This is my “late-in-career vanity piece.” That is, it is a compilation of writings which I have composed over the years, most of them previously published, but some in rather obscure outlets and thus not easily available for present-day readers. A few of the pieces herein have never until now appeared in print.
It is usual in works of this sort to open with a chapter-length autobiographical essay. However, since I look forward to collecting essays of a more personal nature in another volume, I will open with only the briefest description of who I am.
I was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, on December 26, 1938. As a young adult I found my way into Professor T. Harry Williams's classes at Louisiana State University. He changed my life, for until then I had no idea what I wished to do in a career. His lectures and writings were so inspiring that I became his disciple, receiving a B.A. in 1961, an M.A. in 1963, and a Ph.D. in 1969, all under his valuable and much-admired direction.
I have found collaboration to be enormously useful and helpful in researching and writing. Only two of my books—the biography General Stephen D. Lee, which was my revised dissertation, and Shades of Blue and Gray: An Introductory Military History of the Civil War (1997)—were written alone. I also had collaborators for many of my articles, encyclopedia entries, and other short pieces. Richard Beringer and I worked together for many years and finally finished in 2002 our Jefferson Davis, Confederate President.
I believe that in some cases, and definitely in my case, collaborations have become greater than the sum of their parts: that is, neither collaborator could possibly have done the same job alone, because each had special talents, insights, and so on that the other lacked. In some cases it was just a matter of time-saving convenience. But working in a foursome, as I did on Why the South Lost the Civil War, was a tricky business, a nerve-racking experience which I would never attempt again and would not recommend to anyone.