Friday, January 30, 2009

The Antietam Commanders Project. . .

Ted Savas, the managing director and acquisitions editor for Savas-Beatie Publishing, is currently in the midst of a series of excellent and insightful posts all about the manuscript submission process, in which he identifies a number of key steps an author should take in helping turn his/her work into a finished product. For anyone wishing to publish, Ted's posts are a MUST read. They offer sound advice and guidance, and are of particular value to those wanting to write and publish books on military history or other kinds of non-fiction.
Last summer, Savas-Beatie author and respected Civil War historian Eric Wittenberg introduced me to Ted. Having just completed a manuscript, I thought I would try my luck with Mr. Savas, to see if he'd be interested in picking up this work. After a series of email exchanges, he very generously agreed to take a look. Yet after submitting this particular manuscript, I came to the realization that because the manuscript was of such a narrow, regional focus it might not have been the best fit for Savas-Beatie. I wrote to him and told him as much, explaining that this work, again because it is so narrowly-focused, might be ideal for self-publication. (More on this later). In that same message, however, I happened to mention that I was also working on a collective biography of all the Federal and Confederate commanders who served at Antietam, from the brigade level on up, something akin to Larry Tagg's Generals of Gettysburg. It was a book, I suggested, that just needed to be written. Aside from having a great fascination with these overlooked officers, there are so many who remain relatively unknown, yet whose stories need to be told; officers such as Colonels Albert Magilton, Benjamin Christ, Henry Stainrook, and Harrison Fairchild on the Union side, and Colonels James W. Jackson, Duncan McRae, Marcellus Douglass, and Captain John Penn on the Confederate side. . .these, just to name a very few. These men played prominent roles in the action at Antietam, their actions--or inactions--all helping to shape the battle's outcome in one way or another. What is more, it is interesting to note that of the 81 brigade, division, and corps commanders present in the Army of the Potomac at Antietam, only 22--just over 25%--would still be in the army by the time of Gettysburg. Only 29 of the 56 Confederate brigade and division commanders at Antietam served at Gettysburg, just over 50%.
For more than a century after the end of the Civil War, the battle of Antietam had seemingly languished in the shadows of Gettysburg. But within recent decades, Antietam--which, call me biased, I have long argued to have been a much more decisive turning point in the war than Gettysburg--has finally begun to receive its fair historical treatment. Interest in America's Bloodiest Day Battle--both in the academic and popular realms--has been rising steadily. Thus with this growing attention, I argued that the time would be now be ideal for a work such as the one I proposed to Mr. Savas. And, much to my delight, he agreed.
Since this time, I have been in regular contact with Ted as we are working together to bring this project into book form. His guidance along the way has been incredible, and has really helped me hone my skills as a writer. Most helpful is how he is able to envision the final product, and how he has been able to help guide me toward that end.
There is certainly much that yet needs to be done. . .much more research and much more writing. But I have made this project a top priority, hoping to have at least the first draft completed within a year to a year and a half. In the upcoming months, I will keep you updated as to the progress of this work.
In the meantime, it's back to the archives--and back to that taunting blinking cursor--for me. . .
Brigadier General John C. Caldwell & Staff. . .


Anonymous said...

Alright! Great John. I was thinking a couple of months how much a book like that is needed. I'd be happy to do anything that can help you along the way.

John C. Nicholas

John David Hoptak said...

Thanks, John.
I appreciate your offer, and will be sure to call on you. . .especially now that we are neighbors.

Jim Rosebrock said...

John, I have also been reading Ted Savas's series and have thought about what we discussed about a writer's blog or something along those lines. I am really excited that you are undertaking this project. You are the best man to tackle it! Like John Nicholas, if I can help in any way, let me know.

TPS said...


Thanks for the tip of the hat.

We are excited about the Antietam commanders' project and think it will shine a heretofore long ignored light onto some of the fascinating personalities of the campaign.

Now . . . get to work. :)

Best regards

Theodore P. Savas
Managing Director
Savas Beatie LLC
989 Governor Dr., Suite 102
P.O. Box 4527, El Dorado Hills, CA 95762
Phone: 916.941.6896; Fax: 916.941.6895

Join us for behind-the-scenes publishing insights at and

Eric Wittenberg said...


Not only is that fabulous news, I'm gratified that I had a tiny little part in it. Congratulations.


John David Hoptak said...

Jim: I will no doubt be calling on you!
Eric: Thanks; in more ways than one!
Ted: I am getting back to work now.

John David Hoptak said...
This comment has been removed by the author.