A New Concept in Civil War Reporting
Publishers and Editors-in-General
Putting together The Kepi Magazine
In speaking with devotees of the Civil War it has often struck me that those deeply immersed in studying the conflict, whether they refer to it as, “The War of Northern Aggression,” the “Blue and the Gray,” or the “War Between the States,” have a life-long fascination with it. When people ask me how and why I got interested, my answer is always the same: I was born to it. As early as I can remember, I was drawn to the Civil War. Nothing was too obscure or settled for me: I wanted to know everything about the battles and leaders, but more specifically I craved an understanding of the times, because to truly understand the past, you have to view it from the perspective of those who lived it.
Believing that others felt as I did, and that they weren’t satisfied with coffee table publications specializing in repeating the tried and the true without daring to reinterpret a battle or a strategy or even a personality, my partner and I decided we would publish a magazine dealing not only with fresh (and sometimes uncomfortable) views, but one that offered a more thorough examination of the mid-19th century. With an eye toward the iconoclastic, the odd and the unexplored, we began publishing in the time before personal computers were commonplace.
To present a professional magazine meant using a professional printer and typesetter. Starting out with grand ideas and a limited budget we quickly learned how to do a paste-up which is actually more complex than it sounds. We had to teach ourselves about various typefaces, column width and how to efficiently use space, where and how to insert illustrations and how to be judicious in the use of lines. The description “paste-up” comes from the fact that pages were literally pasted-up. After deciding how to arrange a page, the typesetting (which came on a long roll), was cut to size and blocked out on a piece of blue graph paper (the camera didn’t pick up the color blue). Then the back of the typesetting was covered with hot wax and placed on the graph paper, using the lines and squares to make the column even. When the wax dried, the page was “set” and ready to be “shot.”
As you read the issues from start to finish (the printer did the paste-up on the premiere issue and we did subsequent issues) I think you’ll see how we experimented with typefaces and lines, getting more and more adept as we went along. Ironically, this turned out to be the easiest part of the equation. What we anticipated would be the easiest actually turned out to be the most difficult: finding authors who were capable of writing about the War without falling into the trite and the rehashed. We didn’t want the same old story of Gettysburg, or a romanticized version of Stonewall in the Valley. We sought hard, gritty stories, or ones with new interpretations of cannon. And believe me, when you talk about the Civil War, there is most definitely “cannon.” And by that I mean, This is the way it is.
Perhaps there’s a comfort in the thought that you know a particular battle inside out. Perhaps that makes it easy to discuss when everyone is on the same page. But when you’re afraid to delve into probing questions, then you’re not an historian, you’re a fan. Fans were not our audience. That said, it proved extremely difficult to find articles worth publishing. We wanted to shake people out of their complacency but to do that we needed writers capable of producing thought-provoking material. We assumed they would beat a path to our door (we even paid a small fee) but they didn’t. Those articles we received might have been all right for a weekend reenactment, but it wasn’t interesting enough for us. So we ended up writing a number of articles ourselves, primarily on “Stonewall” Jackson, who happened to be our specialty. In re-reading these articles, as fresh to me now as when I wrote them decades ago, I hope you find some new insights and some thought-provoking interpretations. To add to our in-house staff we recruited several regular writers who had interests in medicine and religion. And I have to mention a gentleman who became a semi-regular writer for us, Thomas J. Evans. Although it’s been a long time since we communicated, Tom was a first rate investigator and we were honored to publish his material.
This is the background on The Kepi. After we ceased publishing we devoted our energies to fiction writing. We have quite a number of books in the R.B. Saga that I intend to publish in the near future that deal specifically with the War. Our trilogy, The Kansas Pirates, available on Amazon, is set pre-War and deals with a number of uncomfortable issues in “Bleeding Kansas.”
Thank you for visiting this site and good reading!
First Issue Volume I, Number 1
Cover: Statue at Fredericksburg, Virginia. Photo by J.E.Gessler.
Volume I, Number 2
Cover: From The American Phrenological Journal, March 1863.
Volume I, Number 3
Cover: “The Battle of Perryville” from HARPER’S WEEKLY, November 1, 1862.
Volume I, Number 4
Cover: “The Official Military Atlas of the Civil War“.
Volume I, Number 5
Cover: Taken from the collection of William F. Howard, depicts Confederate prisoners awaiting transfer to Union prisons.
Volume II, Number 1
Cover: Shows Fr. Thomas Mooney offering Sunday Mass to the 69th NYSM; Col. Corcoran stands with arms folded. Courtesy Library of Congress
Volume II, Number 2
Cover: Mosby in uniform; Brig.-Gen. Edwin H. Stoughton, Commander of 2nd Vermont Brigade: plaque outside Gunnel house where Stoughton was captured.
Volume II, Number 3
Cover: General Richard Ewell from Moore’s Rebellion Record; Gen. P.G.T. Beauregard from Embattled Confederates; Gen. Rodes from Lee’s Lieutenants; Gen. Trimble from Stonewall in the Valley.
Volume II, Number 4
Cover: Col. Rush C. Hawkins from the Anne S.K. Brown Military Collection, Brown University.
Volume II, Number 5
Cover: Gen. T.J. Jackson, vintage image by Meiley, of Lexington, Va. From the authors private collection. “The Rebel Stonewall Jackson”, p.5 from Harper’s Weekly, August 30, 1862.
Volume II, Number 6
Cover: From the Library of Congress.
Volume III, Number 1
Cover: Thomas J. Evens examines a recently excavated specimen at the XI Corps Ammo Dump. There was so much pewter in the ground, authors ended up screening the earth. John M. Morton checks a reading on his White’s metal detector; examples of the Gardiner explosive musket shells; partially exploded bullet with hole on both sides; partially exploded bullet showing burst detonator; unfired bullet; three acorn-shaped copper detonators; two detonators with caps removed to reveal hole. All photos from cover and accompanying articles courtesy of authors.
Volume III, Number 2
Cover: Little Round Top and Big Round Top, Brady plalte; Library of Congress Also: Gettysburg from Seminary Ridge, Tyson Brothers; Gettysburg National Park Service.
Volume III, Number 3
Cover: From the Library of Congress.
Volume III, Number 4
Cover: This tintype was enclosed in the bundle the Coleman’s purchased. It was encased behind glass, in a gold leaf frame and a black case. There are no printers marks, and none of the men are identified.
Volume III, Number 5
Cover: A tired and careworn T.J. Jackson. Taken in 1863, this photograph starkly reveals how heavily his responsibilities weighed on this 39-year-old hero. Courtesy of the authors.
Volume III, Number 6
Cover: General Henry H. Sibley, Confederate commander at the Battle of Valverde. Courtesy of the National Archives.
Volume IV, Number 1
Cover: Becoming a prisoner of war was a danger every soldier faced. ‘Kintuck’ McClain was captured and sent to Andersonville, like these officers of the 19th Iowa, and William Troyer saw many soldiers who were released by Federal troops. This photo is from the Library of Congress. The bottom photo, from the National Archives, reveals the road unfortunate Union mend tred on their way to Andersonville.