Sunday, September 25, 2005

Good Problem

Today I was scheduled to sign books at the Baltimore Book Festival. Yesterday, the first day of the show, all but three copies were sold, so my publicist suggested I not come up for the signing. I'm so pleased that the sales were better than expected, but at the same time am disappointed not to have any left to sign! I suppose it is the classic "good problem." A similar event happened last year after the book sold out the day before Thanksgiving, resulting in no volumes available for Christmas shoppers.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

A Stunning and Timely Development!

I've exchanged numerous e-mails over the last week with two experts on the Gibson family of Louisiana. The subject: John McKinley Gibson of the Thirteenth Louisiana Infantry. Yesterday was a landmark day, as I shared my draft profile with one expert, Mary McBride, who will soon be publishing a long-awaited book on McKinley's brother, Randall Lee Gibson. She found several gaps in my summary of McKinley's life, and this resulted in many e-mails sent between all parties. I went to sleep last night fretting about where to find the missing information, but hopeful that one of these two experts could help. This morning, I received an e-mail from the other expert, genealogist Bill LaBach. He received an e-mail out of the blue from a man who has a journal kept by McKinley as a young man. A stunning and timely development!

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Louisiana coincidence

I've experienced a number of minor coincidences in the course of working on the column and books. All occur as a result of the ebb and flow of research and exchange of information. Recent case and point: I'm working on about fifteen soldiers now, all at varying stages of research. Last week, as Hurricane Katrina devastated the Gulf Coast, I received the last bits of research needed to begin writing a profile of Lt. John McKinley Gibson of the Thirteenth Louisiana Infantry. His family owned sugar plantations in Louisiana's Terrebonne Parrish, an area that lay directly in the path of Katrina.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Profile withdrawn

About a month ago, as I was putting the finishing touches on a profile of Capt. Charles Shaler Smith, a civilian engineer-turned-CSA officer who helped choose the location and design the Augusta Powder Works, I received a discussion forum response from author Chip Bragg. He's writing a book on the Works, and answered an earlier request for information about Smith that I had posted on the Georgia Civil War Discussion Forum. During the course of our e-mail exchange, I sent him a scan of the Smith image. Chip challenged the identity of the subject in the photo. After several weeks of consulting with Confederate uniform experts and comparing the image to three other portraits of Smith, I concur that the individual is probably not Smith, but is likely a early-war Georgia captain. Image identification has many criteria (period inscription, comparison to other known portraits of the sitter and uniform identification are key). This image failed to meet all three, and therefore must be categorized as an unidentified image for now. I thank Chip and all the other folks who offered opinions, especially Bob Anderson, who offered an impressive analysis of the sitter's uniform, for their time and effort.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

February 1865

Coincidence or trend? Many of the Confederate soldiers researched to date have incomplete records beginning around February 1865. Could it be that unit integrity began to break down about this time, and the lack of proper record-keeping an indicator that regiments were so focused on day-to-day survival that keeping proper files became less important?

MOC visit yields results

Cursory research of the twenty images identified during my visit to the Museum of the Confederacy resulted in good basic biographical information for ten, and I've secured rights to use them in the book. This has been my best single visit to date!