Sunday, June 7, 2009

Busy weekend blast

Friday, Steve Stanley and I were fortunate to have some copies of our new The Complete Gettysburg Guide to take to the cocktail hour of the annual muster of the Gettysburg Discussion Group. It was held at the 1863 Inn Gettysburg (formerly the Holiday Inn). I love the GDG folks - there's hardly a more knowledgable group of folks around, and we all love discussing Gettysburg. Members Chris Army and Sal Prezioso did yet another fabulous job organizing the muster. It was very nice seeing them again and many old friends - Dr. Laurence Schiller, Christ Liebegott to name a couple, and to listen to a very informative talk by GNMP Superintendant Dr. John Latschar. Many members bought copies of the book and loved the content and look of the book. Like the CWPT members, many couldn't wait to take Steve's maps out onto the battlefield.

On Saturday, I actually had a few free hours to spend touring the battlefield. I always lament that among most of my trips to Gettysburg, I don't always have much time to do that. I took advantage of a gorgeous day and made visits to the Lincoln Cemetery, South Cavalry Field, Little Round Top, The Wheatfield, The Angle, and Culp's Hill. Lots of folks, families and groups were out. I also took a little walk through the National Cemetery, something that always makes me think and clears my head.

After lunch, Sal Prezioso called to get a fourth copy of the book (thanks Sal!) that he was giving to someone as a gift. Sal and his wife Gail own Red Patch, the beautiful home along Confederate Avenue that was built in 1900 by Gen. Charles H. T. Collis. I drove over to Red Patch and enjoyed seeing the house again as we drank a couple fine cups of espresso in his kitchen. Sal then showed me some new acquisitions in his impressive library - even I am jealous of his collection! He showed me the latest research he'd done on the house, and some very interesting Civil War books he'd recently gotten. I think I spent about two hours with Sal, and loved every minute of it.

About 3:30, I needed to drive to nearby Fairfield to join a tour bus led by the great historian Ed Bearss. I was looking forward to hearing my friend Ed lead a tour of the July 3 cavalry battle there, one which I've studied for eons (there is a tour of the battle in the new book). I also knew that my buddy Dean Shultz would be along, and I looked forward to spending time with both of them. I arrive a bit early and stopped at the Marshall house in the middle of the battlefield, which is owned by Kevin and Kim Bream. Kevin's family history of the home helped immensely in The Guide, and we also reproduced a picture of cavalry veterans at the home that Kevin provided. Kevin wasn't home, but Kim loved the copy of the book I showed her, and I promised to send their copy once we get the regular shipment next week. Kim offered to have the busload of folks tour the property, but as it turned out there wouldn't be time.

As expected, Ed gave a wonderful tour and narrative of the Fairfield fight. I love listening to him, as does everyone. I learned quite a bit during his talk, which was the best 45 minutes on the battle I'd ever witnessed. I will incorporate much of his talk into my own future tours that I give of the battle. After his talk, Ed gave our new book a very nice plug. On Thursday, Steve and I gave Ed his personal copy of The Guide, and he told the group that that night he'd read the chapter on the June 26 skirmishes, and was able to look over the rest of the book. He thought it was simply wonderful, and that everyone interested in Gettysburg should have a copy of the book, because besides the main battlefield tours the book will take you to all the outlying battlefields and historical spots. He told the crowd the book was beautiful, and one cannot ask for better endorsements from such a respected historian. Steve and I are humbled by them.

That evening Steve and I signed several more books for members at the Wyndham Hotel at the CWPT Conference. Later I spent a couple great hours at the Reliance Mine Saloon with friends such as Jim Glessner and Raequel Fabio, Duane Siskey and Lori Krick. Jim manages the American History Store (the former Greystones store) at the intersection of Steinwehr Avenue and Baltimore. Jim is doing a fantastic job stocking the store with books, period maps, flags, DVDs - you name it. Whenever you're in town, you must stop in the store and check out everything he has. I also got to see battlefield guides Tim Smith and Garry Adelman (who purchased a copy of The Guide) as well as Bill Frassanito on Friday night. Bill really likes the acknowledgement we have about him in the book, and was really touched by it.

I was able to leave for home late morning today, so I arrived home about 4 pm. I brought the books I have into my office, and I will begin mailing out our website orders tomorrow (Monday). Those of you who have ordered The Guide now don't have long to wait.

As I was driving home, I talked to Steve, who had gone into the Gettysburg Visitor Center bookstore shortly after I'd left town. He spoke with Lisa, the manager of the bookstore, about the book and that they should have it in about a week or so. Lisa had told Steve that customers constantly ask if the book is available. She also related that earlier today, a man had come into the store looking for a copy of The Guide. He had seen folks around the field with the book (undoubtedly CWPT and GDG members, since only they have copies at the moment) and assumed that it was now available in stores. When Lisa explained to him that neither they or any other stores have it in stock yet, he actually became a bit belligerant. He insisted that it must be available somewhere - since he had seen people out using it - and that either someone was holding out on him (?) or perhaps the book was stored away somewhere and she didn't know it. I guess she finally convinced him that she didn't yet have it before he stormed away. Whoever the gentleman was, we're sorry that it just hasn't hit the stores yet and I wish fate had allowed us to run into him, for we certainly would have sold him one of the few copies we have left before the main shipment. I do hope he obtains one soon and that he is able to enjoy it on the field by next week.

This week was my third trip to Gettysburg already, and we're set to probably do book signings next week if the books arrive as expected. Steve and I will also be at the big Book Show toward the end of June at the All-Star Complex near Gettysburg, as well as at many signings around town over the anniversary week. After all these trips, I'm going to owe my sweet wife Karen a non-history related vacation trip...!

It was a fabulous weekend. I thoroughly enjoyed seeing so many friends, making many, many new ones, and learning a great deal from historians at the Conference. Now it's back in the office, back to work, and several hours of packing up and shipping books to those who have ordered it from us. Very busy week ahead of me.

Incidentally, after Antietam National Battlefield chief historian Ted Alexander thoroughly looked over a copy of The Guide and was told that our next likely project is the guide for the Antietam Campaign, he offered to write the Foreword for it. Steve and I gladly accepted. We will cover Harpers Ferry, South Mountain, Antietam, Shepherdstown, and all points between. Those places and battlefields are among my very favorites, and we're looking forward to starting on it so that the book is available by next summer. Many Antietam rangers, historians, guides, and students have already "enlisted" to help us out, and we can't wait to get started!


  1. Hi J.D. Thanks for the update. Now that I've been there I can picture everything you described! =) It sounds like another blast. I will post pics from our trip later this week . . .


  2. Excellent, I look forward to seeing them!