I have wanted to post on Brigadier General Robert B. Mitchell and how he came to command the Union Cavalry Corps at Chickamauga for some time now, but frankly, the story seems to grow more complicated each time I examine it. It’s not just that the experience of Mitchell, who missed the first part of the campaign and reached the corps just days before Stanley took ill, is obscure. The larger question is why General Rosecrans, who spent so much effort in the spring of 1863 trying to recruit up his mounted arm and seemed to take such an interest in it at the brigade and regimental level, was not similarly focused on creating an effective divisional and corps structure.
And so what began as a simple post about a relatively unknown political general from Kansas is morphing into a deeper examination of the Army of the Cumberland Cavalry Corps, a far more comprehensive project than is suitable for a blog post. As a result, poor General Mitchell will have to wait…
Instead, I want to announce a project that still seems too good to be true, at least from my perspective.
More than once, I have mentioned – on tours or just doing ACW-ish stuff with friends – that I harbor an ambition to do a multi-volume study of Chickamauga, devoting a volume each to September 19th and 20th, 1863. Both the Maps of Chickamauga and Failure In The Saddle have been satisfying in their own right, but each project is of necessity limited in scope. I’d like to do something more ambitious – or more grandiose, if you will – in covering the whole battle.
So why not two volumes? The first would cover the campaign from the Crossing of the Tennessee at the end of August until nightfall on September 19th; the second to pick up with from there and ending on September 22nd or 23rd, with the Federals ensconced in Chattanooga and Bragg trying to figure out “what next?”
The answer to that question, at least until recently, was “because you’ll never find a publisher, dummy.”:)
A few weeks ago, that answer changed.
My current publisher, Ted Savas, called me and broached the idea. I’m sure I’ve mentioned the concept to Ted casually in the past, but we’d never had any serious discussions about it. So when Ted called, suggesting this very project, I was floored. Yes, my love of the battle of Chickamauga would certainly induce me to write it. But would the book-buying public’s interest in Chickamauga make the project commercially viable? Ted thinks the answer is yes. He’s even suggested that we might include a 3rd volume, an extended set of appendices similar to Dr. Joseph Harsh’s “Sounding the Shallows,” which accompanied his outstanding volumes on Antietam.
My first thought? It’s really gonna suck when I wake up and find that it was all a dream.
My second? How can I refuse?
So I am writing. The best news is that I actually have been writing for a long time, sort of on the side, in hopes that I would eventually find a home for it. I actually have the bulk of this all written, at least in rough draft. I estimate it will require about 50 to 55 chapters, (not including all those appendices) of which I have about 38 finished. (Again, in rough draft. Lots of revising ahead. Oh Joy!) That means that “the project” is not just a distant gleam, but actually within 18 months to a year of completion.
My final thought? Thanks Ted. As long as you’re not really Lucy in disguise, about to yank that football out of the way at the last minute…
You wouldn’t toy with a guy that way, would you?