Inquiry about a writing project
- Dear Group:
This is a long note, but I hope you will want to read it anyway. I am
asking for advice.
My project is a novel based on B. H. Grierson�s April-May 1863 cavalry raid
through Mississippi. Since it�s fiction, I�m not planning a Michael
Shaara-style approach, but I want to avoid Margaret Mitchell�s shallow
offensiveness. Think, as modern analogues, of Charles Frazier, Harry
Turtledove, or John Jakes (without, I hope, the clunky writing).
The protagonist, named Barton Willoughby, is a giddy young beau fresh out of
Yale, aglow with Scott�s heroic posturing, cheerful, charming, but callow.
He will of course acquire experience, and become disillusioned about the
supposed glamour of cavalry warfare; but along the way, he -- and, I hope,
his readers -- will have a cracking good time with this most dashing and
important, as Grant called it, of Union cavalry raids.
Here�s what I�ve done to prepare for the historical aspects of the book:
-I�ve read D. Brown, the Leckies, Underwood, Bearss, and Starr. I�ve read
most of the usual modern overviews (e.g., Catton, Foote, Nevins) and the
contemporary military theorists (e.g., Hardee, Jomini, Cooke). I�ve read
Grant�s and Sherman�s memoirs. I�ve read Harriet Beecher Stowe. I�ve even
read as much of Walter Scott as I can stand.
-I�ve recently driven Grierson�s routes from La Grange to Baton Rouge,
guided by Brown, the June �93 issue of "Blue & Gray" magazine, and a 1938
WPA guide to Mississippi. I�ve walked all of the encounter sites on the
-I�ve tried to do/experience as much authentic, or authentically re-created,
stuff as I can:
o I�ve been to local CW re-enactments.
o I know how to ride, how to shoot an Enfield and a Navy Colt, and how to
make a few hacks with a cavalry saber -- none of these very well.
o I�ve listened to tapes of CW-era music, including bugle calls.
o Not voluntarily, I�ve been shot myself, with serious results.
o I�ve worn an officer�s hat and coat and an enlisted man�s jacket, shirt,
pants, cap, and gear: haversack, canteen, weapons, etc.
o I�ve been on 10-mile hikes, in the summer, with a 50-pound pack on my
o I�ve slept in a bedroll on the ground, with a saddle for my pillow, but
just once, thanks.
o I�ve eaten hardtack and drunk boiled coffee (also just once).
If you�re willing, I�d like to ask for your considered assistance.
Specifically, what else do you think I should do to get this right and keep
gross unintentional errors from sneaking up on Willoughby? And is there
some additional reading I should tackle?
Whatever your response, let me say here that I have already benefited from
reading your discussions of Western-theater issues, and I am grateful for
Madelon E. Heatherington
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