The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: A Season of Slaughter

Here is the crazy little secret about A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House: we produced that book in a month. Soup to nuts. We wrote it, edited it, designed it, and proofed it in a month.

It went like this:

We published our first book in the series, Simply Murder, under a time crunch, and there were things we learned from that process that we wanted to apply to our next effort. The next book, The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson, was due out at the end of April in time for the May 1-3 Sesquicentennial festivities. Fortunately, the book was already written and we just had to adapt the manuscript to our new layout template and flesh out some appendices. As we did that, we also had to work through the final proofs of our first hardcover, Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front: The Battles of Second Fredericksburg and Salem Church.

It was a busy winter.

We submitted Last Days and breathed a sigh of relief. But then Sarah Keeney, our Savas Beatie liaison, asked us when she could expect the Spotsylvania book we’d talked about. Savas Beatie planned to release that book in late April/early May, too, alongside Last Days, to take advantage of all the Sesquicentennial foot traffic at Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

Kris and I flew into high gear. We knew the story well enough, and we knew the sources (Kris moreso than I). We knew the battlefield. We’d been giving tours there for years by that point.

As a subject matter, Spotsylvania offered us an advantage because the fight stretched out over two weeks. That meant that any one phase of the battle couldn’t take up much more than ten pages. As a result, by treating the battle episodically, we could go from one phase to the next with quick intensity.

One of us would write and the other would gather pictures. We’d swap duties and keep barreling ahead. As I started doing the layout, Kris rounded up appendices and orders of battle. Boom, boom, boom. Full speed ahead.

In the years that followed, as Kris and I tried recruiting other contributors to the book series, we’d often have people hem and haw about timetables and deadlines. Kris and I have a particularly efficient rhythm working together, so we know we write faster than most people. But if you know the story, you know the sources, and you know how to write, an intro-level overview of a battle shouldn’t be that hard to put together. We were surprised by how many people found the prospect intimidating. That was an important eye-opener for me.

We got the book to press and again breathed a sigh of relief. The intense work was all worth it when we had three books to unveil for the Chancellorsville 150th: Chancellorsville’s Forgotten Front, Last Days, and Season of Slaughter. It made for an especially memorable Sesquicentennial.

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A Season of Slaughter: The Battle of Spotsylvania Court House, 8-21, 1864
Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White
Savas Beatie, 2013

Click here to read more about the book, including a book description, reviews, and author bios.

Click here for ordering information.

Click here for the audiobook, read by Bob Neufeld.

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5 Responses to The “Emerging Civil War Series” Series: A Season of Slaughter

  1. Shipdriver says:

    It’s good you don’t hold current authors to that timetable.

  2. 65th NY Guy says:

    Still have my copy that you signed when I happened upon you at the kiosk at Spotsylvania and I had it in my car as my guide! You described how I would find Upton’s farm road, and I found it and took a photo which ended up in my book on the 65th NY Infantry, “No Flinching From Fire.” I appreciated the help!

  3. Ted P. Savas says:

    I had no idea there were others who run around with their hair on fire to meet deadlines. The difference is YOU guys actually MEET yours. 🙂

    • Chris Mackowski says:

      As I tell my students in the journalism school: “The news goes on at 6:00.” You can’t go on the air and tell your audience, “Oh, I’m not quite ready yet. Can you give me 15 extra minutes?” The news goes on at 6, not 6:15.

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