Sunday, July 27, 2008

Luzader's Saratoga: The New Yardstick


This is why I love publishing so much.

John Luzader served as the staff historian at Saratoga National Historic Park in the 1960s. During his tenure there he scoured through archives on both sides of Atlantic. Armed with reams of original source material, he walked every yard of that expansive battlefield (and its related satellite engagements at Fort Ticonderoga, Fort Stanwix, Oriskany, Bennington, and others). As a result, he came to understand the American Revolution's decisive campaign in a way no other historian ever has. And all of his peers acknowledge exactly that.

And then John began writing about it in his unique "old school" style that drips with charm, verve, authority, and insight. And he kept writing, year after year. And then he tinkered--year after year. As bestselling author and former chief historian for the NPS Robert Utley told me, "John just could not let go."

John is now in is mid-80s and lives in a retirement center in West Virginia. With some prodding from friends and fellow historians (including Jerry Greene, our author of The Guns of Independence: The Siege of Yorktown, 1781, and Indian War Veterans) John let go of his manuscript, which we picked up two years ago. Other than a few odds and ends, it is now finished and ready for the proofreader. I remembered it as being good; I had forgotten just how good.

John's deep insight into the campaign and its personalities opens windows into the American Revolution in general, and Saratoga in particular, that no other historians have yet explored. The book is a treat to read, from the opening chapter exploring the halls of British power and the roots of the 1777 invasion to the final chapter explaining the ramifications of the campaign.

I particularly enjoyed Luzader's ability to peel back the sources and call a spade a spade: he identifies which officers had trouble with the truth, which were conspiring to create problems between Benedict Arnold and Horatio Gates (a long fascinating appendix covers this topic), why Burgoyne ended up where he did, when he did, and why he did, and lets the major participants, whenever possible, speak through their own pens. Luzader offers a fresh, invigorating assessment of Horatio Gates that surely must be closer to the truth than what popular history and glib writers have offered us.

The end result is a 504-page magnum opus with a dozen original maps, modern battlefield photos, a helpful dramatis personae, nine appendices, orders of battle, end notes, bibliography, index, and a Foreword by Eric Schnitzer, the park's current ranger/historian. All of us here at Savas Beatie are honored to be the company that finally makes John Luzader's lifetime of work available to the general reading public.

This is why I love publishing so much.

--tps

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is great news, for sure. Saratoga has always needed a really good history and now, hopefully, it will have one.