Monday, September 7, 2020

A New, Big, (Crazy?) Project

Something I have thought about for a while but never could commit to was to write a book - an actual and real non-fiction book, with my name as author. The thought lived in the back of my mind for several years, but I never could figure out the right topic that would catch my interest enough to convince me to do all the work that such a project takes. I never was going to just put some words on paper just to say I had authored a book - I needed a topic that captured my passion and my interest and that would not be a fleeting idea that would bore me after a few weeks or so. If I was going to make such a goal, I was going to go all-in on it. 

I think I have finally found the right topic - Campbell County, Kentucky Civil War Soldiers, Sailors and Their Stories. That is the working title, subject to change, of the project I have started pursuing. It still is in the early stages of research and I realize that it will take possibly 1-2 more years to research and write (perhaps even longer, if my research is successful) but the general idea is to identify as many Civil War Soldiers who had some connection to Campbell County as I can find. By "connection," I currently mean "born in, lived in, died in or are buried in" my home county, but I have found a few names that might lead me to expand that. I have found a few names of men who served in this county - probably at the Newport Barracks - but did not meet the criteria I had established, and even more men whose widows lived here some time after their husbands had passed away. I have seen a couple of names of men who enlisted in this county but had no other ties to it, while some men were Confederate supporters or public sympathizers, but not actual soldiers. Some of these men had interesting stories,  so do I expand my definition of "connection" to this county and include them? Maybe I can create a separate chapter or section for such people. That is a tough decision I will need to make, though probably just one of many.

After identifying as many of these soldiers and sailors (both Yankees and Rebels) as I can, I will then compile some stories about their lives and careers. I already have a couple dozen ideas for possible stories - some I have published here on this blog in the past - and will likely find more. 

The first part of the proposed book would include these stories, combining Civil War history with some local history and maybe a few bits of genealogy sprinkled in along the way. My hope is that these stories, both military and human-interest ones, would interest readers and provide both information and entertainment. I have found stories of soldiers who were wounded, killed and/or captured in battles both famous and obscure, and others who had interesting civilian lives. A few of these tales might be fairly short and others longer, as I try to focus on the more interesting pieces of their lives snd not detailed genealogy or more mundane tidbits. Some of these men had fascinating lives both in and out of the military. 

After a section of these stories, the last part of the book would be a list of all the names I found, with the men's names, unit, company and rank included. Ideally, I would also add as much birth, death and burial information as I can find, but I do not know how much space that will require. My first thought is that these lists would be in a spreadsheet format, but maybe I could write out this information in mini-paragraphs for each soldier, though that would require many more words and, perhaps, pages. That is another decision I will need to finalize in the future as I would like this work to be both an enjoyable read and a benefit to researchers. Can I  make both those ends meet in one book? 

I have created a virtual cemetery on findagrave to keep track of the men whose final resting placesI have found. It currently has just over 500 graves on it, but I have more names for which I am still searching burial places, so hopefully that number increases. 

Of the ones I've already included, there may be a couple that are not 100% proven to be Civil War veterans. If they had the same name as a soldier I have confirmed and are in a logically located cemetery, I may have included them already, especially if the record showed birth and/or death dates that fit the right timeframe but I still have a some of these for which I want to go back and confirm burial places. Hopefully the ones like that included here are few and far between, but if anybody finds any errors, please let me know by email or in the comments section.

Of course, what to do when I have gathered, organized and put this information in a book format is the big question. First are the formatting questions. Do I need to be prepared to do endnotes or footnotes instead of just typing up one big story? Will I need to index it? I know that's a difficult task that even well-known and frequent authors consider to be a challenge. I also have found several photos on findagrave and other websites, but my current preference is for the book to be text only so that I do not have to determine who owns those photos snd then get permission to use them. Perhaps I could use my own photos of headstones or even sites associated with these men. 

Then, will anybody want to publish this? Do I just send letters to publishers to gauge interest?  Will I need to pay to self-publish it?  Will it end up as a digital format, such as a webpage?  I am sure there are more issues I will face at that time (and while I am still researching this) but I am convinced that I am willing to face those when the time comes. I began my research several weeks ago, have found a lot of information so far, and am enjoying it. It remains a labor of love for me and I am more confident that I will see this through to the end. That is why I have not mentioned this previously, but am ready to post this now.  

The research - both in confirming names that meet my (evolving?) criteria and in finding stories that I think are worth sharing - has been enjoyable and I have remained motivated to continue it. I am optimistic that I will maintain those feelings and that attitude.

Of course, as I throw myself into such a long, labor-intensive project, I realize my time for researching and writing this blog may decrease, but maybe I can use this blog to "test-write" some of the information I find. For instance, the recent posts I made about Foster and Israel Sellers are among the ideas I would like to include in the book.

I can also utilize this site to post updates on my progress or maybe express frustration or just to get some thoughts off my chest from time-to-time. I do not know how exactly this project will affect this blog, but I do not intend to close this blog, even if I post less often. Shutting this down is not an option.


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