibition:
https://www.nyhistory.org/web/default.php?section=exhibits_collections&page=exhibit_detail&id=4888575

On another note, I will be hopefully reviewing a new independent film on the Civil War this evening and will let you know more about that tonight.

Federal Baked Ovens – Life on Union Gunboats

Here is a brief excerpt on some research I have been doing on the Union river sailors and they’re experiences aboard the gunboat fleet.

Tight quarters surrounded by iron plating, boilers with an insatiable appetite for coal, poor ventilation, little wind and a lot of sun earned the river ironclads the handle of “federal baked ovens.”[1] Life in the river navy was fundamentally different from life aboard men-of-war performing blockade duty. Sailors, also referred to as bluejackets or jacks, of the regular navy enjoyed fresh air above deck and little danger; although monotonous and uneventful, save the occasional chase of smugglers, the deep water sailor enjoyed a much higher standard of living than his cousin in the brown water navy. The river sailors cruised close to land and became choice targets of confederate guerillas. The southern climate bred mosquitoes and disease, and particularly irksome to river jacks was the fact that blockaders were entitled to prize money from captured vessels while they were not. Naval officers frowned upon river service; even  Flag Officer Foote confided to his wife that he would rather be commanding in the Atlantic.[2] River navigation created another distinction between the two naval sectors.

The rivers of the Mississippi Valley were circuitous, shallow, narrow and constantly changing due to weather and floods. The weight of the gunboats caused them to frequently run aground; the constant scraping along the river’s bottom weakened the boats’ hulls causing leaks. Trees damaged the tall smokestacks or obstructed navigation. While the blockade sailor learned how to mend sails or navigate by the stars, the river tar became adept at: repairing boilers and smoke stacks, fixing leaks, and freeing their vessels from river bottoms.[3] The narrowness of the rivers also meant that crews spent most of their time within site of land.

Not only did gunboat crews come into contact with confederate guerillas but their closeness to land brought them in direct contact with southern civilians and slaves. As the war progressed and the boats descended further south, southern plantations were freed of their cotton as well as their slaves. Many of the contraband, the union term given to former slaves, would serve aboard gunboats. Castoffs from blockade duty, transfers from the army, contraband and even some confederate prisoners-of-war would man the boats in this new navy.[4] Although still short of manpower, enough crews existed to support the federal army advance into confederate General Albert Sidney Johnston’s precarious defensive line in early 1862.

[1] Michael J. Bennett, Union Jacks: Yankee Sailors in the Civil War (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 2004), 78. Dennis J. Ringle. Life in Mr. Lincoln’s Navy (Annapolis: Naval Institute Press, 1998), 47. River ironclads consumed 2000 pounds of coal per hour when cruising at 6 knots.

[2] James M. Merrill, “Cairo, Illinois: Strategic Civil War Port,” Journal of Illinois State History 76 (winter 1983): 251-52; Bennett, Union Jacks, 94-95. Gunboat crews became adept at stealing cotton throughout the war. Cotton became prize money for the river sailors.

[3] Bennett, Union Jacks, 83-85. A gunboat sailor described the Cumberland River as, “so crooked that sometimes a steamer a half mile ahead of us would be apparently coming directly in the opposite direction and suddenly turn around a bend and lo’ she proves to be going up the river.”

[4] Bennett, Union Jacks, 80. Merrill, “Cairo, Illinois,” 251;255.

Some interesting articles from the Oxford University Press blog

I received the following email concerning articles celebrating the Lincoln bicentennial from Megan Branch, an intern working for the blog. Consider these posts for your reading pleasure.

An excerpt from James McPherson’s ABRAHAM LINCOLN:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln-mcpherson/
A series of FAQ’s with Allen Guelzo author of LINCOLN: A Very Short Introduction:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln_questions/ and
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/abraham-lincoln-faq-part-one/ and
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln_faq/
A look at how Lincoln almost failed by Jennifer Weber author of COPPERHEADS: The
Rise and Fall of Lincoln’s Opponents in the North:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln_fail/
A post by Lincoln Prize Winner Craig L. Symonds comparing Lincoln and Obama:
http://blog.oup.com/2009/02/lincoln_obama/

Thank you to Ms. Branch for the articles.

RARE AND IMPORTANT LINCOLN MANUSCRIPTS GO ON DISPLAY AT THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY, FEBRUARY 12

I was sent the following email from Timothy Wroten of the New York Historical Society and thought I should pass it on to you.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

RARE AND IMPORTANT LINCOLN MANUSCRIPTS GO ON
DISPLAY AT THE NEW-YORK HISTORICAL SOCIETY, FEBRUARY 12

Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words Is Latest Presentation in the
Lincoln Year, Commemorating the Bicentennial of the Sixteenth President

New York, NY – A draft of the epoch-making “House Divided” speech, stirring notes for an address against slavery, a telegram encouraging General Ulysses S. Grant at a turning point in the Civil War, and the resolution for the Thirteenth Amendment bearing the President’s signature: These are among the rare and important letters, papers and official documents in Abraham Lincoln’s own hand that will be on display, as the New-York Historical Society presents, in partnership with the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, the exhibition Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words.

Opening on February 12, 2009 (the 200th anniversary of Lincoln’s birth) and remaining on view through July 12, Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words is the latest offering in the Historical Society’s Lincoln Year of exhibitions, lectures, events and public programs commemorating the bicentennial. The Lincoln Year will culminate in the Historical Society’s major exhibition for 2009, Lincoln and New York (opening October 2), for which the distinguished Lincoln scholar Harold Holzer has served as
chief historian.

“Nothing matches the immediacy of approaching a great figure through authentic objects,” stated Dr. Louise Mirrer, President and CEO of the New-York Historical Society. “Visitors to Abraham Lincoln in His Own Words will experience this thrill of physical presence, as they view Abraham Lincoln’s life and career in the original, from his period as an attorney and legislator in Illinois through his assassination and its aftermath.”

“As Lincoln begins his third century in American memory, we hope these documents will help illuminate his unique contribution to our country’s history,” stated James G. Basker, President of the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

In addition to seeing handwritten public documents by Lincoln, visitors will also encounter his more personal side, in letters to a struggling school friend of his eldest son and to his wife Mary (the latter written days before his death). Also on view are first edition texts, including a signed lithograph of his Emancipation Proclamation, a broadside of his Second Inaugural Address distributed in 1865, and a copy of his First Inaugural Address as published in 1861 in the Chicago Tribune.

Lending dramatic context to these items are a variety of other remarkable period objects, such as photographs, prints, sculptures, testimonies, and more. Visitors will see a cast of Lincoln’s face made in 1860 by sculptor Leonard Volk; a photograph by Alexander Gardner of Lincoln and General McClellan in the field in 1862; a Currier & Ives print of the fall fo Richmond in 1865; and a letter of condolence to Mary Todd Lincoln from Frederick Douglass, written in August 1865. Rounding out the exhibition are the original artists’ models by Daniel Chester French for the Lincoln sculpture commissioned by Lincoln, Nebraska (1911) and for the colossal seated figure at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C. (1916).

With the exception of the sculptures, all objects in the exhibition are drawn from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, which is on deposit at the New-York Historical Society. An accompanying illustrated book, Great Lincoln Documents: Historians Present Treasures from the Gilder Lehrman Collection, has been published by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History, featuring essays by ten noted historians, including James McPherson, Allen Guelzo, David Blight, Richard Carwardine, and Harold Holzer.

Check out some of the exhibit here.

A worthwhile investment

Part of being a historian is being active in the field and one of the ways to get active is to be a member of a professional association or society. I am currently a member of the Society for Military History and the Army Historical Foundation (sorry to the rest of the branches, but I am an Army Brat). I am also involved with H-Net, which is a consortium of list servers and discussion based online networks on a wide variety of Humanities and Social Science topics, mostly history related. I have also been a member of The Historical Society and the AHA, but left the former to use the funds that would go to it to pay for membership in other organizations closer related to my research. I left the AHA for personal reasons that I will not go into here.

I have been happy with my membership in the Society for Military History and Army Historical Foundation, but I decided that since I am getting a bit further along in my graduate education, I wanted to join a couple new groups. Therefore, a few weeks ago, I mailed in my application to join The Society of Civil War Historians and just last night, after consulting with my thesis adviser yesterday, I joined the Southern Historical Association. I am contemplating joining the Society of Historians of the Early American Republic (SHEAR), but will have to wait and see about my finances.

There are many advantages to being a member of a professional group, like the ones above. You get a subscription to a quality peer-reviewed publication that offers up the latest scholarly happenings in the field. This is important, as one should be up, as best as possible, on the latest trends in their research areas. Second, you often get discounts to attend the national meetings and conferences held by these groups. These meetings, which often include a conference, as well as other conferences offer the opportunity to share your research with other scholars, as well as network with other members, which can be great for future employment. In addition, some groups have job sessions, where preliminary interviews are held for various positions around the nation and world.

In short, there are very few reasons, except for having more money in your bank account and more shelf space in your home (which are bad reasons anyway), to not join a professional society. Graduate students are especially encouraged to join, as it looks great on the old CV and on applications for programs and fellowships, plus most groups offer discounted rates for students, since they realize most students, myself included, do not have as much discretionary income. I encourage you to check out the groups I mentioned and look for others that maybe closer to your interests.

A virtual Civil War Roundtable?

I have been thinking lately, especially with having a presence on the web and Facebook, about Civil War Round Tables. These groups consist of members, who get together on a regular basis and discuss topics relating to the war. They often include a speaker, with question and answer sessions following, as well as dinner. There are several located around the country, but what about those of us (myself included) who do not live near an established round table group? What about creating a virtual Civil War Round Table?

With the ever increasing use of the internet, especially the blogosphere, by historians, I think the time has come to create a virtual Civil War Round Table, where interested parties could come together and discuss the war and present their knowledge at a pre-determined time. Here is what I envision for a virtual round table:

Having found a way to create a way for several people, perhaps dozens or more, to link up on the web via an instant messaging or Twitter type setup, we would allow the keynote “speaker” to post their remarks (either a paper or other prepared text) in the form of a document or podcast. We would read the text, or listen to the podcast, and then post our comments and questions to the “speaker” via the instant messaging format and basically engage in an online discussion on the topic and other items.

There are several benefits to this format. First, this round table would be a mobile entity that would only be limited by a person’s ability to access a computer with the necessary components to link to the round table. Second, its mobility would allow the round table to have members from a wide range of places around the nation and world. Third, it would be relatively cheap, if not free, as the only costs incurred would be those possibly needed to create the setup for the round table. Finally, it would hopefully bring about the increased use of the web for discussing and promoting the study of the war.

I would like to gauge the feelings on this idea, so I have added a poll to allow you to vote on the idea. I also welcome your comments and feedback, especially if you would like to help with this project.

Get published for the New Year

Authors are needed for a  new encyclopedia on military history and propaganda.  The work will cover U.S. military history from colonial times to the present.  There are Civil War entries still available.

The encyclopedia is being published by ABC-Clio, a very prestigious academic publisher.  Here is the announcement on Hnet.

http://www.h-net.org/announce/show.cgi?ID=165971

Lincoln and His Admirals

Civil War literature is copious.  This is both a blessing and a curse for civil war buffs and scholars.  One facet of civil war historiography that is attracting more attention is naval operations.  This is a subject I am very much interested in; my master’s thesis focuses on the river ironclads of the west.

 

Craig L. Symonds’, Lincoln and His Admirals, is an excellent new book on the Union naval campaigns throughout the war.  As the title implies, Symonds focuses on Lincoln’s relationships with the U.S. naval high command and how they affected the outcome of naval policy and maneuvers.  It is a political history as well demonstrating, as so many Lincoln scholars have argued before, that Lincoln became such a strong commander-in-chief through trial and error during our nation’s greatest crisis.

 

One of Lincoln’s first dilemmas upon taking office was how to handle the Fort Sumter situation.  Secretary of State Seward argued to have Fort Sumter surrendered to South Carolina, hoping rather naively, that there was still time for reconciliation.  Lincoln, through the urging of soon-to-be Assistant Secretary of the Navy Gustavus Vasa Fox, opted to re-supply Fort Sumter with a naval expedition.  Meanwhile, in a series of peculiar actions on the part of Seward, Lincoln allowed his Secretary of State and two junior officers, Captain Meigs of the army and Lieutenant Porter of the navy, to undermine the Sumter expedition.  Seward had the U.S.S. Powhatan diverted from the Sumter operation and sent to Pensacola, Florida to secure Fort Pickens.  All of this was done without Secretary of the Navy Gideon Welle’s knowledge. Ultimately, the relief expedition was too late since Lincoln had warned South Carolina of the supply mission and the Confederacy began bombing the fort on 12-April-1861.  Lincoln, as he so often did throughout his presidency, learned from this episode and took full responsibility.

 

Lincoln’s trust in both Secretary of the Navy Welles and his assistant Gustavus V. Fox proved invaluable.  The Welles-Fox adept administration of naval affairs throughout the war allowed Lincoln to focus on other matters, mainly the army and its long list of incompetent political officers.  Lincoln and His Admirals is a welcome addition to Civil War navy historiography.

 

Some other Civil War naval books on my shelf waiting to be read are:

 

Gustavus Vasa Fox of the Union Navy: A Biography – Ari Hoogenboom

 

The Timberclads in the Civil War – Myron J.Smith Jr.

 

Blue and Gray Navies: The Civil War Afloat – Spencer C. Tucker

 

Island No.10: Struggle for the Mississippi Valley – Larry J. Daniel

 

Happy New Year to everyone and I concur with Dan lets resolve to do more research and writing on the Civil War!

 

 

Grant moves South-again

According to CivilWarriors, the U. S. Grant Association and collection has been removed from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale (SIUC) and is now on the campus of Mississippi State University. The new executive director, John Marszalek, who works at MSU has taken over from the late John Simon, former SIUC history professor who passed away in June. This is somewhat sad for me being from Illinois and never having the chance to visit the collection. While I wish the new director the best, I do hope that the Association will find a repository in Illinois for the materials.

On another note, we at Civil War History would like to wish you all a Happy New Year. As we enter another year here at CWH, we would like you to consider joining the fun of Civil War blogging, create a free WordPress account, and join us in writing. Please do not hesitate to use the contact page to let us know of your interest.

A new birth of scholarship

Sorry, I could not resist the play on words. I hope that everyone had a wonderful holiday and are enjoying the end of the year. As we approach 2009, I can not help but think about the coming bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth. I must say that I am looking forward to seeing what new scholarship and other historical related material will come out in the next year. I have been watching Ken Burns’ The Civil War, which was a long-overdue present to myself and while it is a great production, it is also almost twenty years old. I am looking forward to see if new films on Lincoln and the war will come out during the next year. In addition, I await the new Lincoln monographs that will surely appear in 2009.

It is important to note that the bicentennial of Lincoln’s birth also is not far away from the sesquicentennial of the Civil War. That said, the years 2009-2015 will likely represent a new birth of scholarship on the war period. This represents a challenge to scholars, as my adviser mentioned to me that the number of books on the war is equivalent to a book per day every day since the war ended. There are only so many subjects and interpretations and I wonder when we will run out of things to write on. Anyway, it is my hope that new scholars (myself included) will be able to enjoy the renewed interest in the war that will grow in the coming years.

As we enter a new year, let us all resolve to do more research and get out and write on subjects relating to Lincoln and the war and build upon the great scholarly tradition that has come before. This will be an exciting time to be a scholar on Lincoln and the war, and I hope you all get a chance to visit the many sites dedicated to the war and Abe. Have a Happy New Year and I’ll see you in 2009.

Presenting my thesis

I have been meaning to do this for a while, but now I can actually post my thesis. I have had it in an electronic form for a while, but was hesitant to put it online out of fear that some unprincipled person would attempt to pass it off as their own. However, I found that one of my former colleagues at UND posted his thesis online, so I decided that if he was brave enough to do so, I would be as well. Therefore, I present to you my thesis, “CIVIL WAR CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION IN ILLINOIS: EXPLORING THE TRANSITION FROM CIVILIAN TO SOLDIER.”

Download “CIVIL WAR CAMPS OF INSTRUCTION IN ILLINOIS: EXPLORING THE TRANSITION FROM CIVILIAN TO SOLDIER”

There is one page missing from the document, which is the approval page. Do not worry the thesis is legitimate and was approved. I had to make hard copies of that page from an original copy provided after I turned the copy into the graduate school and did not insert the page into the electronic file. I hope you enjoy my thesis and wish you all a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays.

The end of semester is near

Hey everyone, sorry I have not posted for a few days, but I am quite busy finishing up assignments for classes and they take more precedence than posting to the blog. Rest assured, I plan to have something more substantive up next week, if not sooner, but right now, I need to get back to work.

Interview with David H. Jones

After writing my review of Two Brothers, One North, One South, I found that I had some questions about the book that only the author could answer, so I contacted David H. Jones and put forth the following questions, which he was gracious enough to answer. I hope you enjoy and that he answers some of the questions you may have had about his book.

1. How did you choose the topic of your story and why did you choose to write a novel instead of a non-fiction historical work?

A. I found the story of the Prentiss brothers while researching the regiments of my Civil War ancestors. My great great grandfather, James Touchstone, served as an officer in the 6th Maryland Infantry with Clifton Prentiss. I discovered that Clifton had a younger brother who served in the Confederate 1st and 2nd Maryland Battalions and that Walt Whitman had written about William Prentiss in “Memoranda During The War.” After three years of collecting historical data, it was apparent to me that the book could be written as either as a non-fiction or fiction.

In my view, the circumstance of “brother fighting brother” is the quintessential story of the American Civil War and, as such, could achieve greater readership as a novel rather than as a non-fiction. At the same time, I was aware that there is a downside to historical fiction. All too often these novels are full of inaccuracies and the story is one that could have happened at anytime; the author simply drops it into a certain time period and doesn’t care enough to make the details authentic. Thus, many Civil War buffs are prejudiced against any book that is not a non-fiction.

2. Your book is considered historical fiction. Aside from battles and locations, what percentage of the characters are fictional and how much of the story is based around actual events in the life of the real persons? How did you determine how much of your story elements would be fictitious?

A. There are only three fictitious characters in “Two Brothers.” Elijah and Alma Carter are created characters, as is Laura Watson, although there is some evidence of a stepsister in the Prentiss family. Otherwise, the scenes within the book are closely based on actual events in the lives of historical persons. Regarding Elijah, the 7th USCT was an actual regiment that was raised in Baltimore in late 1863 and its exploits were real.

3. I could not help but think about elements of the miniseries North and South as I read this story. What literary works and/or television and films on the war influenced you and shaped the writing of this work?

A. The miniseries “North and South” is fairly true to the period, as are novels by Michael Shaara, Jeff Shaara, Howard Bahr, and others. The work of David McCullough proves that accurate history can be brought-to-life and that inspired me to shape a novel closely based on real people and events; one that would hopefully both entertain and educate.

4. One of my minor criticisms of your book was the heavy focus on William’s service in the war. Could you explain why you did not devote part of the book to presenting Clifton’s service in the Union army?

A. There’s a good reason for this imbalance. The Confederate 1st Maryland Battalion was formed in time to fight at First Manassas (First Bull Run) in July of 1861. Conversely, the 6th Maryland Infantry was not mustered into service until late August of 1862 and saw little field service until June of 1863. Thus, there was more “story material” about William than there was about Clifton. To compensate for this, I swung the focus from the Confederate side to the Union side as the story approached its climax at the Breakthrough Battle at Petersburg on April 2, 1865.  My overall intent was to treat the brothers and their experiences in an even-handed manner.

5. Given that this was a novel, there would be no notes or bibliography, but historians like to know about sources in a work. Could you tell us a bit about some of the sources you researched that contributed to the writing of the book?

A. I did provide a small appendix in “Two Brothers” with quotes from books, memoirs and newspaper accounts of the period to demonstrate to the reader that the story of Prentiss brothers is essentially true. I researched service and pension records, Official Records, the Grayson Eichelberger papers (6th Maryland), the Southern Historical Society Papers, books and articles written by prominent historians, and books written by actual participants and observers. The list of published references is extensive, so I will provide just a sampling to indicate the nature of these sources: The Final Battles of the Petersburg Campaign-Breaking the Backbone of the Rebellion (A. Wilson Greene); I Rode With Stonewall (Henry Kyd Douglas); Maryland’s Blue & Gray (Kevin Conley Ruffner); A Maryland Boy in Lee’s Army (George W. Booth); First and Second Maryland Infantry, CSA (Robert J. Driver, Jr.); A Soldiers Recollections (Randolph McKim); Recollections of a Maryland Confederate Soldier, 1861-1865 (McHenry Howard); The Maryland Line in the Confederate Army (W.W. Goldsborough); Manly Deeds-Womanly Words-History of the 6th regiment of Maryland Infantry (James Fisher); Recollections Grave and Gay (Mrs. Burton Harrison (Constance Cary)); Mary Chesnut’s Civil War (C. Vann Woodward); Belles, Beaux and Brains of the 60′s (T.C. DeLeon); Walt Whitman’s Civil War (Walter Lowenfels); Richmond-The Story of a City (Virginius Dabney); Baltimore During The Civil War (Scott Sumpter Sheads & Daniel Carroll Toomey); A Matter of Allegiances-Maryland from 1850 to 1861 (William J. Evitts); and many, many others.

6. As someone with an inclination towards the Union, I often found myself viewing the Cary sisters and Laura with anger and suspicion. Was it your intent for readers to see these ladies in that light, and did you ever find yourself feeling that way towards them while writing the story?

A. No, that was not my intent and I never felt anger or suspicion toward the Cary girls.  My two Civil War ancestors fought for the Union, but I view the participants of both sides as equally honorable in their devotion to their cause. They were the children and grandchildren of Revolutionary War patriots, but they saw the political, economic, and social issues of the period in a very different light. Within the context of those times, they believed they were doing the right thing. We rightly deplore slavery today as an evil institution, but generally speaking, people in the mid nineteenth were very local in viewpoint and accepted, for a variety of reasons, conditions that we find totally unacceptable today. Many references provide evidence that white women in the South were strong advocates of the Confederacy and the Cary’s were no exception.

7. Walt Whitman feared, according to your book, that the real nature of the war would be lost. With so many books written by historians on the war, do you think he was correct in his fear?

A. While much has been written about all aspects of the war, today’s readers aren’t often presented with stories that focus on the sacrifices and devotion of the common soldier, particularly the ones who were wounded, languished, and died in hospitals. That, to Whitman’s way of thinking, was what should be remembered; I think that he was correct in his fear.

8. What do you hope that readers will come away with from reading your book?

A. The realization that all of the soldiers, both North and South, were American patriots. Our nation is what it is today because the American Civil War was fought and we should celebrate our history by developing a better understanding of those people and times.

9. Do you have any plans to write an academic work on the war, like a history of one of the units in the story?

A. Three journals written by an officer of the 6th Maryland in 1866 have come to light since the publication of “Two Brothers” and contain a wealth of first-hand information and observations about the regiment for the entirety of the war. I am working to get permission to publish the information from these journals and, if achieved, the book will be written as a non-fiction.

10. What advice would you offer to those who would like to write a book like Two Brothers, or any work of history?

A. I would tell them that writing the book is only half the task. Despite whether or not your book is published by a traditional publisher, is self-published, or published by a vanity press, all marketing and promotion is the responsibility of the author. You must promote the book and create “buzz” in the marketplace . . . or it won’t sell. An author must understand that this is a business, and a very competitive one at that.