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Savas Beatie Authors/Readers Gather at Gettysburg

The leading trade publisher of Civil War and other military history books, Savas Beatie, sponsored their 3rd Gettysburg Meetup from August 12-15. The meetup gave a chance for approximately 200 Civil War enthusiasts to meet at least 20 Savas Beatie authors in informal settings, attend battlefield tours, hear author presentations and panel discussions – and buy massive amounts of books.

Informal sessions, scheduled either in advance or as events unfolded included a get together Thursday night at O’Rorke’s, lunch Friday at a pavilion at the recreation park, and an after hours opportunity to restore hydration at the Reliance Mine Saloon.

 Local author Bradley Gottfried with one of his books.

On Friday, visitors braved the intense heat to listen to Rick Schaus on General George Meade’s activities on July 3, the final day of the battle; Mike Harris on Confederate Brig Gen John Archer’s brigade and the capture of Archer by Union forces; and Brad Gottfried on the action at the railroad cut just west of Seminary Ridge. Presentations Saturday, in slightly more moderate weather, included Emerging Civil War general editor Chris Mackowski on events at the end of the day July 1 and “What would Stonewall have done?”; John Horn on the controversy involving Confederate brigade commander Brig Gen William Mahone and the perception that he failed to support another attacking Confederate brigade; and Eric Wittenberg on actions of cavalry commander Brig Gen John Buford on July 1. The conference concluded Sunday morning with a presentation at the High Water Mark by Chris Brenneman on the painting of the Cyclorama. Interestingly, four of the seven battlefield tours related to events of the relatively neglected 1st day.

The Gettysburg Heritage Center served as the headquarters for the event and hosted author presentations and panel discussions on Friday and Saturday. Speakers included Charlie Knight, author of a book on Robert E. Lee’s activities day by day; Brian Swartz, who discussed his new book on Joshua Chamberlain; Dwight Hughes, who discussed the Monitor and the Virginia, first battle among ironclad warships; and Scott Mingus, who discussed his book on Lee’s invasion in York County.

The two author panels provided an interesting contrast. Ted Savas moderated both panels and introduced both by saying “here’s your chance to find out what you’ve always wanted to know,” and basically guided an hour long Q&A. The discussion on Friday, with panelists Jan Croon, Brad Gottfried, Jim Hessler, Dwight Hughes, Leon Reed, Ken Rutherford, Rick Schaus, and Eric Wittenberg, became a detailed tactical discussion of the Battle of Gettysburg, with a particular emphasis on cavalry operations. Questions were raised about topics such as command and control, who was responsible for troops who were reassigned to a different sector of the battlefield, whether Howard’s criticism of Doubleday (and Meade’s taking First Corps away from him) was fair, whether Meade pursued Lee aggressively enough, and similar questions.

On Saturday, basically the same audience conducted an hour—long seminar on the writing and publishing business, with questions about working with editors, responding to criticism, selecting what materials to use, collaborating with co-authors, etc.

The relationship between civil war authors and their readers is especially close. Most of the authors are not fulltime writers and many of the fans are deep students of the Civil War. The interchanges often are more peer to peer than “expert to fan.”

Publisher Ted Savas said he was well pleased. “The event went off better than we expected. The turnout was great, and I think people really enjoyed it and we’re grateful for their participation.

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Leon Reed is a former US Senate staff member, defense consultant, and history teacher. He is a five year resident of Gettysburg, where he volunteers with SCCAP and at the Resource Room at the park visitor center; writes military history; and explores the park and the Adams County countryside. He is the publisher at Little Falls Books, a board member of Adams County Habitat for Humanity, and is chairing the Adams County 2020 Census Complete Count Committee. He and his wife, Lois, have 3 children, 4 cats, and 5 grandchildren.

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