Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Blessed to Be Busy

I am blessed to have a very busy week, even with the snow. Fortunately, we escaped the second foot of snow that others very close to us received, but we did get a really beautiful snowfall. It is winter--in all its glory and vengeance.

My co-author on this latest book, Michelle Martin, arrives tomorrow and we will have our book launch party. Yaay us!!! Michelle was the perfect person to share this project, Kansas Forts and Bases: Sentinels on the Prairie. For one thing, she did all the hard work like coding images. We will be speaking at our regular meeting of the Civil War Roundtable of Eastern Kansas Thursday night at 6:30. The CWRT is a very well-read and very active with history-related activities. Membership is only $15 a year and we encourage new members! That membership goes to covering speakers' expenses. Member or not, though, the public is welcome to attend any of our meetings and especially Thursday night!

We will be guests Thursday morning on WIBW Radio with Jamie and Roger and on WIBW TV with Ralph Hipp at 4. On Friday, we'll be signing books at Rusty Haggles in the historic NOTO Arts District before Gary and I head over to the Kansas Music Hall of Fame in Lawrence. On Saturday, local bands the Exceptions and Kerry Livgren, below, will be inducted into this elite organization. (Kerry has been inducted previously with Kansas and White Clover.) Kerry is the songwriter behind hits Dust in the Wind and Carry On My Wayward Son. He is not only a very talented guy but a good man as well.

On Sunday, Michelle and I have a book signing at Lecompton's Constitution Hall.

The Kansas Hall of Fame had scheduled a press conference to announce its 2013 laureates but we had to reschedule to March 14 due to the weather. Trust me, however, that the event is going to be stellar this year!!! Mark your calendars for June 21 and stay tuned for updates.

In the meantime, I'm just trying to get a little writing done. . . .

Monday, February 25, 2013

Talk About Topeka

Chris Schultz, local Renaissance man, interviewed me on Talk About Topeka several months ago, when The Civil War in Kansas was released. Well, it's time to go back and discuss the new book, but in the meantime it was nice to go back and review that interview. Chris and the Schultz Family do so much for our community. Visit them at the Breakroom or the Field of Greens downtown. The dinner theater at the Breakroom will see the debut of the one-woman show I am writing on Mary Lincoln in August. Veteran actress Karen Hastings will be portraying the controversial first lady. Chris tells me they are already selling tickets!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

God Didn't Choose Sides

This is officially my new favorite CD.

Steve Gulley was being interviewed on WBRF Radio in Galax, Virginia, by my friend, Sherry Boyd. When the music conversation turned to Civil War history, I was fairly jumping up and down. While Steve described the story of Amos Humiston, I was typing Sherry messages via Facebook: "My friend, Mark Dunkelman, wrote the book on Humiston's story--Gettysburg's Unknown Soldier!"

Sherry and Steve talked about Jennie Wade, the young woman killed by a stray bullet during the battle of Gettysburg. These and many more poignant stories of the war found their way into song with the release of this CD, God Didn't Choose Sides. I could not have said it better.

As a "popular" historian, it has always been my mission to share the stories of real people and to make the experiences of the past come to life in a meaningful way. I have always felt that I was introducing people to one another across time. The people I have met in studying the Civil War are as real to me as any living person I have known because they are real; they are just not alive at this minute. But in a few minutes, neither will we be alive -- whether that is five minutes or five hundred thousand minutes from now. I have always understood this --that people before us were just as real. This CD is based on that understanding. As incredibly large in scope as the American Civil War was, it was made up of the thousands upon thousands of stories of ordinary people, of soldiers like Amos Humiston who died on a battlefield far from home clutching the image of his children. That experience is timeless; every soldier in every age can relate, as can every wife waiting for a husband's return. Jennie Wade and Amos Humiston did not choose to make history; rather, they were making a life when they became swept up into history. That's how it happens, and those are the ties that bind us through the ages. This CD is an eloquent and compassionate voice bringing the past into our present.

It is obvious that this entire production is a real labor of love. Tim Stafford, from the band Blue Highway, commented, "It was a great experience, working with some of my favorite people like Ron Stewart, Adam Steffey, Steve Gulley, Bryan Turner. Justin Moses and Mark Fain."

Tim added, "Sam Passamano's vision for the record was built around the idea of the common man's experience in the Civil War, and I think the songs are consistent with that vision. I'm glad that I was able to be a part of it as a songwriter, guitarist and singer."

Tim lent his vocal skills to "Providence Spring," the miraculous story of a spring that appeared during a thunder storm in the midst of Andersonville Prison, the most notorious of the prisoner of war camps necessitated by war. (While Andersonville has become the most widely known, every POW camp, North and South, was a hell on earth. My great-grandfather, captured at Culp's Hill on the second day of the fighting at Gettysburg, went to Fort Delaware and then to Point Lookout, Maryland, where he remained until the war was over. There are accounts of men cooking rats and eating rotten seagulls that washed up on the shore.)

Tim is justifiably proud. The first licks of the first song, "I'm almost home" (co-written by Steve Gulley and Tim Stafford), promise good music to follow. Bluegrass fans will revel in the performances (Lonesome River Band, Marty Rabon, Russell Moore to name a few), and history fans will delight in hearing treasured stories interpreted in music. With meaningful stories, well-crafted songwriting, amazing musicians and vocalists, as well as  quality production, this CD is destined to be a classic. I am most thrilled, however, by the fact that it is Volume I.

Order directly at . . . . Buy several: you'll be loaning this one to a lot of friends, so may as well get them a copy!

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Little, No, A LOT of Kansas Hospitality!!!!

We showed up at the Beemers, suitcases in hand, weary and worn, and the first thing to greet us was the smell of supper. Dawn is a jewel! A wonderful cook, a wonderful hostess, a good friend!!
Once we were fortified with fine vittles we went exploring with Rod as our guide. First, in the Boss Hawg cadillac, second in the Bisel Mobile. 

I had never been to the Spillman Cemetery, resting place of Willis Daily, son of Susanna Alderdice, captured in a Lincoln County Indian raid in 1869. Her children were killed; Willis, injured and left for dead, miraculously survived. Friend Jeff Broome wrote Dog Soldier Justice about the raid and the attempt to rescue Susanna. As the Cheyenne saw the cavalry approaching,they killed Susanna. She was buried somewhere on the Summit Springs battlefield and Jeff hopes to find her and bring her back to this family cemetery. As I walked through the graveyard, the music of Dave Zerfas kept playing in my head. ("Six String gotta have it). After the Spillman Cemetery, we headed the other direction to one of most beautiful gravesites I've ever seen--overlooking the rolling countryside and facing a monumental buffalo.Rod and Gary discussed the engineering required to build the beast.
We had spent the previous two days in Lincoln, Kansas, for their annual Lincoln Days celebration. Troy Strahan, bottom, had a moving performance of the 16th president. It was a wonderful weekend, full of rich history and warm friends, old and new.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

The Blacksnake

I posted a new blog entry on Mother Earth News. Publisher Bryan Welch is such a fine writer; I am so pleased to have any connection to this group!

The blogs will form the foundation of a book I am writing.

Books Arrived!

Kansas Forts and Bases has arrived ahead of schedule! Kudos to those hard-working folks at the History Press! Many thanks to our editor, Becky Lejeune. She's a gem.

Michelle and I will have our official launch party on February 28, at the Cox Communication Heritage Education Center, 1118 SE Madison, here in Topeka. We are hopeful that Jerry Morelock, editor of Armchair General magazine will be there as well since he wrote our foreword. This will be the regular meeting of our CWRT of Eastern Kansas. If you can't be there, you can order a copy from this blog, from Amazon, or Barnes & Noble, and of course, directly from the History Press. I will have copies at Lincoln, Kansas, for the Lincoln Day festivities as well.