Monday, May 7, 2012

A bit of a Breather

I have been on a short sabbatical from posting here at The Picket. A number of factors have contributed to this but nothing that will cause me to close up shop. Actually it may be a good thing to step away from the thing for a while. My goal here has been and continues to be, to bring you the reader the best quality reading and enjoyment I can give, no matter the time between posts. Lately I have found three good little stories that I have run to ground, only to find I can not find a conclusion for them. Lack of information, even in the age of the Internet, still persists in the search for facts. Time wasted? No, not really, but the final product of these stories may be a ways off. At least I have a start!

What I have been doing in my time away is getting caught up on my reading. I do a lot of reading, mostly survey work for the blog, but I have not sat down and devoted time to a single book for some time. It has been quite refreshing to sit down of an evening and read just for the shear pleasure of reading. I have reading "projects" that I have put off for a while and now can say I have finished two of them, started a third, and lined up more for the future. My thinking is linear, and so is my reading. I never could jump from one thing to another and back again and keep track of it all. But now I can say I have accomplished my goals.

My first reading project was to finally finish reading Bruce Catton's "Centennial History of the Civil War". I must confess this was a 20 year project. I purchased the last volume "Never Call Retreat" in 1982, I know that is a fact since I used the sales receipt for a bookmark! I remember reading the first couple of chapters and deciding that I would gain more if I read it from the beginning of the series so I laid it aside. Little did I realize it would take me so long to complete the set! I finally found the first volume, "The Coming Fury" in a yard sale about 5 years ago. Ah, progress! Then last Spring while in the local Goodwill store I finally found "Terrible Swift Sword" to complete the set! YAHOO! So I started to read it, between work, school, and other Spring/Summer activities. After twenty years I can honestly say it was worth the wait. It was hardly what I expected from Catton, as it gave a distinctly Confederate viewpoint of the conflict. I do not mean to suggest that is in any way Pro Confederate or a "Lost Cause" apology as it is not. Mr. Catton drew from Confederate sources more in this body of work more than any of his other work that I am familiar with, and I am familiar with quite a bit of it. It was a good balance to say the least and I gained more understanding of the political arena of the time than from any other writing by any other author. I would highly recommend it to anyone but especially to someone just beginning to study the American Civil War as it is a good base to build upon.
Another project completed was my reading of "Gettysburg" from the Bantam Books "Eyewitness To the Civil War" series. It was another yard sale find, purchased for .25 cents about 5 years ago. This book was placed in my reading "pile" and kept getting buried by other books that seemed to hold more interest to me. It finally worked its way to the top again and I decided to go ahead and read it. Being another book about Gettysburg was mainly the reason it took so long to read since I have read many books about that battle, but this one was written by two of the actual participants and no they were not Lee, Longstreet, or that guy from Maine! Colonel William C. Oates of the 15th Alabama Infantry wrote his account long after the war for "The Century" magazine, and Lieutenant Frank A. Haskell of General John Gibbon's staff wrote his shortly after the battle. He did not survive the war.
Both give vivid accounts of the battle that held me in awe and raised my old question: "How could, why would, men endure such horror?" Of course the works hold no answer, but serve to remind us that the war was fought by ordinary men.
Finally a bit of news. Meg Thompson is nearing the completion of her book First Fallen: The Life And Times of Elmer Ellsworth. If you have not visited her blog of the same name (see my blog roll) I encourage you to do so. It will give you a feel for her writing skill and see what she is doing in the sphere of the American Civil War. I believe you will enjoy her blog, and I know you will enjoy her book. I know this because I have had the honor and privilege to be one of her pre-publication readers. I can't tell you the details but it is a well written and documented book. A review of it will come after publication. For now, visit her blog, hit the Facebook share button and start putting the book on your wish list.
And it would not hurt my feelings if you hit the Facebook share button here on my blog. I don't mind having more people reading my writing!

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