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:
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.
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.