Preparing for Disunion

I am pleased to announce that Preparing for Disunion – West Point Commandants and the Training of Civil War Leaders is now available from McFarland Publishers, Inc. and Amazon.

Cover_Preparing_for_DisunionBetween 1817 and 1864, sixteen officers were assigned as Commandant of Cadets at the U.S. Military Academy. They played an important role in training the officers who would serve as senior commanders in both Union and Confederate armies during the Civil War. Six former commandants also served as general officers in the Civil War – Maj. Gen. Ethan Allen Hitchcock, Maj. Gen. Charles F. Smith, and Maj. Gen. John F. Reynolds for the U.S. Volunteers and Lt. Gen. William J. Hardee, Maj. Gen. William H. T. Walker Major, and Brig. Gen. Robert S. Garnett in the Confederate States Army.

Historians criticize the West Point military program as antiquated for its time – a course in Napoleonic strategy and tactics that failed to account for the advent of rifled weapons or the scope and terrain of the Civil War battlefield. Yet these commandants made changes to the program, developed new textbooks, and instructed many cadets who became field generals during the Civil War.

Preparing for Disunion presents the commandants’ biographies, their significant contributions to the military instruction, and the notable cadets they trained in drill on the West Point plain and in the military academy classroom.

Preparing for Disunion is available from McFarland Publishers, Inc. and Amazon.

Please contact me if you would be interested in a presentation on this subject.

This book would make a great gift for former, current, and future West Point cadets, students of the Civil War, and military history scholars.

FUMC Plano

Allen at First United Church in Allen, Texas

B&N Louisville

Allen at Lewisville, Texas Library









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Author vs. Writer

I know some of you have been staying awake all night wondering about the difference between an author and writer.  Consider the following definitions:

A writer is a person who writes a book, article, or any literary piece, while an author is essentially the person who originates the idea, plot, or content of the work being written. At times, the author and writer can be the same person.

Often the distinction is between having a published work, which makes you an author, and writing, which makes you a writer. Just for the record, that would mean that as soon as you start writing, you become a writer. As soon as you publish, you become an author.

I prefer the later definition. So what is a published work?

A work is published when tangible copies of it are made available to the public at large.

This means writing from a newspaper or magazine article, fiction and non-fiction books, sections written as part of a book, editorials, and blogs.

You can be an author even if you are not widely read. Consider the following three examples.

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Check out this link to see America’s 100 Best Authors.

I hope this explanation will help you understand the difference between an author and a writer and help you get a good night’s sleep.

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Be Kind to Authors


Please be kind to your author friends—buy their books!

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Museums to Visit

I’m back in Plano, Texas after a busy three weeks away. Most of the time was spent on some hard work at my mother-in-law’s house in Binghamton, New York. Before we arrived in New York, we stayed several days at National Harbor, Maryland. We spent two days in Washington, DC visiting museums.

National Museum of African American History and Culture

What an amazing place that provides a chronicle of the ongoing struggle of African Americans in America. The museum is both educational and sobering.

Don’t be afraid of long lines and difficulty obtaining tickets. You can order on-line for daily tickets. Please try the variety of foods available at the museum cafe.

African American Civil War Memorial and Museum

A must visit for Civil War historians. I guarantee you will learn new things about how African Americans helped win their freedom and preserve the Union.

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The African American Civil War monument is across the street from the museum.

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National Museum of the American Indian

This is a fascinating museum devoted to the many Native American tribes. try the variety of foods available at the museum cafe. The museum explores some of the popular myths about famous American Indian people and events.


We were very impressed by the Inca Road exhibit and the ability to create a 25,000 mile road linking the west coast of South America.

The National Civil War Museum

The American Civil War Museum in Harrisburg, PA presents a year-by-year overview of the Civil War. This is a good place to begin your own exploration of the American Civil War. The exhibits illustrate the arms, equipment, and uniforms of the Union and Confederate forces. Briefly explore this museum before visiting Gettysburg National Military Park.

Perhaps we will see you on the road as we continue our Civil War Journeys.

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McFarland Publishing Book Sale

Beginning on June 1, McFarland is offering a website promotion for their books about military history. Online orders for books on military history will be discounted by 25% June 1 through June 15. The website coupon code will be Military25, and it will apply to any book that is a part of the military history category.  McFarland has 1,077 titles to choose from.  Please see McFarland Publishing – Military History.

For example, my book Teacher of Civil War Generals, regularly $39.95 (see Teacher of Civil War Generals) is available at a 25% discount or $29.96. Just enter the code Military25 at checkout. You can also preorder my new book (see Preparing for Disunion).


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Some Research Ideas

I spend a great amount of time doing research for my writing. I would like to suggest a methodology that might make your research more effective.

  1. Start with a simple Google internet search on the topic. Record significant research.
  2. Visit the Wikipedia link – Wikipedia is the subject of much criticism, but it’s a great place to begin. The listing, if there is one, provides the basics on the subject. Record significant research. I like to use Microsoft Notes.
  3. Check the references and citations at the bottom of the Wikipedia web page. Record research.
  4. Search Google category books to find references. Record research. Make note of all significant books.
  5. If you are searching for a person, go to Ancestry or FamilySearch. Record dates, family members, and images. Record research.
  6. Search old newspapers ( for articles. Make sure you extend the date of your research. Add modifiers to narrow the search field – start with time period, then state(s), and put topic in quotations.

You can do all of these things in your pajamas or clothes you spouse wants to throw out and at a time convenient to you.

  1. Visit library and see if they have any of the books you found in step 4. Order books using inter-library loan. Check out library editions that you can only access from home. Take pictures or pdfs of information (be sure to document the details of the source.)
  2. Check local college libraries.
  3. Check local museums.

You have not spent too much money at this stage.

  1. Contact significant museums and libraries by phone and ask them what they might have on topic. Record research.
  2. Call historic organizations to determine if they have any resources. Record research.
  3. Contact descendants from genealogical research and ask to have access to their information.

Well this is a start from immediate thoughts. Please comment on my suggestions. Also, please add any books or websites that you have found useful.

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Coming in August – Preparing for Disunion


The ad for Preparing for Disunion is on Amazon. The book is available for pre-orders with a publication date of August 25, 2018. 


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