Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Odds and Ends/Ends and Odds

Just an update post of sorts....

First, I have seen one of the first maps for the tour book/booklet.  Hal Jespersen (of Civil War Maps) has done great work on the first map, which shows the positions of both armies at approximately 2:00 p.m. on October 8th.  I have written the first draft of the campaign background (a very simple overview leading up to the battle), and have started just a bit on the first tour stop.  As I am focusing on Cheatham's attack, the tour stops in the book will not be in the same order as the tour stops on the battlefield as I want to follow specific brigades in order of the advance across the battlefield.  Actually, I pulled off the book shelf the series of tour guides that I picked up at Antietam a few years ago, and am giving some thought to perhaps just doing a series of guides, perhaps one for each Confederate brigade and the Federal forces they encountered.  I will have to see what info I can find out about publishing a larger book vs. a series of booklets.

Second, I am becoming quite eager for the next Cincinnati Civil War Round Table meeting.  The CCWRT does not meet during the summer months (I assume because the members are out "campaigning"), and I think that if they increased their membership base they could probably generate enough interest to have summer meetings, but growing membership is another topic.  The September meeting has Dr. Gary Joiner discussing the 1864 Red River Campaign, an area in which I am certainly not very knowledgeable.  The October meeting is one I am really looking forward to as Stuart Sanders will be discussing his recent Perryville Under Fire book.  The timing is perfect since I am leading the fall hike at Perryville just two days later.  Regardless of the speaker, spending time with other folks interested in the Civil War is really keeping my passion level high and therefore having meetings during the summer months would be, selfishly, my way of keeping the fires stoked.

Next step for the tour book is to visit the battlefield and measure distances and write directions for each tour stop.,  I am hoping to head down to the area on July 4th weekend as Lore Brewery Company is hosting an event that promises to be quite enjoyable, and if may have noticed in previous posts I do enjoy their beer.  So not only do I get to enjoy beer, food, and fireworks, I can spend some time on the battlefield that weekend as well.

One thing I had not mentioned was some follow up info about having a study group at Perryville.  It just seems as if folks there, while interested, do not have the time to pull something like that off.  Short of moving to Perryville (which the other half is still against), I cannot organize such an event without having someone on the ground in the area to do the legwork.  And it would also take some time investment on the part of the experts to lead the groups on the battlefield, and I do not consider myself to be an expert.  While I can help with the promotion of such an event and probably guarantee a good turnout, I cannot lead detailed discussions of the various aspects of the battle, nor can I arrange food, transportation, meeting rooms, places to stay, etc., without seeing the facilities to be used and meeting folks face to face.  Hence the need for on the ground personnel.  This could be a great thing for the Friends group to pull off, but that group can;'t even let its members know about membership renewals or put out a newsletter (or even an email using a service like Constant Contact), so I highly doubt if they can be so motivated.

And on the final front, the Lytle Monument at Chickamauga is undergoing its renovation.  You can see a few pictures on Dave Powell's Chickamauga blog.  Exciting to see this work being completed!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

And So It Begins

I started working on the tour book a bit today, mostly the intro and the campaign background.  Writing the text should be the easiest part of this project as I have plenty of first hand accounts and modern studies to utilize, and I am going to definitely focus on Cheatham's attack against Jackson's division and Starkweather's brigade from Rousseau's division.  I am definitely going to mirror Mr. Carter's Snodgrass Hill book (see previous post), as I think the format is extremely friendly towards battlefield trampers.

After the text has been written, I will need to visit the battlefield to determine the tour stop locations and to measure distances between those locations.  I do not plan on following the current tour route, but will use stops that flow more readily with Cheatham's division as it attacked towards Dixville Crossroads.  I will use my gps to create an overall map of the locations, write the text for moving between those locations, and then have maps made for the book.

Speaking of maps, I think I have found the person to do the maps for this project.  Hal Jespersen contacted me about this project, and his prices seem to be reasonable.  He did the maps for the recent Morgan's Raid book by Cincinnati Civil War Round Table member David Lowery, and those maps are excellent.  Here is a sample of a Perryville map he completed for the Perryville article on Wikipedia:

And one from David's book:

As you can see, Mr. Jespersen does excellent work.  You can see more of his maps on his website, Civil War Maps.

Finding a publisher will be another step that may be a bit perplexing.  I really do like the production value of Mr. Carter's book, but it appears that his publisher may be a very small company.

As I slowly progress on this project, be certain to stop by from time to time to see where I am at.  I am excited to be pushing forward with this idea!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

New Direction, New Ideas

A friend of mine shared with me that the Civil War Trust Annual Conference will be based in Nashville next year.  Hearing that news prodded my neurons into thinking about a few ideas/issues/opportunities that I would like to explore/solve over the next year.  Bear with me as I try to explain....

Perryville, sad to say, is becoming more of an after thought for me.  The lack of forward thinking and actions from the Friends group really has left a negative impression upon me.  I have started looking for other places to lead history hikes, and I will be leading one at Camp Wild Cat in September for a group of hikers.  If that goes well I may try to lead one there every year.  More on this opportunity later.  I will still do a yearly event at Perryville for those who are interested, I just do not expect the Friends group to help my endeavors.  But instead of becoming frustrated over their inability to live up to their word, I have decided to move on/move ahead.

Because the Nashville CWT conference will cover several potential battles, I pulled out some books and maps last night (Donelson, Stones River, Chickamauga), and one of the books I grabbed was a walking tour guide written by Robert Carter about the Snodgrass Hill fighting at Chickamauga (Officially titled The Battle of Chickamauga: The Fight for Snodgrass Hill and Rock of Chickamauga).  It is a well written tour guide, filled with enough detail for the history, but without overwhelming the casual battlefield visitor.  What I also enjoy about Mr. Carter's book is it seems to be locally printed, but without all the errors I have seen from other small print run titles.  Mr. Carter's book also does not suffer from "over-writing" which I have seen in a recent Camp Wild Cat book.  Mr. Carter is a member of the Chickamauga study group, and knows his subject well, and promised to bring out another Chickamauga walking tour book.  This had me thinking that Perryville could use a specialized walking tour book or two, breaking down the battle into specific parts.  

Doing this project I certainly can forego my frustration with the Friends group while providing the park with some much needed material.  Most visitors to Perryville only step a few feet onto the battlefield, focusing on the monuments and Confederate cemetery near the parking lot.  Some may drive their cars along the gravel lane that leads to Loomis' Heights and overlooks the iconic H.P. Bottom House.  An even fewer amount might walk a mile or less along the mown paths and read a few interpretive signs.  To understand the fighting at Perryville one must walk the battlefield, with a tour guide, or a tour book in hand.

To interpret the core battle without overwhelming the casual visitor with a six or seven mile hike, I foresee more than one tour book being needed.  One could focus on Cheatham's attack against Jackson's division (along with Starkweather's brigade from Rousseau's division), and another on the defense of Loomis' Heights by the remainder of Rousseau's troops.  This would make the walks shorter in duration, meaning more manageable to the average Perryville visitor.

I will be working on this idea over the next few months, just to see if I can pull it off.  Having great maps is one of the keys, so finding a map-maker who will work for next to nothing yet still produces works of art will be a priority.  Stay tuned for more details!


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