About this Blog, and Me

Hello, I’m Craig Swain.  Perhaps instead of formal introductions, let me answer some background questions.  After all, you didn’t browse here for my boring life story!  Feel free to drop me a note by commenting here, or at my email address – caswain01 on gmail dot com.

What is this blog about?

I started this blog several years back for several reasons.   Please browse the Purpose and Intent post for more information on what I was thinking at that time.  Since then I’ve evolved the focus toward the topics of Civil War battlefields, artillery, and of course the markers and monuments.  I’ll post from time to time about preservation and perhaps “newsy” posts about upcoming events.  But for the most part I try to stay within those topics.  I don’t wish to use this blog as a platform for discussing current events or frivolous personal updates.

What is Marker Hunting?

Simply put, marker hunting is a hobby of mine, and quite a few others.  We find public interpretive displays that relate to historical topics (a.k.a. historical markers) and document the particulars.   Those particulars include the text of the display, the location, who placed it, when it was placed, and where possible the story behind the marker (how it got there).

You will notice I reference the Historical Marker Database (HMDB) a lot in posts.  I am an “editor emeritus” of that web site, having served on the editorial board and as the Civil War category editor in the past.  Our goal is to “hunt down” historical markers across the US (and the world, as we are international now), and document them for the web oriented community.

Why Marker Hunting?

Because frankly, you’ve passed by them, often times without thinking.  These markers document our history with a three-dimensional perspectives that books often fail to offer. To me, a marker helps place the facts within the geographic setting.   In some ways, HMDB serves as a resource to see “what is on site” for those planning trips, or unable to actually visit in person.   And beyond just the surface, since “markers” are relocated or replaced, documenting the location and text can provide a snapshot back in time.  Further, it is interesting to compare how past generations interpreted historical sites.

Comment Policy.

I had some questions about the comments placed on this blog, and responded to that in a separate page.  Bottom line is that while I value your comments and interaction, I have a need to keep things focused.  I will respond to inquiries and requests even if those comments are not published.  And if you prefer, please contact me at the email address noted here.

“To the Sound of the Guns”?

It’s an old military phrase.   Shortened from “move to the sound of the guns.”  Means to go where the fighting is most intense.  At first I thought “Moving to the Sound of Silent Guns” captured my intent.  But found that too wordy, and feared people would assume an unintended paranormal reference.  Let me put it this way – when I visit a battlefield or any historic site for that matter, I want to spend time on the ground where the action or activity took place.  Nothing against visitor centers.  Certainly nothing against reading first hand accounts.  But I find the terrain itself is often an important primary source (and often overlooked).  So I go where the guns were fired.

Speaking Engagements? Site tours?

I have in the past spoke at Civil War Roundtables, or facilitated tours of sites.  Please look on my “Speaking Engagements” page for a list of topics.

I’ve lead or assisted with many tours of Civil War sites over the years.  But full disclosure, I am not, nor do I claim to be, a “professional” tour guide.  Nor am I a licensed battlefield guide.  Some of the sites where I’ve lead tours recently:

  • Gettysburg Campaign through Loudoun County, Virginia.
  • 1864 Winter Encampment in Culpeper County.
  • The Civil War around Charleston, South Carolina.
  • Brandy Station and Kelly’s Ford.


Book Reviews?

My stance is only to review books I’ve found useful and would recommend to others with similar interests.  That implies I’ll buy the book myself for use and review (such also gets around the sticky issue with blogging, book reviews, and my taxes).  If you have suggestions, recommendations then I’m all ears.

Oh, and About me….

I’m an information technology consultant –  specifically a professional who builds collaborative solutions for customers.   That’s my day job.  I leave that behind for this blog, which is 100% hobby.

I didn’t come to the IT field by way of formal education.  My formal background includes a bachelors degree in history.  Before I left  graduate school in pursuit of a paycheck, my studies there were also in the history field.  I’ve spent eight years in the Army, both as a combat arms and a communications officer.  Further, I’ve made many trips since then working overseas in remote places where “hot” is not always a reference to the ambient air temperature.

I am a strong supporter of efforts to preserve our Civil War battlefields. In addition to membership in the Civil War Preservation Trust, I have been and still am a member of several local/regional preservation groups.   I am also involved with the Loudoun Civil War Roundtable.

39 thoughts on “About this Blog, and Me

  1. I’ve really enjoyed reading your piece”My Civil War Memory”
    Thank you .

  2. So glad I surfed into your site, Craig. To say it is comprehensive is an understatement! So, I will return. I also never heard the word(s) “marker hunter”. Now I know what to tell the cop what I am when I make a quick stop and turn, to read or photograph a marker. I have a small site of photographs of a Civil War era fort in upstate New York, Fort Montgomery, near the village of Rouses Point. A kind historian, writer, and webmaster provided me with a safe sanctuary for my modest efforts. FYI, below is the address of a short U tube documentary about the fort. If you follow the links to the author’s website, Americas’ Historic Lakes, you will find it is done in the spirit of your blog. Canada, Vermont, New York State and Lake Champlain all come to meet at the fort, producing a grand mix of history. Please visit.

    Thanks for your efforts! I will be a frequent visitor.


    • Hello Charlie,
      Do you have any info on a 32 Lbr.,Seacoast gun made at Bellona Foundry
      in 1829? It was given to G.A.R. Elmer E. Ellsworth Post 619 in 1898, and
      is in Tallmadge Park, Mechanicville, NY. Would you know if there is
      any documentation still available at Fort Montgomery, or there abouts,
      regarding this national treasure? Any info immensely appreciated.

      Luddy Amann, Mechanicville, NY

  3. Can you help me? I am looking for any study, work, etc. that show the old CW photo of the fortifications at Manassas and Centreville VA and compares them to the maps.

    Do you know of anything like this?

    Thank you in advance.

    Gregg Jones

  4. I’m surprised there is no western battlefields listed in “Battelfields by Markers” section. This ommission despite the importance of many battles such as Shiloh, Chickamauga and Vicksburg. I appreciate your work very much and I hope I’m not fault finding so please accept this note in a constructive manner it is intended as.

    • Ron, there’s a simple reason why the western battlefields are under-represented. The entries on HMDB are lacking at this time. Myself and other marker hunters are working on that. But it does take time. From earlier years, when I lived out there, I’ve got shoeboxes full of old 35mm photos. But not the stuff that looks good on the web.


  5. I’m very happy to have stumbled upon your blog and interesting project. Much thanks for the hours and hours of reading I have now in order to go back through every blog. 🙂

    Are you into relic hunting at all?

    I’ve recently been hunting for artifacts/materials at locations near my home such as Wolf Run Shoals and north up the Occoquan below Bull Run with very limited success (have found a few antique glass bottles, bullets, a few coins). Am I too late to the party for relic hunting in northern VA?

    Where in northern VA would you consider good spots for this type of activity? I was thinking that the difficult run area off Hunter Mill Rd is an option as well as parts of Annandale and Falls Church where Union troops camped, although the latter is highly developed with little unpaved land left.

    Thanks for any advice and please keep up the good work on your highly entertaining and informative blog!

  6. Your blog is accurate. Am requesting permission to use your blog (website) as a simple footnote in my and David Weick’s forthcoming book: Gettysburg July Second: Attack and Defense of the Union Center on Cemetery Ridge. You will be sited.


    David Shultz

  7. Good Afternoon Craig. I happen to stumble upon your site also. Your site is quite interesting and it is apparent that historical battles and artillery are your passion. You offer a wealth information about the battles themselves, locations, and types of weapon systems. Have you ever thought about comparing the tactics and use of land during the Civil War with the current wars now? I have a news article that may be of interest to you titled, ” Dragons Breathe Fire Missions”. . It features Artillerymen from the 1st Battalion, 82nd Field Artillery Regiment, 1st Brigade Combat Team, 1st Cavalry Division that will deploy to the National Training Center in Fort Irwin, California next spring prior to their overseas deployment. This past week the artilleryman fired their 100-pound projectiles, round after round, this week to train and certify their M109A6 howitzer crews, which must be done prior to deploying. What type of training did the artillery men endure prior to the Civil War? Here is a link to the photos and article on the DVIDs website. Please let me know what you think.


    • John, I assume you are referring to reenacting groups. I don’t reenact, and don’t have the contacts into the organizations here locally. Have you inquired with some of the area NPS authorities? They might direct you to organizations which conduct living history within the parks.

  8. Dear Mr. Swain, My husband and I are restoring the old church on Mountville Road, off Snickersville Turnpike outside Middleburg, VA. I very much am interested in finding out if the church has a history connected by documents or photos to the Civil War. I’ve recently started reading the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies, where Mountville is mentioned several times, but never the church specifically. Do you know of any information? sincerely, Lee Lawrence

  9. I shall endeavor to get a picture of the marker at the Westernmost battle of the Civil War, here in Arizona. It was a skirmish at Picacho Peak, West of Tucson. While small in size, it lead to the South abandoning Tucson, and giving up their plan to invade California. There is a marker and a reenactment every year on the very site.

  10. Hello Craig,
    I happened upon your site and was delighted to see “Edward’s Ferry” so prominent. I have a historical fiction, “Billy Boy, The Sunday Soldier of the 17th Maine,” and as part of the true event, Private Billy Laird, who was believed to be mentally challenged, deserts Livingston’s Battery, 17th Maine, at Edward’s Ferry. I went in search of Edward’s Ferry while researching my novel, and was surprised to find it. Standing on the banks of the Potomac where this young man made the decision to return to Maine was very powerful. His journey home is fictionalized, but when he lands in Maine, the rest of the story is a matter of historical record.

  11. Greetings Craig!
    Nice work, and a very good site. I think that you did a great job with the photos and description of the Battle of Pea Ridge (Elkhorn Tavern) in Arkansas. My Great-Great Grandfather [Robert Nebel] was a soldier in Welfley’s Light Artillery (Union) and fought at Pea Ridge, so the position photos of Welfley’s Mound and battle lines were REALLY exciting for me to see! Really NICE work! ( You’ve inspired me to actually go west and check out the “fields” for myself.) Cheers~

  12. Craig – I love this site! Thanks so much for including Cosmic America in your blog roll – I returned the favor…and also added the Historical Marker Database as a link. This is a great resource that I was entirely unaware of until just now. All the best and happy new year!

  13. ” Deane & Son of Lynchburg, Virginia received a contract to produce forty 12-pdr howitzers in the summer of 1861. Likely none were delivered.”

    Do you have any more info on this place. I am from Lynchburg and Ive been trying to find the location of this place? By the way, your blogs are awesome! So informative and enjoyable. Thanks.

    • Thanks for the kind words, Brian.

      Deane & Son did produce a sizable quantity of projectiles to fill CS government contracts. They may have produced a 24pdr iron howitzer also. And their name is associated with the “Williams Gun” breechloader.

      Here’s what I know of Deane. Francis B. Deane Jr. was a bit of an industrialist. His name is associated with the Cartersville Bridge Company and other activities in the upper James River area of Virginia. Among those was a foundry in Lynchburg. Deane lived at 503 Washington Street in the city. He died in 1860, passing the foundry to his son, also recorded as F. B. Deane, but not identified as “the third” by the way.

      The son, F.B. Deane, apparently ran the foundry during the war. But in 1875 the business failed. Eventually the works came into the possession of former Confederate Thomas Munford. My guess is the foundry was incorporated into the Lynchburg Foundry and Machine Company.

  14. Hi,
    Do you know the origin or the history of the following guns:
    Naval Parrott, 6.4 inch, 1863: 100 Pdr, S/N: 198 and 199??
    They are now in Pisagua, Chile.

    Thank you very much.


  15. I have lived on Ft Johnston Rd for 42 yrs & am very interested in any facts about Ft Johnston. Would it be possible to get the Milner Assoc 1937 aerial photo?
    Thank you.

  16. Hello;

    Any assistance would be appreciated. I am looking for a memorial tablet (possibly for honoring Union solders) made by the Russell Foundry of Newburyport, Massachusetts. There was an article in the local paper about the Russell Foundry in the late 1800s discussing their work and the article mentioned their work at Gettysburg.

    Thank you very much.

  17. Craig – I haven’t the slightest idea………I’ll try to tind out more information, thank you very much, ghlee

    • There were a set of plaques placed on the battlefield to designate positions held by Massachusetts troops. These were placed very early, before most of the memorials we see there today. A few of these remain. They are on single iron posts and resemble roadside markers.

  18. Craig,
    I enjoyed stumbling into your site as I was looking for a WordPress theme for our reenactors’ site http://warhorse.org.
    We are the California Historical Artillery Society (CHAS).
    Please keep us in mind should you encounter anyone looking to become involved in Civil War artillery reenactment as a cannoneer, driver, artificer, or civilian.
    Best Wishes,

  19. Hello, I am a modeler and I wonder if you can find designs and measures, or if you have them, of the carriages and guns used in ACW.

    Thank you

    • The Ordnance Instructions provide a wealth of detail on the measures and specifications. The 1862 version of the instructions would probably be the best place to start. I’ve held off posting particulars about field carriages, as the details might “scare” some readers off!

  20. have you documentation of gun, mortars, howitzer used for the American Indipendence War? British, French, Minuteman?
    Thank you

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