I sit surrounded by 1806 research material. The European-like weather (grey, cold, icy rain) that enfolds our farm on this late winter evening draws my mind to Paris to consider what was the Emperor doing 213 years ago around this time? Over the past week he has hunted in the Forest of Boulogne, attended the debut of the Nicomède at the Théâtre-Française, presided over the conseil d’État, met with his Minister of Finance, and more salient to our shared interests, compelled the Prussian envoy to sign a new treaty far less advantageous to Prussia than the one originally agreed upon. While the browbeaten Christian Graf von Haugwitz travels back to Berlin to report, Napoleon instructs the Bavarian king to occupy Anspach, one of the terms of the new treaty. A week later, Napoleon interrupts another theatrical presentation between acts to announce the French occupation of Naples. With this, the Emperor has consolidated his great victories of 1805 and dealt with all his Continental enemies who participated in the Third Coalition. During that February of 1806, Napoleon had no idea that in another seven months he would be leading the Grande Armée into Germany.
Contemplating Napoleon’s work schedule makes one feel very lazy indeed. Still, over the past two years I have managed to complete a three-volume reference work for ABC-Clio, Americans at War: Eyewitness Accounts from the American Revolution to the 21st Century. It was a time-consuming labor, requiring locating, reading, and evaluating hundreds and hundreds of first-hand combat narratives. I was not interested in the stories of the senior commanders but instead concentrated on the soldiers in the front lines. I am proud of the product and very, very glad to be done. I also completed the sequel to my Civil War novel, namely, 1898: Let Freedom Ring. The wonderful thing about writing a novel is letting the story tell itself. The process takes the writer to surprising places, destinations he never expected to visit. The novelist opens a vein and sometimes releases vexation and tail chasing. Other days produce an exhilarating elixir. Like its predecessor, 1898 is meticulously researched with the climactic scenes taking place in the Philippines where The United States fought a brutal counterinsurgency. My peerless editor, wife Roberta (best known to you all as “Packing and Shipping”) is currently working to upload the novel to Amazon.
So on to 1806 and Jena-Auerstädt. When I visited the fields in 1991, they were behind the newly-opened Iron Curtain. We stood on the Landgrafberg and saw the terrain as Napoleon saw it (ignoring the nearby Soviet radar station). Walking through the narrow alleys of Vierzeheiligen, we looked across the fields where the Prussian musketeers stood so gallantly as the tactics of Frederick the Great collided with the tactics of the Grande Armée. Then and thereafter, I knew that someday I would tell their story.
We will probably produce only one hardcover printing, which will keep the same physical qualities as our previous books. We will contact readers to assess demand, print enough to satisfy that demand, and thereafter sell electronic copies only. Unlike readers of my generation, today’s young scholars don’t like to clutter their lives with physical books. Also, Packing and Shipping has forbidden further additions to the guest bedroom/unsold book storage room.
Readers may ask when the book will be done. I would love to say by Christmas this year, but that is probably wildly ambitious. Rest assured, when it is available, we will let you know. Until then, wishing you and yours a happy and healthy 2019.
James R. Arnold