Thursday, January 09, 2014

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

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: 6. Can you describe the process of preparing the atlas for publication?  What stumbling blocks were there? 

DD:  Stumbling blocks:   in a word, the ever difficult, torturous, essential decision, demanding to be made again and again and again, of what to leave out.  Also, to strive (didn’t often succeed, but tried) to make all clear.  Text.  Maps.  People are starving for clear expression.
DR:  It was an intense and intensive process of writing, mapmaking, discussing, revising, with research done, and done again, every step of the way.  It involved not only the two of us and stacks of books, reams of paper, but also a team of creative, hardworking folks who took the text and hand-drawn pencil maps and turned them into the eye-pleasing pages you see in the book.

CWL: 7. What did you discover that surprised and when you knew you were done?
DD:  That I wasn’t sad.

CWL: 8. On the left page "clips" of the map on the right page are presented.   This appears to be a novel approach.  How did this concept develop?
DD:  Good question.  Though we held the concept of never changing the “stage” of the base map, it does, in fact, illuminate and edify to blow up a sector, to show complicated action there, so we developed what we call “margin” art, or little clips, as you excellently describe it, to enlarge, even mark up a bit, and run in the margin of the base-map-facing text page, beside the relevant text.    Also, in the margin art you can graphically, i.e. nonverbally, “say” (show) what might have been, what was intended, what was prevented, so on.

CWL: 9.   Time on the battle clock is always debatable.  Noah Trudeau’s  A Testing Of Courage has clocks with hour and minute hands on each map. Gettysburg: The Story of the Battle With Maps uses terms such as ‘midday’ ,  ‘late afternoon’ and ‘twilight’ to designate time. 
DD:  Right . . . we worked hard to get the events described/portrayed in the order in which they happened.  To get (approximate) contiguity and contemporaneousness . . . but as to what 15-minute time field anything happened in, it’s far rarer to find agreement than diverse variation, among the many excellent texts and map books on the battle, as to just when an event occurred.  What its duration was.   I found three reputable accounts of the Battle that couldn’t agree on when the sun came up!
DR:  Almost unbelievably to our modern atomic-clocked minds, time was a rather subjective thing 150 years ago, outside but especially inside the world of battle.  Time was often guessed at by the position of the sun, those who had watches generally did not synchronize them, and combat distorted – stretched, compressed, twisted – time.  One example:  Most accounts agree that the artillery barrage before Pickett’s Charge began around 1 p.m. on July 3, but estimates of the barrage’s duration vary wildly, from approximately twenty minutes to five hours or more . . . which of course has implications for just when the Charge itself began.  But there are enough firsthand accounts, and enough historians have analyzed and dissected those accounts, that very reasonable estimates could be made, especially within the geographic and chronologic framework we were creating – once we nailed down a couple events, another handful would fall into place.

CWL: 10. The narrative is written in the present tense and future tense. How was this decision made?
DD:  There’s a tiny sprinkling of past tense.  But you’re right, 99% is present tense.   Guess I thought the past tense might become too ponderous . . . also, the book as I’ve struggled to describe (facets of) it above is, in its spirit, and letter, virtually always in the present moment.    Other (better) books must (nevertheless) flash back, use the pluperfect, and in their structure as well as tense stutter around, back, forward, in their sections, in time.
DR:  The present tense was a natural fit for a book like this, which describes and illustrates the battle as it unfolded – er, unfolds.  Hopefully it conveys a sense of immediacy and contingency – a sense that the battle is happening right here, right now, and could, at any number of decision points, have turned out somewhat differently.  The present tense isn’t appropriate for every work of history, and it has its limitations, but to my mind it’s not deployed as often as it might be, particularly in military history.  Castel’s Decision in the West is an outstanding example of the possibilities for the present tense in historical writing.

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