Five years ago I flipped the switch to make this blog public. The anniversary sort of crept up on me. Reviewing that original “Purpose and Intent” post, I think I’ve been… well, sorta… true to the original goal.
At that time I’d just gotten settled into my new Virginia home. After years of moving about, my career brought me to the lucrative Northern Virginia job market. For much of the previous years, I was out of the country. My life-long study of the Civil War had stagnated somewhat, with my activities focused on books. As one who prefers to consider the battlefield from the battlefield, this was like running a race on crutches. After those long years “cooped up,” I was able to get out and walk the battlefields again.
The great advantage to my new location was – and as I love to gloat over now, IS – its proximity to all the important sites in the Eastern Theater. I run out of fingers and toes counting the battlefields within an hour from my front door. And speaking of that front door, a lot happened in 1861-65 just a few footsteps from that front door! I’m in a good spot for the sesquicentennial, which I’ve mentioned a time or two.
And I’ve also mentioned a time or two before that I’m more of a Western Theater guy, due to where I grew up and places I’ve lived over the years. The Eastern Theater was, before the relocation to Virginia, a bucket list of stops to make on vacations. Of course now these are sites which I can spend ample time studying in detail. I’ve now been to some of the most obscure sites in the Eastern Theater… in many cases just to say I have been there, but mostly to appreciate what IS there.
The problem I encountered with all these visits was simply organizing thoughts and notes to fuse into good records of what I had learned. So for the most part, this blog started out as a way for me “to aid the organization and presentation of my research, notations, and observations regarding the study of American history, in particular the Civil War.”
As I say, I think the blog has stayed true to that purpose. Occasionally I get a bit out of the lane. I’ve evolved the core topics of focus a bit, sharpened into the “three”: artillery, historical markers, and battlefields. Of late, I have enjoyed pulling up my old files, particularly on the Western battlefields, to setup sesquicentennial timed posts. With a few exceptions, the only contemporary topics that I’ve aired here are about sesquicentennial observances and preservation. The later, due to my preference to experience the battlefields as a primary resource, is very important to me. You may not agree with where I’ll stand on preservation, but I hope we can agree it needs to be discussed.
I’ve purposely steered away from some of what I consider the “pedestrian” topics in the Civil War discussion. Let’s face it, there are some topics that everyone has an opinion about. Sure, I think scholarly studies of Lincoln or the causes of the war (or even black Confederates) are still necessary. However, nobody is going to further the study of those subjects without many dedicated years. Or in plain speech – we should shut up and listen a lot more than we do.
After five years, can I call this project worth the time spent? Or to put it in plain talk – is “To the Sound of the Guns” a successful blog?
My IT professional background prompts me to cite metrics and figures. But honestly I don’t set much store by the hit counts. Truth be known, the Civil War blogging community is but a small particle in the larger web. The blogosphere is dominated by a lot of other topic areas. My pal XBradTC over at Bring the Heat will gather more hits in a month than most Civil War blogs see in a year. So that sort of metric is relative, relatively speaking.
The way I see it, success of a blog like the one I’m running here is not just a measure of hits and views. Rather it is how clear and useful the information is served to the reader. I’ve wanted this blog to depict my evolving understanding (which I’d argue is what a true blog is supposed to be). My “log” of the information distilled into knowledge, if you will. A few years ago I did that with the Edwards Ferry topic. By the time I had consumed and digested all I could lay my hands on, I had about thirty posts to show for the effort. Those spanned over a year in time. By the end of it all, maybe I didn’t introduce anything “new” to the Civil War discussion. But, if the daily counts of search engine hits is any measure, I’ve put some content out there which was missing from the web.
I see that as “laying it all on the table.” I’d rather share what I have, in the hope of a connection that will further add to the understanding. Sure, I look back at some posts, particularly early ones, and figure I need to write up a new, revised version. The first “series” I ran covered Maryland Heights. I look back and realize how much more I know now – particularly offered by way of acquaintances met through contact on this blog – compared to what I knew then. Likewise, I consider it the highest of blogging honors for something I’ve written here to aid someone else in their study of the topic. I’ll treat pingbacks like gold coins any day of the week.
In that respect, if I can look back five years from now and identify how much more my understanding has improved, and at the same time having aided others to improve their understanding of the Civil War, then I’ll call it a good decade’s worth of writing.
And as long as I’m running an “administrative” announcement for the day, let me again mention you can follow me on Twitter or on the “To the Sound of the Guns” Facebook page. News items and comments less worthy of a blog post appear in those feeds.