Friday, July 15, 2011

Colonel Ellsworth #1

I have never blogged before, but I've never written a book before either. This blog was created to help people understand what I am doing, and why--

Colonel Elmer Ellsworth? Who? When? Why? Who cares who this guy was? I do. He was the first Union casualty of the American Civil War, and he was killed 150 years ago, May 24. He was a friend and confidante of Abraham Lincoln, a boon companion to John Hay and George Nicolay (Lincoln's private secretaries), and one of the most charismatic, interesting, dynamic public figures of the 1860s. His death was singular, but within six weeks, the first of the 620,000 or so deaths from the Civil War would start to add up. He was mourned in the North, vilified in the South, made headlines in every paper in America and the Confederacy, lay in state in the East Room of the White House--Lincoln wept publicly for the only time in his life for this man!--and then forgotten. His huge state funeral, the right of every soldier, was a distant memory to those who died later in the war, lucky to have a spadeful of dirt tossed over their mortal remains.

I am writing a new biography of this man. There are only two Ellsworth biographies, one by Charles Ingraham, published in 1925, and one by Ruth Painter Randall, published in 1960. Of all the things overdone about the Civil War, this one man has been ignored.

How did I to this point? I teach at a middle school called--here it comes!--E. E. Brownell Middle School. Our namesake was named for Elmer Ellsworth, and is a very distant leaf on the tree of Francis Brownell, the man who shot the man who shot Ellsworth. That, and although I teach math, I love history, the Civil War in particular. It seemed obvious to me . . .

So, I will blog about my efforts here, post parts of the book, ask for comments and corrections, and see my project to completion or be very embarrassed about my public failure. I will detail the writing process as I see/use it, and I will talk about my triumphs and my anxieties. So far I have written six full chapters, and getting at least 6,000 words in each chapter is getting easier. I was afraid I'd only have a Colonel Ellsworth pamphlet when I started, but I think it's going to be good!

Check back, leave messages--please!

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