I recently received the reviews of my manuscript from the publisher and there is both good and not-so-good news. As for the latter I still need to make some changes to the manuscript before I am given a contract. The good news is that both reviewers offered first-rate comments and criticisms that will no doubt improve the overall quality of the manuscript. I am no stranger to the peer review process; the care that academic presses take in ensuring that their publications are solid is the main reason I went this route. So, over the summer I will address the comments of the reviewers and put everything else on hold that I am currently working on. This was the first time that the entire manuscript had been reviewed since I submitted an earlier version for the M.A. in history at the University of Richmond back in 2005. All in all my prospects look good.
One thing that I need to do is distance my study a bit more from the work of David Blight who stresses the extent of consensus achieved nationally and among white Southerners regarding memory of the war. My work suggests that this is anything but the case as both ex-Confederates debated over who could claim credit for success and the Crater and during the Readjuster years which witnessed bitter debates among veterans of Mahone’s brigade surrounding their commanders foray into politics. The chapter on the creation of the Petersburg National Military Park in 1936 also needs to be refined in a way which reflects local economic concerns rather than the broad theme of national reconciliation. I tend to agree with one of the reviewers who suggested that while the first five battlefield parks created at the turn of the twentieth century may have been the result of reconciliation the Crater came much too late. Northerners may have been involved, but were probably not the prime movers.
The most interesting suggestion and one which will involve a substantial amount of work involves writing a brand new chapter on the post Rally the High Ground/NPS changes in battlefield interpretation. The goal of the chapter would be to explore the relationship between the city of Petersburg and its large black population and the NPS. At one point in the manuscript I speculate as to why black Americans have not taken more of an interest in the Civil War. From the manuscript review:
While I agree that there has been and continues to be resistance to including the black story in Civil War history, the fact remains that academics and the National Park Service have reached out to all people in attempt to tell a more complicated and inclusive story. NPS frontline people that I have spoken to are bewildered and confused by the lack of black reaction to this interpretive shift. It is controversial to question why so many African Americans are reluctant to embrace their Civil War past when there are so few impediments in their way as had been the case prior to 1970.
Since most people interested in such issues fall back on educated guesses (as I did) the plan is to conduct extensive interviews with former and current NPS staff as well as members of the local community. This would be the first time that anyone has taken such an approach and it has the potential to steer dialog in a more promising direction. I’ve already contacted a few NPS personnel and the archivist at Virginia State University and all are willing to help. If Park Service personnel are indeed confused by the lack of response from the black community six years after the Rally Initiative than it would be important to know why.
On the one hand it would have been nice to get a contract, but given the time that went into the reading of the manuscript and the constructive criticism that resulted it is difficult not to feel positive about the final product.
Now I need to look into a decent digital recorder. Any suggestions?