November 23, 2012

Nice Review from Civil War Books and Authors

Drew Wagenhoffer at Civil War Books and Authors has penned a complimentary review of the new second edition of Discovering the Civil War in Florida: A Reader and Guide. This was my first book, which was originally published in 2001.

Considering that the travel guide info was outdated, I revised and enhanced the book with additional source material, photographs amd all updated visitors information. Additional info here.

Imagine Finding $20K In a Used Book!

It happened. Check it out here.

November 11, 2012

Advance and Retreat

Civil War scholars and enthusiasts alike were all abuzz this fall to learn of a recently discovered and previously unknown cache of letters, journals and other documents that originally belonged to Confederate Lieut. General John Bell Hood (1831-1879). As reported in the November issue of Civil War News, these papers were discovered by Stephen Hood, a distant relative of the general, at the home of another Hood relative who was not aware of their importance.

As Stephen Hood notes, these documents are so extensive and important that they could lead to a major reassessment of General Hood's historical reputation; a reputation that, for the most part, was not favorable due in large measure to his perceived poor 1864 performances at Atlanta, Spring Hill, Tennessee and then at Nashville.

Hood was the fall guy for those Confederate failures even during his lifetime. He came in for particularly harsh criticism in Confederate General Joseph E. Johnston's 1874 memoirs as well as not so favorable treatment in William T. Sherman's memoirs.

That criticism from Johnston left Hood with the conviction that he had to respond. Driven by the desire to preserve his honor, Hood began working on his memoirs in the mid-1870s in Louisiana where he lived and worked as a cotton broker and also served as president of the Life Insurance Association of American. One might conclude that the two jobs were necessary for Hood was married with eleven children. Sadly, a yellow fever epidemic broke out in New Orleans during the winter of 1878–79 which claimed the general's life, only days after the disease took his wife and oldest child, leaving ten destitute orphans. Those children were eventually adopted by families in Louisiana, Mississippi, Georgia, Kentucky and New York.

Hood's memoirs were published posthumously in 1880 and were titled Advance and Retreat: Personal Experiences in the United States and Confederate States Armies. The first edition was published by friends, including General P.G. T. Beauregard for the "Hood Orphan Memorial Fund" and is bound in brown cloth, gilt lettering with black horizontal stripes across the binding. It was not a well-made book, consequently first editions in fine condition are very difficult to find and will command top prices essentially because they are the memoirs of major Civil War figure. Critically, the book did not and has not fared well, being viewed as a bitter attack against Hood's enemies that is riddled with rationalizations and misinterpretations. According to Eicher, the book is useful "only to shed light on the confused mind of its author."

Which takes us back to Stephen Hood's important discovery. Hood has recently completed a bio of his ancestor utilizing some of these newly found documents and which will attempt to revise his ancestor's legacy. That highly anticipated book is scheduled to come out this coming spring and will be published by Savas Beatie.

November 3, 2012

The Eleven "Best" Civil War Books?

I'd never seen this 2011 article until yesterday so I thought others might have missed it as well. In it, author Malcom Jones, who writes about books, music, and photography for the Daily Beast and Newsweek, puts forth what he considers to be the eleven best Civil War books of all time, "just in time for the sesquicentennial."

Jones admits that assembling such a list is "an absurd task, simply because—no kidding—so many are essential." There are more than a few on this list that I would have excluded, but that's probably the case for anyone.

Just off the top of my head, I would delete the Horowitz and Foner books, as much as I love the former. Then replace them with Edwin Coddington's The Gettysburg Campaign and Hattaway and Jones' How the North Won.

October 23, 2012

September 9, 2012

Beefsteak Raid

With food supplies running precariously low, Confederate General Wade Hampton led several thousand of his best cavalrymen from their positions near Petersburg in September 1864 on a 100-mile raid to “acquisition” approximately 3,000 head of cattle which were corralled behind Union lines at the plantation of Edmund Ruffin, only a few miles away from Gen. Ulysses S. Grant’s headquarters.

The surprise attack was a success, though somewhat of a hollow victory for the Rebel's meager rations had left them with almost no grain to feed their new prizes. This meant they had no choice but to quickly slaughter the cattle, and with no means of preserving the beef, Confederate troops had to quickly consume the meat before it spoiled. Within a matter of days, their hunger returned.

Martha Boltz has written a nice account of this affair in the Washington Times however for those seeking a narrative with a bit more "meat," Edward Boykin's Beefsteak Raid is the work to turn to. Published by Funk and Wagnall's in 1960, this is a surprisingly difficult book to find in the first edition and in collector's condition. Well, at least for me, as I have never been able to find a copy that meets both of those criteria. Every copy I have ever come across in shops, bookfairs or online has been either a second edition, an ex-library first edition or in poor condition if it was a first. The black dust jacket seems especially susceptible to wear and tear.

As you can see here, there are only four copies currently for sale on ABE, and all are either second printings or in less than fine condition. I have not read the book though the standard sources offer mixed reviews. Nevins describes this micro-history as "undocumented and thin but entertaining" while Eicher has the work listed in his analytical bibliography, describing it as "fast-paced" and "readable."

UPDATE May 29, 2014: At long last, I have come across a very nice first edition at a very good price. And it's a review copy no less with the 1960 publisher's review slip laid in (pictured above).

August 28, 2012

"Collector's Editions" from B&G Education Society

Founded in 1994, The Blue and Gray Education Society considers itself to be "America’s Premier Civil War Education Group." As a 501(c)(3) non-profit, it describes its mission as being "dedicated to assisting members in pursuing their intellectual interests and achieving their legacy by revealing our past for our future through the understanding of the War between the States, by interpreting and preserving its battlefields, conducting high quality seminars, promoting and publishing scholarly research and by facilitating worthwhile education endeavors."

To assist in achieving its end, the Society has, to date, partnered with three well-known authors to create leather-bound limited editions of the author's latest work. These "special leather bound editions are National Geographic authorized deluxe editions" whose purpose is to raise funds for preservation and education. They are only available through The Blue And Gray Education Society.

This series includes Shiloh 1862 by Winston Groom, Fields of Honor by Ed Bearss, and Receding Tide: Vicksburg and Gettysburg by Ed Bearss with Parker Hills. Each volume is $43.

No word at the website as to whether or not these editions are signed and/or numbered by the authors. If they were, I think it's safe to say that that fact would be highly touted. Update to follow.

UPDATE Sept 3 -According to Society Executive Director Len Reidel, signed copies of the Shiloh book are still available at $100. Receding Tide is autographed at $75, however Len was not aware if any autographed Fields of Honor still remained. One can therefore conclude that the author's signature is not a feature of those copies offered at $43.

August 14, 2012

The Civil War Still Rages!

...but this time it's the North that wants the South to skedaddle! Check it out here. :-)

August 9, 2012

Was McClellan a Chicken?

Check out this review of Richard Slotkin's new book, The Long Road To Antietam: How the Civil War Became a Revolution.

July 31, 2012

Dear Brother and Sister - 4th Michigan Infantry

This post is about a new, self-published book I just learned of that has a family connection on my wife's side. Dear Brother and Sister brings to light for the first time 56 previously unpublished letters from three young men named Austin Smith, Deloss Haviland and Lewis A. Haviland, who enlisted in the 4th Michigan Infantry in June 1861 and then wrote home to their brother Russell M. Cadwell, and their sister Harriet Smith.

The book's author, Linda Glaza-Herrington, had no initial intention of creating a book, but merely transcribing these long-held family letters for posterity before the poor quality ink completely faded away. One thing led to another and before she knew it, the author had assembled a 520-page work featuring over 75 photographs of family ancestors, and pertinent Civil War photographs and drawings from the Library of Congress. Ample context abounds to explain the setting of each letter and how the 4th Michigan was engaged at the time. An overview of the 4th Michigan's activity may be found here.

Dear Brother and Sister will primarily appeal to family members of the Smith, Haviland, and Cadwell families, genealogists, and of course, those with an interest in the 4th Michigan Infantry. By the way, a phenomenal, four generation descending genealogical outline of the various generations down to the present day exists in the back of the book.

As occasionally happens with such efforts, I discovered that the book has an interesting publishing history. In perusing a hardcover copy of the book owned by a northern Michigan neighbor, I noticed that the copyright page said "Second Edition" which struck me as odd considering that this is a brand new publication. I then wrote to the author and asked her if there might be any first editions still lying around. She replied as follows: "The first edition was the paperback published by Schuler Books & Music and is the version with the ISBN that was sent to the Library of Congress. However, family members almost unanimously indicated they wanted a hardcover copy of the book. So, since Schuler's had no problem with it, I ended up self publishing the identical text as a hardcover book through LULU. That's why the paperback is the "first edition" and the hardcover is the "second edition."  Since the texts are identical, the hardcover is actually the "first hardcover edition."

The author has prepared a website that further promotes the book.

June 26, 2012

James Bond Book Sells for $21,000

Off topic, but nevertheless, WOW! Check it out here.

June 19, 2012

What Are the All-Time Best Selling Civil War Books?

I was wondering about the answer to this question and came across the following bit of info at eHow:

Fiction

  • No Civil War book has sold more copies than Margaret Mitchell's 1935 romance Gone With the Wind. A stunning success by the time the movie was released in 1939, it has sold more than 30 million copies. Though fiction, it draws heavily from the life of Mary Chestnut, whose published diary revealed life among the Confederate aristocracy. Other leading novels include 1997's Cold Mountain by Charles Frazer, which has sold more than four million copies, and Gods and Generals by Jeff Shaara, which has passed the two million mark since 1996. Also among bestsellers is Stephen Crane's classic The Red Badge of Courage, which earned him instant fame in 1895.

Nonfiction

  • Nonfiction Civil War books frequently focus on specific topics or battles, but among those covering the entire war, 1960's The American Heritage New History of the Civil War, written by Bruce Catton and edited by James McPherson, has been a perennial bestseller. Last updated in 2001, it remains extremely accessible to both young and adult readers. Catton's 1953 work A Stillness at Appomattox, his first successful book and the last of his trilogy concerning the Army of the Potomac, remains in wide circulation, as does McPherson's 1988 Battle Cry of Freedom: The Civil War Era. Ken Burns's 1990  The Civil War documentary popularized this book as source material, pushing sales past 600,000. The landmark film did the same for Shelby Foote's 1958 The Civil War: A Narrative. Between September 1990 and mid-1991, the book sold 400,000 copies and is now well past the half-million mark.
    Ordeal by Fire, written by Fletcher Pratt, sold poorly when released in 1935, but as the retitled A Short History of the Civil War in paperback, it became an immediate bestseller. Updated versions provide a brief but popular overview of the war.

Biographies

  • Doris Kearn Goodwin's Team of Rivals: The Political Genius of Abraham Lincoln was a "New York Times" and "Publishers Weekly" bestseller in 2005 and remains among Amazon's top-selling Civil War books in 2009. Other biographies of note include the Personal Memoirs of U.S. Grant. Publisher Mark Twain hoped to sell 25,000 copies; he sold 350,000. The Life and Times of Frederick Douglass, originally titled  Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave sold 30,000 copies between 1845 and 1850 and has become a classic work of American literature. Both books made Amazon's list of Civil War bestsellers in 2009, even though Douglass's account of life as a slave predates the war itself by two decades.

Of Note

  • Though not strictly about the Civil War, Uncle Tom's Cabin, or, Life Among the Lowly, was a precursor of it. President Lincoln called author Harriet Beecher Stowe "the little lady who started the big war." Published in 1852, the antislavery novel was the second bestselling book of the 19th century and sold more than 500,000 copies in its first year. Not widely regarded as good literature, it nonetheless should be read by any serious student of the Civil War.
Other than perhaps Gods and Generals, all or at least most of these titles are highly collectible in the first edition. In the case of Team of Rivals, the Easton Press signed, leatherbound edition is pricey and desirable however the trade edition is quite common,

June 3, 2012

Tupelo

In the current issue of Civil War News, I noticed an ad for a deluxe reissue of Tupelo by the Rev. John H. Aughey (1828-1911), a Presbyterian minister living in Mississippi when the war started. Originally published in 1888 by the State Journal Company of Lincoln, Nebraska, Aughey's post-war reminiscence tells his tale of being imprisoned by Confederate authorities and twice condemned to execution for his outspoken anti-secession and pro-Union beliefs. Aughey makes good his escape and lives to tell the details of his ordeal in this autobiography. Though the author displays understandable disdain and harshness toward his captors, he nevertheless shows significant sympathy to most Southerners, especially fellow ministers.

Apparently Aughey wrote an earlier volume which was published in 1863 titled The Iron Furnace: or, Slavery and Secession which, according to scholar Allan Nevins was "a somewhat restrained attack on Southern institutions in general and slavery in particular." Nevins had little good to say about Tupelo, describing it as Aughey's "enlarged, greatly embellished sequel" to The Iron Furnace, and "far less trustworthy."

First editions are not plentiful, yet as seen here, do not seem to command unusually high prices.

This new edition, which sells for $49.95, is given the deluxe treatment by Burnished Bronze Press of Dallas, Texas. According to the publisher, and as you can see by the image, this new edition measures 6 x 9.25 inches, runs 624 pages, and features a burgundy leather binding over cream linen bookbinding cloth for the front and back panels. Additional production values include gold-tooled leather spine and gilt edged pages. I sent an email to the press seeking to learn how many copies were printed but have not heard back from them.

I also discovered this YouTube video to promote the book.


April 29, 2012

What a Boy Saw in the Army

Jesse Bowman Young (1844-1914) was just seventeen when he enlisted in the 4th Illinois Cavalry in August 1861. Along with his uncle, Major Samuel Millard Bowman, Young saw action in the west under General U.S. Grant. Young then transferred in 1862 to the 84th Pennsylvania Volunteers; a regiment that fought with distinction at Fredericksburg and at Chancellorsville. When his uncle assumed command of the 84th’s brigade, Young served as his aide and then became a divisional staff officer, serving in that capacity with General Sickles at Gettysburg in the Peach Orchard. Young had obtained a captain’s rank when he left the army in 1864 but was enticed to return with the offer of a colonelcy in what were then called “colored” regiments. The war ended while Young was awaiting his assignment.

Young enrolled at Dickinson College following the war and graduated in 1868. Upon graduation, Young entered the ministry and served that calling for the remainder of his life, first in Pennsylvania but then mostly in the Midwest. During these years, Young became a keen author and lecturer on both religious and military subjects.

In 1894, at the age of fifty, Young published his wartime memoirs in a thinly disguised, third-person story he titled What a Boy Saw in the Army. The book was published by Hunt & Eaton Publishers and was bound in blue cloth with gold gilt trimming. A deluxe, leather bound edition was also released.

According to a biography of Young by John Osborne, “Young appears throughout the book as "the boy," and his companions in arms and the posts in which he served, as well as the field officers he served under, mirror exactly the teenaged Young's experiences. Young's approach in this book is light and personal. His touch is often engaging, as when he describes the retreat at Shiloh in a chapter called "The Boy Learns What His Feet Were Made For." He does not, though, restrain himself from vivid and bloody descriptions of the folly, cowardice, and confusion that accompany courage and sacrifice in battle. His method enables him to see and relate all these events through the eyes of a na├»ve and not particularly robust young man, prone to his own weakness and error. What the boy does not himself see, he "hears" from his friends on other parts of the battlefield and so provides an interesting view of the war's progress. He is particularly effective in conveying the boredom, the drudgery, and the hardships of the life of the Civil War soldier. From the cold and tedium of winter camp at Stoneman's Switch, Virginia, to the futility of Burnside's "Mud March," and then the hard slog of the forced marches to counter Lee's invasion of Pennsylvania, the lot of the common soldier is shown in detail. Young is also able to weave in the popular feeling among the men concerning their leaders, their "immunity" to the preachers passing through their bivouacs, the courage of the Christian Commission's service among the wounded, and the dismay across his regiment when the Emancipation Proclamation made their fight an explicit conflict against slavery.” As an added bonus, the book is laden with 100 illustrations, many of them commissioned especially for this book. The artist was Frank Beard, the widely known illustrator for religious and social causes who for years was the principal cartoonist for the Ram's Horn, a famous Chicago social gospel magazine.

Young's memoirs here, taken together with his comprehensive treatment of the Battle of Gettysburg in another volume, provide a useful set of perspectives on the Civil War at a time when many of its younger veterans, now in middle age, were beginning to publish their experiences.

First editions of What a Boy Saw in the Army are not uncommon though with any book of this age, condition can be problematic. As shown here, there can be a wide range of pricing based on condition.

April 4, 2012

NPS Civil War Publications

There is an excellent article by Charles Michaud in the April 2012 issue of Firsts: The Book Collector's Magazine titled "Collecting National Park Service Civil War Publications." This essay discusses collecting a type of Civil War item that I had never even thought of, though that may now change. ;-)The piece also notes that "extensive checklists for this article will appear in next month's issue."

Individual articles are not available online though the magazine does sell individual issues.

February 5, 2012

"Civil War books combine history with collecting"

Here's a nice article on collecting Civil War books by Ken Gloss, owner of the Brattle Book Shop in downtown Boston – America’s oldest and one of its largest antiquarian bookstores. The story was originally published here on Nov. 6, 2011.

It’s now 150 years since the start of the American Civil War, which ran from 1861 to 1865 and was one of the most interesting and tragic chapters in the history of our country. It has spawned thousands of different books, both in non-fiction and fiction. Collectors interested in Civil War books can find everything from histories of individual regiments to extensive historical accounts of all four years of the war. In Massachusetts, The Historical Sketch of the 6th Massachusetts Regiment, written by John W. Hansen in 1866, is an accurate and interesting depiction of soldiers from this area. Another popular edition is The History of the 54th Massachusetts Regiment, the first African-American regiment.

These types of books are highly collectible because they contain encapsulated histories of the war and present a more personal picture of what happened to our ancestors. When these regimental histories were first released, they had limited distribution and print runs because the only people interested in local history were, of course, the local residents.

What makes these books, which can sell for a few hundred dollars, so intriguing are the details. They list every member of the regiment, allowing people to trace the lives of their great-great-grandparents. They also contain complete battle specifics, right down to the movements of all the soldiers. For history buffs and Civil War re-enactors, this kind of detail provides an accurate picture of what happened during the battles.

For a more general book on the Civil War, Kirkland’s 1866 edition of The Book of Anecdotes and Incidents of the Rebellion is a good choice. Written right after the end of the war, it has a fresher perspective than books written 30 or 40 years later. This book sells in the $35 to $100 range – a lesser price than the regiment histories because there were more Kirklands published.

The most requested Civil War book I see is The Personal Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant, written in 1886. There is a whole series of biographies and autobiographies written about Civil War generals, but the most famous one is Grant’s. This book is probably also the best written of all of the books about Grant.

He was a great writer with a great editor: Mark Twain. This book, available in a two-volume set, was reprinted several times and sells for about $250 for a good copy, more for a deluxe leather-bound edition. However, prices are moderating as those searching for info now go to the Internet which decreases the demand though new and serious collectors keep collecting.

A number of people who pick up this book see Grant’s signature on the inside flap and think they have a valuable find. What they don’t realize is that Grant’s signature was printed in every copy of the book. It would be really amazing, a miracle in fact, if someone did have a copy with Grant’s actual handwriting inside – he died a month before the book was released.

The presidents who followed Grant have that book to thank for their pension program. Grant was essentially impoverished by the time he was an old man and wrote the memoirs to provide income for his retirement. When people realized a former president had been reduced to selling his life story for income, a push was made to implement the presidential pension plan that exists today.

There are stories behind so many of the books of the Civil War. It is one of the most highly collected events in world history because it is one of the few wars that transpired right on American soil. The impact of brother fighting brother also made the stories of the war dramatic and emotional, resulting in good reading as well as collecting. Although interest in that period has always been strong, the release of Ken Burns’ Civil War sparked a renewal of attention for the war.

Books written about events in the North are much easier to find than books printed in the South. Simply, the North had more money and supplies than the South, which even ran out of paper at one point during the war. By 1865, newspapers in the South were being printed on old sheets of wallpaper, something that makes them very collectible today.

The newspaper accounts of the war, particularly those written by writers in the regions where the battles were happening, often contain the most accurate information. They allow the reader to see the history as it unfolded, with day-by-day accounts of the fighting. The Southern papers tended to be more impassioned and thus are more valuable, than the ones from Northern publishers.

There are as many different aspects of the war upon which to concentrate a collection, as there are books. Everything from the naval history to the social events has been written about and chronicled in numerous books. Just collecting the photographs of the war, which depicted the battles in detail and showed soldiers proudly wearing their uniforms, can provide an amazing amount of information about the war. No matter which area of the war a collector decides to concentrate on, there are sure to be hundreds of books, in a wide variety of price ranges, available. The craze for Civil War memorabilia is still strong and shows no signs of slowing any time soon.

Hood's Tennessee Campaign

Though now close to eighty-five years old, this work still retains its status as an early and still important work on Confederate general John Bell Hood's ill-fated September - December 1864 campaign into Tennessee. In addition to four maps, the book features seventy pages of notes. An earlier incarnation of the work was awarded the 1920 Robert M. Johnston Military History Prize by the American Historical Association. Coupled with the fact that this book-length version was published late in the career of Neale Publishers and you have the makings of a very collectible book today.

Written by author Thomas R. Hay (1888-1974) from primarily a Confederate perspective (which was the case for most Neale books), the work begins with the opening of the campaign and proceeds toward the battles of Spring Hill, Franklin, and finally, the near-annihilation of Hood's command at Nashville. Hay then concludes his book with a discussion of Hood's retreat from Tennessee and how such losses spelled the end of the "lost cause."

First editions were published in 1929 by Walter Neale and Co., bound in blue cloth with black lettering on the front and spine. As you can see by the pictured copy (for sale here), the book was also originally issued with a dust jacket, which if intact will add geometric value to any copy in solid condition. The work was also reprinted by Morningside in 1976 and can be acquired from Gate House Press today.


February 2, 2012

Google Books - What's Up?

Is it just me or is it all of a sudden more difficult to use Google Books for searching through old books? Used to be you would type in a title or keywords and and multiple pages of stuff would pop up. If something interesting was either a full or limited preview offering, you'd click the link and the actual page images would immediately appear in the browser window. Now my desktop screen is just blank and I have to make several more clicks to open either a text view, or a pdf or tell the system some other crap. What am I missing or doing wrong?

January 20, 2012

Deluxe Boxed Set of "Diary from Dixie"

Collectors will be interested to learn that a beautifully illustrated, slipcased, two-volume edition of Mary Chesnut’s famous “diary” has just been released by Pelican Publishing. More on that diary in a moment, for in this case, the real treasure is the second volume, which consists of images from Mary Chesnut’s long-lost personal photograph albums. As I have yet to acquire a copy of this set, I’ll quote from Amazon, which states in part how these images were “Thought to be lost or stolen since the 1930s, the albums were only just rediscovered in 2007. An astonishing historical treasure, the photographs are annotated with information about each person depicted and edited by Chesnut's family. Photographs range from many of Jefferson Davis and other famous military leaders and statesmen to those within Chesnut's social circle: Gen. Wade Hampton III and his family including the Preston girls- and their suitors Gen. John Bell Hood and battlefield surgeon, Maj. John T. Darby; literary figures, such as writer Alexander Dumas; and many more individuals, including young soldiers of the elite Charleston Light Dragoons, Elizabeth Allston Pringle - the 'woman rice planter' of South Carolina, and Baltimore spy Hetty Cary.” In addition to the photographs, the reader learns the history of these images, why there were thought lost over the years and even stolen, and then the story of their partial recovery.

As for that famous “diary,” so oft-quoted in the Ken Burns’ Civil War mini-series, scholars and readers now know that her “diary” was really an 1880’s creation based on her notes and journals from the 1860’s, with Chesnut often deleting material not flattering to herself. Whether one has the 1905 first edition, the 1914 second edition, or the 1949 edition of Diary from Dixie, “memoir” would perhaps be a better description of the original work than diary. Vann Woodward’s heavily annotated and Pulitzer-Prize winning Mary Chesnut’s Civil War, published in 1981, brought to light the many changes between the diarist’s original journals and the initial published work. It is now clearly the essential version. Three years later, Woodward published The Private Mary Chesnut: The Unpublished Civil War Diaries which published for the first time Chesnut’s extant and unedited Civil War journals. These two volumes paint the complete picture for the scholar, rendering that original 1905 work little more than a conversation piece of value only to the ardent bibliophile.

Nevertheless, if you're one of those seeking the 1905 first edition as published in New York by D. Appleton and Company, be prepared for a possibly lengthy search. As you can see here, only one copy in fair condition is currently to be found for sale on ABE, though two first British editions are also available. The 1914 second edition is pictured and is offered for sale here.

The World's Most Expensive Book?

Not what you might think... check it out here.