Thursday, September 3, 2009

My Two Friends Ted

Part I.
Well, actually I don’t know them well enough to borrow money; in fact you’d probably have to remind them who I am; but I have an active imagination and like to think of them as friends. They are both worth writing about.

The first Ted is the Chief Park Historian at Antietam National Battlefield, Ted Alexander. He is known for presenting great seminars on the Civil War, and is also the foremost authority on the retreat of General Lee’s army from Gettysburg, July 4-14, 1863. In 1999 he edited a special edition of North & South magazine on this subject, and that is what brought me to see him.

There was an indecipherable notation in my G G grandfather’s diary for July 6, 1863:

“Monday 6. We came to Boonsboro Md. and the left Section went to a Rebel train of wagons and burnt them about 4.esn number and charged through Hagerstown. Hung a Spy and then Laid in the woods that Night.”

At that time Private William Henry Forbush was serving with the 3rd US Artillery, ‘Flying’ Battery C. He had transferred out of the 13th Mass. while recovering from wounds received at 2nd Bull Run. He joined the ‘Regulars’ in January, 1863, and began keeping a diary. The 3rd US Artillery was actively involved in the Cavalry pursuit of Lee’s Army in July, 1863. When I had the chance to visit Western Maryland in 2005, I made an appointment to see Ted.

“That would be the battle of Hagerstown,” Ted told me, “about 4 dozen wagons burnt would be a reasonable estimate.”

In the diary, ‘.esn’ must have been an abbreviation for ‘dozen.’ Trying to decipher this entry in the broad cursive pencil strokes of William Henry’s handwriting had baffled me for years.

I asked Ted about the fight at Smithburg recorded in William Henry’s diary for July 5th:

“Sunday 5. Came to within ½ mile of Smithsburg Md. and we came on the Rebels. We opened on them with our whole Battery and they with a Battery. Their Shells struck in the Town but done us no harm.”

“That’s Gardenhour Hill,” Ted exclaimed. “If you had more time I could take you there.” He told me he was working on a book on the subject.

I was immediately ready to book a tour with him, but sadly it never happened; and I had other places to see during this particular trip.

My wife and I sat in Ted’s office until 6 o’clock, on a bitter cold afternoon in March, sharing our research and visiting. He opened the small folder in the park library containing 13th Mass materials for me to browse.

“I can add to that,” I said.

I told him about the 13th Massachusetts Regiment Circulars I had collected and he became increasingly interested in them. “Have you tried to have them published ?” he asked.

I explained that I did. One publisher I mentioned happened to be a friend of his and he promised to put in a good word for me, for which I was very grateful.

He told me he had always wanted to be a historian and he had worked hard to obtain the post he enjoyed so much. For my part, I was getting the kind of thrill I guess some people associate with meeting movie stars, while sitting in his office and discussing the battle of Antietam and other events, with someone as knowledgeable as Ted. Especially since we were on the very ground where these momentous events took place. He reciprocated and was just as fascinated to hear about my work in animation, back in California.

“I used to work on Futurama,” I said, as I sketched Bender and Fry, “but now I work on “King of the Hill.”

“Can I have that?” “Can you draw me a picture?”

I was happy to oblige and sketched Hank Hill with a balloon caption that read: “You know Ted, the Civil War is okay, but you really ought to write a book about Texas.”

I thought it was funny and in keeping with Hank Hill’s character. My wife, Sue kept up the conversation while I concentrated on the drawing.

Ted autographed my issue of “North & South,” – the special edition on the cavalry pursuit which he edited. It was a mutual admiration society.

He encouraged me to keep trying with the book, and we parted, agreeing to exchange copies of our 13th Mass ‘Antietam’ files with each other.

Ted was a ‘Simpson’s’ fan. They make it at the same studio, upstairs, where I was working. When I got home I had a friend put up a “Simpson’s Halloween” poster in the hallway of the studio. There are hundreds of these hanging in the halls inviting crew members to sign this poster “…for my friend, so and so.” When the poster was sufficiently plastered with crew names and sketches of Homer shouting “Sharpsburg!” I sent it to Ted as a thank-you.

Every once in a while I send him an email, reminding him that we met. I still want to get that guided tour.

Part II
My second friend Ted, Ted Savas, is a successful niche publisher of history related books.

In February 2008, I wrote to his company, (of which he is Managing Director) Savas Beatie describing my proposed book; an anthology of Civil War stories by men in the 13th Mass, written in such a manner that it gives the history of the regiment in the soldiers’ own words. Ted’s company was recommended to me by fellow members of the San Gabriel Valley Civil War Roundtable in Pasadena, CA. They knew about Ted from his work at the Roundtable’s annual West Coast Conferences, where he has taken over duties from Morningside Press as the official bookseller at the conference. After checking his company’s submission guidelines to see if they were a match I fired off a query letter.

I could hear the excitement crackling over the Ethernet… [crackle…crackle]. After a month passed without receiving a reply I sent a follow up letter; “Did you receive my query?” (I didn’t feel the ground shake.)

The next day I received a personal message from Ted himself! He explained he had sent a reply 3 weeks earlier; which proves the electronic age is not without fail. Maybe my spam folder ate it. He told me the project sounded publishable, but it wasn’t what they were seeking. He added that regimental histories were a tough sell in today’s market; I might have more luck with a University Press. I wrote back and thanked him for his personal response to my query, and I also thanked him for the advice. He responded again in a friendly note urging me to have more of an internet presence, and to check out his marketing and publishing blogs for useful information. I follow the blog, (you can too, it’s linked at left).

Ted has posted more than once about the creative responses he has received from would-be authors, following his gracious personal replies to their queries.

“Stick it in your ear Ted you patronizing Son of a Bitch;” and, “am not interested in reading your damn blog nor am I interested in dealing with you… So you can KMA you arrogant and rude SOB.”

Being a bit more reserved I opted in my responses to merely say, “Thank you for your personal attention, I appreciate it,” perhaps I’m just old fashioned.

I followed Ted’s advice. A couple University presses gave my project some serious consideration before declining to publish. Now I’ve started this blog to increase my visibility on the internet and I’m having fun doing it.

Every once in a while I’ll post a comment on Ted’s blog (just to keep in touch.)

I bought two books from his company and they are instant favorites. The first is author Larry Tagg’s new release “The Unpopular Mr. Lincoln.” (Autographed for me personally by Mr. Tagg.) The second book is titled…wait (let me get a running start) thesecondbookistitled: “One Continuous Fight, The Retreat from Gettysburg and the Pursuit of Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia, July 4-14, 1863,” [inhale] …by Eric J. Wittenberg, J.David Petruzzi, and Michael F. Nugent.

Isn’t that second book something ?! Oh, yes, the forward is written by my friend, Ted Alexander.

1 comment:

  1. Brad - Wow - What a great post! I really appreciated how great it was to meet Ted Alexander but also how you were able to help him. And the story about your King of the Hill drawing and the Simpsons poster was terrific! (my sister is HUGE KotH fan!). I've already told you about my own positive experiences with Ted Savas - very much like yours. Keep up the great work! Jim