I am often asked what’s my favorite of my various books. Inevitably, I answer, “That’s not fair. That’s like asking me to pick a favorite toe.” I wouldn’t undertake the cost, time, or effort to write books if I didn’t care about the subject. I write about what interests me, as researching and writing about these events is how I learn. I hope that others find them as interesting as I do, but in the end, I write about what interests me.
The truth is, though, that I do have some special favorites among my work. My book on John Buford at Gettysburg is, in many ways, the culmination of my life’s work—I started researching it in 1992, and I spent years on it. Another favorite of mine is The Union Cavalry Comes of Age: Hartwood Church to Brandy Station, 1863.
The Union Cavalry Comes of Age deals with the formation and early days of the Army of the Potomac’s Cavalry Corps, and ends with the great conflagration on the verdant hills and dales that make up the June 9, 1863 Battle of Brandy Station. It tackles topics that have received scant attention over the years: Fitzhugh Lee’s February 1863 Hartwood Church raid, designed to find the end of the Union line in Stafford County, Virginia, and the Battle of Kelly’s Ford, fought on St. Patrick’s Day in response. For the first time, the Army of the Potomac’s horse soldiers held their own with the Confederate cavalry on the field of battle. It addresses the charge of the 6th New York Cavalry at Alsop’s Field just before the battle of Chancellorsville, and the ill-fated charge of the 8th Pennsylvania Cavalry at the height of Stonewall Jackson’s successful attack at Chancellorsville on May 2, 1863. I chose the cover art—Don Troiani’s “Charge,” which is a depiction of that charge of the 8th Pennsylvania.
The book also includes the most detailed tactical treatment of the Stoneman Raid during the Chancellorsville Campaign and explains why it was ill-advised and destined to fail. Finally, it represents my first of three attempts at writing a narrative on the battle of Brandy Station.
There was only one thing about it that I don’t like, and never have: instead of scattering the photographs throughout the book so that they appear in pertinent places, the publisher lumped them all together in the middle. I don’t like that, but I understand why it’s done.
The book was published to good reviews in 2003. A couple years later, against my wishes and over my loud objections, the publisher remaindered its remaining inventory without giving me a chance to purchase it in about 2006, and it went out of print. I was terribly unhappy about that—I’ve always been very fond of this book, and I didn’t want it out of print.
Most publishing contracts contain a clause that says that the author can demand that the publisher bring the book back into print, and if the publisher does not do so within the prescribed period of time, the author’s publishing rights revert to him or her. I immediately made that demand, and rather than make me wait, the publisher immediately reverted my rights back to me. This meant that I was now free of the publishing contract and could try to find a new home for it. I figured it would be easy. I was wrong.
I asked my favorite publisher, Ted Savas of Savas Beatie, if he wanted it, and he said he wasn’t interested in it. I then searched for another publisher in vain. By 2016, I was ready to give up and was prepared to publish it again myself. Then, one day, out of the clear blue sky, an acquisitions editor for The History Press contacted me to inquire if I had an out-of-print title that I wanted to see back in print. “Why yes, I do!” I responded. The History Press was considering adding a new impression to bring back out of print works, and we started a dialogue. I purchased a used copy of the original softcover edition of the book—I have only my own personal hard cover copy remaining of the original edition—and sent it to him. Soon, he offered me a contract, and the pieces started to come together.
I no longer have the Word files of the old book, but the original publisher was able to provide me with the edited version of the original set Word files, thereby saving a vast amount of work to re-type the thing (it’s about 150,000 words in length). We then added 21 new photographs of participants, and then scattered them throughout the book as I had originally wanted. A new index was prepared, and Don Troiani gave permission for us to continue to use his painting as the cover illustration. It’s a handsome book, much larger than the works normally published by The History Press. The new impression never happened, so the manuscript was published under THP’s main impression, so the cover looks very much like its Sesquicentennial Series of books.
In late January of this year, the new edition shipped to me. I really like how it looks, and I’m tickled to have one of my favorites of my own work available to the public again. From my perspective, it was out of print for far too long.