This one is going to be a little different, because it's post-concept and post-site on 50 Books: that is, rather than seeing what I did use that fit, and how having gaps might have held back a project, I'm going to build my research on a list, here. This will create my To Read List.
While on the one hand it's good to see what books I already have in stock that can be used, it's always good to get new stuff with new shocks to the brain.
If you hadn't recognized the date, it's the Mexican-American War, 1846-1848. I've heard people mourn our invasions in the Mideast as "The first time the US has ever gotten into a war where it wasn't good or necessary to do it." Hel-lo? Vietnam? Spanish-American War? And especially this one. I think it will resonate with today.
We're also not going to the Northern war area. I want people in the heart of the battle for Mexico City, some of them starting to go "Why are we here? What is this accomplishing?" (Though, frankly, that could change at any time.)
I can see that for some things I am going to rely on the mountains of Civil War reference for, say, surgery on the battlefield.
This list is increased by really needing two everyday lives, if not three: everyday life in Mexico, the everyday life in America that gets left behind, and everyday life in the war. Soldiers sit around and talk about life back home, especially when they come from places as different as Vermont villages and Charleston.
1). A general history of the time, not
over 200 pages.
2.) An "everyday life" book of
3.) General transportation
4.) General costume
5.) Specific transportation
6.) Etiquette, and I don't mean morals
7.) Spectator entertainments,
a general overview.
9.) Food and dining, including
what sort of public dining was available.
10.) Recipes for period food.
11.) Marriage and family.
12.) Specific dress styles, for your decade,
including specialty costumes for clerics.
13.) Religion for the time and place.
14.) A fat history book
of the area and century as an introduction.
15.) A history of the most influential country at the time (country A).
16.) A history of its rival (country B).
In this time, it's probably Britain and France, as the colonial land-grab in Africa heats up. This war is on the periphery of civilization, and I wouldn't be surprised if most Europeans today don't know it happened.
However, to save money, time, and space, I'm going to play the "area" card to make this countries of North America, so the USA and the USM. Politics is very important, but I'm likely to slight debates in Congress as sheer boredom as they are too far away to be anything but newspaper reports.
"More generally speaking, the best book to my knowledge detailing the military history of the Mexican War is K. Jack Bauer's The Mexican War, 1846-1848. ¦ You may also find Robert Selph Henry's The Story of the Mexican War ¦ a good introduction."
"John Eisenhower's So Far From God: The U. S. War With Mexico, 1846-1848 ¦ is not a campaign history but is a good and comprehensive general history. His evaluation of Winfield Scott is particularly valuable. A newer history of the war with great insights on the Mexican side is Timothy Hendersons's A Glorious Defeat: Mexico and Its War with the United States. ¦ Other books of interest on different aspects of the war, which may be more, less, or not at all useful, depending on what it is on which you decide to focus, include John H. Schroeder's important Mr. Polk's War: American Opposition and Dissent, 1846-1848 ¦ and Robert W. Johannsen's To the Halls of the Montezumas: The Mexican War in the American Imagination. ¦"
As Schroeder probably covers, I would also like to point out that the early Abolitionists were active in this, as they felt that a Mexican land-grab was done primarily to benefit the slave states by getting new cotton-growing land below the Mason-Dixon Line. The Slave Power * (1916): Theodore Parker, 1810-1860; James Kendall, Hosmer, 1834-1927, ed.: Boston: American Unitarian Association. Contains "A sermon of slavery"; "The Mexican War"; "A letter on slavery"; "The destination of America"; "The abolition of slavery by the French Republic"; "The anti-slavery convention"; "The Free Soil movement"; "Reply to Webster"; "The slave power"; "The function of conscience"; "The Boston kidnapping." "The present volume, containing anti-slavery papers written by Theodore Parker between the years 1841 and 1852, does not present all that he wrote upon this topic during the period."--Editor's preface
17.) A biography of the leader of country A
18.) A biography of the leader of country B
A Sketch of the Life and Character of Gen. Taylor, the American Hero and People's Man, Together with a Concise History of the Mexican War .. * (1847: New York, N. H. Blanchard; Boston, J.B. Hall) because this is where Zachary Taylor made his rep for his presidential run.
Need a modern Santa Ana bio. And one on Taylor and one on Scott.
19.) A history of the country you are setting
20.) A history of the country you are setting
in, that era.
Velasco Marquez, A Mexican Viewpoint on the War With the United States. ¦
The View From Chapultepec by Cecil Robinson. ¦
21.) A biography of the leader of the country
of your setting.
22.) An everyday life for the commoner/lower
classes of your time and place.
23.) An everyday life for the upper classes
of your time and place.
24.) An everyday life for the middle class
of your time and place.
25.) An everyday life for women of your
time and place,
26.) An auto/biography of someone like
your protagonist, or a book as much as possible focused on people
27.) A book on houses and furnishings of
the period, if possible.
28.) A book about courting, romance, and
sex of the time.
29.) A book for naming historical characters
30.) Medicine of the time and place.
31.) Climate, weather, and seasons.
32) Mexican Army: Need organization and arms. It looks like Osprey, though they probably haven't but a half-dozen books on this war. Not like using them for Napoleonics, where you can get a full shelf of volumes. Which is a mercy when you consider reading all these references on button detail.
33) American Army: ditto. Pleez let me find them cheap second-hand or this is going to eat my whole book budget for the year. "James M. Mccaffrey's Army of Manifest Destiny: The American Soldier in the Mexican War, 1846-1848. ¦ Richard Bruce Winder's Mr. Polk's Army: The American Military Experience in the Mexican War ¦ is, in many ways, similar and improved."
34) Conspiracy Theories: The Evolution of the Myth, as Exemplified in General Grant's History of the Plot of President Polk and Secretary Marcy to Sacrifice Two American Armies in the Mexican War of 1846-1848 * (1890): [McPherson, John D.]: Washington, D. C., W. H. Morrison. I'm really eager to read this after I get my basics down so I know what he's talking about.
35) Atrocity Propaganda: No war is complete without it. You always have to demonize the enemy. I mean, just because I read it doesn't mean I believe it. I also don't necessarily disbelieve it, and I don't discount Americans misbehaving -- but this is the talk that will be going through the ranks. This is all one title! Mexican Treacheries and Cruelties. Incidents and Sufferings in the Mexican War; with Accounts of Hardships Endured; Treacheries of the Mexicans; Battles Fought, and Success of American Arms; Also, an Account of Valiant Soldiers Fallen, and the Particulars of the Death and Funeral Services in Honor of Capt. George Lincoln, of Worcester * (1848): [Allen, G.N]: Boston and New York.
36) War Anecdotes: How else would we know so much about the general's horse? Soldiers talk about this. The Rough and Ready Annual; * (1848: New-York, D. Appleton & Co.: Philadelphia, G. S. Appleton), a great collection of anecdotal material, of the "let's not forget our war" sort.
37) An Almanac of 1848: It's like divine approval to get almanacs for a project. The Whig Almanac, 1848 * (1847): David Young; Corwin, Thomas, 1794-1865; Clay, Henry, 1777-1852: [New York]: [Greeley & McElrath]. The number of darkey stories for humour is revelatory. As they show up elsewhere (#36), I can't really consider this booklet unusually racist: the whole culture was like this, and I have to remember to play the people authentically. Southern officers bring their personal slaves with them as servants.
38) Contemporary Novel: Of course, it's going to be Victorian over-dramatization, but it is a very period view. Señora Ines; or, The American Volunteers, a Tale of the Mexican War * (c1848: Boston, F. Gleason) by A. S. St. Clair. It also gives accepted period behavior. Real period behavior is more variable.
39) Too Much Military Detail: Official List of Officers Who Marched with the Army under the Command of Major General Winfield Scott, from Puebla upon the City of Mexico * (1848): United States. Adjutant-General's Office: Mexico, "American Star" Print. Anyone fictitious will be a very conscious choice on my part now.
40) Personal Narratives: The Mexican War, by an English Soldier. Comprising Incidents and Adventures in the United States and Mexico with the American Army * (1860: George Ballentine; New York, A. A. Townsend & Company.) An outsider's inside view!
41) Personal Narratives: Recollections of a Virginian in the Mexican, Indian, and Civil Wars * (1894): Dabney Herndon Maury, 1822-1900: New York, C. Scribner's Sons. On a side note, it's good to remember, o ye Civil War writers, that a lot of senior officers were veterans of this war, and will recall it. Say, Lee and Grant.
42) Conspiracies & Propaganda: A Series of Intercepted Mexican Letters: Captured by the American Guard, at Tacubaya * (1848): Robert Hall Smith,: Columbus, Ohio, Statesman Steam Press. (Must -- resist -- steampunkery.) Daring Deeds of American Heroes, with Biographical Sketches * (1856): James O. Brayman,, 1815-1887: New York and Auburn, Miller, Orton & Mulligan
43) Naval War: History of the United States Navy: and Biographical Sketches of American Naval Heroes from the Formation of the Navy to the Close of the Mexican War * (1852): Charles Jacobs Peterson,, 1819-1887: Philadelphia: Gihon
44) Officer Bio: The Memoirs of Ulysses S. Grant ¦
45) You Are There: The History of the Raising of the First American Flag on the Capitol of Mexico * (1856): United States. Congress (34th, 1st session: 1855-1856). Senate. Committe on Military Affairs: Washington: Printed by C. Wendell. A Thanksgiving Sermon, Preached in the National Palace, City of Mexico, on Sunday, October Third, A.D. 1847: on the Occasion of a Public Thanksgiving for the Victories Achieved by the Army of the United States, in the Basin of Mexico, under Command of Major-General Winfield Scott * (1847: John McCarty,: México: Printed at the office of the "American Star,"). A real page-turner. Not. I'll refer to this, but I'm not going to inflict but a few lines on the readers.
46) Cussing: Because someone might do it seriously in an army with mules. Holy Sh*t: A Brief History of Swearing ^ by Melissa Mohr, Oxford University Press, 2013. I got the Kindle edition. I'm dealing in soldiers, so it's invaluable to know that they will not use the same bad language as a modern one: their ideas of "tough talk" were different.
47) Now, can I find a traveler's guide to Mexico that describes the areas back then? Today's landscape may be hotter, drier, better watered artificially, missing islands, with dredged-out harbors that didn't hardly let a canoe in then, or missing hills leveled for building in 1950 or cliffs that spontaneously fell into the ocean in 1870. So, I acquired Alone in Mexico: The Astonishing Travels of Karl Heller, 1845-1848,* recently translated from the German. This may be the closest we get. He describes the horrific heat, but he's from Germany and I'm used to travelling around the Southwest deserts. Probably a better outlook than mine for most New Englanders in the Army.
48) Ordinary Knowledge: The American Pocket Library of Useful Knowledge * (1841; Philedelphia, Griffin & Simon) by Thomas Curtis Clarke. "Contains articles on agriculture, horticulture, health, Thomsonism, temperance, phrenology, and cookery" How many farmboys are in this army? I had better know my ag. Similar but different is Facts for the People: or, Things Worth Knowing. A Book of Receipts in Which Everything is of Practical Use to Every Body * (1850; Philadelphia, Laraway & Holstz)
49) San Patricios: "Johnson, Devotion to the adopted country: U.S. immigrant volunteers in the Mexican War ¦ - 2012 · Stevens, The Rogue's March: John Riley and the St. Patrick's Battalion, 1846-48 ¦ - 1999. Sword and Shamrock ¦." Will they make it into my story or not?
50) Music: I probably have a better chance of finding authentic Sumerian music than period songs here, especially not the Mexican. One tone-deaf lead character coming up. I might be able to locate some Californio fandango records at Lark in the Morning, but that's about it. (It just so happens there is an album with Sumerian music, based on archaeological info, and I know where to get it if I need it.)(And by this date, I got it. Bronze horns of ancient Ireland, next!)
Amazing how it has filled up, but actually there's a huge gap of a dozen books in everyday life up higher, including the need for Osprey. Specifically, I still need, often with a Mexican orientation ...
Some of this may be covered in other reading, but basically I see over a dozen book purchases here if the PDF libraries don't cough up something. Santa Ana is the minimum in bio purchases: I need modern books on all the major players, because older ones are so resolutely one-sided. So while period books can often give me a lot of period information, especially the limits of knowledge then, for biography I need the balance of this being a long time ago.
And that is how, with an idea in mind, you sit down, fill out the list as well as you can, and settle in to read your way to your novel, knowing in advance whether or not you have all or most of your bases covered. Reading with note-taking ought to run me about three months, maybe four. So for NNWM, I need to start reading no later than the start of June. March would be better. Writing histfi "in a hurry" is about a year of work, and I read fast.
Check the Near History sample guides. There's more to read, but mostly lighter stuff, as well as lots more in video. A few appropriate movies from a year are much easier to get through than a detail biography of a president and will tell you more about ordinary life.