Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year

Karen and I take this moment to wish all of our friends a Happy, Healthy and Safe 2009. I guess we say it every year - but let's hope it's a better one than the last.

In spite of the horrid global economy, and signs that it may not get much better anytime soon, we are all still very lucky in many respects. We are still the greatest nation in the world and much of the world's population would rather live here. We will work through these tough times as we always do - both by pulling ourselves up by our own bootstraps as well as lending a hand when we can.

I also wish to thank my loyal readers for purchasing my books, reading my little articles, and for all the kind words for my work. I also wish to acknowledge gratitude for the criticism - many times, it is the critic that improves you the most. I never want to get complacent or lazy, and folks that keep me on my toes are very much appreciated. I likewise promise you that I will continue my methods of digging into research like an unquenchable hound dog and trying to produce work that is worthy and - hopefully in some respects - breaks a bit of new ground here and there.

Be safe, stay healthy, and look forward to each new day. The morning will break out a new year full of new promise. Grab it and don't let anyone take it away - but share as much of it as you can.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Remains of New York Soldier Found at Antietam

Click the link below to read the post from Linda Wheeler's "A House Divided" blog about the remains of a very young New York soldier discovered at Antietam in mid-October. Very interesting and poignant reading.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Now I'm REALLY out of the stone age

A couple posts back, I noted that I'm dumping the dialup internet connection at home, and got a new laptop with Verizon Wireless (air card). Well, the connection is lightning fast (when there's a good signal, which is most of the time) and it even puts the cable modem we have at my office to shame.

But for Christmas, I got an extra surprise. Our daughter's boyfriend sprung for a Microsoft wireless ergonomic keyboard and mouse for me. Zowie. This afternoon I installed the software and have them up and running (in fact, I'm using them now). I love this keyboard. It transmits to your laptop up to 30 feet, and it's very easy to use. Plus, there are tons of hot keys on it, with a lot of "one touch" functions. Unless I'm traveling or "on the go," I don't want to use the laptop without the wireless keyboard and mouse. It really is amazing.

One more bonus. My dear wife saved her money and bought a projector for the laptop - it projects anything such as PowerPoint presentations, games, basically anything you're running on your laptop or computer. She knew I wanted one, because they're very handy when making presentations to, for instance, Civil War Roundtables. This past fall, Eric Wittenberg and I spoke to the Harrisburg CWRT and made our presentation with a PowerPoint. Neither of us had a projector, however. Luckily the hotel where we had the meeting provided one, but we had to scramble at the last minute to get the correct cord to hook the dang thing up to Eric's computer. Luckily the hotel found one and it worked, but ever since I've wanted a projector of my own. Now that I can create PPT's and have the projector, I'm all set for the next presentation. All you need is a screen (or just a flat white wall) and you're in business.

Well, between the new laptop, wireless keyboard and mouse, projector, and a few others little items Santa threw under the tree, I feel like I've gone from a tricycle to a Corvette for transportation. (Oh, wait, I already have the Corvette!) But the final result is that I've become much more efficient and faster in my work - namely my writing. Now, maybe I can get a good head start on the first of those next five books my publisher is impatiently waiting for....

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

I want to take this moment to wish all of my readers, friends, and those friends I haven't met yet a very Merry Christmas and safe and happy holiday season. Regardless of your religious affiliation (if any), this is that special time of year when something is "in the air" that causes us to slow down, take a bit of a break, and reflect on all the things in our life that we are thankful for - family, friends, and a wonderful community of folks that makes our lives much richer.

Let's also remember, too, those who despair, are hungry and homeless, and have no family or friends to love them. Especially during these difficult economic times. For many in this world, December 25 means just another day to struggle to get through.

I hope all my readers are able to take a moment to gather their family around, like we do, and just spend a quiet minute or two. Let the hustle and bustle of the world slip away for a time. If you have to travel over the next few days (especially here in the Northeast where the weather's been rough lately) be careful and safe.

See you all in a few days!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

A map taste (no, don't lick your screen)

Just to give you a teaser of Steve Stanley's 70+ maps that will appear in our upcoming book, The Complete Gettysburg Guide, here's one. Our maps contain one very unique feature - note that the present-day Park roads and avenues appear on these maps, so you will be able to perfectly orient yourself to the surrounding action at any point. Note, too, the little "stop signs" on the map - each numbered stop in the tours are included on all maps that show the terrain where those stops appear.
Click on the map to see a big, honkin' version.

Map is Copyright 2008 by Steven Stanley.

Friday, December 19, 2008

"Complete Gettysburg Guide" information on tours

I've gotten a couple emails from folks recently, asking similar questions about what the battlefield tours in The Complete Gettysburg Guide, the upcoming (May 2009) book by myself and Steve Stanley, are like. Specifically, folks want to know what kind of detail are in them and what they can expect.

I'll take the tour of July 2/3 for example. This tour, which begins at West Confederate Avenue at the intersection with the Fairfield Road, proceeds to South Cavalry Field, the Round Tops, Devil's Den, Brooke Avenue, the Wheatfield, the High Water Mark, Culp's Hill, then finishes at East Cemetery Hill (with all stops in between). The tour, by its very nature and coverage of the ground, covers actions on both July 2 and 3. The only way to divide the days would be to take the visitor completely around the battlefield twice (and that's not really feasible!). Specifically, to take one tour stop example:

When the tour takes the visitor to the Virginia State Memorial on West Confederate Avenue, several logistical discussions take place, as they do for all of the other stops - what the terrain was like in July 1863, the fence lines, structures, tree lines, and even crops. Where all of the units of both armies were located at certain points during the days is pointed out. Basically, I want the visitor to be able to visualize what they would see if they were standing on a particular spot during the battle. At this particular spot, Gen. Ambrose Wright's assault on the Union center is discussed, and in context with all the other actions of Longstreet's July 2 assault on that part of the field.

Then the tour discusses Pickett's Charge and the perspective of it from that spot. So, at each spot, the visitor gets a full narrative of the actions taking place on the two days. Same for the High Water Mark on Hancock Avenue - when the visitor goes to that opposite-field perspective, Longstreet's assault of July 2 is discussed and then the Federal perspective of Pickett's Charge.

Along the way of each tour (whether it's July 1, 2 or 3) there are discussions of the most important or noteworthy monuments, troop movements, perspectives of the field, etc. And I have included many, many obscure spots to visit - such as a walk through the woods to Willoughby's Run behind the monument of the 7th Wisconsin, so see the Iron Brigade's fight with Archer's Brigade there on July 1. And at South Cavalry Field, I take you down the Emmitsburg Road to the Park property south of the 6th Pennsylvania Cavalry's monument to discuss Gen. Wesley Merritt's skirmish on the Confederate right on July 3. The tour of Farnsworth's Charge of July 3 takes the visitor up to the top of Bushman's Hill and then down to the D-shaped field and the Slyder Farm.

In our "Prelude to the Wheatfield" narrative for July 2, the visitor drives the length of Cross, Brooke, then Sickles Avenues near the George Rose farm to discuss the fighting there with Anderson's, Semmes', and Kershaw's brigades (many battlefield visitors have never or rarely even driven this avenue).

Other interesting elements are discussed along the way, such as the locations of gravesites on the field. For instance, when you drive along Stone and Meredith Avenue on the first day's field, then come to the intersection with South Reynolds Avenue, your car sits on what was a massive trench grave site of Federals killed on July 1. Many of these are pointed out.

The book contains the first published tour of the June 26 skirmish, including a visit to, and narrative of, the skirmish at Bayly's Hill (the Witmer Farm). As I've previously posted, the tour of the Battle of Fairfield is a first, and there are full tours of Hunterstown, East Cavalry Field, the historical town of Gettysburg, field hospital sites (that one really takes you on the back roads!), the National Cemetery and Evergreen Cemetery, and even all known rock carvings on the field.

All in all, both novices and "experts" will find much, we believe, to learn from the book. Steve has laid out and designed the book, and the appearance of the book (which is completely in full color) is eye-popping. Over seventy of his full-color maps appear in the book. Later on, if we are permitted by our publisher Ted Savas, I may be able to post an image of one of the pages here so folks can see it and get an idea of the look of the book.

Dragged out of the Stone Age

At my office, we've had our computers hooked up to a cable modem for years. The internet connection is pretty fast, and it's where I do all of my large file transfers and downloads.

You see, at our home, we only have dialup. "Dialup, J.D.?? What, is it 1995 in your house? Or you don't want to pay the extra few bucks for broadband???"

No, actually, our house is in one of the black-out places where we just don't have wired broadband available. We live about 6 miles outside of our very small hometown. Everyone in town has high-speed internet available (like in our office) but our house is so far out and the area so sparsely populated, that even our local phone company doesn't yet offer DSL or anything else that far out. Verizon doesn't offer it either. We have satellite TV at our house (DirecTV) and we could get it on our dish, but the carrier - HughesNet - is expensive as hell, and they limit your usage. So, that's never been a good option.

So until now, ever since I bought our house 6 years ago, we've had nothing but dialup.

That's about to change. Last week I ordered a new laptop from Dell through our company's special program, and got a loaded-up, whiz-bang of a laptop coming that cost a little over half of what even the special offers from Dell would cost someone on the street. A wireless Verizon air card is built into it, and all I have to do is sign up with Verizon for the internet connection, and I have high-speed anywhere I would get a good cellular signal.

And that includes the house.

So sometime next week when the laptop arrives (my little Christmas present to myself, by the way) and I sign up with Verizon, it'll be good-bye dialup at the house! Finally, it will no longer be necessary to run the 6 miles to the office to pull large files like book/magazine proofs, or internet research. Lots of times I come to the office for hours on weekends simply because it takes too dang long to pull items from the internet for use in my research. Downloading historical books, for instance, has to be done at the office because the files are simply too big for dialup. I'll do book searches when I'm home, but when I find a book on, say, Google Books that I want to download, I have to come to the office to do it.

And having the laptop with high-speed at home will really ramp up my research and writing efficiency. Right now, for simple things such as downloading a historical book that I may only want a couple quotes from, can take hours - find it at home, drive to the office, download the book, find the information... etc.

I have to thank buddy Eric Wittenberg for suggesting the use of the air card - I'd heard about them, but I've been hoping that our phone company or someone would offer DSL in the area where our home is located. Since it still isn't available and it doesn't look as though it's coming anytime soon, it was time to make a change.

It'll be great to get out of the Stone Age at home. Now, if I can just get an engine in my car instead of having to peddle along with my bare feet, I'll really be in the 21st Century... Fred Flintstone, eat your heart out.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Welcome to the new blog!

I've switched blog hosts from WordPress to BlogSpot (Google Blogger) because WordPress' software has lately become screwed up and very difficult to use. This new host will allow me to do much more with the blog.

Please change your links and URLs over to this new one. I will be importing the WordPress "Hoofbeats and Cold Steel" blog into this one and deleting the old one soon.