Fletcher Pratt, Military & Naval Historian 

by Henry Wessells

Copyright © 1997, 2010 by Henry Wessells.
This article was furst published in AB Bookman’s Weekly  for 30 June 1997. All rights reserved.

 

In military history as in other fields, certain authors defy easy characterization. Bibliographies are of necessity compiled with an eye on documenting a subject — even a specific sub-discipline, geographic region, or a clearly defined event. An author may figure prominently in such works and yet these citations will reflect only an incomplete picture of the author’s writngs and interests.

One author who achieved distinction in widely different fields is Fletcher Pratt (1897-1956). Known in military history circles as author of Ordeal by Fire  and other books on the Civil War, Pratt also wrote Fleet Against Japan , The Marines’ War , Empire and the Sea , and many other volumes of naval history, as well as an early classic on ciphers and cryptography, Secret and Urgent . In the fantasy genre he is remembered for collaborations with L. Sprague DeCamp (the Harold Shea novels and Tales from Gavagan’s Bar ) and for two significant yet neglected novels, The Well of the Unicorn  and The Blue Star .

Murray Fletcher Pratt was born near Buffalo on April 25, 1897. The son of a farmer, he was raised on the Seneca Indian Reservation at Tonawanda, New York. He was a flyweight boxer in his early youth, and worked at the Buffalo Public Library. He studied at Hobart College for a year, but then changes in his family’s finances forced him to interrupt his education. He worked for a time a journalist on the Buffalo Chronicle-Express , before coming to New York City in 1920. 1

During the middle and late 1920s, Pratt wrote for a variety of magazines, drawing on his library background for such articles as “ A Glance at the Public Libraries, ” published in the American Mercury  for June 1928. This discussed the relationship between administrative budgets, acquisitions and censorship. He contributed articles on other, less serious topics as well, and worked for a dubious-sounding “ writers’ institute ” and a biographical encyclopedia. With the rise of the science fiction magazines in the middle to late 1920s and early 1930s, Pratt began translating German and French novels for Hugo Gernsback’s Amazing Stories  and later Wonder Stories . “ The Octopus Cycle, ” published in May 1928 under the Irvin Lester pseudonym, was the first original story published in Amazing Stories , and Pratt wrote more than a dozen other stories through mid-decade. He would return to the science fiction and fantasy genre after World War II. 2

In addition to writing for the science fiction pulps, Pratt worked as “ special staff writer ” at American Detective , a true crime magazine in the middle 1930s. A collection of Pratt’s articles was published as The Cunning Mulatto and other Cases of Ellis Parker, American Detective, Told by Fletcher Pratt  (New York : Harrison Smith & Richard Haas, 1935). The dozen anecdotes trace how the Mount Holly, New Jersey, detective doggedly follows even the slenderest lead to solve such cases as “ The Left-Sided Man ” and “ The Seeds of Madness. ” 3

“ No One Has Told Him History’s Dead ”

Pratt’s first published book of history was The Heroic Years  : Fourteen Years of the Republic, 1801-1815  (1934). It was widely and favorably reviewed. Pratt’s gift for making the narrative of history come alive was noted from the start. Hail Caesar !  (1936) was something of a “ hard-boiled ” biography of Julius Caesar.

Pratt published a long string of articles in the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute , beginning in 1930, and while the earliest ones may in a sense represent his apprenticeship as a naval historian, Pratt’s interests were wide ranging and he wrote on a tremendous variety of subjects. “  Some Naval Eccentricities ” looks as Captain Teach (otherwise known as Blackbeard the pirate), Admiral Vernon (of the War of Jenkins’ Ear), Captain John Montagu, and the Danish seaman Tordenskjold. Many of these early papers are on topics that Pratt would in due course develop into book-length studies. “ The Basis of Our Naval Tradition, ” from 1937, looks at Thomas Truxtun, Edward Preble, John Paul Jones, and Joshua Humphreys. Pratt called a 1794 report by ship-builder and naval architect Humphreys “ the Magna Charta of American naval construction, by consequence of its strategy and tactics. ”

He also published articles such as “ The Most Murdering Battle  — Malplaquet ” in The Field Artillery Journal  (1936), on the 1709 battle during the War of the Spanish Succession. Pratt later noted that the editors of these military and naval journals gave him the most concrete advice in developing his writing skills, and this played a role in shaping the focus of his work.

Ordeal by Fire

In 1935, Pratt published the first edition of what would become his most enduringly popular work, Ordeal by Fire , a narrative history of the Civil War written in a direct and engaging style.4 Pratt sought to counter explanations of the Civil War that viewed the conflict and its results largely in economic terms :

Of course, wars have economic effects and economic is often part of the explosive mixture that sets them off. But in the actual process war is a business of intelligence, spirit, and, above all, emotion. Its decisions are reached on the battlefield, however much peaceably minded people may dislike the fact; and those of the Civil War were reached nowhere else.
The present volume was written to describe, in as brief a space as possible, that process of decision; to follow the main currents of event and emotion through the war and by brevity of treatment to give those main currents an emphasis that they might lose in a more detailed narration; to include practically everything that contributed to the final result and to omit nearly everything else.

Pratt discussed the military significance of the Civil War as the first modern, mechanized war, and presented clear portraits of the major figures. He commented :

The truly special character of the conflict is that there has seldom been any war and never any civil war so thoroughly decided on an ideological basis. Books have been written on the subsidiary issues, some of them good books; yet they do but darken counsel. At the time only two real questions were asked — secession and slavery — and they were answered in such a manner that they need never be asked again.

Samples from letters to Pratt give an idea of how this book was received. Published during the Depression, the 1935 edition may have been overlooked by the American public, but the 1948 revised edition gained a much wider audience. Bernard DeVoto called it as “ The best one-volume histories of the Civil War I’ve ever read. ”

Francis Trevelyan Miller, whose 10-volume Photographic History of the Civil War  (1910) preserved the Brady negatives for posterity, notes “ I find your Ordeal by Fire  both a mine and a mint, ” in a letter dated March 31, 1949. In a 1953 letter, Isaac Asimov writes of re-reading the book in the Cardinal paperback reprint. “ . . . if your fiction, good as it is, were as good as your non-fiction, there’d be no room on this world for bumbling hacks like myself. ” 5

The Navy, A History : The Story of a Service in Action  (1938) was his first full-fledged book of naval history. This was followed in rapid succession by The Lost Battalion  (1938), with Thomas M. Johnson, and Secret and Urgent  (1939). The Lost Battalion  discusses events of World War I. The 77th Division, 308th Battalion and what happened in October 1918 when the battalion advanced into German held areas of the Argonne Forest. They were cut off for several days with inadequate supplies of food and ammunition, and achieved celebrity for refusing to surrender to the Germans. 6

Road to Empire : The Life and Times of Bonaparte, the General  (1939) was the first of three volume of Napoleonic history. Empire and the Sea  (1946) looked at the evolution of English naval power in response to the military threat posed by the French revolutionary government. This was followed by The Empire and the Glory : Napoleon Bonaparte, 1800-1806  (1948). An interesting feature of each of these works is that Pratt includes between each chapter sections “ reporting the past as the past saw itself. ” His “ Worm’s Eye View ” sections are narratives of incidents by minor actors who took part in them, while the “ Wrong End of the Telescope ” sections are accounts by people who saw them from a distance.

During the World War II years and immediately following, Pratt was extremely active in both naval and military history. He wrote some ten books, ranging from a general work, Short History of the Army & Navy  (1944), covering the strictly military history of the United States from the military campaigns of the Revolution through the end of World War I, to The Navy Has Wings  (1943), a history of naval aviation during the early phases of the war. Other works include Night Work : The Story of Task Force 39  (1945) and Fleet Against Japan  (1946).

Pratt was a syndicated naval correspondent for the New York Post , and his views stirred up controversy as early as December 9, 1941, in the aftermath of his comments on Pearl Harbor and what it revealed about the state of readiness of the American Navy. He apparently lost this job after speculating incorrectly on the outcome of a naval engagement. Pratt published frequent articles on naval subjects in Harper’s Magazine , including portraits of admirals Nimitz and Sprunce, as well as in military journals such as the Marine Corps Gazette . He was special correspondent for the Overseas News Agency, and in 1944 filed a lengthy series of articles entitled “ Aboard a New U.S. Battleship in the Pacific. ” With a naval officer, L.A. Abercrombie, he wrote My Life to the Destroyers  (1944).

After the war, Pratt produced a steady flow of books. The Marines’ War  (1948) recounted the role of the U.S. Marine Corps n the Pacific theater, and was widely praised. Eleven Generals  (1949) collected a series of articles on American generals from Nathanael Greene and Anthony Wayne through “ Little Phil ” Sheridan and George H. Thomas to A.A. Vandegrift and Omar Bradley. Most of these studies appeared in Infantry Journal .

Pratt also continued to look back before recent events for his books. He wrote on early American naval developments at much the same time as Empire and the Sea  in Preble’s Boys : Commodore Preble and the Rise of American Sea Power  (1950). This book treated at greater length a subject Pratt had first studied in the 1930s. 7 Commodore Edward Preble (1761-1807) had run away to sea at age 16, on a Newburyport, Massachusetts, privateer, and rose to the rank of lieutenant during the American Revolution. After a career in the merchant marine, he returned to the Navy in 1798, when war with France broke out. He was commissioned captain in 1799 and given command of the Essex . The following year, the Essex  was the first American naval vessel to enter the Indian Ocean, when Preble rounded the Cape of Good Hope escorting a fleet of merchantmen to the East Indies. After the end of hostilities with France, Preble led a squadron against Tripoli, in present-day Libya, in 1803 and 1804. Many of the officers who served under Preble attained distinction during the War of 1812, such as Stephen Decatur, William Bainbridge, and James Biddle, and Johnston Blakely, “ the Carolina Sea Raider. ”

Pratt turned his attention to the history of Denmark in the 12th through the 14th century in The Third King  (1950). Pratt traced the rise of Denmark as a nation, discussing a tradition of power-sharing that arose in marked contrast to the states of the Holy Roman Empire. Valdemar IV Atterdag also oversaw an early state navy, used with devastating effect against the cities of the Hanseatic League.

During the 1950s, the focus of Pratt’s writings shifted from naval history to the Civil War and military history. In 1953, he published a major biography of Edwin M. Stanton, Secretary of War under Lincoln. This was the first biography of Stanton since Frank Abial Flower published Edwin McMasters Stanton, the Autocrat of Rebellion, Emancipation and Reconstruction  (Akron, Ohio : Saalfield Publishing Co., 1905), which Pratt described as “ a partisan, if carefully documented volume. ” Pratt wrote that his own biography was :

[. . .] primarily a work of correction. The portrait of a kind of monster, a malignant Radical who betrayed Lincoln’s and Johnson’s confidence to carry out purposes of his own, not only fails to accord with the record — and this record is set down very elaborately in more than 300 volumes — it also fails to accord with any psychological possibility. And it is also a judgement which does little honor to the memory of Lincoln. What ! was the President, so seldom mistaken in his estimates of people, consistently mistaken about the man with whom he associated most intimately for three years ?

Pratt made extensive use of Stanton’s telegrams and official correspondence to provide a portrait of Stanton as “ ringmaster of a three-ring circus  . . . constantly faced with the necessity for decisive action in several different areas at once, on top of dealing with the requests of several dozen minor visitors a day — the people who wanted passes, contracts, and so on. ” Pratt also addressed the most notorious of the controversies associated with Stanton, from the McCormick Reaper case and accusations of treason to his record during Reconstruction. Pratt singled out several accomplishments for particular praise, including Stanton’s decision making and his efficient and incorruptible administration of the War Office. “ In other respects, notably the handling of ciphers and in the use of the railroads which reached its climax in the great move to Chattanooga, Stanton was so far ahead of his time as to rank as one of the great innovators of military history. ” 8

Pratt also prepared Civil War in Pictures  (1955), which includes his commentary to a compilation of drawings and reports from Harper’s Weekly  and Frank Leslie’s Illustrated Newspaper . The photographs of Matthew Brady and others that form such a strong part of 20th century visions of the war could not be directly reproduced in the weeklies, so these engravings (which include work by the young Winslow Homer), provide the visual record of history of the Civil War as it was seen at the time. Pratt traced both the growing sophistication of the artists and how, over time, the war moved from headline news to a commonplace of life. He also discussed how imperfect means of communication shaped the way battles were reported. Significantly, there are no contemporaneous images of the meeting at Appomattox. Events moved too quickly for the press of the day, and all pictures of Grant and Lee were prepared after the fact.

Civil War on Western Waters  (1956) discussed the campaigns on the Mississippi and other rivers, and showed the crucial economic and military role these engagements played in securing the Union victory. The Mississippi was the principal means of exporting wheat from the Middle West, and, as Pratt had noted in Stanton , it was this wheat that paid for munitions used to defeat King Cotton.

Pratt also wrote The Battles That Changed History  (1956). He noted how in Western European culture military history has consistently affected political history, in contrast to pre- modern China, for example, where successive waves of conquerors were absorbed into the culture. 9 He did not, however, entirely abandon naval history. In mid-1956 he completed the manuscript of The Compact History of the United States Navy  (1957). After a brief illness, he died June 10, 1956, of liver cancer. He was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Public Service Award, the Navy’s highest award to non-employees. Presented to his widow in a ceremony on August 8, 1957, the award recognized his wartime role in presenting the history of the Navy.

In the late 1950s, Ordeal by Fire  was adapted for a series of television broadcasts and released by the National Educational Television and Radio Center. Another popular work, Famous Inventors and Their Inventions  (New York : Random House, 1955) was a short history of inventing through the development of the atomic bomb that was widely published in translations throughout Asia during the 1960s.

Father of Modern War Gaming

To discuss only Pratt’s books of military and naval history gives too narrow a picture of this energetic man of many talents and interests. His magazine contributions during the “ palaeolithic age ” of science fiction and his works in the fantasy genre are so extensive as to form a second career, and warrant treatment in a separate article at a later date. Closer to the focus of this article is Pratt’s involvement as one of the founders of modern war gaming.

The Kriegspiel , or wargame, developed in 1824 by von Reisswitz, was widely used in training Prussian officers. H.G. Wells wrote a set of rules called Little Wars  (1913) that used miniatures to conduct battles. Pratt’s contribution evolved during the late 1920s and sheds some light on his convivial personality. Seeking an alternative to bridge as a form of entertainment, Pratt evolved a systematic but simple method of representing naval engagements. Where the Prussians used dice to decide conflicts, Pratt derived a mathematical means of calculating armaments and determining outcomes. An extensive circle of war gamers gathered at Pratt’s large New York apartment (which included a room devoted to the raising of marmosets). It included naval officers, writers, scientists and others, and as the number of participants continued to increase, the meeting were held in a hall on Manhattan’s East Side.

Fletcher Pratt’s Naval War Game  (New York : Harrison-Hilton Books, 1940) is unpaginated and spiral bound in stiff blue covers. In its 40 pages it gives a brief historical overview and details the rules and principles for play. Pratt wrote that wives and girlfriends of male participants dropped their roles of observers and soon became fearsome tacticians. He also noted that the “ formula ” works : the defeat of the Graf Spee  off the Plata by the much smaller British ships Exeter , Ajax , and Achilles  came as no surprise, since a similar combination had been explored before the December 1939 battle in the South Atlantic. The book is illustrated with line drawings by his wife Inga, including a mermaid holding mugs of beer on the title page, and a number of sketches of men and women calculating their next moves. 10

Pratt first attended the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference in Vermont as a fellow in the summer of 1937, and in 18 subsequent sessions, he served as Dean of Nonfiction, while also reading short story and novel manuscripts. 11 Pratt drew on his background as journalist and frequent contributor to magazines to discuss what would and would not sell in the magazine marketplace. With his past involvement in literary rackets, Pratt could also effectively warn prospective authors against such schemes.

A dedicated bon-vivant, Pratt wrote A Man and His Meals , with Robeson Bailey (New York : Henry Holt & Co., 1947). This is part culinary history, part cook book without recipes, and like many of his books from the late 1940s onwards, includes line illustrations by Inga. Pratt was a member of the Baker Street Irregulars, and over the years published a number of Sherlockian articles, such as “ Sherlock Holmes vs. Arsene Lupin ” in the American Mercury  and “ The Gastronomic Holmes ” in the Baker Street Journal .12

He was also one of the founders, in 1944, of the Trap-Door Spiders, a New York-based circle of friends (many of them writers or otherwise associated with the publishing world) who gathered on a more or less monthly basis for meals and conversation. One of most celebrated Trap-Door Spiders was Isaac Asimov (1920-1992), who included sketches of fellow members in a series of detective stories collected in Tales of the Black Widowers  (1974) and four subsequent volumes. The group continues to meet to this day.

For many years the driving force behind the New York Authors’ Club (which disbanded after he decided not to continue as its president), Pratt was a charter member of the Civil War Round Table of New York, established in 1950. Among the other founding members were Allan Nevins and Frederick Hill Meserve. Pratt served as the Round Table’s president in 1953-1954, and upon his death the Fletcher Pratt Award was established as a memorial. It is given to the author or editor of the best nonfiction book on the Civil war published in a calendar year. Bruce Catton received the first award, for This Hallowed Ground , and the award has been made every year since. The 1996 recipient was Stephen W. Sears, for Chancellorsville .

In 1946, the Pratts bought an old house on the Shrewsbury River in Highlands, New Jersey, near Sandy Hook. It was initially used as a weekend home where they hosted large parties that included many literary acquaintances, such as poet John Ciardi, rocket scientist and zoologist Willy Ley, publisher William Sloane, and hosts of writers including Basil Davenport, Frederick Pohl, Lester del Rey, and others. It was known as the Ipsy-Wipsy Institute (after an Army rhyme). From the early 1950s on, the Pratts spent most of their time in this wedding cake Victorian mansion.

There appears to have been only one study of Pratt’s life and work to date. Science fiction author L. Sprague de Camp, (another Trap-Door Spider) was a frequent collaborator with Pratt on works of fantasy and science fiction in the 1940s and early 1950s. De Camp published a brief overview of his friend’s life, “ Parallel Worlds : Fletcher Pratt, ” as a chapter in Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers : The Makers of Heroic Fantasy  (Sauk City : Arkham House, 1976). De Camp’s emphasis in this article is on their collaborations, including the Incomplete Enchanter  series featuring Harold Shea, and Tales from Gavagan’s Bar  (1953). He also discusses Pratt’s major fantasy novels, The Well of the Unicorn  (1948), and The Blue Star  (First published in Witches Three , 1952). Pratt’s nonfiction writings are mentioned in passing.

Acknowledgements

My search for material about Fletcher Pratt has been greatly assisted by bookseller Carol Burnett-Jones, [formerly] of Green Pond Road, Newfoundland, New Jersey, who has graciously allowed me to consult books in her possession and has provided much information (only a small portion of which appears in this article). Her late husband, John D. Clark, was a longtime friend of Pratt’s and inherited his library and papers. “ Doc ” Clark was director of the rocket propellant lab at Picatiny Arsenal in Morris County, New Jersey, and author of Ignition  (1971). Well-known in science fiction circles, he was another founding member of the Trap-Door Spiders. In early 1970, “ Doc ” Clark donated Pratt’s papers and many of his manuscripts to Syracuse University, in Syracuse, New York. During a visit to Syracuse’s Bird Library in April of this year, I was able to consult the dozen boxes of material that make up the Pratt Collection. This article reports on only a portion of the wealth of material (much of it still uncatalogued) in the Department of Special Collections. [2010 note : a library finding aid now gives an overview of the contents, here.]

 

Bibliography

No comprehensive bibliographical study of Pratt’s writings has been published to date. What follows is a selected list of Pratt’s published nonfiction books (in chronological sequence) :

The Heroic Years : Fourteen Years of the Republic, 1801-1815 . New York : H. Smith & R. Haas, 1934. (First published book).

Ordeal by Fire : An Informal History of the American Civil War . Illustrated by Merritt Cutler. New York : H. Smith & R. Haas, 1935. (See also note 4 regarding reprint editions.)

Hail Caesar !  by Fletcher Pratt. With illustrations by Da Osimo and relief maps by the author. New York : H. Smith & R. Haas, 1936.

The Navy, A History : The Story of a Service in Action . Garden City : Doubleday, Doran & Co., 1938.

The Lost Battalion . Indianapolis/New York : Bobbs Merrill Co., 1938. With Thomas M. Johnson.

Secret and Urgent : The Story of Codes and Ciphers . Indianapolis/New York : Bobbs-Merrill Co., 1939. 13

Road to Empire : The Life and Times of Bonaparte, the General . Garden City, New York : Doubleday, Doran & Company, Inc., 1939.

Sea Power and Today’s War . New York : Harrison-Hilton Books, 1939.

America and Total War . New York : Smith & Durrell, 1941.

Ships, Men  — and Bases , by Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy with Fletcher Pratt. Philadelphia : Curtis Publishing Company, 1941. An eight page pamphlet : “ This article from the April 5, 1941, issue of The Saturday Evening Post , has been reprinted for the Navy Department in the interests of National Defense. ”

What the Citizen Should Know About Modern War . New York : W.W. Norton, 1942.

The Navy Has Wings . New York : Harper, 1943.

U.S. Army : A Guide to Its Men and Equipment . Racine, Wisconsin : Whitman, 1943.

The Navy’s War . New York : Harper, 1944. With a foreword by the Honorable Frank Knox, Secretary of the Navy. 14

My Life to the Destroyers . New York : Holt : 1944. With Captain L.A. Abercrombie.

Short History of the Army & Navy . Washington D.C. : Infantry Journal, 1944 (wraps).

Night Work : The Story of Task Force 39 . New York : Holt, 1945.

Empire and the Sea . Illustrated by Inga Stephens. New York : Holt, 1946.

Fleet Against Japan . New York : Harper, 1946.

The Marines’ War : An Account of the Struggle for the Pacific from Both American and Japanese Sources . New York : William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1948.

The Empire and the Glory : Napoleon Bonaparte, 1800-1806 . Illustrated by Inga. New York : William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1948.

Eleven Generals : Studies in American Command . New York : William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1949.

Preble’s Boys : Commodore Preble and the Rise of American Sea Power . New York : William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1950.

The Third King . Maps by Rafael Palacios. New York : William Sloane Associates, Inc., 1950.

War for the World : A Chronicle of Our Fighting Forces in World War II . New Haven : Yale University Press, 1950. ( Chronicles of America , volume 54).

The Monitor and the Merrimac . New York : Random House, 1951.

Stanton : Lincoln’s Secretary of War . New York : W.W. Norton, 1953.

My Diary, North and South , by Sir William Howard Russell. Edited and introduced by Fletcher Pratt. New York : Harper, 1954.

Civil War in Pictures . New York : Holt, 1955.

Civil War on Western Waters . New York : Holt, 1956.

The Battles That Changed History . Garden City, New York : Hanover House, 1956.

The Compact History of the United States Navy . Illustrations by Louis Priscilla. New York : Hawthorn Books, 1957.

 

Notes

1. L. Sprague DeCamp, “ Parallel Worlds : Fletcher Pratt, ” in Literary Swordsmen and Sorcerers : The Makers of Heroic Fantasy  (Sauk City : Arkham House, 1976), pp.178-194. This includes much biographical material. Other sources include DeCamp’s obituary for Pratt in Fantasy Times  for July 1956, as well as correspondence and various other obituaries ( The New York Times , Time , and other newspapers) preserved in the Pratt Collection in Syracuse. One obituary reported that Pratt worked in the War Library Service during World War I. I have also heard several (still unverified) reports that his background included some espionage experience.

2. “ The Octopus Cycle ” also has the distinction of being “ the second-worst science fiction story of all time, ” in the words of Doc Clark. For a summary treatment of Pratt’s publications in Amazing Stories  and Wonder Stories , see Everett F. Bleiler, Science Fiction : The Early Years  (Kent, Ohio : Kent State University Press, 1990). While many of these stories have been reprinted, no collection of Pratt’s short stories has appeared to date. Details of Pratt’s later fiction, including the posthumous publication of novels that first appeared in Amazing Stories , can be found in L.W. Currey, Science Fiction and Fantasy Authors : A Bibliography of First Printings of Their Fiction and Selected Nonfiction . (Boston : G.K. Hall & Co., 1979).

3. An English edition of the book also appeared, Detective No. 1. Case Histories of Ellis Parker, American Detective  (London : Methuen & Co., 1936). It was also translated into French as Detective no 1 : souvenirs recueillis  (Paris : Payot, 1936). The contents of the folder of tearsheets from American Detective  in the Pratt Collection at Syracuse leads me to infer that Pratt also wrote for the magazine under the pseudonym of Lum Smith.

4. Ordeal by Fire  was Pratt’s most widely known work. A revised post-war edition (New York : William Sloane Associates, 1948) was followed by a Bodley Head edition with a new introduction by Pratt (London : John Lane, 1950). It was subsequently reprinted in paperback as A Short History of the Civil War (Ordeal by Fire) , New York : Pocket Books, 1952 (Cardinal edition C-7). Dover Publications announced a paperback reprint of the Sloane edition for the summer of 1997, to be published as A Short History of the Civil War (Ordeal by Fire) .

5. Letters from Asimov and Miller preserved in the Pratt Collection at Syracuse (Box 10).

6. The Pratt Collection at Syracuse includes much correspondence relating to The Lost Battalion , including concerns about libel in the matter of the “ friendly ” fire barrage of the battalion (Box 5). The book was reprinted in paperback (Washington, DC : Infantry Journal, the Fighting Forces Edition, 1943).

7. Pratt had published an article entitled “ Edward Preble ” in the December 1933 issue of the Proceedings of the U.S. Naval Institute . Several chapters of Preble’s Boys  appeared in the Proceedings  prior to book publication.

8. Stanton : Lincoln’s Secretary of War  was reprinted by Greenwood Press in 1970. The Fletcher Pratt Papers in the Rare Book and Manuscript Library at Columbia University include the typescript, notes and some correspondence for this book, as well as typescripts (setting copy) for three books published by William Sloane, Empire and the Glory , Ordeal by Fire , and Eleven Generals .

9. There was also a widely reviewed German edition of this book, Schlachten, die Geschichte machten, von Issus bis zu den Midways  (Düsseldorf : Econ Verlag, 1965).

10. Pratt and his fellow war-gamers were profiled in an October 10, 1938, article in Life  magazine as well as in later articles, and the book has been reprinted (Milwaukee, Wisconsin : Z & M Enterprises, 1976) and microfilmed by the Library of Congress (1989).

11. Whose Woods These Are : A History of the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference 1926-1990 , edited by David Bain and Mary Duffy (Hopewell, New Jersey : Ecco Press, 1993). The Pratt Collection at Syracuse contains files of material on Bread Loaf (One of Pratt’s talks in 1954 was entitled “ Style : How to Be Uninteresting. ” ) and an extensive correspondence with author Bernard DeVoto (1897-1955) on Bread Loaf and other subjects. Pratt dedicated Road to Empire  “ To Benny DeVoto, who taught me how to write. ” One of Pratt’s marmosets was also named Benny.

12. His Baker Street Irregulars membership card is preserved at Syracuse. Signed by Edgar W. Smith as “ Buttons ” and Christopher Morley as “ Gasogene cum Tantalus, ” the card notes his Titular Investiture as “ The Dancing Men, ” a fitting one for the author of Secret and Urgent . Some of his Sherlockian (or Holmesian) publications are noted in the bibliography of The Annotated Sherlock Holmes  by W.S. Baring-Gould.

13. There is a recent paperback reprint of Secret and Urgent  (Laguna Hills, California : Aegean Park Press, 1996).

14. Dutch, French, and German editions of The Navy’s War  were published in New York in 1944-1945.

Published on the Endless Bookshelf, www.endlessbookshelf.net , 6 March 2010.
Temporary Culture, P.O. Box 43072, Upper Montclair, NJ 07043