I have two reasons to celebrate this December 20th. First, it’s the day I first became a father 19 years ago. Nothing quite like the delivery room to remind you what’s real. So happy birthday to Becca.
The other reason is that after pulling an all-nighter, I have sent off the pre-copy-edited text of my next book on the Civil War in the Eastern theater. We’ve not finalized the title (the title presented on Amazon was a stand-in). Writing can be a lot of fun, but the wrapping up of a manuscript can get tedious. The experience was somewhat new in that I spent more time than I ever have looking at the Confederate as well as Union high command. I’ve worked on the Yankee side of things for some time, so I was struck in reading Lee’s correspondence that we still don’t have a solid one volume biography of the Confederate general that’s grounded in a study of Lee as commander. Yes, there’s Elizabeth Pyror’s wonderful book and Emory Thomas’s provocative biography, as well as a concise study by Brian Holden Reid, but not the kind of book that ties together Lee as a general and sets that in a broader context.
One reason I like Pryor’s book, much as I liked Joseph Ellis’s biography of Thomas Jefferson and Jane Leavy’s recent look at the life of Mickey Mantle, is that in each case the author’s attempting to look at someone through a biographical prism without taking the usual birth-to-death trek. That said, there’s still room for that kind of book in Lee’s case.
I’m also intrigued that we really don’t have for any Union army (or, one might argue, any other Civil War army) the kind of book that reads like Douglas S. Freeman’s Lee’s Lieutenants, a set I prefer to his biography of Lee. I also came across some books, some old, some new, that I might want to discuss in future entries. But enough for now. Tomorrow I have to return to finishing up another manuscript. I am looking forward to a good night’s sleep, however. How the heck did I ever pull these all-nighters before (and I’m actually feeling pretty good right now)?