Like The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson and Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness, That Furious Struggle: The Battle of Chancellorsville had a previous life as part of a book series Kris White and I worked on for Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. And, as with those other books, once the publisher of that original series began to pull shenanigans, we pulled our manuscript and decided to work it into the Emerging Civil War Series.
First, though, we jacked it up on steroids. That Furious Struggle contained about 40% new material compared to Crossroads of Fire. The new iteration also gave us the chance to make updates to the original material. In fact, we have so much in there, the book has always felt cramped to me. That’s my own dang fault, of course, since I was the one who did the layout on the book. (If I’d just had about four more blank pages to work with, but the books all have to get laid out in 24-page increments because of the page signatures.)
When Kris and I did our original books for Fred-Spot, we did so with the intention of raising money to support the battlefields. We really wanted to honor our commitment to that because we’re both huge fans of battlefield preservation (and that was even before Kris went to work for a preservation organization and I joined the board of directors of another). We decided to dedicate our royalties from That Furious Struggle to battlefield preservation.
First, we directed the money to the Friends of Fredericksburg Area Battlefields, which was kind enough to offer the financial support that got the original book series up and going. When FOFAB disbanded, the group turned over its remaining assets to the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust (CVBT), so we directed royalties there.
But the story then took a really cool twist: the book came out just as the American Battlefield Trust announced a fund-raising campaign for a huge swath of land at Chancellorsville along the north side of Route 3. They bought an entire print run of That Furious Struggle to give away as premiums to people who donated money to the campaign. Savas Beatie printed up special “Preservation Edition” covers, and we inserted a special foreword by Jim Lighthizer.
This was a huge boost for the series. Copies of the book landed in the hands of thousands and thousands of Civil War buffs, many (if not most) of whom hadn’t heard of the ECW Series yet. For us, it was worth its weight in gold.
But the real thrill for me was seeing that preservation edition and knowing that I had done something tangible and unique to help save battlefield land in my own back yard. It was a rewarding sense of accomplishment.
Since then, we’ve done two other Preservations Editions: one of Greg Mertz’s Attack at Daylight and Whip Them: The Battle of Shiloh and my own Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness. It was a hoot when the Trust’s mailing went out on that campaign because I got a flier that said I could get a copy of my own book if I made a donation to help preserve land in the Wilderness. I still have that flier hanging above my desk because it made me chuckle so much!
These days, I get to do a lot with the American Battlefield Trust to help save battlefields across the country, and I’m privileged to work with CVBT to save battlefields in my own neighborhood. We originally created this book series to help people who visited battlefields better understand and appreciate them. We always want that tie between books and battlefields to remain strong.
That Furious Struggle does have a sad coda, though. As the first edition went to press, we lost a friend and strong champion of preservation: Jerry Brent. Jerry was the executive director of CVBT, and his wife, Lou, worked with Kris and me at Fred-Spot once upon a time. Jerry died after a struggle with cancer, and his passing was felt deeply by all of us who knew him and his tireless work on behalf of the Fredericksburg-area battlefields. I wanted to take a moment to mention him here because his good work goes on, and we’re all luckier for it.
That Furious Struggle: Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy, May 1-4, 1863
by Chris Mackowski and Kristopher D. White
Savas Beatie, 2014
Click here to read more about the book, including a book description, reviews, and author bios.
Click here for the audiobook, read by Bob Neufeld.