I am always excited when a box of new books shows up on my back porch. The UPS deliveryman shows up like Santa Claus and drops off the books. Somehow, he manages to do it without making the dog bark. I happen to look out the sliding glass door at some point and, there, unexpectedly, the boxes sit there like the brown paper packages in Julie Andrews’s song. It always feels like Christmas.
This year, that brown-package Christmas came this past Monday. UPS delivered three boxes filled with The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, Nov. 26-Dec. 2—my latest book and the latest entry in the Emerging Civil War Series.
(Usually I try to say something like “…the latest entry in the Emerging Civil War Series published by Savas Beatie” so that I get the publisher’s name in there. I like to make sure Savas Beatie gets a little love in order to help their name recognition. But I’ll give them a little love in a minute.)
My body might be pushing fifty, but I’m really still about seven years old at heart, and so this sort of brown-package Christmas always thrills me to no end. And this particular delivery of books was particularly exciting. I had been wanting to write about Mine Run for a decade, and for various reasons, the project just kept getting put off and put off and put off. All the while, I kept collecting research and I kept exploring the battlefield, knowing that one day I would finally write about the campaign that everyone else seemed to forget about. I promised myself I would not forget.
As it happens, Ted Savas also shares a passion for Mine Run. (This is the part where Savas Beatie gets some love, BTW.) Ted and his buddy Paul Sacra essentially discovered the lost battlefield at Payne’s Farm where the most significant fighting of the campaign took place. When I told Ted I wanted to write about the campaign for the ECW series, he pretty much gave me the green light immediately. I thought I’d have to sell him on the idea, but nope. He was a True Believer in the campaign’s story already. As a bonus, he even penned an afterword for my book that told the story of how he found the battlefield. It was an important discovery long underappreciated, so I’m glad we had the chance to finally share the story.
Even after Ted okayed the project, I ran into delays. The most significant was the birth in March 2017 of my son Maxwell. I had hoped to get the book finished before he arrived, but that didn’t happen, and I was glad to put all writing on hold in order to revel in my new round of fatherhood. (I wrote more about that in the September ECW newsletter.)
As it turned out, Maxwell spent a lot of time exploring the battlefield with me. I strapped him in his car seat and took him with me on several photo expeditions. He also took several bumpy cross-country stroller rides while I explored. My other two children have also spent their fair share of time battlefielding with me, so it was no surprise that Maxwell would have his turn, too. The Great Battle Never Fought is dedicated to him.
Over the next few days, I’ll share some of the stories from Mine Run that I couldn’t fit in the book. I’ll also share some of the behind-the-scenes stories from writing the book. In August, at the ECW Symposium, I’ll talk about Mine Run as part of our “Forgotten Battlefields” theme. In the meantime, I’d be grateful—as would Ted Savas—if you’d consider ordering a copy of the book. (I apologize for the shameless self-promotion, but it’s also sincere, too!)
The Great Battle Never Fought was a labor of love a decade in the making. I hope you find it as enjoyable to read as I found it to write. Like my own brown-package Christmas, I hope you find it surprising (and enlightening).