Blogging the Civil War
By Eric J. Wittenberg
To better understand the growing phenomenon of blogs on the American Civil War, the Civil War Trust has asked noted historian, author, and veteran blogger Eric Wittenberg to share his thoughts and perspective on the subject. Eric, who is the author or co-author of 14 books on the Civil War, and has been an active Civil War blogger for three years.
THE BLOGGING PHENOMENON really began growing in 2004 in connection with the presidential election. By 2005, I was itching to join the fray. I had things to say, and I figured it would be good therapy for me to vent a bit. Little did I realize that three years and nearly 800 posts later, I would still be at it. And what amazes me even more is the devoted readership that visits my blog each day. (civilwarcavalry.com) Over the years, readers have left more than 5,000 comments on the blog. I particularly enjoy the interaction with my readers, and I normally respond to comments left there. I’ve had people provide me with great research material as a consequence of their visits to my blog, and I’ve even made a couple of new friends that way. The site gets so much traffic that I occasionally have to bump up the site’s available bandwidth, because there’s so much traffic that it eats up all of the available bandwidth.
Blogging provides what Teddy Roosevelt described as a bully pulpit, an opportunity to climb the soapbox and proudly state one’s opinions in the free speech market known as the Internet. There are about 30 Civil War blogs that I read on a daily basis. Some are by well-known scholars. Some are by dedicated amateurs. Some approach the subject from a Southern slant. Others approach it with a distinctly Northern bias. Some are digital archives devoted to the documentation of a single battle. Others focus on book reviews. Still others discuss the role of religion in the Civil War. Some I agree with. Many I don’t. Some leave me shaking my head and wondering what that person was thinking before hitting the “publish” button on their blogging software. No matter what, I enjoy reading all of the different viewpoints, and some regularly force me to think about topics I might not otherwise consider.
No matter what, these blogs provide me with vastly disparate viewpoints. I would not otherwise be exposed to these differing views, and I regularly learn from them. I often find myself saying to myself, “I didn’t know that.” From where I sit, it’s all about learning something new, and these blogs provide a veritable cornucopia of free thought and new ideas or viewpoints. Ultimately, I think that’s what I like best about the Internet: it has opened up a universe of thoughts and ideas that I would never encounter otherwise.
Do yourself a favor. Indulge yourself. Spend some time checking out some of the blogs that are linked on this website. Many of you will quickly find yourselves hooked, checking your favorite blogger’s ranting each day while you enjoy a cup of coffee or an adult beverage. You won’t regret it. And I promise you that you will learn something new along the way.
Blogs: Questions & Answers with Eric Wittenberg
Why should the Civil War enthusiast be interested in Civil War related blogs?
Because there are so many good ones out there that can provide so much new information and so many new perspectives that are not available elsewhere.
Can't I get all my Civil War information in books and history magazines?
Certainly not. There’s plenty more out there to be had. We’ve really only just scratched the surface.
Aren't blogs run by a bunch of 20 year olds?
I am a good bit closer to 50 than I am to 40. And I have been blogging very regularly for three years.
Why should someone deeply interested in the Civil War bother with all that noise?
Because there are plenty of places to try out ideas, network with others of similar interests, and to learn what other Civil War enthusiasts are thinking and doing.
Why did you decide to create a Civil War blog?
I had thing to say and needed an outlet. I hoped that if I built it, readers would come, but it has succeeded beyond my wildest expectations.
What do you enjoy the most about running your own blog?
Without doubt, my favorite aspect is the regular interactions with my readers. I also like trying out ideas and interpretations there, knowing that people will respond. I learn from it, and it makes me a better and more thorough historian.
What's the hardest thing about being a blog author?
Finding things worth saying on a regular basis.
Are blogs of any use when it comes to the subject of Civil War battlefield preservation?
Absolutely. Battlefield preservation is one of my priorities, and I regularly impose that priority on my readers by posting stories/articles/ideas/fundraising pleas on my blog and hoping that my using that bully pulpit will entice people to get involved by donating money and giving their time to worthy preservation causes.
What blogs do you like to read?
I read about 30 blogs per day. They’re all listed on the blogroll on my web site. I look for a blog that includes regular posts, interesting topics, and well-reasoned discussions. That’s all it takes to keep me coming back each day.