ECWS Audiobooks! · ECW and the ACWM · 10 Questions...with Dave Powell · News & Notes · Behind the Scenes · Emerging Revolutionary War
Since remarrying five years ago, I’ve lived on the edge of the Chancellorsville battlefield but I’ve continued to teach at St. Bonaventure University. Online classes have shortened that distance, but I still regularly commute between Virginia and western New York—a trip that usually takes me about seven hours. “How do you do it?” people ask.
“I listen to a lot of books,” I reply.
I’ve been a big audiobook listener since I was in graduate school at the University of Maine. I had a 40-minute commute to work back then, so I listened to books as a way to cram for the department’s final comprehensive exam. At the time, I worked in radio as a newscaster, so my ear was already attuned to attentive listening. I made it through a good chunk of the English canon that way.
While my career eventually led me to PR, then the classroom, and then to the Civil War, I never lost my love for the spoken word. That first manifest itself in playwriting; later, as I shifted to nonfiction, I realized how much my former radio career influenced my writerly “voice.” I even aspired to one day narrate an audiobook.
Earlier this year, Ted Savas approached me with the idea of releasing the entire Emerging Civil War Series as audiobooks. I jumped at the chance—not only because I’m a huge audiobook fan and thought the series would sound great in that format, but because I thought I might finally have the chance to fulfill my goal to narrate a book. Ted was glad to give me the chance.
I chose my most recent title,
The Great Battle Never Fought: The Mine Run Campaign, as my guinea pig. It was more grueling to do than I had imagined, but it was gratifying, too. When Audible released the book in mid-April, I was absolutely delighted—and ready to get to work on another.
Ted and I have auditioned several other great narrators for the series—Bob Neufeld, Joe Williams, and Joshua Saxon—and we’ll be releasing books just as fast as their voices allow. Our goal is to have the entire series out by the end of the calendar year. I’ve already listened to first takes of
The Aftermath of Battle by Meg Groeling,
Let Us Die Like Men by Lee White,
Simply Murder by Kris White and me, and my own
Hell Itself. We have six other books at various stages of production, too.
I hope you like what you hear. For me, it’s been the sound of a dream come true.
— Chris Mackowski, Ph.D., Editor-in-Chief
On May 4, Emerging Civil War is excited to be a part of the grand opening of the new
American Civil War Museum
in Richmond, Virginia. As part of grand-opening festivities, we’ll be broadcasting a series of Facebook LIVE segments throughout the day.
We’ve been working with the American Civil War Museum, along with our friends at
Civil War Monitor
, to promote some exciting new voices in the field through our Emerging Scholars program. During our Facebook segments, we’ll talk with our scholars about their work. In the meantime, you can get a preview of our Emerging Scholars here:
This is sure to be a great weekend, and we’re excited to help show off the new museum. Tune in to Emerging Civil War’s Facebook page to join us!
10 Questions . . .
with Dave Powell
is the award-winning author of the three-volume Chickamauga Campaign, as well as two volumes in the Emerging Civil War Series about Chattanooga. You can
read his full bio here
. He was also profiled in the
October 2016 ECW newsletter
. (In the photo, Dave, right, is pictured with Gordon Jones of the Atlanta History Center previewing the restored Cyclorama.)
Since we last profiled you, you’ve received quite a bit of recognition for your excellent Chickamauga trilogy—congratulations! That has to be pretty gratifying.
Chickamauga consumed about 15 years of my writing career, so it is extremely gratifying to see that work recognized and for others to see the worth of it. I wanted to write a very detailed tactical account of the battle, and I accomplished that. Of course, tactical studies can be difficult to digest and understand—for example, it took me at least two readings to really grasp Harry Pfanz's outstanding books on July 2nd at Gettysburg, and I could still use a third trip through them—so I am also gratified that so many people have embraced them. All three volumes are now sold out in hardcover, and the paperbacks remain steady sellers at the park headquarters.
I confess it is also very humbling to walk into the Chickamauga Visitor's Center bookstore and see so many of my titles displayed prominently on the shelves there. I feel like I have had an impact on the scholarship of the battle, and I am gratified that I could contribute.
You’ve lamented in the past that Chickamauga has been under-studied, despite the magnitude of the battle. Over the past year or so, several other Chickamauga studies have started to come out. Do you think the battle is now starting to get the attention it deserves, or is there still more work to be done?
The Civil War community seems to have awoken to the idea that Chickamauga is worthy of deep study. That is also very satisfying. We are now seeing detailed works on aspects of the battle, such as the September 18th fighting or the assaults on Horseshoe Ridge, and some very good walking tour guides for folks who want to explore parts of the park in more depth. We also have the first operational campaign history starting to appear: the first volume of Dr. William G. Robertson's two volume campaign study was published last year, and his remaining volume is due reasonably soon.
There is still room for good work on other aspects of the battle, however. When will there be "enough?" Here I apply the same standard to any Civil War battle or campaign: "enough" will be when insightful work stops appearing. As heavily studied as Gettysburg is, I am still pleasantly surprised every couple of years to find a new, high-quality monograph on some aspect of the event that casts new light on its subject. I expect the same to happen for Chickamauga. The best thing about our Civil War community is that we are all voracious learners; we are usually willing to step up and read the next new volume in hopes of new knowledge or insight.
You’ve followed up your Chickamauga work with a pair of ECW Series books on Chattanooga, which was the follow-up to Chickamauga. That seems pretty natural. But you’ve also just published a book on Franz Sigel at New Market. What’s the connection to that book?
The Chattanooga books are indeed the obvious progression from Chickamauga, and they were fun to do. Additionally, in 2018 I was asked to write yet another book on the Chattanooga Campaign, titled
Grant at Chattanooga
, for Drs. Tim Smith and John Marszelek, to appear as part of their series on Grant, published by Southern Illinois Press. That one will probably be out in late 2019 or (more likely) 2020. So over the past two years, I have been fully immersed in Chattanooga.
The battle of New Market is strongly connected to the Virginia Military Institute. VMI runs the battlefield, which is now a State Park, and New Market plays a significant role in the development of new cadets ("Rats,") as they learn about the Institute's heritage and traditions. When I matriculated at VMI in the fall of 1979, I became strongly interested in the battle. Over the course of four years, I often spent weekends there doing living history, and participated in several of the re-enactments.
So, I wanted to write about the battle for a long time. I talked to one press about a title to be released in 2014 as part of the 150th Anniversary series, but in 2010, Charles Knight published an excellent new view of the battle, leaving my manuscript in the wind. If I wanted to do more work on the subject, I needed something new to say. It occurred to me that Sigel's role, and that of the Federal army in general there, were not fully developed in any previous work.
Thus I revised my work and approached Savas Beatie. Ted Savas liked it and signed me up. I appreciate his willingness to take a chance on this topic, given that he was Charles Knight's publisher as well; but I think the books can be viewed as complementary instead of direct competitors.
VMI has a long tradition of its own worth exploration, including a rich Civil War history. As an alum, how have you seen the Institute change over the years?
Lexington Virginia is certainly awash in Civil War History. VMI, Stonewall Jackson, Robert E. Lee—not to overlook Little Sorrel and Traveler, Lee's and Jackson's famous mounts, respectively. VMI has embraced that heritage. New cadets salute Stonewall Jackson’s statue when they exit the main arch. VMI runs the Stonewall Jackson house in town, and as mentioned, VMI manages the New Market Battlefield, and every May 15 the Corps of Cadets holds a New Market Parade where the ten cadets who were killed in action are remembered.
These things are all largely unchanged. Just prior to my arrival, there was some controversy over the playing of “Dixie,” and in 1976 VMI stopped using that music. The Confederate flag is also no longer flown.
Of course, the institute has changed dramatically in other ways—new buildings, more students, more degree offerings—but the core values are not likely to change any time soon.
Are you able to give us any hints on what you’re working on next?
Grant at Chattanooga
. That project is complete and awaiting word from the editors. I am also finishing up a project with a good friend, Eric Wittenberg, which is a history of the Tullahoma Campaign. This was the June/early July 1863 campaign that drove the Confederates out of Middle Tennessee, an important event that has been overshadowed by Vicksburg and Gettysburg, which all culminated simultaneously. That book should appear in 2020.
My next long-term project is a multi-volume history of the Atlanta Campaign. My research is largely complete, and I hope to begin writing this year. Additionally, I want to do a couple more “Maps” projects: Maps of Chattanooga, long promised but often interrupted; Maps of the Atlanta Campaign, and Maps of Shiloh. We'll see how many of those I get to in the next couple of years.
Lightning Round (short answers):
Favorite primary source?
The National Tribune.
Favorite Civil War-related monument?
A tough one. Probably the current favorite is the Cleveland Ohio monument, with the color guard of the 103rd Ohio at Resaca depicted. I also have a soft spot for “Death and Night,” the UDC Monument at Shiloh.
Favorite unsung hero of the Civil War era?
What’s a bucket-list Civil War site you’ve not yet visited?
Believe it or not, Fort Sumter. I have never managed to get to Charleston.
Favorite ECWS book that’s not one of your own?
We have a new winner:
Let Us Die Like Men
, Lee White's new book on Franklin. Before that it was probably Brandy Station.
Emerging Civil War Symposium
Time is ticking away to get your ticket for the Sixth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge. For that matter, tickets are ticking away! We have just a handful of spots left for the event, Aug. 2-4, 2019, in Spotsylvania, Virginia.
Our theme this year is Forgotten Battles of the Civil War, with keynote speaker A. Wilson Greene and a line-up of ten speakers in two venues. We’ll also have a tour of North Anna. We’d love to have you join us! Tickets at only $155 for all three days. For more information, and to order tickets, visit
sends us some big news. He recently joined his company soccer team and scored a goal in the first game but then suffered a badly torn hamstring. “My newfound rehab time has allowed me to do a lot of map work, some of which you will see at this year's ECW Symposium,” he says.
will be quite busy this spring. He will be leading a two-day private tour of the Richmond battlefields during the first weekend in May, and will be speaking at Hanover Tavern on May 7 on Glendale. He will also be conducting a tour of Fort Harrison for the Boy Scouts on April 27.
will be co authoring an ECW book on Stones River with the indefatigable Bert Dunkerly. Keep your eyes peeled for updates on this overlooked battle of the west.
’s “Critics Corner” focused on John R. Lundberg’s
Granbury’s Texas Brigade: Diehard Western Confederates
in the May 2019
Civil War News.
Steve also wrote an article for the paper about the Confederate Medal of Honor.
published a book review in the May 2019
Civil War News
Aberration of Mine: Suicide and Suffering in the Civil War-Era South
by Diane Miller.
Brian Matthew Jordan
will be speaking about his book
at the Lone Star College CyFair, Houston, TX, on April 24.
recently had an article on the battle of Kohima published. You can find it in the latest
magazine or download a PDF of the issue here:
survived the wedding of his daughter, Stephanie, at the end of March.
On Sunday, April 7,
helped lead a tour of Myer’s Hill on the Spotsylvania battlefield for the Central Virginia Battlefields Trust, which recently purchased more than 73 acres of land there.
is writing up a storm this spring. He is wrapping up an article for
Civil War Times
about the relationships between Ambrose Burnside, Fitz John Porter, and George McClellan during and after the Maryland Campaign. Additionally, the publication date for his next book,
Antietam National Battlefield
in Arcadia Publishing's Images of America Series, is July 8, 2019.
Emerging Civil War Podcast
In April, the Emerging Civil War Podcast opened the Chancellorsville Campaign and hit the archives. In our first podcast of the month, Chris Mackowski and Dan Welch talked about ancestor research and ways you can explore your own family tree to find out more about your Civil War connections. In the second podcast of the month, Chris Mackowski and Kris White began the first of a two-part conversation on Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy.
With books in the Emerging Civil War Series now coming out in audio, we thought we’d take you behind the scenes of that process.
is one of narrators giving voice to the ECWS books. You can find out more about him at his website,
There’s a great story about how your niece first got you involved in the audiobook business. Can you recap that for us?
When my niece and nephew were young children, I found a big book of illustrated fairy tales to give them and had the idea to record the stories for them to help them learn to read. All I had at the time was an old cassette tape recorder, but it went over well and I forgot about it.
Jump ahead 30 years. My niece now has four young children of her own. She still had the book but not the recording and wanted one for her little ones. As I made the new recording, it occurred to me that all those people who’d said I had a good voice might be on to something.
I looked around and found a website called librivox.org where volunteers can record public domain material for anyone to download and listen to. I wasn’t very good in the beginning, but as I improved, I did a lot of older, wonderful literature there. (Dickens anyone?) When I felt my skills, recording space, and equipment were ready, I started to narrate professionally.
Of course, not all narrators are created equal. You have such a distinctive style. What is it you try to bring to a book when you read it?
The fundamental goal is not only to convey the information, but be the voice of the author and pass along his/her knowledge of and passion for the material. Among narrators, the most common phrase used to convey that is “tell the story.”
That may seem to apply more to fiction than non-fiction, but it is just as important—perhaps more so, because in fiction, the plot, characters and settings do a lot of that for the narrator (and the listener). In non-fiction, the author is also telling a story, and the narrator must find a way to make that come across and pull in the listener without overdoing it and lessening the impact.
Writing for the page is different than writing for the ear. What challenges do you sometimes face in translating words from the page to the ear?
I’m very fortunate with this series of books in that they are well written and make it easy to get into a flow. I have had other books, fiction and non-fiction, in which the syntax was so mangled or the sentence structures were so convoluted that I had to stop over and over just to figure out what was actually being said. I would respectfully suggest that all authors read their writing out loud and to an audience (of one perhaps) before the finish.
Another challenge, especially in historical material, is correct pronunciation of names, places, etc. Sometimes the only way to get it right (if the author is not available) is to call local sources. I once called the local office of the Army Corp of Engineers to find how the name of a creek was pronounced.
When you first decided to audition for ECW books, what attracted you to the project?
First of all, I love history. Second, my voice and style fit very well with it. Then, anytime I choose a project, I want to be sure that there are solid resources behind it. I was in production on two other books for Ted Savas when this series came up. Based on my excellent experience with Ted, I was very comfortable and eager to do more for Savas Beatie.
Two more factors heightened my interest. The vast scope of the series. 40+ books covering so much of our country’s greatest trial. I don’t know of any other opportunity like this one for a narrator. Then I read the audition excerpt drawn from
and was hooked! It made me want to read the whole book whether I got to narrate it or not. That’s always a very good sign.
You’re not a Civil War buff, per se, but you’ve said how much you’ve enjoyed the ECW books as you’ve worked on them. What is it you like about them?
The biggest plus for me is what I’m learning. That is a big reason I like to record non-fiction. I can explore in some depth many new and different topics and people. In this case, over the years, I’ve learned a fair amount about the Civil War, maybe more than most Americans, but not in the depth I would like. For example, like everyone else, I knew about Custer at Little Big Horn, but I hadn’t associated him with the Civil War. I will shortly be recording the ECW series book covering that very topic!
The depth and the resulting length of the books is another big plus. The listener (and I) can get a very good understanding of the events, people and themes in a relatively short time.
When it comes to the joy of the actual narrating, I love all the quotes from participants up and down the ranks. They give me a chance to bring an almost fiction-like energy and variety to the reading, not to mention bringing a very human and emotional quality to the experience. I am very fortunate to have this opportunity!
Emerging Revolutionary War News
April is a momentous month in terms of Revolutionary War history. The “shots heard around the world’ were fired in this month 244 years ago in the towns of Lexington and Concord. If you are in the New England area, be sure to check out the events that commemorate Lexington, Concord, and the role Boston played in that time frame.
If April 1775 was a new beginning for the thirteen American colonies, then April 2019 provides a new look for Emerging Revolutionary War with the completion of our new logo!
ERW Historian Travis Shaw will be speaking on April 13 at the Mine Run (VA) Daughters of the American Revolution Chapter on the Battles of Lexington and Concord if you are in the area.
Bert Dunkerly has been working with the American Revolution Round Table of Richmond, Virginia, to produce a guide to Revolutionary War sites in the city and surrounding area. Bert says, “While we all love the Civil War, it overshadows some great sites that we hope to draw attention to.”
9th: Doug Crenshaw, “The Battle of Glendale,” Hanover Tavern Series
14th: Chris Mackowski, “The Last Days of Stonewall Jackson,” Richmond (VA) Civil War Roundtable, Richmond, VA
14th: Derek Maxfield, “Hellmira,” Butler Civil War Roundtable, Butler, PA
16th: Sarah Kay Bierle, Powhatan County Civil War Round Table, VA
16th: Sean Michael Chick, “P.G.T. Beauregard,” Baton Rouge (LA) Civil War Roundtable
16th: Dwight Hughes, “Rebel Odyssey: The Cruise of the CSS
,” Hershey (PA) Civil War Roundtable
16th-18th: Dwight Hughes, “War in the Arctic: Twilight of New Bedford’s Golden Age of Whaling,” North American Society for Oceanic History’s Annual Conference, New Bedford, MA
18th: Steward T. Henderson, 23rd USCT Living History Event, Chancellorsville Battlefield, Stop 10 Fairview, 9am to 5pm.
18th-19th: Sarah Kay Bierle, Author Presentations and Book Signings at New Market Battlefield Civil War Reenactment
28th: Bert Dunkerly, “To The Bitter End,” Williamsburg Civil War Round Table, Williamsburg, VA
29th: Derek Maxfield, Historical play “Now We Stand by Each Other Always,” West Seneca Historical Society, W. Seneca, NY
1st: Gazette665’s Fourth Annual Civil War History Conference, Temecula, CA
- Chris Mackowski – Grant’s Overland Campaign
- Sarah Kay Bierle – Medical Care during the 1864 Valley Campaigns
10th: Eric Wittenberg, “Minty and Wilder at Chickamauga,” Ann Arbor (MI) Civil War Roundtable
12th: Sarah Kay Bierle, Inland Empire Civil War Round Table, Redlands, CA
13th: Phill Greenwalt, “The Florida Brigade at Gettysburg,” North Florida Civil War Round Table, FL
13th: Chris Mackowski, “That Furious Struggle: Chancellorsville and the High Tide of the Confederacy,” California University of Pennsylvania Civil War Roundtable
17th: Derek Maxfield, “Hellmira,” Charlottesville Civil War Roundtable, Charlottesville, VA
19th: Derek Maxfield, Historical play “Now We Stand by Each Other Always,” Valley Civil War Roundtable, Pavilion, NY
20th: Chris Mackowski, “Hell Itself: The Battle of the Wilderness,” Hershey (PA) Civil War Roundtable
20th: Chris Kolakowski, “Grant Take Command,” Rufus Barringer Civil War Round Table, Pinehurst, NC
22nd: Derek Maxfield, Historical play “Now We Stand by Each Other Always,” Buffalo-Niagara Heritage Village, Amherst, NY