Monday, January 31, 2005

The Last Men to Look Upon Lincoln

. . . did so in 1901, not 1865.

Mr. Lincoln's White House

From the site introduction:

It was an "ill-kept and dirty rickety concern," according to presidential secretary John G. Nicolay. "I wonder how much longer a great nation, as ours is, will compel its ruler to live in such a small and dilapidated old shanty, and in such a shabby-genteel style." A Nicolay associate in the President's office, was less critical, describing the White House as "a very respectable building of brick and stone, painted white, built in the form of a parallelogram, two stories high fronting north; but, owing to the declivity, three stories fronting south toward the Potomac."

President Abraham Lincoln himself once called it "this damned house," and when he was besieged by office seekers and afflicted by bad news from the war front, the White House must have seemed truly damned. But, despite its drawbacks, the White House was a clear improvement on the family's previous living accommodations. Indeed, the President also declared it was "better than any house they have ever lived in." For the four years and one month of Mr. Lincoln's presidency from March 1861 to April 1865, it was home to the Lincoln family and the center of efforts to restore the Union and abolish slavery.

You're going to feel like almost like you've actually been there once you've taken this state-of-the-art virtual tour.

The Valley of the Shadow

You're in for a treat. Check out this path-breaking history project, focusing on the Civil War era experiences of Augusta County, Virginia, and Franklin County, Pennsylvania. The Valley of the Shadow won the first e-Lincoln Prize in 2001. Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 30, 2005

The First Vote, 2005

Posted by Hello

The First Vote, 1868

It was impossible for a historian of the Civil War and Reconstruction era to watch the election in Iraq today and not be reminded of the first vote for African Americans in the South, 1868.

Following the anti-immigrant tangent

From A.C.E.:

On Friday our Civil War reading group confronted Everard H. Smith, “Chambersburg: Anatomy of a Confederate Reprisal,” American Historical Review Vol. 96, No. 2. (Apr., 1991): 432-455. Among other things, Smith argued that Confederate anti-German sentiment contributed to the ferocity of the retaliation against the civilians of Chambersburg.

There are problems. How German was Chambersburg by 1864? No more German, perhaps, than some of the Confederate regiments that burned it. But anti-immigrant sentiment is not characterized by accurate historical assessments. Confederates recognized that Germans were among the prominent Unionists in Missouri and Texas, and that the most vocal and eloquent German-American voices in the North opposed slavery. I can accept that many Confederates were anti-German.

More interesting to me is a broader question: What did anti-immigrant sentiment mean during the Civil War? How deep did it run?

In the antebellum South it meant something to be white. It meant not being black. European immigrants such as the Germans were clearly white. The Civil War intensified the need for white solidarity to overcome distinctions in social position, wealth, and nativity. Did Everard Smith mean to adjust this widely-accepted interpretation? I think there is still room for anti-immigrant sentiment, but we need to further examine what such sentiment would mean in a war for white supremacy.

In the North, historians have shown, things were more complicated. European immigrants received citizenship rights based on their whiteness, but the Irish, and sometimes even the Germans, were considered racially different from Anglo-Saxons. There had been significant anti-immigrant riots in the 1850s, and during the war immigrants became scapegoats. The German divisions of the Eleventh Corps of the Army of the Potomac were singled out for blame in the Union defeat at Chancellorsville in Spring, 1863. Germans were disloyal cowards. One major general, who was mentioned by name in critical newspaper reports, spent the rest of his life trying to clear the reputation of his troops. But Carl Schurz also became a U.S. Senator and the Secretary of the Interior under President Hayes. Rather than suffering from the accusations, he used them to consolidate his immigrant support. Attacks on him as a German did not hurt him politically.

Anti-immigrant sentiment existed on both sides during the war. But I still don’t think we know what it really meant.

Ed. Note: Readers with access to JSTOR will find the article online.

Restraint and Reprisal

From Mark G.:

This Friday the Civil Warriors will meet to discuss:

Everard H. Smith, "Chambersburg: Anatomy of a Confederate Reprisal," American Historical Review Vol. 96, No. 2. (Apr., 1991), pp. 432-455.
(You'll need access to J-STOR to read the article. )

The article gets at the issue of when and why restraint breaks down in war. In 1995 I gave a lecture at the U.S. Military Academy that also addressed this question--and also discussed what is needed for restraint to hold up:

Union Soldiers and the Persistence of Restraint in War

War Comes Home: Chambersburg, Summer of 1864
provides a good, brief introduction to the burning of the town, and links to an excellent archive of illustrations.

The US Civil War Center (USCWC): An Appreciation

The U.S. Civil War Center (USCWC) was founded in 1993 and is involved with a number of projects, but the best-known is its attempt to link to every scrap of information on the web that touches upon the Civil War era. To date it has found and cataloged about 9000 sites, though inevitably at any given time, some of the links are "broken;" that is, they lead only to a 404 error code.

The main point of entry is Index of Civil War Information on the Internet.

From an introductory page that explains the center's mission, history, etc.:

The Center has been called an "information clearinghouse." However, the Center is not a museum or a library. While we do not maintain original documents on the premises, we help direct individuals to the appropriate experts, institutions, and books for their research projects. Each day we are contacted by phone, fax, mail and e-mail by scholars, teachers, students, movie producers, reenactors, librarians, and amateur genealogists who are working on a diverse group of projects.

If you have a question, please be sure your first step is to view the Index, Questions, and Researching People of the Civil War Era sections on the Center's web site. Once you have examined our available links, we ask that you submit all inquiries in writing, either via mail, fax or e-mail.

The USCWC essentially vaccums up all the info on the web it can and parks that info as best it can in an extensive index. The center knows the info is not always accurate or reliable and that it may be part of idiossyncratic, even offensive historical interpretations. It expects users to know how to discern good sources from bad, bearing in mind that the meaning of "good" and "bad" are contextualized by the purpose of one's research. If I'm interested in popular memory of the Civil War, sources that would be "bad" for a college term paper on, say, Northern politics during the era, are "good" for my needs.

Over the years I've used the USCWC a lot and have always found it nothing less than extremely helpful. But as an expert on the Civil War era, I'm pretty well able to sift the wheat from the chaff pretty quickly. Therefore I thought a useful service might be to go through the index and identify the "best" links.

"Best," of course, is subjective. In general, I have thought of "best" in the sense of "value-added": I have looked for sites that tell you things or provide perspectives you could not just as easily find in an encyclopedia or some other reference work. "Value-added" does not always mean accurate, and some of these sites reflect perspectives on the Civil War era that are dated, racist, idiosyncratic, or downright weird. But usually "value-added" does mean interesting.

I vouch for the accuracy of nothing on these sites, nor for whether they respect applicable fair use laws, not whether they contain malicious code, or anything else. I won't even guarantee you'll agree with my selections. In fact, I'm sure you will disagree with some of them. I don't care. Get your own blog and make your own list.

But I do hope you'll enjoy the sites in the lists I've chosen.

The section below will provide links to specfic subject areas and will be updated as needed:


USCWC: The Best Links on Reconstruction, 1862-1877

Have you read the explanation and disclaimer?

Compared to the abundance on other topics, fourteeb on the battle of Gettysburg alone, there's not that much on Reconstruction.

Total links: 27

Value-added links: 6 (or 5.5: you'll see what I mean)

Civil War II: 1865-1965 - idiosyncratic account and interpretation from the Grazian Archive. Check out the welcome page and think carefully about the nature of this source and the needs of your research. If you have some knowledge of Reconstruction (actually the whole sweep of race relations between Appomattox and the Voting Rights Act of 1965), this might be fun--and perhaps even a useful challenge to your thinking. If you have little prior background, best to avoid. You have been warned.

Civil War Reconstruction and Recovery in Brazoria County, TX Rock on! Funded in part by a grant from Humanities Texas (formerly the Texas Council for the Humanities), this is graphics rich, vivid, and thought-provoking. Note to high school students and undergrads: Brazoria County, TX, is not the South as a whole. This is a close-up of this period as it took place in one small area. The text of this exhibit was written by Dr. Betsy Powers and relies heavily on her doctoral dissertation, From Cotton Fields to Oil Fields: Economic Development in a New South Community, 1860-1920 (University of Houston: 1994.)

"Reconstructing America: Consolidation of State Power 1865-1890" by Thomas J. DiLorenzo. DiLorenzo, a professor economics at Loyola College in Maryland, is a controversial historian and this essay (in pdf) offers a controversial interpretation of the period. All historical interpretations reflect to one degree or another the worldview of the interpreter. DiLorenzo identifies explicitly with the worldview exemplified in If you want to be challenged and/or provoked, check it out.

Reconstruction!!! - a chapter from Confederate Military History supplied by Shotgun's Home of the American Civil War page. For most purposes it's badly out of date and tedious to read. And as Shotgun notes: "WARNING! This is not what you were taught in school. It has a definite Southern bias. It is not politically correct! Nor should it be. It was written shortly after the war by Southerners about Southerners."

Reconstruction and Its Aftermath, 1865-1877 - This page simply introduces America's Reonstruction: People and Politics After the Civil War, which is where you may as well begin. This online exhibit is based on a traveling exhibition, originally sponsored by the Valentine Museum in Richmond. It opened in 1996 at the Virginia Historical Society and was subsequently shown at the South Carolina State Museum, Schomburg Center for Research in Black Culture, Museum of Florida History, Museum of the New South, and the Chicago Historical Society, where its tour ended in 1999. The development of this online exhibit was sponsored by the Gilder Lehrman Institute of American History.

Thin Gray Line: Confederate Veterans in the New South - Doesn't really fit in the Reconstruction section, but this is a good, "popular history" article from the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Civil War Talk Radio

Gerald Prokoprowicz hosts Civil War Talk Radio, which is really streaming audio broadcast on the internet. He does a nice job. Recent guests have included: James M. McPherson, For Cause and Comrades; Ken Burns, PBS Civil War series; James I. "Bud" Robertson, Stonewall Jackson; John Marszalek, Sherman: A Soldier's Passion for Order; and, well, me. Honestly, check it out.

U.S. Civil War FAQ

. . . compiled and maintained by alt.war.civil.usa, an unmoderated discussion group

I used to hang out in cyberspace with the folks who compiled the FAQ. They were very knowledgeable and the FAQ is really quite good.

U.S. Civil War FAQ, Part 1

U.S. Civil War FAQ, Part 2

Friday, January 28, 2005

Custer: the Legend, the A-Hole

Louise Barnett, Touched by Fire: The Life, Death, and Mythic Afterlife of George Armstrong Custer. New York: Henry Holt, 1996.

Jeffry D. Wert, Custer: The Controversial Life of George Armstrong Custer. New York: Simon & Schuster, 1996.

Biographies have a way of coming out in pairs, trios, and even quartets. These two worthwhile Custer bios appeared in the spring of 1996, almost simultaneously. This is a review Mark G. published with the Cleveland Plain Dealer in May of that year.

George Armstrong Custer is the patron saint of American hubris. Even at its most flattering, his popular image is of a bold cavalier galloping headlong into disaster; at worst, it resembles the depiction in the 1970 film Little Big Man: Custer charging off to ruin with the exultant cry, "Take no prisoners!"

It is grimly appropriate that the first major clash between U.S. and North Vietnamese troops involved a reconstituted, helicopter-borne Seventh Cavalry, whose sergeants responded to orders with a snappy "Gary Owen, sir!" - a reference to Custer's favorite song. Like Custer, the Americans in the Ia Drang Valley were looking for the enemy. Like Custer, they found him in punishing abundance.

By rights, Custer ought to be an obscure figure. True, he fought gallantly during the Civil War and became a brigadier general at age 23, but that conflict produced many gallant, youthful generals. After the war he won success as an Indian fighter, but not as much as several others.

His notoriety derives from one simple fact. On a sunny day in June 1876, he and his entire command - 263 men - were annihilated by 2,000-3,000 Indians at the Little Bighorn River in present-day Montana. The shocking defeat spawned a fascination with Custer that has never abated. More has been written about him than any American save Abraham Lincoln.

There are two main ways to approach Custer. The first is to take his fame at face value and treat him as a significant military figure. The second is to acknowledge the true root of that fame and give the myth of Custer as much coverage as the man. Jeffrey Wert, a veteran biographer of Confederate leaders John S. Mosby and James Longstreet, pursues the first strategy. Louise Barnett, a professor of literature at Rutgers University, adopts the second. The results are two very different books that nevertheless share a basic sympathy for their subject.

Wert's biography walks the reader straightforwardly through Custer's life, focusing almost exclusively on his military career. Born in New Rumley, Ohio, in 1839, Custer grew up mostly in lower Michigan before gaining appointment to West Point. When the Civil War broke out, he and his classmates graduated a year early.

Custer joined the Union Army of the Potomac, where he gained a reputation for energy and guts, finishing the war as a major general. After the war, he became second-in-command of the Seventh U.S. Cavalry, a unit which, for all practical purposes, he commanded until his death. Though well-liked by his Civil War troops, he managed to antagonize many soldiers in his postwar outfit by a penchant for severe discipline and flamboyant display. He was even court-martialed in 1867 and sentenced to a year's suspension from rank and pay.

The reason for the court-martial tells a lot about Custer. The charge was leaving his post without authorization in order to visit his wife, Elizabeth "Libbie" Bacon Custer. Married early in 1864, the pair enjoyed a close, highly charged relationship and wrote one another constantly during their lengthy separations. On this occasion, Custer had heard nothing from her for an extended period and became frantic to see her.

Thanks to the intercessions of Gen. Philip Sheridan, who knew Custer well from their Civil War days, Custer was returned to active duty and sent west to help subdue raiding Cheyenne war parties. Unable to overtake the war parties in the open field, Custer resorted to a common Army expedient: He traced them back to an Indian village and launched a surprise attack at dawn, thereby forcing the warriors to stand and defend their women, children and the elderly.

Over 100 Cheyenne, many of them noncombatants, died in this Battle of the Washita, which sealed Custer's reputation as an Indian fighter. But although he participated in several other expeditions against Indians, the Washita remained his only major encounter until the Little Bighorn nine years later.

The second book, Touched by Fire, deals less with Custer's military career than his marriage and his conscious efforts to cultivate a dashing image. It spends much time placing Custer's experiences and persona in the context of his time, and it is excellent on the meanings of the Custer myth.

Although informed by contemporary sensibilities about sex and race, it seldom strays into ideological dogma. Occasionally a lapse does occur, as when Barnett simply notes that Indian war parties sometimes gang-raped white women but waxes indignant that white men, when discussing such outrages, would stress the fact that these women were "wives": "For whites, the abuse of those women belonging to men made the most compelling case against Indians." On balance, however, Touched by Fire is a very good book, thoughtful, well-written and fair-minded about Custer.

Barnett's basic technique is to take a revealing aspect of Custer's life and devote a chapter to a sustained appraisal of it. A particularly effective chapter examines the "mystery" of Custer's Last Stand. Students of the battle have spilled rivers of ink to explain how Custer and his command could have been killed to the last man. Theories have ranged from negligence on the part of key subordinates to outlandish speculations that Sitting Bull, Custer's opponent at the Little Bighorn, had once been a West Point cadet. Each small decision by Custer en route to the disaster is lovingly dissected and redissected.

But, Barnett argues, the mystery cannot be chased from the battlefield because "the locus is not the physical site but the psyche of white America. Its source is racism, the pure and simple conviction that a body of white soldiers" like the Seventh Cavalry "could not be overwhelmed even by an overwhelming number of Indians. For the typical Custer buff, mystery is preferable to this stark fact."

At the core of Touched by Fire is Libbie Custer, and the book continues even after Custer's death to recount her tireless efforts to preserve and protect his memory. Since she survived until 1933 and wrote three books about her husband, those efforts were impressive indeed. Barely 34 years old when Custer died, she was beautiful and energetic and could easily have moved on to a new life. Instead she remained utterly devoted to Custer's memory; to be his widow was her only and highest calling.

Libbie has a good recent biography of her own - Shirley A. Leckie's Elizabeth Bacon Custer and the Making of a Myth; - but Barnett's shorter treatment is accomplished and insightful. Wert, too, addresses the rare relationship between Custer and Libbie, but too often his coverage goes little deeper than the recounting of sexual double entendres they shared in their private correspondence.

The Custer literature is so abundant that any newcomer must justify its existence. The rationale for Wert's Custer is its balanced coverage of Custer's Civil War and western careers. The result is a good one-volume military biography that nevertheless improves little on Gregory Urwin's Custer Victorious, which covers the Civil War years, or Robert M. Utley's Cavalier in Buckskin, which concentrates on Custer's postwar career.

Barnett's Touched by Fire, on the other hand, is a sharp, original and engaging study of Custer's life and myth which, though less concerned with military campaigns, nevertheless includes a first-rate account of the Little Bighorn. It vividly demonstrates how, when dealing with a legendary historical figure, it is best to address the legend as well as the individual.

Wednesday, January 26, 2005

Lawyers in Love

. . . with A. Lincoln, esq., attorney at law

The Claremont Institute web site has this appreciation of Lincoln as a lawyer, written by two lawyers: Scott W. Johnson and Paul H. Hinderaker.

If this aren't names that ring a bell with you, try "The Big Trunk" and "Hindrocket."

Still no good?

Try 2/3 of the team at Powerline.

Still fuzzy?

Maybe this will help.

The Civil War Bookshelf

From Mark G.:

I've begun wandering around the blogosphere of late. It's still largely terra incognita to me, for while I have been keeping a blog for over a year, I can see that until I created an orthodox blog site I wasn't really blogging. You just don't get the interconnectivity that defines blogdom until you have a site that bloggers can easily find.

Naturally I have a particular interest in Civil War blogs, if indeed there are any. So far I know of only one: The Civil War Bookshelf , maintained by Dimitri Rotov, who posted his first entry on August 27, 2003. Since then, according to Site Meter, CWB has gotten almost 24,000 hits. Not bad at all for a blog that confines its beat to Civil War historiography and publishing. (Mr. Rotov also seems to be the moving force behind The McClellan Society and the society's MG George B. McClellan Pages.)

Mr. Rotov thinks that too much consensus characterizes the field of Civil War history. This is from his maiden post:

The consensus was slowly and painfully developed through the 1940s through the 1960s. It covers hundreds of individual points of American Civil War history (hence the slowness to build, the pain of achieving). We know, common sense tells us, that a consensus covering hundreds of points and spanning thousands of published authors is contrived. It is simply not possible for active scholars in a vital field brimming with fresh infusions of primary materials to agree on so much, so vehemently. So something is wrong with our field. We need to fix it. Maybe this blog can help.

I'm not yet entirely sure what he means by this, so I'm as yet in no position to agree or disagree. But I can tell that he's a serious student of the conflict and I'm curious to explore his blog more closely. I encourage you to do so as well.

Grokking the Civil War

From Mark G.:

What follows began life as an impromptu lecture I gave a group of West Point cadets the morning after we'd made a staff ride of the Antietam battlefield. After dinner we'd gone to see--you guessed it--the film Starship Troopers, which had just opened. The talk was so effective that when I got home I tried to recreate it on a web page. I guess I succeeded. It still gets lots of comment.

Starship Troopers, Civic Virtue, and the American Civil War

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

I Have the Honor to Report ...

From Mark G.:

Civil Warriors got 64 hits and 151 page views its first day. By contrast, War Historian got less than half that volume on its first day, and in its previous incarnation had been around for nearly a year.

Nearly everyone in the discussion group--the contributors to Civil Warriors all work in the same history department--has accepted the invitation to post on the blog, and most have worked up reasonably informative profiles. But it may take a few days for them to get a moment's leisure to become familiar with the Blogger software and contribute their first entry. In the meantime, I'll keep the momentum going.

Many thanks to three sites that have already linked to us, particularly the lads at Irregular Analyses with their generous expression of good will. Cliopatria has added us to its very helpful--and as of late, more carefully organized--history blog roll. As has Armchair Generalist.

Good for the first trick!, as they used to say in the mid-19th century.

Links (Periodically Updated)

Under Serious Construction

Civil War Blogs

Civil War Bookshelf

Other History Blogs


Other Blogs of Interest

Irregular Analyses
War Historian

Useful Civil War-Related Sites

U.S. Civil War Center - aggressively compiles links to every Civil War-related site on the web.

Valley of the Shadow: Two Communities in the American Civil War - The CD-ROM version of this site won the first Lincoln e-prize in 2001.

Making of America - one of several sites that make the Official Records available online. For free. And to think Mark G. paid $2,500 for his set.

Civil War Book News

Monday, January 24, 2005

Return to Cold Mountain

Mark G.:

It's amazing what you can find on the web.

Now and again I'll run a web search of my name, just to see what's out there. The most prominent hits are usually to my own web sites, followed by a long string of sites selling one or more of my books. That's to be expected. But once in a while I find stuff I never knew was there.

Case in point: it turns out that my appearance on NPR's Talk of the Nation over seven years ago is still accessible. (I didn't know it was accessible in the first place.) You can listen online. You can also order a transcript for $4.95, though I must be the first person in history to do that. Incredible.

It happened this way. One day in early December I got a call from the producer of Talk of the Nation. Their next "Book Club of the Air" segment would feature Cold Mountain, Charles Frazier's amazing debut novel, which had just won the National Book Award. They wanted a Civil War historian to come on the show, comment on the book, and help lead the discussion.

Why me? Because someone like James McPherson had recommended me? Because I'd won the Lincoln Prize? Nope. I was simply the first Civil War historian she happened to reach who had a pleasant phone voice.

As it happened, on the day of the show I was visiting friends in northern Virginia. So we didn't need the producer's original idea of having me do my part from the local NPR radio affilate. I was already near the main studio in Washington, so I just took the metro into town and did the show right there.

Ray Suarez was the host back then. He had a relaxed, friendly style that put me instantly at ease. A few quick lessons about the routine we'd follow and the show got rolling. Ray introduced the book, played a tape of Charles Frazier reading an excerpt, then introduced me. I, in turn, gave a quick five-minute precis of the novel:

SUAREZ: Why don't you get it started. An important piece of fiction?

GRIMSLEY: I think so. I think it's a remarkable debut novel. It's both a critical and market success. Frazier, I guess, waited 46 years to become an overnight success. That's now old he is. Like me, Frazier is a native of North Carolina and the novel is set in North Carolina in the late summer and autumn of 1864.

I'm a Civil War historian, so let me kind of tell you what's going on elsewhere while the action of the novel takes place.

Robert E. Lee's army is pinned by Grant in the Richmond- Petersburg trenches. In September of 1864, Atlanta is going to fall. Lincoln will be reelected in November of 1864, and that same month, William T. Sherman will begin his desolating march across Georgia, the march to the sea.

Almost none of this action though intrudes into the novel which is essentially the story of two people -- Inman a confederate deserter, and Ada, a lonely young woman who has recently lost her sole surviving parent, her father.

They're not quite lovers. They were on the verge of becoming lovers perhaps when the war broke out. But they have not seen each in four long years.

The theme of the novel is redemption and growth. Inman is journeying to Cold Mountain to save what remains of his soul. That's the redemption theme. And Ada is learning to transcend her privileged but limited past -- that's the growth theme.

There is a remarkable array of other characters, especially Ruby and Stobrod and Teague that you can talk about, and a number of wonderful issues -- desertion, the grueling "inside war," guerrilla war, atrocity, the spiritual costs of war, psychological injury.

And looming symbolically above it all, the timelessness of the mountains, especially Cold Mountain, the home of Ada and the goal of Inman.
You can hear the full program here. It was actually a very good exchange. The callers were perceptive and midway through we were joined by Jonathan Shay, a psychiatrist who works with combat veterans. Shay had recently published Achilles in Vietnam: Combat Trauma and the Undoing of Character (1995).

As the title implies, he thought the Iliad offered a good lens through which to view the conditions that might generate PTSD in a soldier. He was then at work on a second book, this one dealing with recovery from PTSD, which used The Odyssey for insights into the journey of healing. Shay thought Inman, the war-weary Confederate soldier who is the novel's main character, displayed some of the features of PTSD. His literal journey in the novel--Cold Mountain has loose but unmistakable parallels with The Odyssey--resembled aspects the metaphorical journey of healing as Shay depicted it.

Rally 'Round the Blog

From Mark G.:

Welcome to Civil Warriors.

I've been blogging for over a year now--first on a "homemade" blog site and, since early December, on a conventional blog site called War Historian.

Blogging has turned out to be not only fun but also, surprisingly, a good way to spur my productivity. I've found that blog entries can be a useful way to "write out loud," and to knock out what can wind up being a pretty good rough draft of an article planned for conventional publication. To see what I mean, check out the archived blog entries under "Counterfactuals and Contingency." I wrote them over eleven days. By the time I'd finished the series I had 7,000 words. Within hours I had revised this into an article for North and South magazine:

"Second-Guessing Bobby Lee: A Counterfactual Assessment of Lee's Generalship During the Overland Campaign."

Fine, the academics among you may sniff, but what did that do for your career? Well, not much directly, but the $600 commission bought me a lot of books. And blogging made the job almost effortless.

Even so, the real value of blogging lies elsewhere. While comparatively few people discovered my blog during the first year, those who did included military historians who found it thought-provoking and prospective students whom it influenced to consider graduate study at OSU.

If that sounds unlikely, consider what's happened since the "change of base" to a Blogger-powered site made War Historian easier to find. Not only have hits increased, the ideas in War Historian are starting to find the right audience. Moreover, it's a surprisingly generous audience.

From an entry in today's Cliopatria, a group blog on History News Network:

But I want to return to my earlier point about blogging and the virtual community of history blogging. There's a fascinating point at which Cliopatria's and, then, Big Tent's, chez Nadezhda's and Early Modern Notes's discovery of Mark Grimsley's War Historian becomes known to all four of us. At Big Tent, Tom Bruscino's prior interest in military history means that he knows something about what Grimsley is about, but Cliopatria's and chez Nadezhda's finding his blog and Early Modern Notes's featuring it in the History Carnival causes Grimsley's readership to spike and for good reason.

What kind of military historian features pictures of Robert E. Lee and Che Guevara on his blog's masthead; and what kind of military historian talks about a "post-colonial military history"? This is intriguing stuff! Even to those of us not ordinarily moved by guns and battles. Here's a military historian asking big, interesting questions of his special field; and answering them in ways that would interest all of us. Here's the kind of military historian who even the University of Michigan might want to lure. And he freely and generously shares of himself at War Historian. I'm making copies of his "‘Thieves, Murderers, and Trespassers': The Mythology of Sherman's March" and passing them out to all my neighbors here in Atlanta. Maybe I'll get to know them better. As Ben Wolfson said at The Weblog on Friday, "I confess that life is awesome."

From an entry in today's Irregular Analyses, a group blog kept by A Few Adequate Men:

Heh, we've got a small heads up from Professor Mark Grimsley's "War Historian" blog, which has featured in the links section since this site started.

I've tried to encourage various people in the War Studies department to visit War Historian for a while now and I'd like to take this opportunity to do so again, if anyone from the department is reading. Anyone who knows my opinions on various issues and the way that I look at the world will know that the approach taken by the professor on many (non-military history) issues is not my own, but even when I don't agree with him his work - especially on the state of military history today - is excellent, self critical and thought provoking. Also, he's the guy who wrote the chapter on the American Civil War in The Dynamics of Military Revolution. 'Nuff said. It's borderline criminal that somebody who helps run arguably the best military history postgrad programme in the world gets so few visits to his site. Git chore arse over there.
For other recent examples, see Flogging the Blog on War Historian.

I'm perhaps belaboring this point because unlike my other blog, which is a solo enterprise, I hope to have company on this one.

A few weeks ago I began meeting with a small readings group of graduate students in my history department. We began with four of us: myself, two of my advisees on the early US history side of the house, and a student in women's history. With the addition of two grad students in military history, we're up to six. I'm in no hurry to grow the group. Often it's best to start small, establish the tone you want, and add membership slowly. But I believe in doing things well, and experience has convinced me that the web in general, and blogging in particular, can be intellectual "force multipliers" if used astutely. Consequently I've created Civil Warriors and invited the three original group members to join me in posting here.

Well, I've built it. But will they come?