Modified and Misquoted

Authors hate it when their writing is modified or misquoted.
One of my favorite quotes is from Thomas Jefferson’s 1787 letter to William Stephens Smith.

330px-Official_Presidential_portrait_of_Thomas_Jefferson_(by_Rembrandt_Peale,_1800)(cropped)“The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.” This sentence is often used to justify violence in connection with political positions. I find it amusing the following sentence is never included in the quote: “It is it’s natural manure.” Does equating blood with manure make the first sentence less noble?

330px-William-Tecumseh-ShermanGeneral William Sherman’s quote on war is simplified to “war is hell.” The full sentence is “There is many a boy here today who looks on war as all glory, but, boys, it is all hell. You can bear this warning voice to generations yet to come.”



270px-Leo_Durocher_1948Leo Durocher’s baseball quote is usually given as “Nice guys finish last.” The actual quote is “Nice guys actually finish seventh” or “Take a look at them. All nice guys. They’ll finish last. Nice guys – finish last.”


A rather bad misquote is from Ludwig Mies van der Rohe. The incorrect quote is “The devil is in the details.” The correct quote is “God is in the details.”

Lastly, a quote from English poet Violet Fane often stated as “Good things come to those who wait.” However, what she actually said was “All things come to he who waits (…) they come, but often come too late.”

The list goes on and on. Perhaps the culprit is the newspaper. Sherman is quoted as saying, “I think I know what military fame is; to be killed on the field of battle and have your name misspelled in the newspapers.” Walt Whitman in letter to his mother during the Civil War. “The fighting has been hard enough, but the papers make lots of additional items, and a good deal they just entirely make up.


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An adjective is a word that modifies a noun or pronoun to make it more specific.

woman-typing-writing-windowsAdjectives are a writer’s best friend. They help describe a person, place, or thing to allow a reader to form a mental picture of a subject.  For example: 

“Sarah asked the man for directions.” or “Sarah asked the old, bald-headed man for directions.”

“The building was home to the local Masonic Lodge.” or “The two story, wood building was home to the local Masonic Lodge.”

Adjectives bring stories to life and bring the reader into the narrative.

However, there are some adjectives that I would like to see abolished, especially when they refer to people. The phrase “tall black man” may be useful in writing, but does it have a place in describing people?  Do we have to add racial, ethnic, and religious labels to identify or “classify” people?  These adjectives only point out differences between people and say nothing about an individual’s personality, skills, traits, and values. They attach group values to an individual based on past experience with a group or categorization of people based what important people believe or want you to believe.

ethnic_groupsI believe that most of the time these labels are racist in intent. They are superficial and demeaning, the vocabulary of lazy and bigoted minds. We should not describe our friends with labels such as: “my black friend John,” “my Jewish doctor Nathan,”  “my Catholic neighbor Mary,” “my Hispanic teammate Peter,” or “my son’s Asian girl friend Nancy.”

ethnic_youngYoung people do not feel the necessity of employing these labels, let’s hope that they can set an example for all of us.

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Preparing for Disunion Presentation

On July 20, 2019, I had the pleasure of giving a presentation on my new book Preparing for Disunion – West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders at the Texas Civil War Museum in Fort Worth, Texas.

The following slide show will  give you an idea of some of the many  topics discussed in the book.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Please purchase a copy to learn more about the role of Commandants of Cadets in preparing Civil War leaders.

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McFarland Books on Sale

In recognition of the company’s 40th anniversary, McFarland will be running a website promotion June 10 through June 30 covering ALL books. All website book orders will be discounted by 25%.

For those of you familiar with my Civil War books, you might be surprised at the diversity of topics covered by McFarland. Please click on the following link to browse  their entire selection of McFarland 40th Anniversary books.

You can check out my books at Teacher of Civil War Generals and Preparing for Disunion.

Please tell others about these savings.

Book_Tour_March_April 020 (2)

2016 Book Tour

B&N Louisville

Barnes & Noble Louisville, KY





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Texas Civil War Museum

The Texas Civil War Museum holds free lectures on Saturdays in June and July.


This summer’s program

  • Richard B. McCaslin – June 8th – “Pompeo Coppini – Confederate Memory in Texas”
  • Randy Gilbert – June 15th – “Trans-Mississippi Prisoners of War”
  • Luke Salisbury – June 22nd – “No Common War”
  • Scott Bowden – June 29th – “Robert E. Lee’s Art of War”
  • Jim Davis – July 6th – “The Cypress Rangers in the Civil War”
  • Vicki Tongate – July 13th – “Another Year Finds Me in Texas – Dairy of Lucy Pier Stevens”
  • Allen Mesch – July 20th“Preparing for Disunion”
  • Tom Holder – July 27th – “Molli Mac Gill Rosenberg – Angel of the Confederacy”
  • Please see Upcoming Events at the Museum for more information.


I hope you can attend one or several of these lectures. Plan to visit the museum while you are in Fort Worth. The museum is home to many current exhibits and permanent collections.

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Fashion Tips for Writers

Writers seem to adopt a variety styles once they become authors. Just because you enter the realm of published writers, doesn’t mean you have to:

  • Wear your hair in a pony tail (men)
  • Let your grow down to  your waist (women and men)
  • Color your hair uniquely (sister and other women)
  • Grow a beard or mustache
  • Wear sun glasses indoors (women and men)
  • Deck your neck with an ascot (men)
  • Start smoking a pipe (women and men)
  • Only using one name (Picasso, Beyoncé, Robespierre, Napoleon, Cleopatra, etc.)
  • Writing with a typewriter (women and men)
  • Wear a beret (women and men)
  • Kissing everybody on the cheek, even people you don’t like (women and men)
  • Hiring an agent (men and women)
  • Listing your degrees after your name (e.g. Cleopatra, Queen of the Nile; Allen Mesch, B.S.and M.S.) (women and men)

Please submit your additions to this list.

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Rejection is not a word that an author wants to hear or read. This publishing decline can assume many forms: “doesn’t fit with our current offerings,” “our publishing schedule is full,” “you work is too [long or short],” and “your work is interesting, but …” Think of rejection as a job hunt. You’re going to have to kiss a lot of frogs before you find your prince or princess.

All of which brings me to my tentative publisher rejecting my manuscript despite early interest. With this refusal comes a couple of warnings:

  • Send your proposals to a number of publishers — there is no need at this stage to contact one publisher at a time.
  • Beware of publishing houses that offer a variety of services for fees. This is more like a vanity press that will edit and market you work as a means to improve your status or show off your knowledge. Think of politicians who want/need a book to get voters attention, sell their ideas, and/or add money to their campaign chest.
  • There are many self-publishing companies that will present your book without editing or expert review. This may be considered as a last resort measure to create interest in your work.
  • Be very careful about pitching your book to an academic publisher such as the University of Prominent School Press. These publishers are more focused on promoting the work of their own faculty. Writing for an academic audience is very different than writing for a broad class of readers. This can be done with some effort. Your research should be from books, private collections [the letters and diary of historic person], and copies of newspapers. Avoid sources from the Internet. Citing Wikipedia, on-line dictionaries, or other web-based publications should be avoided. Academic publishing involves a gauntlet of peer and faculty reviews.  This is like a Good-Housekeeping Seal of Approval. This process can take upwards of a year and may conclude with a rejection. Which brings up another problem. University presses want to see your expertise by obtaining a doctorate in your subject area. You may be a self-taught expert, but reviewers want to see if your credentials fit with their other authors.
  • There are always exceptions to my suggestions, so use my comments as suggestions or cautions.

Let me hear your thoughts on these suggestions.

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