Category Archives: Blogging

May 1, 2015: My Sesquicentennial streak comes to an end

In late December 2010, WordPress sent out a “blogger challenge” which encouraged us towards a “blog post every day” schedule.  Yes, as content drives traffic, that sort of thing brings in advertizing dollars to the host up there in the cloud somewhere.  On my end of things, I saw that challenge as a means to sharpen and improve blog writing skills… but more importantly, and more for my own satisfaction than anything else, be able to to visibly demonstrate how I followed, observed, and participated in the Civil War sesquicentennial.

On January 1, 2011, I posted the first of many entries which focused on what happened around Charleston, South Carolina, 150 years from the date of posting.  So 37,944 hours later (that would be 1581 days, or four years and four months for those who prefer simpler figures), I am posting this one.  Over that time, I’ve put up at least one blog post each day. On a lot of days, two posts.  And on a few days, three posts.  The total for the time was 1791 blog posts, not counting this one (or two at the end of 2010 that were not “sesqui” posts).  I’m going to take a blogging-break this weekend and thus end the streak.  The Sesquicentennial is not over, as there are indeed more dates related to the war as it wound down.  But my daily posting cycle will lapse just as the pace of the war lapsed 150 years ago.

Some of those 1791 posts were simply mentions of upcoming events.  Others were trip reports and “live” blogging where I tried to give the reader a taste of what was going on out there.  Some posts were slim and thin.  And others – and I have not taken a formal count, but hopefully the majority – are “red meat” posts where I wrote about things which happened 150 years from the date of posting.  For those posts, I often sought out topics which were covered less by historians and other bloggers.  My over-arching purpose with that was to demonstrate, using our sense of time in the contemporary space, how operations during the war were greatly inter-connected with dependencies all around.  I liked taking the “simple” as presented in the general histories and showing it in natural light to expose all the “complexities” that exist in situ.

I sort of evolved the approach to “150 years ago” posts as things went along.  Early on, I think I was more commentary heavy in the content.  Later posts were heavier on the source material.  Around about mid-2012, the realization set in that I was “forcing” posts and I should return to the advice given by my college mentors – let the sources speak for themselves.  So, turning to my many, many notebooks compiled over the years, I organized things by date to have “scheduled” writing assignments.  For example, this section from January 2014:

Blog Schedule

As with any “marathon,” the key is having a solid, organized approach.  I think this really paid off in the fall of 2014, following Price’s Missouri Campaign along with Sherman’s March.  However, if I had to pick one set of posts to highlight, it would be those discussing the Second Major Bombardment of Fort Sumter.  In approaching that event, as with much of the story of Charleston’s Civil War, I was inspired by the late Warren Ripley.  During the Centennial, Ripley ran articles (along with Arthur Wilcox) in the Charleston News and Courier and Evening Post.  Many of those were later collected into a booklet which is still sold today.  Ripley worked under the constraint of column inches.  But the blogging format allowed me the freedom of exploring many of the “dirty details” of the siege of Charleston.  I do hope it was as entertaining to the reader as those posts were enjoyable for me to write.

In addition to the posts, I’ve worked to bring the Sesquicentennial experience by way of tweets, status updates, and streaming video.  Being able to tweet that I was standing AT a place AT a time just 150 years removed from AN event provided perspective.  At the same time, sharing my thoughts as quality speakers challenged my understanding of the war added to the experience.

But beyond the blogging aspect of the sesqui, I look back at four plus years of tours, talks, seminars, and other activities.  I can say, with pride, that I didn’t just “see” the Sesquicentennial, but rather waded in up to my neck.  To paraphrase a famous author, I know now of our Civil War because I’ve walked its fields and turned its pages.  I’ve experienced sunrises that brought light upon the ground – literally and metaphorically speaking.

Antietam 150 042

While I cannot run some “official” tally of how many sites I visited or 150ths I attended, I can say “I was there” for as much as possible.  And I hope that others who could not be there were able to gain some appreciation through what I was able to present.

As mentioned, there are still some 150ths to mention in the months ahead.  But mostly I am, as the nation was 150 years ago, about to transition my blog a bit.  There are a lot of posts that were not posted in the correct time frame.  So I have an obligation to pick those up.  And there are other story lines that I wish to explore.  But at the same time, I sense a need to return to my “base.”  There is much to write about the big guns.  Thus my notebook is filled with possible “cannon posts” for the year to come.

However, before I close any Sesquicentennial books, I do want to share some thoughts about the 150th that I’ve rolled around over the last four years.  Some have already started pointing to successes and failures with the 150ths.  I’m not about that sort of ranking.  It’s all relative to the viewers perspective.  My experience with the Sesquicentennial, as you have no doubt seen and read, was positive.  Now I feel somewhat obligated to share my reactions to that experience in a sense of closure.

Those thoughts to follow later.   For now, I’m on break.

Meerkat: “Wish we’d had this earlier for the 150ths” or “too much noise”?

You may have seen the buzz of late concerning a new app called Meerkat.  The rather lightweight app, running on an iOS device (I don’t think there is a version out for Andriod or other platforms yet), which allows the user to stream video straight through Twitter.  Right off the bat, I think you can see there would be some “good” and “bad” aspects of that capability.  If none come to mind, you might browse through the numerous live streams that were posted on Twitter. Some OK stuff there.  Some “who cares” stuff. In general, much like anything on the internet, the first go around the noise to signal ratio is skewed to the former.

I’ve tested the app earlier this week for my non-Civil War private account.  Then earlier today I posted a short video stream of the latest Civil War Trails marker posted in Loudoun County.

One limitation is quickly in play… unless you clicked on the link when I was “Live Now” then you didn’t see it… thankfully as the video was poorly framed.  Meerkat has already posted some “rules” which govern actions on the app, but not so much behavior.  Included in those is the limitation – no reruns.  So you can’t go back and see what I shared earlier.   Though I can re-post or schedule that at a later point for you to view… provided you have “subscribed” and accept the notification to view.  As you see, that can be troublesome.  Who is sitting on their smart device waiting for a video feed to open?

However, I can see some application of this app in my near future.  So much of the 150th events have been “in the moment” and “you had to be there” experiences.  I’ve  tried to capture those from the “field” on Twitter where possible.  But there’s only so much you can do with text and a picture.  Maybe, by working a bit more on the camera techniques, I might stream some of the last few Sesquicentennial events.

We’ll see how that works… or doesn’t.  Might add a new facet to live blogging these sort of events.  Then again, might not be worth the hassle.

 

For the last stretch of sesquicentennial blogging… what do you want to see?

I don’t think we can put a mark on the calendar and say “This is when the Sesquicentennial of the Civil War Ends.”  But at the same time, the surrenders of key armies in Virginia and North Carolina is generally recognized as the point of closure.  As such, my project focused on 150th blogging will likewise start winding down. I’d taken on a “post a day” challenge at the end of December 2010, as part of my personal observance of the Sesquicentennial.  And that will come to a close in the next few months.  Reality is there are about sixty days or so to consider, after which the pace of 150ths slows considerably.   (Again, not to dismiss the surrenders west of the Mississippi.  But there’s a lot of empty dates on the calendar after the end of April.)

There are a lot of areas to explore in regard to the last days of the Civil War.  And if you have been reading for a while now, you know I like to work on some of the lesser worked rows, and in particular where the military history (under the classic definition) edges into some other divisions of history.  I’m mulling over continuing the posts on the Carolinas Campaign through North Carolina.  Unlike that of South Carolina, my perception is that the march through North Carolina has gotten its “due” attention from historians.  I don’t think I can improve upon the work done by Mark Bradley or my friend Eric Wittenberg in regard to the Bentonville Campaign or Battle of Monroe’s Crossroads (respectively).

There are some other subjects that I will put focus on through the spring.  One is the last military campaign into South Carolina, lead by Brigadier-General Edward Potter and consisting largely of USCT, through the state in April.  It’s another “footnote” in the larger story of the Civil War, but one that provides a bridge into the post-war situation in South Carolina.   Another topic I’d like to work in within the “day by day” format is President Jefferson F. Davis’ flight through the Carolinas and Georgia.  The path is well blazed by markers, so that allows me to showcase some of those along the way.

And of course… I will be “in the field” at several events between now and the end of April, from which I’ll do my best at covering here on the blog, on Twitter, and through Facebook.

All that said…. let me ask what you folks who spend a little part of your day reading the “stuff” I post what would be preferable.  More on Uncle Billy’s march?  More on something else?  I’ll offer up a poll here, but feel free to drop a comment if you would like:

I can’t say that my coverage of Lee’s Retreat or Wilson’s Campaign would be set upon the firm grounding of the …well… full appreciation of the ground on which the actions took place… as I’ve been able to offer for the Georgia and South Carolina operations.  But I’d consider taking up the task if the need is great.  That is so long as it does not detract from the two topics (Potter’s South Carolina Campaign and Davis’ flight) mentioned above.