“Documenting America: Civil War Edition” is published

 

The temporary cover is almost exactly like the one I ended up using.
The temporary cover is almost exactly like the one I ended up using.

Making an extra post this week to announce that Documenting America: Civil War Edition is published. Over the weekend I got a lot of the work done that I described in a prior post. But, I mostly worked on the print version. On Tuesday evening, I sat in The Dungeon with the intent of getting a start on the two e-book versions. That work went well, much better than I expected. In less than an hour I had the Kindle version ready to go. So I went ahead and uploaded it.

 

Normally I would wait until the next day to mess with the Smashwords edition, mainly to keep from feeling overwhelmed with everything that needs to be done. However, I went ahead with it, and, lo and behold, I got that done in less than 30 minutes and uploaded. By the next morning, I had messages that the Kindle upload was successful, but the Smashwords upload wasn’t. Something I had done with the formatting was supported by Kindle but not by Smashwords. Last night I got it corrected and uploaded, and I’m waiting to hear if it will go live today.

On Kindle, I had two sales yesterday. That’s a good start. Those two sales place it at #35 in one of its subcategories. One or two more sales today and it might make it to the front page of the category bestseller list. That could get me excited.

Small version to link to
Small version to link to

Almost There With My Newest Book

At the Pea Ridge National Military Park, canon are placed strategically, near where actual fighting took place.
At the Pea Ridge National Military Park, canon are placed strategically, near where actual fighting took place.

Yes, I’m almost there.

On Friday, I went to The Dungeon after supper and worked on formatting Documenting America: Civil War Edition for print. I finished it in an hour and a half. That is, I think I finished it. I still will proofread it. And I haven’t created the PDF file yet. But it’s there, on the computer, ready to go. In less time than I expected.

On Saturday, in the afternoon after a busy day of yard work, house work, and grocery shopping, I again went to The Dungeon, to see if I had enough energy to tackle the two e-book versions. Following the procedures I outlined in my previous blog post, I got started, one step at a time. I stripped out the headers and footers. I already had bookmarks at each chapter, so only had to put hyperlinks in the Table Of Contents. Got that done. Then put a link at the end of each chapter back to the TOC. That’s probably not necessary, but I did it. Then I saved it as both Kindle and Smashwords files, and did the final couple of touches each of these need.

That brought me to about 6:30 p.m. I had a meatloaf on, due to come out, so I left my documents. I think, however, they are done. All except for the covers, and the acknowledgement about who did the covers and took the cover photos.

The Elkhorn Tavern was a strategic objective during the two day battle, which involved close to 30,000 combatants.
The Elkhorn Tavern was a strategic objective during the two day battle, which involved close to 30,000 combatants.

Sunday afternoon, my wife and I took a drive to the Pea Ridge National Military Park, about 25 miles from us. We’ve driven by it many times over the years as we head to Ozark destinations east of us, but haven’t actually been in the park since around 1995. I won’t go into a lot of detail on the park, or on the battle. I don’t cover this battle in my book, but this is the closest Civil War site to us, and, based on my vague memory of past visits there, knew I would have places to take photos.

We spent an hour or so there, in the visitors center, then driving the loop through the park. I got a lot of photos, the best of which, and the ones I’ll likely use on the cover, are here in this post. I will likely begin working on the covers tonight: the e-book cover for sure, and the print book cover once that’s done. One problem I have is I may not have an editable file of the original print cover. I’ll have to look around on my old computer. My son did the e-book cover for me, and a woman at our church, who does graphic design, took that and made the print cover from it. If I find it, it will either be a PDF or, possibly, a Photoshop file. If the first, I might be able to load it into G.I.M.P. and do the necessary edits. If the latter, I’m not sure G.I.M. P. can use it.

The Elkhorn Tavern has been restored to the condition it was in in 1862. The inside can't be accessed at present.
The Elkhorn Tavern has been restored to the condition it was in in 1862. The inside can’t be accessed at present.

And, of course, I’m not even sure I have the necessary skills to get this done. I’m going to try, but we’ll see. I may need outside help on the print cover. So, it’s down to the covers, and the acknowledgement of the cover on the copyright page. Get those done, and uploaded to the three sites, and it’s published. Oh, yeah, still have back cover copy to write, along with the description to put on the websites. So, a couple of days, most likely, to first publication.

Meanwhile, I promised to post about the awakening of the gray cells. That will have to wait till Friday.

The Gray Cells Are Activating

Mathew Brady did such a good job of capturing the Civil War in photos.
Mathew Brady did such a good job of capturing the Civil War in photos.

I’m in a bit of a slow period right now. Documenting America: Civil War Edition, is done. That is, the writing and editing of the master document are done. Today at noon, I went through my last mark-up of the manuscript, to see if I missed anything. I hadn’t. I thought I made a couple of notations where I wanted to add a couple of sentences, or perhaps paragraphs, but nothing showed on the manuscript. Apparently, such things were on my mind when I last read it, but I didn’t mark them on paper. Now, to re-read the entire work to find them seems too daunting to me. No, it will go to publication just as it is.

So what’s left? I need to create, from the master file, three separate files: one for Kindle, one for Smashwords, and one for CreateSpace (the print edition). I believe I will start to do that tonight. I could have done that anytime in the last week, but I wanted to wait for that one last flip through the marked-up manuscript. That now done, I’m ready to go on.

But, I’m really not ready. For some reason, the shift from writing to publishing tasks always seems to be a roadblock to me. I’d love to be able to turn this over to someone, pay them to do it. Alas, I don’t make enough on sales to afford that, so I won’t.

Cover - Corrected 2011-06What’s involved with publishing, you ask, that’s so daunting? To each of the three publishing files, I have to add a Table Of Contents. I don’t need to do this for fiction, but for a non-fiction work such as this I do. For the print version, that means inserting bookmarks in the text and cross-references to the bookmarks in the TOC. It’s not hard; just feels like busywork. For the e-book files, I have to add hyperlinks in the TOC to the beginning of each chapter, having first inserted bookmarks there, and then add hyperlinks at the end of each chapter back to the TOC, after first having inserted a bookmark there. Again, it’s not all that hard, but feels like busy work.

Next is putting information on the copyright page. It varies slightly for the three different versions. Next is adding a list of my published works to each version. For the print book, this goes in front, on the back of the half-title page (something you don’t use in an e-book). For the e-books it goes in back. And, for each version, it’s different since the list is really links to sales pages: Kindle links for the Kindle version, Smashwords links for that version. I have master files of these links on my computer at home, and can just insert them into the publication files. Normally I have to do a minor update to each file to add whatever my most previous publication was.

That gets me up to the cover. Sometimes I have another person help me with it, or even do the cover for me. This time, however, I’m determined to do make the cover myself. The cover of Documenting America: Lessons From the United States’ Historical Documents, established a series theme, a theme I like. I suppose it could be called a series brand. I’m going to use that theme, changing the text just a little, and superimposing a Civil War era photo over the old document text, leaving some of the text showing around the outside. This, I think, is something I can do, both for the e-books and the print book.

Print book covers are harder, because you have to have dimensions matched to the print size of the book. So, before I do the print cover, I’ll have to re-format the print publication file to the right size page, adjust the margins to a proper size for the smaller page, and check to make sure headers/footers are correct, and there’s no stray blank pages I don’t want. I then will know the thickness of the print book, and can finalize the cover.

Oh, yeah, at this point I also need to strip the headers/footers out of the e-book files. Running headers/footers have no meaning on an e-book, which has free-flowing text.

This isn't the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post. the final may be close to this, or somewhat different.
This isn’t the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post. the final may be close to this, or somewhat different.

A final step for the print book cover is to write some back cover copy. I don’t know that I do a very good job on this. How do you condense your 70,000 word book into a couple of paragraphs? Or, rather than condensing, what do you write that will make people take notice and want to read the book? Once I figure that out, I might get more sales.

Then, and only then, do I get to upload the three files to their respective sites. Actually, the e-book steps will most likely come together quicker, and I’ll have them done about a week before I have the print book done. I struggle with graphic arts software so much, that could actually take longer than a week.

But this post was supposed to be about gray cells starting to be activated. By that, I meant that ideas for specifics in the next book are starting to flow. However, since publishing tasks took me so many words to describe, I’ll have to save more on the gray cells for another time.

Romans Study

I may or may not have mentioned this before. Our pastor is preaching a sermon series from the book of Romans this summer. Ten sermons, I think. Our Life Group decided we would also study Romans along with the sermon. But since a schedule of sermons wasn’t posted, we’re just going through it from beginning to end. That means we’ll probably take 25 to 30 weeks on it. This was our fourth week on it (having lost a couple of weeks when we didn’t meet), and we just got through Chapter 2.

It’s been an interesting study. In Chapter 1, Paul said, “I am not ashamed of the gospel.” Why did he have to say this? What about the gospel would cause anyone to think you should be ashamed of it? Our pastor got into that this week, but he was preaching from Chapter 6. So I’ll leave the answer to that question for another post.

After that statement, Paul said that no one has an excuse for rejecting God, as what is known about him is obvious from creation. God made himself evident in creation.  That’s from Romans 1: 18-32, which also describes the progression into sin.

Romans 2:1-16 was about how sin is universal, so we should not pass judgment on those who sin, being guilty of the same things as them. These verses also showed that the sin isn’t a violation of the Jewish law. Those who never had the Jewish law still sin. And those who do right, even though they don’t have the Jewish law, are considered righteous.

So that comes to the lesson from today, Romans 2:17-29. The passage heading in my study Bible is “The Jews and the Law”. This wasn’t my week to teach, but still, since my co-teacher can be called out for veterinarian duties almost any Sunday, even when he’s not on call, I got up early Sunday morning to prepare. As I went through the scripture, I noted how, if you changed “Jew” to “Christian” and “the law” to “the Bible” in it, the passage was very applicable to the church today. You couldn’t say, “Well, I’m not a Jew, so this doesn’t apply to me.”

Normally, when I prepare a lesson but then don’t have to teach, I find my co-teacher will teach a different lesson than I would, even though it’s from the same exact scripture. This time, however, Marion had the same points as I had. He turned “Jewish” to “Christian”, and we discussed how this applied to the church. I guess great minds run together, or whatever the exact saying is.

It was a good lesson. We picked the scripture apart, first when discussing it at our individual tables, then as a full class. I should write more about it, and perhaps I’ll edit more discussion in, but for right now, suffice to say it was a great time. These few verses are packed full of wisdom and guidance. I’ll be reading them again soon.

The Last 5 percent of this Book Eludes Me

This isn't the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post.
This isn’t the cover—just a temporary mock-up graphic for this post.

That’s about all that’s left to be done on my current book: 5 percent.

Even less, in fact. I’ve completed three rounds of edits. I heard back from my beta reader. I brainstormed the cover and think I can pull it off on my own. I’ve even set up a mock paperback edition, so I would know how big it would be.

All that’s left is for me to find two or three hours of computer time to type the edits and do some last minute formatting changes. But, since I got home from vacation last Saturday, that time hasn’t materialized. Saturday and Sunday were mostly taken up with the return home and continuing to help with the grandkids. They left Sunday evening. For that evening and until I went back to work Wednesday morning, I completed my reading of the manuscript and marking edits. I did find about an hour of computer time to type some of those edits, but have much more to go.

Wednesday afternoon, I had a wisdom tooth pulled. The reasons why would take too long to explain. I figured I’d be up to some computer time that evening. I was wrong. I really didn’t feel like doing anything, so be watched a bunch of episodes of The West Wing, season five. That’s where we left off three or four years ago, and we wanted to finish the series. That continued Thursday evening, and I suspect it will continue this evening. We have several more discs/episodes to go. Still, it would be nice to get at least an hour of typing done tonight. I’m planning on it.

Just looking at this photo, is it any wonder I left writing for a while? Elise, posing as a Chines opera performer, at the Indianapolis Children's Museum.
Just looking at this photo, is it any wonder I left writing for a while? Elise, posing as a Chines opera performer, at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum.

That’s one of the beauties of self-publishing. Deadlines are self-imposed. So if Life prevents you from meeting a deadline, no one is waiting for you. Just reschedule and go on. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m sure that, between Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, I’ll find enough time to type all my edits. I also have three places marked where I think it would be good to add a little more narrative. I don’t know that those places are critical, but, as I read through this last time, I thought more narrative would be beneficial. Hopefully, I’ll be able to find those pages again as I flip through the manuscript.

I was quite pleased with the comments my beta reader made. He’s a fellow writer who has a great interest in history, especially in the Civil War. Like me, he’s a northerner who spent most of his adult life living and working in the South, more years than me, actually. He confirmed to me that my goals for the book had been met, in that I:

  • was informative
  • brought out facts not commonly known
  • had a good mix of documents to be examined
  • struck a good balance between Northern and Southern interests as they were expressed at the time of the war
  • correctly showed slavery was the main reason for the war
  • didn’t gloss over Southern interests other than slavery
  • and did a good job linking the issues then to issues we face today.

That’s exactly what I’m hoping for this book, and for the series, so I’m glad for those comments.

Now, on to typing! On to publishing! I might yet get this done in July.

A Long Vacation

Mel's Diner has singing wait staff. They were very good.
Mel’s Diner in Branson has singing wait staff. They were very good.

Every now and then I see something that says that Americans take shorter vacations than we did 40 years ago, or whatever timeframe yo want to pick. I suppose that’s true. Many people never take a week-long vacation these days, let alone two weeks. They opt for four and five day weekends. Which is better: the long vacation or the long weekend?

Lynda and I were just on a two-week vacation (almost) with our daughter and her family. They arrived from Oklahoma City late on June 19. The next morning we drove east, in two vehicles, to Indianapolis. Strange place to vacation, you ask? Not when it’s time for the Church of the Nazarene’s quadrennial meetings. Three general conventions of the missions, youth, and educational organizations, followed by the General Assembly, the governing body of the denomination. Richard, our son-in-law, was a delegate to the missions society General Convention. They asked us to go along to help with the kids, as they decided to make a family trip out of it.

Elise, posing as a Chines opera performer, at the Indianapolis Children's Museum
Elise, posing as a Chines opera performer, at the Indianapolis Children’s Museum

Richard was tied up the 21st through 23rd with the convention. I took him to downtown, to the convention center, from the rental house we had three miles away. It was an older, three-story house that was nicely restored. The floors creaked, but the house functioned quite well. The Wi-Fi and coffee maker worked, as did the microwaves, and it had a nice front porch with chairs and table. What more could you ask for?

I won’t go into all the activities we did. Needless to say, with four children, and with me getting sick one day and Lynda not feeling well on a couple of days, we probably did less than we thought we could. On Friday we went to see the expo hall associated with the general conventions. The kids had a good time in the bouncy play place. Lynda stayed with them while I walked the exhibits. I bought one book, saw a couple of friends, and had a good time. We al

Worshipping with 25,000 others Sunday morning at Nazarene General Assembly
Worshipping with 25,000 others Sunday morning at Nazarene General Assembly

so went to the Sunday morning service, and met up with a friend from more than 40 years ago. It was all quite enjoyable.

 

Then, on Monday, June 26, we drove from Indianapolis to Branson Missouri for the second leg of the trip. Here we stayed in a condo we were able to book using points from our timeshare: same resort company, but different resort from where we own. So, we had no out-of-pocket expense for the accommodation. It was two story, with two large bedrooms (one up one down), and two pull-out couches. It is central to just about everything in Branson.

The week was interrupted, however, because we had a gap in having someone to watch Lynda’s mom. So on Tuesday afternoon I drove to our house, only two hours on back roads, and spent that night with her. Wednesday afternoon I drove back to Branson with her, and she was able to spend a little time with her great-grandchildren and eat dinner with us. I drove back late that evening, and left early the next morning for Branson. That was the day we planned to go to Silver Dollar City, so I was on the road by 7:30 a.m.

I was last in Marvel Cave in October 1974. The tour is now much longer and much improved.
I was last in Marvel Cave in October 1974. The tour is now much longer and much improved.

For those reading the blog who don’t know about Silver Dollar City, it is truly amazing. It’s a theme park, with clusters or rides appropriate for all ages. It’s a crafters’ location, with such things as blacksmithing, candy making, glass blowing, and more. Of course, there are many, many opportunities to be separated from your money. If you avoid, those, and concentrate on the rides and crafts, it is really a lovely place. I was last there in October 2014, and have been there (I think) three other times in my life. There’s still much I haven’t seen. Lynda and I are thinking of going back sometime this fall, though we’ll see.

We played miniature golf twice. The first time we didn’t keep score, the second time we did, and I beat Richard by one stroke and Lynda by two. Sara was only a couple behind that. The three older kids enjoyed it a lot, though they were certainly rambunctious, and keeping them where they were supposed to be, and not bothering other players, was a constant battle.

I won’t mention everything we did in Branson. We did quite a bit; not always the whole group of us, but everyday saw some activity. Then, on Saturday July 1, we made the two hour drive home. That afternoon, the kids rode bikes, Ephraim caught two snakes and several toads, the parents rested, and I took the kids blackberry picking. The boys grew tired of it and went back to the house, but Elise stuck it out. The next day was church at our home church, and an afternoon of more snakes, toads, play, and blackberry picking.

Miniature golf, with four kids, three of whom are players. What's not to love?
Miniature golf, with four kids, three of whom are players. What’s not to love?

The OKC group drove back last night, through a rainstorm, and got home around 11 p.m. The Bella Vista three took the occasion to watch a movie, and just read. I kept thinking about those that left us, and they there is no quiet for them, at least not for another 18 years.

So, all the posts over the last two weeks were written ahead of time and scheduled to go live on my regular posting days. I’m back in real time now. Back to the daily grind on Wednesday, back to my writing “career” today.

Relaxing?

I’m writing this post ahead of time, to go live Friday June 30. At that time, I’ll be on vacation with the family in Branson, Missouri, the day before ending our trip. The question is, will I be relaxing or not?

From June 20-25 we were in Indianapolis, where our son-in-law, Richard, was a delegate to some of our church quadrennial meetings. Since Richard and Sara decided to make a family trip out of it, Lynda and I are along mainly to help. I write this before we even left. Our preparations for the trip are stressful. I can only imagine what Richard and Sara are going through.

We leave (or left, as you’re reading this) for Branson on June 26. There’s plenty to do there. Silver Dollar City will be on the agenda, as will a show, and probably a movie. Maybe even relaxing by the pool. Possibly the grandkids will allow us time to get a little reading in.

But, will I be able to relax? It’s been a busy time at work and home. I certainly need to decompress a bit. I’m just not sure this vacation is going to do the trip.

I’m scheduling this to post on the 30th. Possibly I’ll find time to come back and edit in some things about the trip, and report on my being able to relax.

A Gettysburg Item Not Mentioned

As I mentioned in a couple of prior posts, I recently finished a book about General Robert E. Lee’s Gettysburg campaign. In that book, Last Chance For Victory, the authors speak much about the second day of the battle. The first day was also covered extensively, though the third somewhat less than the first two. On the first day, the Confederate army and the Union army met almost accidentally at Gettysburg. A major clash wasn’t expected quite that soon by Lee. So the ebb and flow of the battle had to do with standing orders for both sides, and with soldiery and generalship, and less to do with strategy.

Lee's gamble of marching north, to take the pressure off Virginia, and to force the North to end the war, didn't pay off. This book suggests it came very, very close.
Lee’s gamble of marching north, to take the pressure off Virginia, and to force the North to end the war, didn’t pay off. This book suggests it came very, very close.

But, on the second day, it was all about strategy and tactics. So say Bowden and Ward, the authors of LCFV. Lee spent much of the night of July 1-2 working on his strategy, even before he knew for sure what the Federal positions were and which of his own forces would be available for battle. He consulted with his corps commanders: Longstreet, Hill, and Ewell. They had ideas of what to do, especially Longstreet. Lee considered that, then set a plan for a frontal attack from the west against Cemetery Ridge, held by the Union. A “demonstration” in force by Ewell’s corps from the north was also part of it, which Lee meant to develop into a full attack, depending on how the Union reacted. These plans took most of the morning to prepare, and were to launch in the early afternoon.

But, when Lee and others made a final check of the front. It was discovered that General Sickles, a corps commander for the Union, had moved his corps down Cemetery Ridge into a forward position along the Emmitsburg Road, over a mile closer to the Confederates. And, his new line had a “kink” in it; it wasn’t a nice straight line as armies are used to forming. It also left the Union susceptible to flanking movements, either around Sickles to the south or between Sickles and the next corps, commanded by General Hancock.

Bowden and Ward say this was a stupid move on Sickles’ part. This is echoed in other accounts that I’ve read, limited as they are. Sickles was too exposed, his new line too hard to defend. Yes, it was a stupid. The results of the battle “prove” this true. Sickles’ corps was decimated by Lee’s attack. They fell back—the ones that weren’t killed, injured or captured. That stupid Sickles cost the Union a functioning corps.

Except, because of Sickles’ move, Lee changed his battle plan. Instead of a full, frontal attack simultaneously by two corps, he went with an en echelon attack, that is, an attack that progressed from one end of the line to the other, not simultaneously, but sequentially, division by division or brigade by brigade. This took an hour or so to put together and issue new orders. Thus, the Confederate attack didn’t kick off until about 4:00 in the afternoon. It went well, but fell apart as dark was approaching, giving Lee no time to take corrective action.

So Sickles’ move cost the South about an hour of battle daylight. Lee famously said that they needed another half hour to make the attack successful. Why didn’t he have the time he needed? Because of Sickles’ move. So, even though his corps took heavy, heavy casualties, wasn’t his move what saved the day for the Union?

Bowden and Ward didn’t discuss the time factor, the time Sickles’ took away from Lee by changing his position. Yes, his casualties were heavy, but it seems to me it was the key move by either army in the whole sequence of the three-day battle. While Lee was adjusting his strategy and orders, the Federal army was able to bring up more troops that were arriving, and make other adjustments. Also, troops badly beaten the previous day had an extra hour to get their act together. Many were still not battle-worthy, but with an extra hour of rest, and time for their officers to rally them, they had to be in better shape at 4:00 p.m. than they would have been at 2:00 p.m., when the battle might have kicked off according to Lee’s original plan.

So, was Sickles’ move folly, or genius? Everything I’ve read says it was folly. Is their no one among the battle’s historians who see this as a good move—a costly move, but a good one in that it bought time, time that the Union desperately needed. Who am I to question military historians, a novice such as I am?

I have much more reading to do on this to know for sure. And, I don’t know that that time will ever present itself for me to be able to do this. I hope, some year, I’ll get to read more on it, and maybe write something from more knowledge.

Book Review: Last Chance For Victory

For research purposes, I picked up a used copy of Last Chance For Victory. The subtitle is Robert E. Lee and the Gettysburg Campaign. The authors are Scott Bowden and Bill Ward. Bowden has written many books on military issues, especially the Napoleonic wars. I didn’t check into Ward’s credentials.

Lee was a professional soldier, who fought for the honor of his state. But since the cause he fought for was so wrong, his legend will always be tained.
Lee was a professional soldier, who fought for the honor of his state. But since the cause he fought for was so wrong, his legend will always be tained.

I began reading this sometime in 2014, when I began writing my book Documenting America: Civil War Edition. As I said in a prior post, I knew I would be including a chapter on Gettysburg, so I thought this would be good research for me. The paperback copy I read is 529 pages long, not including one tabular appendix, but including the many, many pages of end notes for each chapter. I read the first five chapters (221 pages) back then, then put it aside when I put my book aside. But, this April, I went back to work on my book, so went back to reading LCFV, in early May. I think I remembered the gist of what I’d read three years ago.

This is a very good book. Bowden and Ward make a good case that Lee handled himself very well in the Gettysburg campaign, from recognizing the strategic need for it, to planning it, to executing it. Yes, the Confederacy lost this battle, but not because of Lee, they say. In their last chapter, they list 17 causes for the Confederate loss. A couple of them were things that the Union did, or their generals did. Except for that, the authors missed no opportunity to show their disdain of the Northern soldier and his generals. Concerning Lee, they listed only two faults:

  1. failure to keep a large enough headquarters staff to do all that a commanding general needed done; and
  2. failure to take tactical control on the third day of the battle, when it was obvious that two of his three corps commanders (and, they actually make a case for all three) failed to execute Lee’s orders, either to the level of incompetence or insubordination. Even the oft-praised General Longstreet came in for harsh criticism for his performance on the third day of the battle.

Everything else, Lee did flawlessly. That cavalry general Jeb Stuart misread Lee’s orders and went gallivanting in Pennsylvania, far enough from where Lee concentrated his army to be absent the first two days and ineffective the third day was Stuart’s fault, not Lee’s. They go into great lengths on this. Their arguments are fairly convincing. It appears Stuart didn’t follow orders, though I can see some ambiguity in the orders. That Ewell’s corps didn’t take Culp Hill on the first day was Ewell’s fault for over-emphasizing the words “if practicable” in the order. On this, I think Bowden and Ward have good grounds for criticism of General Ewell. Many military victories (so I’ve read) have happened when a field commander took the initiative and fought for and took the hill, then held it until reinforcements arrived.

But, they don’t find fault with Lee for failing to come to the front lines on the second day, when the en echelon attack was in progress, and kick his corps commanders in their sorry rear ends and get their divisions and brigades into the action as they’d been ordered to do. Instead, Lee stayed in his headquarters, watching or receiving reports on the action. If he had just taken one of General Hill’s divisions and shoved them to the front, the entire battle would have been different. Maybe.

I have a couple of criticisms of the book. The main one is that the authors fixate on a point and beat it to death. The en echelon attack is the main one, along with the failures of Ewell, Hill, Stuart, and to a lesser extent Longstreet. These were covered in the chapter of that part of the battle, then mentioned in the next chapter, the next chapter, and left beaten to death in the summary. They could have done with much less of this, either covering other things, or making the book shorter. I also found a few more typos than I would have liked. One map for the action on July 1 was labeled as for July 2. But, overall, I would say the typos didn’t bother me.

The comments on Amazon indicate this book is controversial, in that it gives too much credit to Lee, overlooks some of his shortcomings, and fails to say that the Union army and generals had something to do with the Confederacy losing. Since this is my first book to read on Gettysburg, I really can’t say much to that. For sure it is highly favorable to Lee. Whether he deserved those laurels for this battle, someone else will have to determine.

I bought this book for a whopping $0.50, probably at a thrift store. I don’t know that I’ll ever read it again. If I read more on Gettysburg it will be other books. But, for now, I’ll keep it as a reference book. I might have to refer to it again.

Slogging Through Romans 2

Our pastor is preaching from Romans for the summer, so our Life Group decided we would study it along with the sermons. I suspect Pastor Mark will have about eight to ten sermons from Romans. But, studying it as a Bible study will require many more weeks than that, perhaps as many as 25 to 30 weeks. This was the third week for the series, and pastor is in Romans 6, whereas in Life Group we are just through Chapter 2 verse 16.

I found many lessons to teach yesterday from Romans 2:1-16. I chose to focus on the statements along the lines of “you have no excuse.” The main two are 1:19-20 and 2:14-15. Here’s what those four verses say, presented herein as if they are consecutive in the book.

What may be known about God is plain to them  [mankind], because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts now accusing, now even defending them.

So, in these verses, God is saying, through Paul, that mankind is without excuse as to following Him or not. You can’t get to the gates of heaven and say, “No one presented the gospel to me in a clear way, a way I could understand it.” Nor can you say, “I’m a Gentile, and didn’t have the benefits the Jews had.” Nor can you say, “I’m a Jew. We were God’s chosen people.” In each case, God says, “You have no excuse. I made Myself plain to you. All who sin apart from the law, all who sine under the law, and you now have your eternal punishment.”

Ouch. That’s something no one wants to hear. Everyone wants to think that everyone they know who dies makes it heaven. Not so, says God through Paul.

I think I need to spend a lot more time in these few verses. Of course, in twenty or so weeks I might think that about all of Romans.

Author | Engineer