Thursday, December 30, 2010

We never stop learning...

There is no doubt that we never stop learning - the more we look, study, listen, scrutinize and question, the more that is revealed to us.

All those old pictures taken during the Civil War - ones we've looked at a million times - seem like old hat to many of us. But today, has published a photo study of a Gardner photo at Gettysburg that has perhaps revealed more about the battlefield than we've seen in quite some time. Check it out here.

It might be high time we take all this digital technology we have and really start looking at all those old photos. I think the learning has only just begun. Again.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Merry Christmas to all!

From my family to yours, we wish you a very Merry Christmas! It's been quite busy the last few weeks (hence the paucity of posts) - I have four (four?!) books coming out next year, and the first manuscript is due January 15. I've been working hard on that one, then it's on to the next. Fortunately, I'm able to get a lot of writing done over the winter months, but I know it's important to take time off from everything over the holidays to spend quality time with family and friends.

My wish for you is that you and your family have a safe and joyous holiday season. Tomorrow, Christmas Day, it'll be fun watching my young nephew open gifts and enjoy the day. As I get older, I feel Christmas in the eyes of the young, and I remember what it was like for me.

May you also have a safe New Year, and are able to enjoy history in many forms - visiting historic spots, reading, etc. I'll be doing my best to contribute some worthy pieces to scholarship, and learning from as many folks as I can. Be safe and enjoy!

Monday, December 6, 2010

Looking for the perfect Christmas gift?

Okay, we all know the December drill - long lines at the box stores, folks scrambling to find last-minute presents... it can be maddening. To make your Christmas purchasing perhaps a little easier, we have a special offer for you. If anyone on your "list" is a Gettysburg/Civil war buff, how about considering a copy of The Complete Gettysburg Guide for them if they don't already have it? From now until midnight on December 17, the FIRST FIVE orders for the book on our website [click here] will receive a FREE copy of the accompanying battlefield Audio Tour! That's a $19.95 value, absolutely free.

Only the first five orders are eligible, so please hurry. I will post here when the first five orders have been received (and also on the book's Facebook page). All orders are shipped out the same day they are received. Please also let us know how you would like the book to be inscribed - they are signed by both Steve Stanley and me.

Thanks for considering the book for your holiday purchasing!

Friday, November 12, 2010

"One Continuous Fight" coming in paperback

The 2008 book I co-authored with Eric Wittenberg and Mike Nugent, One Continuous Fight: The Retreat and Pursuit of Lee's Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863 is being released in paperback by our publisher, Savas Beatie (click on the book title to be taken to the Amazon page for the paperback). The scheduled release date is January 1, 2011. For those of you who have been waiting for a paperback version of our popular book, now's your chance! A detailed narrative of the momentous 10-day period following the Battle of Gettysburg, our book gives a blow-by-blow account of the 23 battles and skirmishes that took place during the retreat - as well as a scholarly discussion of both army commanders' decisions during the movements.

Soon I'll also have a link to order a personally inscribed and signed copy from me on my website, so watch for that if you'd like to have one of those.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Antietam and Gettysburg weekend

Last night I came back from a very productive 3-day trip to Antietam and Gettysburg. I arrived in Gettysburg at Steve Stanley's house on Thursday evening. Friday morning, we drove down to Antietam to spend most of the day with good friend Ted Alexander, the head historian. In preparation for our upcoming The Complete Antietam Campaign Guide (scheduled release Summer 2011), Ted graciously agreed to take us on his extended "Off the Beaten Path" tour. We drove from Antietam to Hagerstown, Funkstown, Williamsport and back, with Ted pointing out many very interesting sites along the way, all related to the Maryland Campaign. And one little highlight - when we stopped and examined the 1700s-era Watkins Ferry and home site, there was an older gentleman in back of the home. The house is vacant and boarded up (after suffering a fire that gutted much of it). I walked up to the man, and he introduced himself - Joel Watkins, a direct family descendant. He proceeded to tell me a little about the property and family, and it was an incredibly fortuitous chance meeting. When I visit historic sites like these, it's always amazing and suprising the things you discover, and people you sometimes meet.

Ted did a wonderful job, and we still have 3 or 4 days we need to spend with him on the back roads of the campaign. These tours of obscure and little-known sites are really going to make this guide book special and unique. I have a legal pad with about 15 pages full of notes that I need to begin writing up - and this is only a start.

We got back to Ted's office at the historic Piper farm property, and he allowed us to check out the park archives. There isn't enough room here to describe the incredible stuff we got to see - and will be using - but suffice it to say we were like kids in a candy store!

Saturday Steve and I were booked for an all-day signing of our books and audio tours at the Gettysburg Museum and Visitor Center. We had a very busy time, and it was wonderful talking to so many people. One fellow told us that The Complete Gettysburg Guide was his "bible" when touring, and we were extremely flattered. I never get tired hearing folks tell me how they use the book and learn from it.

We also got a very nice surprise during the day. TV journalist Rita Cosby (of Fox News, MSNBC, and currently of CBS) was scheduled to also do a signing of her new book at the Visitor Center. She has written a book of her father's World War II experiences as a prisoner of war - Quiet Hero. It's a wonderful, personal story. I got a copy, and she wrote a very nice inscription for me. She gladly accepted a copy of the Gettysburg Guide, and loved it. During our breaks, I got to speak with Rita for quite some time, and we compared similarities in our family stories. Rita is a very personable lady and I very much enjoyed our conversation. That evening, she was driving to D.C. to accept an honor from the Polish Consulate (her father was a Polish soldier during the war and came to the US afterwards) and it's very much deserved. The picture of us shows Steve on the left, me on the right holding my copy of her book, and Rita is proudly holding her copy of the Guide.

Sunday was also special - I don't seem to get to spend much quiet time on the battlefield lately, so I took about 3 hours to visit several spots on the field before heading home. I really enjoyed that. I had no agenda - no studying to do or notes to take - so I was simply able to walk around on my own and enjoy the field and the monuments. I also took a quiet walk through the National Cemetery - something I always try to do on each trip. It really re-charged my batteries.

A very productive and busy weekend, capped off by some "alone time" on the field. Great weekend.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

I'm often reminded...

Because I give quite a number of talks throughout the year, participate in book signings, and participate in many chats/discussions of topics that pertain to my books (directly or indirectly), I'm often reminded of exactly why I do this work. When folks tell me how much they enjoy one book or another, or one of my articles - or even give me deserved criticism about something I may have completely screwed up - it reinforces my motivation to help folks learn and discover. And in the process I learn even more.

There is the danger, though, to become a bit jaded. The more you hear praise and criticism, the danger increases that it doesn't make as much impact as time goes on. In addition to being guilty of it myself, I've seen it happen to many other authors/students of many genres. The more you hear how "great" you or your work is, the less it can impress you. I must always remind myself that for each new person that makes a comment to me, it's "new" to them that they've had a chance to praise or criticize. It's probably good that every once in a while someone shows indifference to my work, or outright tells me that I'm the worst historian to walk the planet :)

I must admit, though, that certain reactions and uses of my work make a great deal of impact. Today, my friend Jim Beeghley, adjunct professor of Graduate Education at Waynesburg (Pa) University, sent me a link to his blog post showing videos of his young son, CJ, at Gettysburg this past weekend. CJ is searching for rock carvings on the battlefield, using The Complete Gettysburg Guide as his guide. In each video, CJ is actually reading about each carving directly from the book as he sits or stands next to each one.

Here is the link to the post of videos on Jim's blog.

Barely 10 seconds into the first video, I don't mind admitting that my eyes began to moisten as I watched young CJ read my words. I chuckled as I watched him struggle with some words unfamiliar to him (sorry, CJ!), but he dutifully and determinedly said them phoenetically. Good on ya, CJ - you did very well.

But as he read from the book, and Jim panned the camera to the carvings, a few times I closed my eyes and listened to CJ - recalling when I wrote those words. His young voice, sometimes struggling with pronunciation but always doing his best, was the sweetest music I've heard in a long time. It made me think that perhaps someday long into the future, when I'm long gone and forgotten about, another youngster will find my dusty, musty old book on a shelf or in a box somewhere, and it might motivate him to read and learn. And perhaps visit the battlefield with the book. Things that we leave to this world - whether written words, things we say or do to another, or just the prodigy of a family line - last much longer than our own lives.

While out there on the field using my book, and as son and father so graciously made a video of the experience, I'm sure neither one suspected the impact it would have on me. That's as it should be. The experience, of course, wasn't for me. It was for them, to discover and learn, to be son and father together on such hallowed ground of historical importance. And it was also much more for the ones who made those carvings - Park Noel, Augustus Coble, etc. - because their stories live on in those who tell them. As I hope my work makes a difference into the future, probably folks like Noel, Coble, and the others could never have dreamed that 100 years and more into the future, people would be talking about them like they do now. However much of an instrument I've been for that attention, I'm grateful. And I know that Steve Stanley is too.

Thank you, Jim and CJ. Historian David McCollough, with his wonderful voice and presence, could have been out on that field reading from my book... and it wouldn't have made nearly the impact that you did.

With appreciation from a grateful heart.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Need a reason to oppose the casino in Gettysburg?

Then watch this video.

It was played today in front of the PA Gaming Commission as part of a two-day hearing on the proposed casino. Gettysburg Borough Council and NoCasinoGettysburg organizer Susan Paddock asked me to testify, but because of a doctor's appointment today, and hand surgery tomorrow, I was unable. I feel horrible I was unable to attend, but I couldn't change the appointments. I was hoping to put together a panel consisting of fellow historians/authors such as Eric Wittenberg, Ed Longacre, Andrea Custer and others, but we all had scheduling conflicts. This just turned out to be a bad week to try to get folks together. I asked several folks, but they understandably had conflicts, and all felt bad about being unable to attend.

That video likely has more impact, though, than any of us could have mustered. Just listening to David McCollough talk about the sacredness of America's hallowed grounds should make everyone stop and think about what this stupid idea of collossal, galactic proportions would do to the area. As he says, it's simply trying to bank on Gettysburg - why not put a casino next to the Washington Monument, the Liberty Bell - hell, how about the White House? Either a place matters or it doesn't. If Gettysburg or any other such place can be cheapened by such a move, then let's get out the bulldozers and just plow the whole goddamn place under and bury the monuments. There's no "fence" - either you care or you don't. Make your voice heard.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Sept. 4-5 Gettysburg Book Signings

This upcoming Labor Day weekend, Steve Stanley and I will be at several book signings around Gettysburg. If you're in town, please stop in and see us. All of my books will be available, as well as our first volume of the Audio Tour based on The Complete Gettysburg Guide. Here is the schedule:

Saturday, September 4:

11am to 1pm: Gettysburg Gift Center (former Wax Museum) - Steinwehr Ave
3pm to 5pm: Pages of the Past bookstore - 10 York St - Grand Opening of this new bookstore
7pm to 9pm: American History Store - corner of Steinwehr and Baltimore St

Sunday, September 5:

11am to 1pm: GNMP Museum and Visitor Center Bookstore
3pm to 5pm: Gettysburg Gift Center (former Wax Museum) - Steinwehr Ave

Hope to see many friends this weekend!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

"Law Business Insider" Radio Interview

A couple weeks ago, I was interviewed on the Law Business Insider radio show "America's Best Selling Authors." The show can be heard on many network radio channels as well as Sirius, etc. Many of America's best and most popular writers have been interviewed on the show, and I am very humbled and thankful to have been asked to appear. I had a terrific time with the hosts - Steve Murphy and Roger Clark. Both of these gentlemen were very well read, very insightful, and asked great questions which led to a unique and interesting discussion.

You can easily listen to the show by clicking here. Click on "Listen In" and first you will hear a great interview of Mark Wilensky, author of The Elementary Sense of Thomas Paine (about 15 minutes) and then my interview will follow. We had such a great time that the hosts asked me to come back on the show this month.

I hope you enjoy the show, and I really enjoyed being a part of it.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Audio Tour examples on YouTube

Casemate, our North American distributor, has put two tracks of the Audio Tour based on The Complete Gettysburg Guide on YouTube. The first track is the stop at the First Shot Marker, and can be found here. The second track is a stop examining the July 2 night attack at East Cemetery Hill, and can be found here.

Audio Tours can be purchased through our website, and there is a special combo price for a tour and the book.

In Gettysburg stores, we've been hearing that the Tour is outselling all other audio tours by eight to one, and we are very grateful! We have been hearing wonderful comments and reviews from folks, and we're so glad that the tour, like the book, is helping folks to see and understand so much more of the battlefield.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Surgery report

Looks as though the surgery on my right hand was a success! Already, just a few days after the procedure, I can straighten my fingers out for the first time since early April. And the hand doesn't get numb or tingly anymore. Dr. Christopher Lincoski seems to have done a wonderful job. As I mentioned in the previous post, he's a hand specialist who reportedly gets great results. Since the moment I woke up after the procedure, I haven't had an iota of pain either, so I've already thrown away the pain medication they gave me.

My hand will remain wrapped until Monday, when I can remove the wrap, and then just put a bandage over the incision. The following week the stitches will be removed, and at that time I will schedule surgery for the left hand as soon as possible - I can't wait to get it done now.

There's a lot of physical therapy ahead for both hands, but already I'm typing better and starting to get back to writing that I've been anxious to do. Thanks to everyone who has expressed their best wishes to me, and I appreciate all the kind thoughts. The website for University Orthopedics (with centers in State College and Altoona PA) since some folks have asked, is here. They have many specialists who are excellent. The bio of my surgeon, Dr. Christopher Lincoski, can be found here. Great guy.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Just call me Lefty...

This Wednesday, July 28, I'm finally having the first of the two wrist surgeries to take care of my carpal tunnel syndrome. After several doctor visits and tests - including the infamous EMG electrical test I wish to never take again - I was referred to a hand specialist a few weeks ago. Dr. Lincoski of Allegheny Orthopedics, of State College PA will be doing the surgery. When I saw him earlier this month, he had just come back from volunteering a stint in Afghanistan, performing hand surgery on wounded soldiers and citizens. I think that's very noble. He specializes in only conditions of the hand and wrist, and performs many CTS surgeries... in fact, looking at his calendar for July 28, I saw that I'm one of four CTS procedures he's performing just that day.

No one looks forward to having surgery, but obviously I'm excited to have the chance to put the CTS symptoms behind me. Not only does it make it difficult to type and write, but I've been a DIYer all my life. I enjoy working on all sorts of home projects, and working outside in the yard and garden. For instance, clearing weeds in the garden is more difficult. Heck, just holding onto some objects sometimes can be challenging - causing me to drop things often. Plus, the numbness and tingling in the fingers, probably one of the most annoying symptoms of CTS, makes it difficult to fall asleep, in addition to any minor chore involving the hands that we all take for granted.

I'll report back to my readers sometime after Wednesday when I'm feeling up to it. We're doing the right hand first, so I guess for a while my new nickname will be Lefty!

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Upcoming Radio Interview - The Law Business Insider

On Tuesday, July 27, I'll be taping a radio interview as the guest on The Law Business Insider. Click here to see their home page, here for archived shows, and here for archived author interviews. Many Savas Beatie authors have appeared as guests on the show, and I'm very honored to be counted among them.

In addition to authors, many prominent politicians, attorneys, business leaders, and newsmakers are interviewed on the show, and it's quite an honor to be asked to appear. LBI shows appear on NBC, Fox News Radio, Sirius, the BBC, XM, Bloomberg, and more. The airing date and time of the show will appear on the bottom of the home page of the website after Tuesday, and it can be listened to anytime by checking the archives.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

The Complete Gettysburg Guide Audio Tour, Vol. 1 - now in stock

On Friday in Gettysburg, our initial stock of Volume 1 of the audio tour - The Gettysburg Battlefield - was delivered to us. If you'd like to order it, simply go to our website. We even offer a discounted deal if you order the audio in combination with the book.

It consists of two discs, 2 1/2 hours total and will take you from the first shot of the battle all the way through Culp's Hill and Cemetery Hill. Our audio tour covers twice as much ground as the National Park Service Self-Guided auto tour, and about twice as much as any other audio tour available. Included is a full-color booklet featuring several of Steve Stanley's maps (including his famous Day One All-On-One-Map!) in a full-color package completely designed by Steve. You can take the tour completely at your own speed, and skip among stops however you wish.

It's even better when used in conjunction with the book. Please consider picking up a copy of the audio tour, take it out for a spin, and enjoy Gettysburg!

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Third winner (fourth day) of the Audio Tour!

Unfortunately, even after making several trips around the Gettysburg battlefield Saturday, Steven Stanley and I couldn't locate anyone carrying a copy of The Complete Gettysburg Guide to award a free copy of our new Audio Tour based on the book. We were at the afternoon battlewalk for Pickett's Charge, and a couple folks who recognized us came up to us - explaining they didn't have the book in hand. Unfortunately, we just didn't see anyone carrying it.

Today, Sunday, however - Steve and I perched ourselves in the shade atop Little Round Top, hoping someone would walk by while carrying the book. After about 15 minutes, Steve spotted a group of folks walking past us. One fellow was carrying the book, and stepped out to the summit and opened it. We walked up to him, and told him about the contest and that he had won a free copy of the audio tour. He introduced himself as Edward Hall, a colonel in the Marines and known as "Colonel Ed." He had gotten the book last year during the Civil War Preservation Trust's membership drive - the CWPT sent a copy of the book to all new members at the $100 gift level, and it included a specially designed bookplate by Steve. Colonel Ed was very happy to get the Audio Tour and be our final winner. They asked us to give them some information about what to see from the summit of Little Round Top, which we were happy to do. We pointed out various sights to them, talked for a while about the July 2 Confederate attack on the hill and the southern portion of the battlefield, and had a great conversation.

Colonel Ed was a very gracious winner, and we enjoyed meeting him and his group. Congratulations to all of our contest winners and we hope you enjoy the Audio Tour!

Saturday, July 3, 2010

WINNER of the second Free Audio Tour contest!

On Friday here at Gettysburg, fellow blogger and historian Rea Andrew Redd was spotted with his copy of The Complete Gettysburg Guide during a battlewalk - he's the second winner of the free copy of our Audio Tour based on the book. Rea is a big supporter of our book, and he was very happy to be our second winner.

Steve Stanley and I have made a few trips around the field today (Saturday) but haven't located our third winner yet. The tour is in several stores around town, and it has been selling extremely well - in fact, it's far outselling the other tours currently available, including another tour that was just released on July 2. We are very honored by that, and we hope folks who have them enjoy and learn.

Congratulations again Rea, and who will be our third winner....?

Thursday, July 1, 2010

WINNER of the first free Audio Tour contest!

We have a winner of the first free Audio Tour (based on The Complete Gettysburg Guide)! Today Steve Stanley and I rode around the first day's field at Gettysburg, and we spotted a gentleman carrying a copy of the book during the Railroad Cut battlewalk. It turned out to be Frank Piatek, who is the author of Cannoneers, To Your Posts! Frank was not aware of the contest, but was happy to be our first winner. We also saw at least one other person carrying the book on the walk.

Congratulations to Frank - that's one free audio tour, three more to go from tomorrow through Sunday!

Monday, June 28, 2010

Audio Tour update - and a CONTEST!

We recently got word that the first Audio Tour of the main battlefield, based on The Complete Gettysburg Guide, will be available in Gettysburg this Wednesday, June 30. It will not be available in the GNMP Vistor Center bookstore, however, until the following week - Event Network, the company that runs the store, is unable to code it into their retail system until then. We've tried everything to help them get it listed more quickly, but unfortunately it can't be done. So even though it won't be available there until the week of July 5, the Audio Tour will be available at the following locations:

Battlefields and Beyond Book Shoppe (in Old Gettysburg Village)
The American History Store (corner of Steinwehr and Baltimore)
Gallery 30 (on the Square)
The Gettysburg Gift Center (Steinwehr Ave)

Steve Stanley and I have signings set up at each of these locations as follows:

Thurs., July 1 - 11am -4pm - We will be at the Hunterstown event in Hunterstown, about 4 miles northeast of Gettysburg
6pm - 8pm - Signing at Battlefields and Beyond Book Shoppe
Fri., July 2 - 2pm -5pm - Signing at the Gettysburg Gift Center
6pm - 8pm - Signing at the tent outside the American History Store
Sat., July 3 - 6pm- 8pm Signing at Battlefields and Beyond Book Shoppe

We have bookplates that we can sign and place into each Audio Tour.

Now for the CONTEST!

Over the four days from July 1 through the 4th, Steve and I will be making trips around the battlefield, and getting out to walk a little at certain spots. The first person, on each day, that we see out carrying a copy of The Complete Gettysburg Guide will win a FREE signed copy of the Audio Tour! Please note - the winner must be out on the field with the book (having it in the car doesn't count). There will be one winner each day, and you can only win once. It must be somewhere out on the field - our book signings don't count. You don't know where we might be or at what time (we don't know yet either!) but it might be anywhere on the main battlefield or even East Cavalry Field. We might be at the popular spots - the High Water Mark, Little Round Top - or perhaps at less-walked areas of the field. Obviously, we can't be out on the field during book signings, but at any other time we could be out looking for that winner.

So if you're in Gettysburg July 1-4, make sure to take your copy of the book out with you, and we hope you're the lucky winner that day! (If a winner happens to already have a copy of the Audio Tour, we can substitute a copy of Volume 2 of the tour series when it's available.)

Good luck, and we hope to see you out on the field with your book!

Friday, June 18, 2010

Hey, Ma - I'm one of the "cool kids"!

Buddy Dimitri Rotov has posted a great review of Tom Clemens' The Maryland Campaign of 1862 - Volume 1: South Mountain published by my publisher, Savas Beatie. I got an early peek at Tom's manuscript, and absolutely loved the footnotes - which pushes Tom's treatment of Ezra Carman's classic manuscript many levels above the prior release by Joseph Pierro. Dimitri writes what I consider to be the best reviews, and, true to form, he provides a very thoughtful and informative comparison of the two. Tom has gone far beyond the practice of simply editing and sourcing Carman's work (as Pierro did) by providing eminently useful commentary - and even taking Carman to task at times when it is warranted. Pierro's work basically gives you Carman's manuscript as a reference - which it does admirably - but in a very flawed work. For example, Pierro's book has no maps; it has no photos or illustrations beyond a frontispiece photo; and unfortunately, that front photo purported to be Carman isn't even Carman. A major, embarassing mistake for Pierro and publisher I'm sure. I don't know if they've corrected that in any future printings. I have both books, and with Clemens on my shelf I have no reason at all to ever refer to Pierro's. I eagerly look forward to Volume 2, which Tom is working on now.

But here's the reason for the title of this post... After Ted Savas sent me Tom's manuscript for review (the Maryland Campaign is my second love, and actually I have had photocopies of most of Carman's files for years), Ted asked me to provide a blurb to be included in the book. I was honored to be asked, and after reading Tom's work I immediately thought "Carman would approve" of Tom's work - and I include that statement in my blurb.

In his comparison of Clemens' and Pierro's works, Dimitri stated that imprimaturs were printed in both, but "...where Joseph Pierro has a dust jacket showing establishment blurbs (hello again McPherson, Davis, Bearss, Wert) Clemens has blurbs from the cool kids: Hartwig, Hoptak, Petruzzi, Rafuse."

I'm a cool kid! And to be as such in the company of Scott Hartwig, John "J.D." Hoptak and Ethan Rafuse just made my week.

I love it. Now, I have to trade in my cheap sunglasses for a designer pair. Hopefully the wife won't mind me wearing them in the house for a while...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Gettyburg Guide wins US Army Historical Foundation's Distinguished Writing Award!

Steve Stanley and I couldn't be more humbled about the great news about the book that's been coming this week. Today, it was announced that The Complete Gettysburg Guide has won the US Army Historical Foundation's 2009 Distinguished Writing Award in the Reference category. Each year, the AHF chooses a small amount of books, across the entire spectrum of military historical releases, to win in various categories such as Reference, Biography, and Battles/Campaigns. Considering the release of many wonderful books last year, that ranged from topics of the Colonial Period to the current Middle East conflicts, that vied for recognition in these categories, this award is more than we ever hoped for.

Matthew Seelinger, the AHF's Chief Historian, paid us a great compliment when he said, "J. David Petruzzi's and Steven Stanley's The Complete Gettysburg Guide is the definitive reference book for anyone planning to visit the Gettysburg battlefield." All Steve and I ever hoped for regarding the book was for it to be useful for visitors to understand the battle, the campaign, see things they may never have thought to look for, and in general just appreciate the ground and the town. Such a high honor makes us grateful beyond words.

Thanks so much to the US Army Historical Foundation, and to everyone who has appreciated the book. It motivates us to keep working and learning. And appreciating how very lucky we are.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Very nice compliments about books in Hanover Evening Sun editorial

Marc Charisse, editor of the Evening Sun newspaper in Hanover, Pennsylvania made some really nice comments about The Complete Gettysburg Guide in his editorial of Sunday, June 13. You can read the entire editorial online here. Two of my books, in fact were mentioned - the Guide, coauthored with Steve Stanley, as well as Plenty of Blame To Go Around, coauthored with Eric Wittenberg. We are very grateful to Marc for his kind words about the books - when the editorial was pointed out to me by Gettysburg friend Dean Shultz, I was greatly humbled at Marc's words. Here are the pertinent portions of the editorial:

"... last November, I finally found the book that could safely guide me
across Gettysburg all by itself... 'The Complete Gettysburg Guide.' At
last, the one book I'd take to Gettysburg if I could only take one book.
It's got everything - walking tours, driving tours, battle maps, monuments and
battlefield lore. In a way, Petruzzi's new book is too good, pointing out
all those cool rock carvings, dinosaur fossils and other hidden battlefield
stuff some of us had to spend years to find. If you see me on the
battlefield, I'll let you take a look at my copy..."

And about "Plenty of Blame To Go Around":

"(It) is the best study of J.E.B. Stuart's famous ride around the Union
army. It includes detailed descriptions of the battles of Hanover and
Hunterstown, as well as an excellent driving tour. A great

Friday, June 11, 2010

Lancaster (Pa) CWRT Talk

Last night I had the great pleasure of giving a presentation about The Complete Gettysburg Guide to the members of the Lancaster Civil War Round Table in Lititz, Pa. I was amazed at the number of folks who came out - well over 100, and the room was packed. I had prepared a PowerPoint presentation about the book, because Steve Stanley's maps and design are so gorgeous in the book, they must be seen to be appreciated. I especially emphasized the elements in his maps - color, movement, placement of park roads, etc., - that make the maps so easy to use on the field.

As usual, the section of rock carvings received a lot of attention and several questions after the presentation - it always amazes me how much interest there is in them (as much as I have!).

I had a terrific time - the folks were very hospitable. Aftwards, it was great to see a line of several dozen people who wanted to buy the book or have their own copy signed. Over two dozen members purchased the book, and at least a dozen brought their own.

Thanks so much to Micky Kraft for asking me to make the presentation - I hope to be able to go back soon to talk to them again.

Monday, June 7, 2010

Visit to Gettysburg's Lutheran Seminary cupola

This past weekend I was in Gettysburg for the Gettysburg Discussion Group Muster, joining old and new friends for several beautiful days on the battlefields. Friday night we had a wonderful dinner at Mama Ventura's. Saturday afternoon I led a tour of the June 23, 1863 "Bushwacking" Incident at the Cashtown Pass, as well as some sights associated with the June 26 skirmishing between Early's Division and Pennsylvania Militia. On Sunday we got a wonderful, rare tour of Neill (Lost) Avenue by old friend Dean Shultz. I've taken that tour several times, but I enjoy each and every one of them, learning something new each time.

I must admit, though, that the highlight of my weekend (and maybe my year!) was getting to go up into the Lutheran Theological Seminary cupola for the first time in my life. Several years ago, the Lutheran Seminary and Adams County Historical Society opened the cupola to visitation again, once the attic steps were reinforced and safety was no longer a concern. A few times a year, it is available for limited visits to small groups, and when the opportunity came up this weekend, I jumped at the chance.

Prior to the tour, old buddy Wayne Motts (Executive Director of the ACHS) gave us a bit of history of the Seminary and its role during the war. We went down to the first floor, where he showed our group some very rare items. Then, those of us who registered and paid for the cupola tour were led up into it by Tim Smith.

After walking up four flights of stairs, we finally reached the attic under the cupola. There, we walked up a little maze of wooden steps, opened the trap door, then up into the cupola itself.

I still have butterflies in my stomach from when I stepped out onto the cupola platform. Here was where General John Buford made a couple visits while watching the fighting on the morning of July 1, 1863. This is where Lt. Aaron Jerome, his signal officer, watched as General Henry Heth's Division approached along the Cashtown Pike, and from which he finally spotted General John Reynolds' arrival along the Emmitsburg Road. And the views from there were simply awesome.

Much of the cupola has been reconstructed following a fire during an early 1900's lightning strike, but it didn't detract from the solemn history of being up there. Unfortunately, a couple of very tall trees to the west obstruct much of the view along the Cashtown Pike (modern Rt. 30 West), but the ACHS is attempting to have those trees cut back a little. That will open up the view that Buford had that day. But from there, you can see the 5 miles to Hunterstown, beyond Big Round Top, and all the way to the Fairfield Gap some 8 miles to the southwest. The seven of us were in the cupola for nearly an hour as Tim pointed out many landmarks, and we discussed a plethora of topics. Steve Stanley took a bunch of photos of us and the sights from all directions.

Prior to the tour, Wayne had showed us the spot on the grounds where he believed Reynolds stood atop his horse as he yelled up to Buford, and I'm convinced he has it right. It's just off the northeast corner of the building. Due to the way the fenced lanes were on the grounds at the time of the battle (and the eastern facade was the front of the building at the time), and because you have limited visibility of the grounds immediately surrounding the building since the brick facades around the roof extend above the roof lines, I think Wayne's location is accurate. Wayne stood on that spot while we were in the cupola, and yelled up to me "What's the matter, John?" To which I dutifully yelled down "The devil's to pay!"

After all these years of studying Buford and his cavalry, the opportunity to get up in that cupola will stay with me for the rest of my life - and even that cupola is "battlefield terrain" that must be experienced to be truly understood.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Audio Tour now available for order on our website

For those interested, Volume One: The Battlefield - the first volume in the audio tours based on The Complete Gettysburg Guide is now available to order on our website here. The two CDs total 150 minutes, with an 8-page full-color booklet featuring maps by Steve Stanley. There's even a discount if you wish to order the audio tour and the book. We are now working on the second volume, which will feature the cavalry battlefields! We expect to receive the first volume about June 15-20 and they will be sent out immediately.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Gettin' organized

Since my carpal tunnel syndrome limits my writing temporarily, I've been working the last few nights getting the books in my library organized. When I first shelved them in the new library, they were somewhat organized - all the cavalry stuff, all the Gettysburg books, etc., were in sections of their own. The rest was pretty much a mish-mash. I could find things, but I often did spend a lot of time going through the nearly 4,000 volumes to find a book, and there was really no rhyme or reason to most of the shelves.

Even the cavalry shelves were not truly organized - regimentals, reminiscences, biographies, battles and campaigns - all were mixed together. The only thing I had separated was Federal subjects from Confederate.

Now I'm digging in. Now all Federal regimentals are separated, and organized by state. Same for the Confederate (I have every single regimental ever published). All battles and campaigns are separated and organized chronologically. And biographies are alphabetical in their section. And all those shelves are labeled. Gotta find Convis' bio of Myles Keogh? Sure - it's beside Pohanka's and right between the Wade Hampton bios and Fitz Lee!

Now I'm moving on to battles/campaigns - I haven't decided whether to do them chronologically or alphabetically. I'm leaning toward alphabetical, though. Anyone have any suggestions? It may look weird on the shelves having the Antietam books next to Appomattox, but they'd be easy to find.

I think, too, that once I have all the volumes organized, I'm going to start my own Dewey Decimal system of sorts. For example, let's say I make Federal cavalry regimental histories category 100. Organized alphabetically by state, the first would be 100.1, the next 100.2, etc. Should a new one come out, it can be numbered and placed in proper order. Then maybe Confederate regimentals would be the 101 section. Gettysburg and each of its sections might be 102, 103 etc. Battles and campaigns would go alpabetically in their own sections. Making all those little number labels for the spines will be, uh, fun... I think?

The numbering system would finally enable me to computerize a catalog of the books so I can finally list them for an easy search, too. That will really come in handy for the xerox and computer-printed copies of books I also have (thank goodness for that part of Google Books) - there are hundreds of them as well. I have each of those in binders, and there's no organization to them right now either. The thousands and thousands of copies of newspaper articles and manuscript documents is even worse - right now sometimes I have to hunt for hours to find a particular article or paper. (A joke around my house is when my wife asks, "Find it yet?" "No." "Find it yet?" "No!" "Find it yet?" "Noooooo!")

Anyway, I'm getting there. I fully expect that by the time I'm much too old and senile to write anymore, the library will finally be organized....

Monday, May 10, 2010

First volume of Audio Tours now on Amazon

Some of you may be aware that I am currently enjoying the pleasant symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome in both hands. Yes, it's a hoot, but I've been surprised lately how many folks have been afflicted with it. Seems as common as the common cold. It's pretty severe in my right hand, which makes it difficult to type and do other simple tasks. I have seen both my family doctor and a specialist, and will be scheduling surgery shortly. I look forward to getting back to normal and putting this behind me.

Volume One of the audio tours based on The Complete Gettysburg Guide is now on Amazon - see the page here. This volume is The Battlefield, containing 2 CDs totalling about 2 1/2 hours. It all comes in a full-color digipak, with an 8-page booklet containing maps by Steve Stanley - who in fact designed the entire package, just like the book. We really hope folks enjoy it, and riding and walking the battlefield with us. Future audio volumes, such as the cavalry battlefields and a "Hidden Gettysburg" volume will be announced soon!

Friday, April 16, 2010

"Next Guide" survey results are in!

Steve Stanley and I, as well as our publisher Ted Savas, would like to thank everyone who took the time to participate in our survey about the next "complete guide." I'm happy and gratified to say that 161 folks responded, and about 50 people left very helpful comments. The comments were probably the most useful part of the survey.

The top five choices in order of popularity were:

#1 - 1862 Maryland Campaign
#2 - 1863 Cavalry Battles
#3 - Petersburg Campaign
#4 - Chancellorsville
#5 - 1862 Valley Campaign

The Maryland Campaign was far and away the number one choice, garnering about 30% of the total vote. This confirms our decision to do that one next. Nearly all the research for the book is done, in fact. I begin writing next month, with several trips, visits, and tours to campaign sites being conducted over the summer. The book has already been contracted and we expect it to appear in time for the spring 2011 season. Antietam Chief Historian Ted Alexander has already agreed to write the Forward for the book.

I have to admit to being surprised that the 1863 cavalry battles (the Brandy Station fights, Aldie, Middleburg, Upperville) came in second. It may be that folks know my interest in the cavalry, and the lack of information about, and interest in, the fall Brandy Station fights, etc. may have driven the interest. We are definitely taking this under consideration. The fact that Petersburg was also so popular in the poll was very interesting.

I was surprised that the 1862 and 1864 Valley Campaigns did not score higher. Our thoughts were to do either separate volumes, or a combined volume, on these following the Maryland Campaign volume. That would coincide with anniversary dates, and we would also be working with the state and local historical societies - who have all expressed interest in a guide on these and working with Steve and I on them.

Next year, we will likely post a similar poll just to see how the choices come out then. I want to especially thank everyone for the very helpful and interesting comments left on the polling page. They were extremely fun and educational to read. One respondent reminded me of a Maryland Campaign skirmish I'd forgotten about, for instance. This poll has turned out to be an extremely useful tool and we heartily thank all who participated!

Friday, April 9, 2010

Interesting survey results thus far

The results of the survey (see below post) have been extremely interesting. I am going to leave the poll up until next Friday, so there is still time to vote.

There have been nearly 150 respondents, for which we are very grateful. Lots of folks have wanted to make their opinions and thoughts known, and we are extremely appreciative for the effort. Thus far, the Maryland Campaign is far and away the favorite subject for the next "Complete Guide," garnering about 40% of the vote. That one is indeed next, as Steve Stanley and I signed the contract for that book several months ago.

The Valley Campaigns, the 1863 Cavalry battles, and Petersburg have "fought" back and forth for second place. All the other choices in the poll have also been popular with many respondents, except for Mine Run and (surprisingly) Appomattox. I didn't expect Mine Run to do very well, but I was a bit taken aback that Appomattox got very few votes.

The written comments in the poll have also been extremely revealing. I have been reading them with a great deal of interest. One respondent reminded me, for example, of a minor skirmish during the Maryland Campaign that I'd completely forgotten about. Perhaps because the poll is anonymous, respondents feel free to speak their mind and all of them have been very positive.

There's still about a week left, so even though the Maryland Campaign work will indeed be next, we encourage people to still vote if they haven't yet. The answers are helping drive us toward what will be the project after that. Later this year or early next year I will put up a similar poll about that subsequent project and I expect it to be even more interesting.

By the way, many folks have been asking about the progress on the audio tour supplements for The Complete Gettysburg Guide. Steve is nearly finished with the package design for Volume One - The Battlefield, and I am recording the audio in a nearby professional recording studio this coming Wednesday, April 14. The 2-CD digipak for Volume One should be available no later than mid-May, with the subsequent two volumes to be released over June and July at the latest. They all will also be available as downloads, likely sooner than the digipak releases. Volume One is the audio tour of the entire main battlefield, on 2 discs (total 150 minutes). The package will contain several of Steve's maps.

The studio producer has been very helpful guiding me through the somewhat complicated process of producing a professional recording, and has been making it both easy and fun - and quite a learning process.

Stay tuned for more!

Monday, March 29, 2010

"Complete Guide" survey

If you can, please take a moment to vote in a survey I have created - "Which 'Complete Guide' of a battle or campaign in the Eastern Theater would you like to see?" I have listed several candidates for upcoming guides. There is also a space at the end to tell us why you voted as you did, or even suggest battles/campaigns not listed.

Please be assured that all responses are completely anonymous - I do not get any personal information from you. You can only vote once in the survey.

The responses and comments will really help us in our future decisions. I will leave the poll up for a couple weeks, and then report back on the results. As of today, 71 people have already voted, so please let us know your opinion. Thanks!

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Spring has sprung, the itch has begun...

No, don't worry - I won't be giving up my avocation of historical writing to become a poet...

Here in western Pennsylvania, spring is finally in the air. After one of the coldest and most snow-infested winters I can remember in my 45 years, we are finally up in the 50s. There is still 6-8 inches of snow lying in most folks' yards, with some huge piles still around from the plowing and shoveling. But the melt and thaw has, hopefully, begun. There is still a lot of March left, however!

I'm looking forward to this summer - getting out and especially doing some battlefield visiting. Last summer, short as it was (spring was late and the freezing weather began in early October with snow soon after), it was even shorter for me. I lost most of August last year to an illness that knocked me out for the better part of the month, and I couldn't do many things around the house that I had planned. It was January until I was able to remodel a spare bedroom into my new library, a project I had hoped to do back in August.

The new guide book by Steve Stanley and I, following in the mould of The Complete Gettysburg Guide, will be the 1862 Antietam Campaign. That means lots of stomping around many of my favorite grounds this spring and summer - Antietam of course, but also South Mountain, Harpers Ferry, Shepherdstown, etc. I'm looking forward to it. The book will have the look and feel of the Gettysburg guide, featuring Steve's fabulous maps and photographs. There are so many obscure places and events that I'm looking forward to making available to visitors, and I know that the campaign experts helping us with the projects will have amazing things to contribute.

So here's to good health (hopefully!), sunshine, and lots of bug spray!

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Gettysburg Guide a finalist for AHF book award

Steve Stanley and I were just notified that our book The Complete Gettysburg Guide has been selected as a finalist, in the Reference category, for the Army Historical Foundation's 2009 Book Award! We are quite flattered, and we are very grateful for the wonderful reviews and support that the book has received from Army officials.

I will be completing the script for Volume 1 (The Battlefield) of the audio supplement to the book in the next few days, and will begin the recording process right after that. More updates when we get closer to release of the CD and download.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

June 23, 1863 Cashtown bushwacking

This Friday, I have scheduled my first trip to Gettysburg of the new year. I have been working, for the past several weeks, on the script for what will be the audio supplement to my latest book (with Steve Stanley), The Complete Gettysburg Guide. I need to make a trip to Gettysburg to lay out a detailed driving tour for a tour that will be included in the audio supplement - the June 23 bushwacking incident in the Cashtown Pass west of Gettysburg. This event is discussed briefly in the book, but there was unfortunately no room to include a tour of it. There has never been a tour published of the event, but friend and Gettysburg Licensed Battlefield Guide Gary Kross discussed it in a past issue of Blue&Gray Magazine (it's a great piece, but a few of the details of the incident are incorrect).

The bushwacking incident is one of those extremely obscure, little-known events of the Gettysburg Campaign. On June 23, a week prior to the battle, a company of the 14th Virginia Cavalry was conducting "reconnaissance" activities in the area of Caledonia. Many of the southern cavalry in Brig. Gen. Albert G. Jenkins' brigade had been scouting, taking horses and mules, and many other provisions, all around the Chambersburg area since entering Pennsylvania a few days prior. After taking a few dozen horses and mules in the Caledonia area, the Virginia cavalrymen continued east toward the Cashtown Pass.

Just as they reach a set of thick woods at the pass, the Virginians saw a roadblock of trees and other debris. After charging and scattering some Home Guard militia and cavalry stationed there, the Virginians cleared the road and pressed on toward Cashtown. They didn't get very far, however, before a shotgun blast came out of the brush alongside the road, and one of the Virginians in the lead, Pvt. Eli Amick, caught lead in his abdomen and yelled, "I'm shot!"

Amick, a 42 year-old veteran of the Mexican War, was taken back to the Greenwood area (a few miles east of Chambersburg), where he soon died. Amick, then, was the first Confederate to be killed during the campaign so close to Gettysburg (but not the first in Pennsylvania). According to local story, a Cashtown-area resident, Henry Hahn, was the ringleader of a small group of men who waited to ambush the Confederates along the road, and was the self-admitted trigger-puller after the war. Ironically, Amick was known among the Federal food-chain as a "notorious guerilla and bushwacker" himself.

Especially since Amick suffered the distinction of being the first southerner killed so close to Gettysburg during the campaign, I have long found this episode very interesting. I've been collecting every bit of information I could find on it. It will be fun including the first-ever detailed tour of this incident in the audio supplement, and this Saturday I will be shooting the mileages and spots for the tour. The very historic corridor along old Route 30 west of Gettysburg to Cashtown is chock-full of historic sites and things to see, and I'm looking forward to this road trip.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Park Service puts Bob Kirby at Gettysburg's helm

According to a blurb on the Gettysburg Times website today:

National Park Service Northeast Regional Director Dennis R. Reidenbach has
named James Robert (Bob) Kirby as the new superintendant of Gettysburg National
Military Park and Eisenhower National Historic Site.

Kirby replaced John Latschar who was reassigned to Frederick.

Kirby, currently superintendant of Petersburg National Battlefield in
Virginia, will assume his new post in March. Acting Superintendant
Mel Poole will return to his position as superintendant of Catoctin Mountain
Park in Thurman, Maryland.

Well, there you have it. I don't know Bob personally, just of him, and that he's been very effective at Petersburg. He has a lot of ahead of him, that's for sure. I and everyone wish him the very best.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

No, I haven't disappeared...

My apologies for not posting at all for the past five weeks or so... I basically took an unintentional sabattical over the holidays. After a whirlwind, busy summer, a month-long illness, and many family obligations in preparation for the holidays (and not having anything of value to post, admittedly) I just haven't had the urge to blog - until now.

It's a new year, and there's lots to look forward to. Except for a joint article with Eric Wittenberg that is in the new issue of Blue&Gray Magazine, I really haven't written anything of substance since the summer. (The B&G article came out really nice, by the way - it's based on the July 4, 1863 Monterey Pass battle chapter from our book One Continuous Fight, and publisher Dave Roth did a great job with the new maps.) I did a narrative piece on the actions of Gettysburg's South Cavalry Field for the No Casino Gettysburg and No Casino Adams County folks that is seeing a lot of public exposure right now (in opposition to the damned proposed casino along Rt. 30 only 2700 feet south of the Park boundary).

But there is a lot to report on the The Complete Gettysburg Guide front. We had to keep it quiet until this week, but all five of the major book clubs - including the History Book Club and the Military Book Club - picked up the book as a selection! It is quite an honor for Steve Stanley and I. Anyone considering purchasing the book through the club needs to know that the quality of the club edition is the SAME high quality as the regular prints - the clubs "piggy-backed" on the print run by publisher Savas Beatie. Very same book. Same heavy gloss paper, same cover boards, same cover, same everything.

During the holiday, I began serious work on the script for the audio supplement for the Guide. This audio, which will be available as a CD package, and an internet download, will feature my voice narrative of the battlefield tours from the Guide - and will include an additional tour not in the book. The additional tour is that of the June 23, 1863 civilian ambush of a company of the 14th Virginia Cavalry that took place in the Cashtown Pass. During the ambush, a Cashtown civilian named Henry Hahn shot and mortally wounded a member of the 14th. There has never been a detailed tour published of the incident, and to my knowledge it has never been mapped. The supplement will contain that map. Please note, also, that this audio guide will NOT simply be a reading of the book - it will be completely different, and will point out many sights, places and events that do not appear in the book, and will leave out some that are in the book - in other words they are quite different indeed. We hope folks will see the value in both and will desire both. If all goes well, the audio guide is scheduled to be available to the public sometime this coming April.

We are very humbled by the wonderful reviews that the book has received. Besides the great print reviews, as of this date there are 28 reviews on Amazon, all of them 5-star. We can't express out gratitude for that adequately, and we are so heartened that folks enjoy and learn from the book so much! And even though the book has just been made available by the book clubs, as of last night when I checked their website, the Guide was already the #7 top-selling volume on the History Book Club's Civil War Campaigns list.

Although I haven't written much over the past several months, I have been actively gathering primary materials in preparation for beginning to write the next volume in the Guide series - the one for the 1862 Maryland Campaign. I expect to start cracking on the text later this month. Release date for it is expected to spring 2011, which give Steve and I the bulk of this year to put it together. Many Antietam/Maryland Campaign students and experts - Ted Alexander (who will write the Forward), Steve Recker, John Hoptak, Mannie Gentile, and Brian Jordan, just to name a few and leave many out - have signed on to help. I have always loved the campaign - South Mountain, Harpers Ferry, Antietam, Shepherdstown - every bit as much as Gettysburg, and I can't wait to get started.

Also during the year, I will begin work on a solo scholarly book that I've been wanting to do for a long time. It's a book I feel has been needed for a long time, and I've spent much of my research time over the past couple of decades gathering material needed for it. That's all I'll say for now, and more will be forthcoming on it next year.

Well, that's all I've got to say for now. Western Pennsylvania is in the midst of another big snow storm right now, which I'm watching out the windows of my new home office/library. Snowblowing and shoveling cuts into my writing time! But winter, I have found, is a great time to write - hot chocolate at the ready, dog snuggled up at my feet.

Let the words flow... and try to grab the good ones.