Thursday, January 09, 2014

Interview With Authors---Gettysburg: The Story of the Battle With Maps, Detweiler and Reisch [Part One]

Interview with David Detweiler and David Reisch, of Gettysburg: The Story Of The Battle With Maps, Editors of Stackpole Press, [2013]

DD--David Detweiler, President and Chairman, Stackpole Publishing, author
DR—David Reisch, historian, researcher, cartographer, author

CWL—Civil War Librarian, Rea Andrew Redd, Director, Eberly Library, and adjunct instructor, U.S. history, Waynesburg University, Waynesburg, PA 15370; author of Gettysburg Campaign Study Guide, Volume One, [2012]. 

CWL: 1. Tell us a bit about yourself regarding and how you came to be editors for Stackpole Press?
DD:  STACKPOLE is a family-owned small business and I the fourth generation.  We do excellent books, I think.  Have been running it for 38 years;  if survival’s success, am succeeding.
DR:  It was my good fortune that Stackpole was hiring just as I left college with a degree in history and a love for the written word.  I’m still here more than ten years later.

CWL: 2. As editors, what tasks to you regularly do?
DD:  I am an editor at heart, despite title, and an editor finds superb authors and helps them develop a book better even than they could have imagined.
DR:  Editors, especially at a smaller publisher like Stackpole, perform a variety of tasks, from the acquisition and development of new books to the copyediting and proofreading of those books, as well as marketing and promotion work.  Turns out we can also be called upon, happily, to be historians as well.

CWL: 3. What got you interested in the study of history and the Civil War period?  Are other periods of history as important to you as the American Civil War?
DD:  My granddad, a citizen soldier, was gripped by and wrote about the Civil War.  I picked at a ravel, a couple of years ago:  Gettysburg, and have happily drowned in the infinite fascination of the infinite subject matter.  (More on mixed metaphors later.)
DR:  My interest in history began, when I was a boy of eight or nine, with an interest in the Civil War, which in turn began with books, such as the old classic kids’ novel Rifles for Watie.  Soon I moved on to Civil War Times magazine and adult history books.  Among the first of those I ever read was General Stackpole’s They Met at Gettysburg.  I was hooked, on Gettysburg, on the Civil War, on history.  It didn’t hurt that I grew up half an hour from the battlefield, had parents who encouraged my interests, and had some wonderful and inventive history teachers, not only in college, but also in middle and high school.  I often venture into other areas of history, World War II especially, but without fail I come back to the American Civil War.  Fortunately for publishers, not to mention historians, there seems always to be something new to learn, new to say, about this inspiring, appalling war of better angels and killer angels.

CWL: 4. Within the recent past, several Gettysburg Campaign atlases have been published. Why another atlas on Gettysburg?
DD:  I conceived of a treatment of the Battle of Gettysburg which would map, every other page, the progress of the battle without changing the grid, the size, the dimensions, the area, of the map.  Books previously – excellent ones – without fail took advantage of space to, when half the battlefield contains no event, leave it visually out.  Our GETTYSBURG shows the flow of the battle by keeping the stage – the base map – constant.  Other books zoom in, focus on an important area, fine.  But our original treatment shows something that a “moving camera” cannot:  the flow, the progress, of the facets of the battle as interrelated in time and space constant, over the 3 days.  Years ago when they made a film of the ballet Romeo and Juliet (Prokofiev’s I think), it drove me crazy when the movie camera moved – with Nureyev as he leaps -- or Fonteyn as she pirouettes along.  Ballet’s to been seen danced, its flow, on the unmoving base map of the stage.

CWL: 5. What makes your study stand out?  What does it contribute to the literature that has not already been contributed by others?
DR:  We’re lucky to have some very good maps of the battle.  But as useful as those other maps are, the picture they give can sometimes be disjointed or at least incomplete.  It’s essential to zoom in on, say, the Wheatfield in order to understand that bloodily tangled area of the battlefield.  But our book zooms out to show not only what was happening in the Wheatfield, but also what was happening elsewhere on the field at the same time – the fighting taking place in other sectors, the movement of reinforcements, and so on – so that the importance of the Wheatfield becomes clear (e.g., why it was the scene of such desperate fighting, what the Confederates could have done if they decisively seized it, how Union reinforcements of the Wheatfield sector weakened other parts of Meade’s line) and so that the tactical decisions of Lee, Meade, and their lieutenants can be more easily understood.  We’ve aimed to depict – shifting now from dance to music – not movements or isolated bars of melody, not cellos or trumpets alone, but the entire grand symphony that was the Battle of Gettysburg.

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