A few years ago the University Press of Kansas asked me if I would help out an old friend whom I’d never met. The friend in question was Al Castel, who had been working on a manuscript on Union leadership Of a projected eighteen chapter manuscript, Al had completed thirteen chapters and had provided text for an additional five chapters, but those chapters needed some work. I agreed to help out, provided everyone understood that this was Al’s book, and he would have to concur with whatever arrangement I proposed. Thus, as the dust jacket indicates, this is primarily Al Castel’s book, not a coauthored endeavor: at most I could claim a secondary role (thus “with”) as someone who assisted in bringing the manuscript through to publication.
In case you didn’t already know it, Al Castel is the author of a good number of books on the American Civil War, including the Lincoln Prize-winning Decision in the West, a study of the Atlanta campaign. His books are lively and sometimes controversial. He does not hold William T. Sherman in as high regard as do some people, and he ranks William S. Rosecrans more highly than is usually the case. We did not always see eye-to-eye on various subjects (his treatment of Henry W. Halleck is more favorable than mine; he holds the opinion I used to hold about Phil Sheridan, about whom I am now somewhat more ambivalent; I tend to view George B. McClellan more kindly and sympathetically). Sometimes he made some concessions where I must have been persuasive; in other cases I rested content with the knowledge that I would have my own say elsewhere.
That said, working with Al and Fred Woodward at the University Press of Kansas to bring this book to publication this fall has been a satisfying experience. The experience has also made me wonder whether it might not be interesting to embark on as yet undefined project where multiple authors debate key issues in Civil War history, engaging each other, exchanging views, and accepting the notion that historians disagree and hold different perspectives. After all, historians usually question interpretations offered by colleagues, and at times these disagreements can get fairly intense. Sometimes people say in print what I suspect they dare not say face-to-face, and sometimes it becomes tedious to deal with an author who seems bent on misrepresenting an argument for the sake of countering it (or constructing straw men for the same reason). It would be interesting to bring people together to chat about various issues and see what happens.