January 9, 2008

I Rode With Stonewall

I've started a full reading of Henry Kyd Douglas' I Rode With Stonewall, originally published by the University of North Carolina Press in 1940. The author had quite a story to tell, as he was the youngest member of Jackson's staff. His story runs from John Brown's raid up through the hanging of the Lincoln conspirators, of which Douglas was an eyewitness to the trial.

His manuscript had quite a unique history up to the point of its publication. Douglas kept a diary throughout the war, which along with letters and other papers formed the basis for the book. When the hostilities were over, he began putting pen to paper. Once finished, Douglas essentially put his manuscript in a drawer, though for the next three decades his manuscript provided the basis for several articles and speeches, even serving as a source document for other authors.

In 1899 and having mellowed with age, Douglas decided to revisit his manuscript and incorporated a number of revisions. He passed away in 1903, at which point the manuscript was inherited by his sole nephew, John Kyd Beckenbaugh.

Beckenbaugh offered Douglas' memoir to the UNC Press around 1939-40. The press was amazed at such a find and freely admitted "when we first read the typescript we thought it was too good to be true." It was turned over to scholar Fletcher M. Green for review and who ultimately edited the book with the first printing appearing in late 1940. Broadfoot reports in his Civil War Books: A Priced Checklist that at least five printings of 2,000 copies each took place between November - December of 1940, making the book a hefty seller. Today however, first printings in the original dust jacket (pictured) are a tough find. As of this writing in fact, I could find no first edition copies with jacket for sale in collector's condition. The book was a critical success as well. In Tall Cotton descibes it as "one of the finest of Confederate narratives" while Nevins termed it a "delightful memoir."

7 comments:

Harry said...

Paul,

My copy, with DJ, says it is an 11th printing. I got it a couple years ago in a second hand bookstore for $8.

Paul Taylor said...

Harry,

The book's been in print from day one both in hc and paperback. I once had a hc copy that was a twenty-something printing...

Paul

Anonymous said...

Hello

I believe, at least that was what I was told, that the 1st printing 1st edition jacket was slightly different than other printings of the 1st edition? I do have a 1st edition, 1st printing and the price was hefty.

Some reviewers have quipped that the book should have been titled " Stonewall Rode with Me"

Regardless, Civil War titles from this era with jackets on them are very difficult to find. The book is by far one of the best confederate memoirs.

Keep up the good work on your blog. It is very enjoyable.

Regards
Don

Paul Taylor said...

Don, Thanks for the kind words. I had read that reviewer's comment as well, though can't quite place it. For a pre-WWII book of any genre, having the dust jacket will significantly enhance a book's value. I know that it many cases, the jacket can be worth far more than the book, to the consternation of some booksellers!

Paul

Drew W. said...

Paul,
I was once scouring the internet for a copy of a fairly scarce CW book, and found one seller who was only selling the dust jacket! I suppose markets can be created to address needs of any kind, and I can certainly imagine a collector's desire to obtain a better condition jacket to go with his book. Have you ever found a price list of dust jacket values for Civil War books?

Drew

Paul Taylor said...

Drew,

I've never seen a price list like you mention. As I also collect certain fiction genres, I can opine that the whole dust jacket thing weighs much more heavy with collectors of fiction (be it literary, western, mystery, science fiction or fantasy)than with Civil War collectors. I'll never forget one Washington DC bookseller telling me that he "sold books, not dust jackets" after I received a book with a torn and frayed dj that had been advertised as "fine in dj."

Paul

Brian Downey said...

A great read is this book. Some of it is priceless eyewitness reporting. Chunks are pure fiction, however. The problem is knowing which bits are which.