Monday, June 29, 2009
Weekend in Gettysburg, and an unexpected ending
I arrived in Gettysburg late on Thursday afternoon, which gave me time to make some visits around the battlefield. As I've mentioned here before, I've been taking much more time on my visits this year to spend simple, quality time on the field. I enjoy closely examining the new vistas afforded by the tree clearings. This time I took more time to examine the Slyder farm area on the southern end of the field, then Munshower's Knoll. I also took several minutes to once again look around in the area of the stone walls bordering the southern end of Rose's wheatfield. After eating way too much (for the hundredth time) at Mayflower's Chinese Buffet, I stopped at several retailers in town and signed newly-arrived copies of The Complete Gettysburg Guide that the stores had pre-sold and wanted signed so the customers could pick them up.
I got to the Reliance Mine Saloon a little after 9 pm, where I met some friends. I called it an early night, however, since I wanted to get up early and visit the Visitor Center bookstore and spend a couple more hours on the field. Dr. Dave and Carol Moore graciously put me up again this trip.
The book has been selling very strongly in the VC bookstore since its arrival nearly two weeks ago, and in the morning I took a look at the displays. They feature the book at each entrance, as well as on the register counters. We all are very flattered that they're doing that in addition to being on the shelf in the Gettysburg section. Customers can easily find the book and the prominent and numerous displays are very generous of the store folks.
I then took a slow cruise of Culp's Hill and motored over to the American History Store (on the corner of Steinwehr and Baltimore Street) to see manager Jim Glessner. As I've said here many times before, Jim has turned this former Greystone's store into the premier bookstore in Gettysburg. That, in addition to the DVDs and historical maps he carries makes the store a wonderful place to browse. The book selection is now even better than it was under the Greystone ownership. Steve Stanley and I were slated for a book signing in the store that evening as well as Saturday evening (7-9 pm). Jim had secured a sidewalk sandwich board to advertise the signings, and buddy (and Licensed Battlefield Guide) Jim Hessler was going to be with us as well, signing copies of his brand-new book on Sickles at Gettysburg.
After dinner Steve and I arrived at Jim's store for the signing, and it went very well. We signed quite a number of books for customers, as did Jim Hessler. But the most enjoyable part for me always is talking to people. We had great conversations about topics addressed in the book - not only specific parts of the battlefield, but also the rock carvings, Letterman Hospital, and the cemeteries. Folks really do have quite broad interests in Gettysburg, and people are quite eager to see them addressed in The Guide.
I then had a great couple hours in the Mine with friends, including Blake Magner. I really enjoy talking with Blake - especially hearing his experiences. Besides being widely read and great to discuss Gettysburg with, he's entertaining as hell. His dry wit and fantastic stories are wonderful. Bill Frassanito was also holding court that night, and I hated to have to leave about 11:30, but Steve and I had an early and long day ahead of us.
I picked Steve up a little after 7 am Saturday, and we headed off to the All-Star Complex on Rt. 15 South for the Gettysburg Collector's Show. We had a table there, and sold copies of The Guide as well as large copies of some of Steve's maps. Wow, I love that show. Of course, there are all manner of weapons and artifacts there - but I love the books. Several of the top book sellers are there, and I have found many of my old first editions at previous shows. But I really have to behave there... otherwise, I'd re-mortgage the house after a couple hours and the wife would kill me...
There were thousands of visitors, and we sold a nice amount of the book. I did make several trips around the floor, and purchased a few books (but didn't have to mortgage the house, thankfully). Steve's girlfriend Kyrstie (a wonderful lady, and - just between us - several levels above Steve's station :)) helped us out at the show and even brought us lunch. During the show Saturday and Sunday, lots of buddies dropped by. Newly-minted Licensed Guide Stan O'Donnell and his wife Bev came by, as did George Franks, Karl Fauzer, Sal Prezioso, Duane Siskey and Lori Krick, and others. I spoke for a time with Andy Turner, whose Gettysburg Magazine display was right across our table (making me stare at the Bob Younger book collection the whole time!). Andy and I spoke about a couple articles I'm going to be sending him, and both he and Col. Silas Felton bought copies of the book.
I forced Steve to take me to the Chinese Buffet again for dinner, where I again ate enough to choke Pleasonton's whole cavalry corps. We had our second book signing at Jim Glessner's store that evening, then we all went to the Mine for Book 'n A Beer night. A couple customers bought copies of The Guide, but the highlight was again listening to Blake for a couple hours.
Sunday morning we were again at the Book Show before 9, and we stayed until 1 pm. It was a very nice show - I got to spend a good deal of time not only perusing the books for sale, but also examining cavalry sabers and carbines. I really wish my friend (and co-author of the book One Continuous Fight) Mike Nugent could attend a show - he'd go nuts looking at the weapons and artifacts.
After packing up we had lunch with Kyrstie and Steve's daughter Ashleigh (along with Duane and Lori) and then we went to the Visitor Center for our 3-5pm signing there. There we met new Licensed Guide Christina Moon and gave her a copy of The Guide. Christina recently suffered a house fire, and she lost her entire book collection along with just about everything else. Her many friends have been helping her rebuild her collection, and it was an honor to present her with a copy of the book.
The signing went very well. Even though there weren't that many customers so late on a Sunday, we signed quite a number of books. One customer's story, though, really made an impression on Steve and me. The gentleman had attended a Smithsonian-sponsored tour with venerable historian Ed Bearss last week, and on the bus Ed had his copy of The Guide. Ed passed the book around the bus and really praised it. Steve and I were really floored by that, and we are humbled by Ed's endorsement. The gentleman had made a point to come to the VC to get the book and was happy that we happened to be there for a signing at the time. To know that Ed brought his copy of the book along on the tour and showed it to folks was one of the nicest things we'd heard about the book.
Close to 5 pm, as we were about the finish, Len Riedel, Executive Director of the Blue and Gray Education Society came by. Len had brought several wounded Iraqi War veterans to Gettysburg for a tour of the field, and some came into the bookstore. After a few minutes, one veteran came rolling up in his wheelchair. I began speaking with him, and he told us that his right leg had been blown off by an IED. The terrorists had been targeting him that day, because he had been hitting them pretty hard. They hit him four times before he lost the leg, and he happily told me that the ones who wounded him are "with us no more." He was actually rather soft-spoken, and told me that this was his first visit to Gettysburg since a young boy. His own year-old son was sitting in his lap, and I really loved talking to him. He was going to be fitted with an artificial leg soon, and had a great attitude about his wound, calling it "just losing a foot, that's all." He looked at the book, and really liked it. As he was talking with Steve and Len, I snuck over to a cash register, paid for a copy of the book, then went back to them. Steve and I signed a copy for the veteran and we have it to him. He really appreciated it, but we told him that we appreciated his service much more and thanked him for fighting for and protecting us. As I spoke with him, I wanted to cry, which frustrated me. I have seen several wounded before, but his wonderful attitude impressed me more than I can express. He took life as it comes, and accepted his wound like it's just part of the job. His lovely wife came by shortly after, and I looked at this little family in which there was evidently a lot of love. The soldier looked to just be about 25 years old, but I predict he has a lot of life ahead of him. We regretfully said our goodbyes, but it was after 5 pm and I needed to hit the road and get home. I drove Steve home and got on the road, but thought about the soldier nearly all the way home. I'll never forget him, the story he told me, and the sacrifice he made for all of us and for justice.
I have bought something over 3,000 books in my life, but I will always remember that the one we gave him was the best purchase I ever made. It's also one that I will never forget. It was a terrific few days in Gettysburg again, but made all the more special by meeting that soldier at the end. It taught me more about the people I write about, a little primer that is always welcome, and reinforces the purpose of all that we do as students of history.
Tuesday, June 23, 2009
My golf game really stinks
Monday, June 22, 2009
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Eagle Has Landed
Actually, the book has landed - finally! - in Gettysburg. Copies of The Complete Gettysburg Guide were just delivered this past Friday to the Visitor Center and Museum Bookstore (they were put out on the shelf Sunday), and all retailers should have them available today or tomorrow. One store told me that today alone they received six calls from folks looking for the book. Customers have been routinely asking if the VC store has them in stock. Co-author Steve Stanley received a supply today that he is going to sign and send to me, enabling me to fulfill the rest of our website orders. So those of you who ordered personally signed copies from us, and have not yet received them, they'll be on their way to you in just a few days.
It's wonderful finally having the book available in Gettysburg - now we hope that folks will take it out onto the field(s), town, cemeteries, etc. and put it to use. Make the book work for you, teach you, and cause you to have more questions about it all. There is much for us to discover together!
Friday, June 12, 2009
Pics from Gettysburg Trip
Above, Jim Glessner is flanked by Steve Stanley on the left, me on the right. Jim manages what are known as the Habitat stores on Steinwehr Avenue for the Bardot family. Jim has done a wonderful job with the American History store at the corner of Steinwehr and Baltimore Street, which was the former Greystone store. Jim has the store stocked chock full of Gettysburg and Civil War books, DVDs, historical flags, and a fabulous selection of historical Gettysburg maps. He really has turned it into the premier book and reference store in Gettysburg. Here, Jim is holding up his very own copy of The Guide, which Steve and I signed for him. He didn't think he was getting one this early (we had only gotten a small supply of pre-release copies for the Civil War Preservation Trust Conference and Gettysburg Discussion Group muster the following weekend). Jim's copy was literally one of the very first couple copies put in private hands, and his copy he's holding is literally the first copy of the book signed by both Steve and I (we marked the book as such, too). Knowing Jim, he's probably already sold the book for beer money. (Kidding, Jim!) Jim will hopefully be selling lots of the book in his store, and we were proud and honored to present him with "the first."
This time I'm the one being flanked - by two beautiful ladies, Sarah on the left and Tammy Myers on the right. Tammy manages the Gettysburg Gift Center and Museum (formerly known as the Gettysburg Wax Museum) on Steinwehr Avenue. Tammy has a big job managing this popular place, and they have a great selection of books. I'm also guilty of buying lots of my shirts and hats here! I had just signed copies of my first two books (Plenty of Blame To Go Around and One Continuous Fight) that they had and are shown on the counter. Tammy's a great lady, and she's always very willing and helpful during book signings. Steve and I also got to spend time with her at the CWPT Conference last weekend, and I found out there that she does not like mushrooms on her pizza... sorry, Tammy, next time I'll remember! (Hhmm... wonder if she likes sardines or anchiovies?)
Another merchant that we visited on Monday was Gallery 30 just off the square. It's primarily an art and crafts gallery (and they really have some awesome items), but they carry an impressive selection of books. Not just Gettysburg and Civil War books, but of many genres. Before I even got to know the owners well, I had purchased a number of books on a variety of subjects there. They had a supply of my books there and above I'm shown signing one. Customers really prefer books signed by the author (I always have), and it's nice that merchants like for us to do that.Sarah and I are pictured above with one of the owners of Gallery 30, Peggy Rock. I'm holding my first book, Peggy is holding the second, and Sarah is holding up a copy of the newly-arrived The New Civil War Handbook by Mark Hughes (Savas Beatie 2009). Folks, you must get this book - it's chock-full of interesting and useful facts, figures, trivia, charts, you-name-it about the Civil War. It's a book you'll enjoy sitting down and reading through, and referring back to again and again. In fact, I'll probably never write another article or book without referring to it profusely.
Here's a shot of Ted and I at the monument of the 24th Michigan Infantry of the Federal Iron Brigade, along Stone/Meredith Avenue on the first day's field. Eric Lindblade, a fellow who works for Jim Glessner at the stores, took us on an enjoyable tour of Archer's advance of July 1. We started down at Willoughby Run close to the Country Club property and followed the advance up the slope to the monuments here. It's a neat little walk I've long enjoyed making. Just check yourself for ticks when you're done! (I volunteered to check Sarah, but she wouldn't allow me. My medical degree non-withstanding, too.)
Sunday, June 7, 2009
Busy weekend blast
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!
Thursday, June 4, 2009
Civil War Preservation Trust Conference
After dinner tonite, Steve and I signed more books for the attendees, and we got a nice surprise tonite. The new chairman of the CWPT, John Nau III, came over to us with CWPT President Jim Lighthizer. John and Jim looked at The Guide and they were so impressed with it, John bought quite a number of the books on the spot. John purchased one for himself, and the rest he's giving as gifts to a number of friends of his... I will post more about this later...!
Tomorrow night (Friday) I will be at the cocktail hour for the Gettysburg Discussion Group to deliver and sign more books. Supplies of The Guide should be arriving at the distributor in the next couple of days and will be shipped right after that.
By the way, if you haven't had a chance to listen to my interview with Mike Noirot for his blog This Mighty Scourge, please do so. It was neat talking about the book and Steve's talents in creating it. Please leave a comment for Mike about the interview because I know he'll appreciate that.
It's been a whirlwind couple of days, and it's been great meeting old friends and making new ones. The next few days should be fun and I'm looking forward to seeing more friends from the Gettysburg Discussion Group tomorrow night.