Join Us For This Tour From: September 1 to September 14
Book Title: Rebel Correspondent by Steve Procko
Category: Adult Non-Fiction 18+, 356 pages
Genre: Biography & Autobiography, Military and Nonfiction, History, United States, Civil War Period
Publisher: Steve Procko Productions, LLC
Release date: September 2021
Tour dates: September 1 to September 14
Content Rating: PG
Rebel Correspondent is the true story of a young man who joined the Confederate Army days after his eighteenth birthday and served bravely until the war ended. Wounded twice, he emerged a changed person. But he wasn't just a returning veteran; he was also a writer.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, Arba F. Shaw was a fifty-seven-year-old farmer. On a chilly December day in 1901, he put pen to paper to write his memories of being a Rebel Private in the 4th Georgia Cavalry (Avery), C.S.A. He completed writing his account in February 1902. His local newspaper, the Walker County Messenger, in Lafayette, Georgia, published his account in more than fifty articles from 1901 to 1903. Then it was all but forgotten. Until Now. Rebel Correspondent presents Arba F. Shaw's account word-for-word, as first published in the Walker County Messenger almost 120 years ago. Procko annotates Shaw's account with in-depth research, verifying it and uncovering the back story of his life and the lives of his Rebel comrades. Procko's research offers a historical perspective on the many places and events Shaw so richly described.
Meet the Author:
Steve Procko never thought of himself as a Civil War history buff, let alone a biographer. He does love history, however, particularly learning about the small, everyday events in the lives of little-known people and the small towns they lived in.
A documentarian and cinematographer, Steve was sleuthing stories for a documentary series he has developed, “There’s History Around Every Bend,” currently available on YouTube, when he came across the writings of Private Arba F. Shaw.
The down-to-earth accounts of the everyday life of a lowly private just struggling to survive one of the greatest events in American history fascinated Steve. As he read the series of articles, mostly unread since they were published in a small, north Georgia newspaper in 1901-1903, he began to realize that this was a remarkable cache of history.
A native of Florida, Steve, with his Lauren and their dog Rigby, splits his time between a mountain log cabin nestled next to Stanley Creek near the town of Blue Ridge, Georgia, and a home in Ocala, Florida.
He opened a commercial film production company with a partner in 1984. In 2003 the company became Steve Procko Productions (SPP). His Emmy-award-winning financial literacy program Talkin' Money Minutes is available on over 100 Public Television stations nationwide. SPP has also won three additional Emmys over fifty Addy Awards, Telly Awards, and two Promax awards.
When he’s not behind a video camera or researching the archives for his next documentary or book, Steve explores remote areas throughout the United States and Canada as a fine art photographer. He has had work displayed at The Carnegie Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, The Museum of Art in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida, as well as solo and group exhibitions throughout the United States.
Steve’s second book, Captured Liberty, another Civil War story about nine POW Union officers and their amazing escape will be published in 2022. He also plans to develop documentaries about The Rebel Correspondent and Captured Liberty.
connect with the author: website ~ twitter ~ facebook ~ instagram `~ goodread
How did you come across this story?
I came across Arba F. Shaw’s account of his experiences in the Civil War while researching a documentary I have been working on. I knew it was something special, but set it aside in a folder so I could explore it later.
The documentary deals with the chaotic conditions in the North Georgia and Eastern Tennessee mountains in 1864 - the title in fact will be “1864: Chaos In The Mountains”. I started working on it in 2018 when I interviewed a man who’s ancestors were killed by rebel militia on September 2, 1864, the same day Atlanta fell to Sherman. I have done several other interviews plus researched and outlined the entire documentary.
I had several new interviews to do and they were tentatively scheduled to be videotaped in early 2020 - then COVID hit.
I had to postpone interviewing and meeting anyone and so I went back to Arba’s account, which I had downloaded most of, and thought, well if I am going to be quarantined in a log cabin on a creek in the North Georgia mountains for a while, this might make a good subject for a book. I came up with the title for it, Rebel Correspondent, on the first day, in the first few minutes I sat at my computer, then I began to write the first chapter.
What types of research did you do?
First of all, not all of Arba’s articles were available online and I wasn't sure if I was going to be able to find them. The most critical missing account was the second to last one, where he came home after the war was over. I mean, how can you have a story about a soldier who survives the Civil War and not tell the emotions of returning home to your mother having survived? I began looking for that missing article and the others - the library in Walker County had a set of Walker County Messengers from 1901-1903 but the articles were missing from there as well. Finally I located them in the courthouse - since the WCM was the legal newspaper for the county, the courts were required to keep copies of all issues. They are bound in leather. I had to get permission to take a camera into the basement records area by the Probate judge.
In addition, I extensively researched the Shaw genealogy to understand who everyone was. I explored in great detail the “The War of the Rebellion - the compilation of the Official Records of the Civil War published by the War Department from 1880-1901, Library of Congress, etc.
I love the research part of this, the detective work. Finding diaries from soldiers on either side of the battles Arba was in. This was how I was able to pinpoint the Union sergeant, the man in the red-sash that shot Arba at Campbellsville in September 1864. To me, that was an “ah-ha” moment. Arba never knew the name of the man who shot him, and what happened to him after Arba shot back. Now more than 150 years after the fact, we do. That was satisfying.
Caption: Arba was shot by a man wearing a red sash. The only non-commissioned officers that would of worn a red sash were sergeants. Unidentified Union Sergeant; Sixth-plate tintype, Library of Congress
When and why did you begin writing?
I was into journalism in high school so I was writing back then and into college as a newspaper reporter and photographer. The photography lead to commercial photography and then to cinematography and TV commercials which I built my career around over the last 35 years.
So the writing I do today is for the documentaries I work on, and occasional magazine articles - most of them with a history theme. I started a series a couple of years back called “There’s History Around Every Bend” http://www.HistoryBend.org that are “micro-documentaries” about topics near my cabin in North Georgia mountains. The title for the series is literal–I drive down our country road near the house and there is history at almost every turn. Perhaps Rebel Correspondent will become a documentary.
It’s interesting the high school connection in this book for me. When I was seventeen I took both journalism and radio and television classes in high school. Both teachers were fantastic and clearly influenced me in the trajectory I took in life. When I wrote this book, two individuals I was classmates with in high school collaborated with me some 45+ years later. One is now a primitive baptist minister, Arba’s father was also a primitive baptist minister, so I reached out to my old classmate to understand that church’s history. The second individual was my editor. She went on to be a journalist and now spends her time writing and editing books.
What’s the last great book you read?
Well, I read a lot of non-fiction. After Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton came and I heard that he was inspired to write the musical after reading Ron Chernow’s book, I read Chernow’s Hamilton and then Chernow’s Grant and Washington: A Life. All were excellent. I am just now finishing Steve Inskeep’s Imperfect Union: How Jessie and John Frémont Mapped the West, Invented Celebrity, and Helped Cause the Civil War. Inskeep is the host of Morning Edition on NPR. The idea of Frémont as a mid-19th century celebrity and how his fame launched him into becoming the newly-created Republican party’s very first presidential candidate in 1856, resonates today. I also have the new Stephen King’s Billy Summers in my Kindle cue.
What’s your next project?
It’s a story based on a picture. The say a picture is worth a thousand words, but this one is worth more like 100,000 words. A book inspired by a single photograph of twelve men taken on January 2nd, 1865. Nine of the men were Union POW officers and the other three their scouts, who helped the POW officers through the mountains of Western North Carolina and Eastern Tennessee to Union lines. The photograph was shared with me at the beginning of this year by a descendant of one of the scouts. Some of the officers were POWs for almost two years. Their individual stories of capture are remarkable. It is like Band of Brothers but during the Civil War. Plus most all of them had amazing lives into the early 20th Century. The actual photograph has a history of its own, it’s been mis-identified on multiple occasions. So it’s a book based on a single picture, taken by a Knoxville photographer who exposed a wet-plate negative and created an albumen print of the serendipitous moment that the POWs were finally free. It’s titled Captured Liberty.
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