The funny thing is that the three of us almost met many times over the years. As we hunted down leads, scraping together bits and pieces of history from Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania, California and so many places in between, we walked on each others shadow.
And yet, it would take the internet to bring us together. Donald found Tom's pitiful excuse of a website dedicated to the 18th and asked if he wanted to work together towards a common goal. Donald and Stephen got in a bidding war on eBay over a picture - it should have gone for around $30, instead over $150. A quick email shot out brought Stephen into the group.
Together the three of us had been searching for decades because there was not a history of the unit. The history was a mystery that begged to be solved. There were the official records but reports on some of the battles were missing. There appeared to be some outright lies portrayed on members with other battles, specifically at Gettysburg. Many of the other units the 18th marched with, were without regimental histories, units that Donald referred to as "Orphan regiments" and the brigade that the 18th spent most of its time with during the war, the "Orphan Brigade" - thousands of men whose entire experience in the war boiled down to a sentence or two in a footnote of a few books.
The goal was to rectify this for at least the 18th. Together we could finish researching and write a comprehensive history of the regiment and the men who marched in it. As they researched, we read other regimental histories, noting what we liked and more importantly disliked about how the authors presented their history. Each time we thought that we were close, another discovery would be found, causing another delay. Tom once noted, "It's been 140 years, what's another 10?"
One time, Stephen suggested that the trio should write a book about researching based on their experiences - and so he did. With Donald and Tom offering suggestions, edits and extra chapters - our first book was written almost by mistake. Although the first publishing house turned them down, they sent the manuscript to another one that accepted it immediately.
Even though our main goal is to write the book on the 18th, the web site is still a major part of our experience. It is here that we share some, but not all, of what we have learned. We have met many fellow researchers and descendants through this site and look forward to meeting more. Our goal with this site is at the very least offer homage to the unit and the men and act as an introduction to their heroic efforts.
If you have any questions about the unit or a specific soldier, please contact us and we will be glad to help as much as we can. We are not even showing 5% of what we have - letters, pictures, diaries, pension records, military records, even a published book are all out there, we are just trying to bring it all together and provide you a sneak peak..
- Tom, Donald and Stephen