I Killed Off Joe Johnston

May 10, 2014 - Leave a Response

I distinctly remember the day I killed off General Joseph E. Johnston. During the preparation of Confederate Invention for publication, I had received edits from the copyeditor to review. Now a copyeditor makes sure you use the words like “affect” and “effect” correctly, that you capitalize the correct words, that you use “that” and “which” properly, and that you use good grammar in general. The author’s job is to review the edits to make sure they make sense.

Now, as I reviewed Chapter 11, which discusses the events for the year 1862, I realized I had made a bad mistake. At the start of the chapter, I  summarized the various battles that occurred during the year to set the stage for the discussion of the Patent Office.  During 1862, Robert E. Lee took over Johnston’s command after Johnston was wounded during the Battle of Seven Pines (Fair Oaks). As I read this in the copyedits, my mind quickly realized this was wrong… Johnston had been killed… I remembered he was one of the first important Southern generals to die in the war. So I changed the manuscript, and “killed-off” old “Fightin’ Joe” in 1862.

Now, Joe Johnston was severely wounded in his right shoulder and chest by an artillery shell during  that battle, which led to Jefferson Davis to turn over command of the Army of Northern Virginia to Robert E. Lee. But he was not killed. I was thinking of General Albert Sidney Johnston, who bled to death from a wound during the Battle of Shiloh. To my credit, that was in 1862, but that is little consolation to killing off the wrong guy! My eagerness to make sure I corrected the passage lead me to make the change from memory rather than to doublecheck the facts. I mean,seriously, I even wrote about Joe Johnston’s efforts, later in the war, in a later chapter in the book! 

The first I heard of my mistake was in a conversation with a friend after the book published, who pointed out my error. Later, I would read a book review by a Confederate scholar who pointed out the error, but in he was very kind with his criticism.

I certainly learned my lesson, and in subsequent printings I will make sure Joe Johnston survives 1862. Meanwhile, I will be cautious about changing facts during the copyediting stage for any new book I work on, at least I won’t change any facts based on my memory! And maybe old Joe will eventually forgive me.


The Richmond Slave Trade

December 9, 2012 - Leave a Response

I’m currently reading The Richmond Slave Trade: The Economic Backbone of the Old Dominion by Jack Trammell (published by The History Press). Trammell traces the history of Richmond’s slave trade, starting with background information on the beginnings of the African slave trade prior to the war, to stories of the dealings in the Confederate capitol leading up to, during, and after the civil war.

Trammell is a professor at Randolph-Macon College in Ashland, Virginia just north of Richmond, and is a local historian, award-winning author, and a man of many interests. I met Jack when he spoke to the Greater Richmond Stamp club (www.grstampclub.org) in November. You see, he also writes articles on stamp collecting for philatelic publications such as Linn’s Stamp News. One of our club members suggested we ask Jack to come speak, and he graciously accepted and gave a very interesting presentation on a wide range of subjects from women on stamps to war letters written by Romanian soldiers.

Many Civil War readers fail to read as much on slavery as they should, instead concentrating on the battles or the military men or the weapons. The Richmond Slave Trade provides a new perspective on an important part of the nation’s history.  Further, Trammell points out the sections of Richmond where the slave trade took place and the large scope of the enterprise, which I can appreciate as someone living near Richmond.  While I knew Richmond was a center of commerce with numerous tobacco warehouses and businesses, I never appreciated the extent of the slave trade. Trammell’s slim book is packed with details, but those details are efficiently provided in 122 pages — an ideal length. One word of warning if you are like me and get most of your books in person at a bookstore instead of online.  Here in the Richmond area the book was shelved in the “Local History” section instead of the “Civil War” section. This is book is highly recommended: go pick it up and learn about slavery.

The Military History Education Group – Saturday June 16th

June 10, 2012 - Leave a Response

Plan on attending this conference… it is going to be great!

This is the 14th annual meeting of this summer conference at Yoder’s Kitchen Banquet Facility in Arthur, Illinois. The price is $55 per person, which includes a full day of speakers and a noon lunch. The conference starts at 8:30 AM and continues to 4:00 PM.

I will lead off at 9:30 AM with my presentation on “The Story of the Confederate States Patent Office and Its Inventors”. Author Bruce Nicols will follow at 10:45 AM, and will present “The Origin of Guerrilla Warfare In Missouri During the Civil War”. After lunch, starting at 1:15 PM, LTC Harold M. Knudsen will pesent “General James Longstreet – the Confederacy’s Most Modern General”. Finally, Dr. Robert G. Schultz will present “Political Cartoons of the American Civil War” beginning at 2:30 PM.

I am excited to be able to participate with this conference! If you would like more information about the conference you can contact the organizers at (217) 578-2262.


Military History Education Group Conference on June 16, 2012

April 1, 2012 - Leave a Response


On Saturday, June 16 I will be speaking on the Confederate States Patent Office and its Inventors at the Military History Education Group Conference in Arthur, Illinois.  This is a well established event in central Illinois with 2012 being its 14th year. Come and join other attendees for a wonderful day of Civil War history. The conference is a four speaker event with the historians speaking on a wide range of Civil War topics. I will post more on the other speakers as soon as it is available.


Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia

March 10, 2012 - Leave a Response

Recently, I had the good fortune to speak about the Confederate Patent Office as part of the Winter Lecture Series that is sponsered by the Chesterfield Historical Society of Virginia, which is located here in Chesterfield County near Richmond, Virginia. I was grateful they had a large turnout of 45 people that were interested in Confederate patents and inventors. Liess van der Linden-Brusse, who Chairs the Events Committee, was a great host and I was honored to be a part of the lecture series. Check out their calendar of events for March http://www.chesterfieldhistory.com/HTML/Calendar.html

Liess van der Linden-Brusse, program Chair, graciously giving me a gift

Liess van der Linden-Brusse, Program Chair, graciously giving me a gift of a book on Chesterfield County

National Civil War Museum

November 23, 2011 - Leave a Response

Times flies when you aren’t blogging. Back in September I had a great visit at the National Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA, for their opening of their exhibit To Further the Cause: Inventions & Innovations of the Civil War.  They had a nice reception prior to my talk, and were wonderful hosts. I finally downloaded the pictures from the event (why do we leave such things in our cameras?) and shown here are some of the great staff and local supporters at the Museum, along with a photo of me in action.



If you live in the area and haven’t stopped by, you should. They have a great location and a nice collection of Civil War items and strong support in the community. They also have some special interactive and video items that should appeal to the media-demanding younger generation. More than anything else, you can feel the museum is alive; the folks there are active on new programs and providing history in a new way.




The National Civil War Museum Sept 15th.

September 1, 2011 - Leave a Response

On Thursday, September 15th I will be speaking in Harrisburg, PA at the National Civil War Museum at their Exhibit Opening Reception for their new exhibit “To Further Their Cause: Inventions & Innovations of the Civil War”. Details are here: http://www.nationalcivilwarmuseum.org/?q=node/567

Lecture in Richmond on September 14th

August 22, 2011 - One Response

I will be giving a lecture on the Confederate Patent Office at the Museum of the Confederacy at 6:00 to 7:30 PM on September 14. This as part of the  University of South Carolina Citizens’ School for Science and Technology, in partnership with the Museum of the Confederacy and VCU Science, Technology, and Society lecture series. They are asking that you preregister and they are having other weekly sessions, find more information by clicking the cannon link on the left on the main Museum of the Confederacy webpage at: www.moc.org

Specific info and registration for my lecture can be found at:  http://www.moc.org/site/Calendar/349950318?view=Detail&id=103901

Great Time with the Federal Circuit Historical Society

June 14, 2011 - Leave a Response

I had a wonderful experience on June 2nd with the Federal Circuit Historical Society at the Dolley Madison House on Lafayette Square in Washington, DC,  where I gave the spring lecture on the Confederate States Patent Office. What a wonderful group and experience. The Dolley Madison House, one of a small group of remaining townhouses on the east side of the square,  serves as conference and reception space for the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit.

Jim McKeown was kind enough to invite me to give the lecture and Pat McDermott made sure of all the arrangements. Alicia Greene and Patricia Kreuzburg of Offsite Books helped me with the book signing… everything was perfect and folks seemed to be happy with the lecture. My host was James Barney, who treated me to lunch and told me he has his own debut novel, “The Genesis Key” coming out this month. His book is a thriller, already has great recommendations and I can hardly wait to get my copy.

James was kind enough to pose with me under the watchful eye of Dolley. I wonder whether Dolley prefers him or me?

I met a lot of great, friendly people and had a great time!

Books Are Available!

May 11, 2011 - Leave a Response

Today is May 11th, and I am told that copies of Confederate Invention are now in the warehouse and can now be ordered by booksellers. While the official publication date is in June, it is likely anyone that pre-ordered via various on-line places could get them in a couple of weeks. It’s such an exciting time!