News from ECW · October 2017
From the Editor · Symposium Keynote · Kevin Pawlak · News & Notes · ECW Bookshelf
One of the most enduring things to come from Tony Horwitz’s classic
Confederates in the Attic was the image of reenactors
so into the authenticity of their work that they shouted “Hardcore!” in praise of each other. It was the highest possible badge: “Hardcore!”
We all know hardcore Civil War folks, whether they be reenactors or buffs or battlefielders. They compare the sizes of their libraries. They tour in any weather. They recall the most Byzantine facts on demand. They’ve named their kids after generals. Their houses are decked out as museums, complete with Mort Kunstler prints hanging on the walls. Hardcore!
However, no matter how hardcore any of us might be, real life has a way of putting everything in perspective.
You might have noticed we didn’t send out a September ECW newsletter. Just as I began to assemble the month’s articles, my teenage son was involved in a serious accident, and for days, everything in my world went on hold as we waited anxiously to see if he was going to be alright. Fortunately, he was. After a couple weeks in the hospital, he’d recovered enough that he’s been able to do outpatient therapy since. Thankfully, he’s going to be okay.
During those first tense few days, one of my ECW colleagues, Rob Orrison, passed along an important truth dressed in the guise of advice: “Take care of that boy of yours. The Civil War isn’t going anywhere.”
So true, so true.
As hardcore as some of us are about the Civil War, as devoted as we are to its study, as seriously as we take it, there are always going to be things vastly more important. The war has been with us for 150 years and isn’t apt to go away any time soon.
So, all of you, please: Take care of that boy—whomever in your life that boy might be.
-- Chris Mackowski
Hartwig to Headline ECW Symposium
Anyone who knows Gettysburg knows Scott Hartwig, the former supervisory historian at Gettysburg National Battlefield and an NPS fixture for decades. Scott recently retired, and he’s now deeply invested in his other great Civil War passion: the battle of Antietam. He’ll bring that expertise to the Fifth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge Aug. 3-5, 2017, as
this year’s keynote speaker
This year’s theme ties into our forthcoming book from our new “Engaging the Civil War” series, published by Southern Illinois University Press:
Turning Points of the American Civil War
. Look for it in December, just in time for Christmas!
Early-bird tickets for this year’s Symposium are $130, now through December 31. For more details on the Symposium, and to order tickets,
check out ECW’s website
10 Questions with . . . Kevin Pawlak
Kevin Pawlak is the education director for the Mosby Heritage Area in northern Virginia and a licensed battlefield guide at Antietam. You can
read his full bio here
Congratulations on your recent wedding!
Does your wife know that she didn't just marry you but she also married the Civil War?
Fortunately, she's well aware of it. We met as summer interns at Harpers Ferry, and the Civil War means a lot to both of us (it's obvious when you look at our combined libraries). We are both busy and interested with the Civil War. Heck, I had to give a tour two days before the wedding, and almost missed my flight to the wedding because of it! So, she knew what she was getting into when she married me.
You wear a lot of hats: education director for the Mosby Heritage Area, licensed battlefield guide at Antietam, author for Emerging Civil War. How do you balance all of that?
My short answer is, "I don't know." But somehow, I find a way. I might not be the quickest writer or researcher, but it all gets done to a satisfactory degree at some point. Because I have a lot of hats to wear, that means I spend a lot of time driving (in my mobile office, as I say). I try to knock out widening my knowledge of the Civil War during that time—listening to books on tapes, lectures, podcasts, etc.—and research and write when I'm home, in front of a computer. But the solitary time in the car, driving from place to place, allows me a lot of time to think out questions that I ask myself throughout the course of research and writing, meaning I have to think less when sitting down to write. Perhaps most importantly, though, my schedule for all of those hats is usually flexible, so I make it work.
What is the Mosby Heritage Area, anyway?
This is a common question! In a nutshell, the Mosby Heritage Area is an 1,800-square-mile open air museum in the Northern Virginia Piedmont and Shenandoah Valley. Loudoun, Fauquier, Clarke, Prince William, and Warren counties constitute the area. If you ever take time to visit these five counties, you'll quickly recognize why we have a heritage area to preserve them. Many of the same roads, homes, churches, cemeteries, bridges, and landscapes familiar to Civil War soldiers look much the same today as they did over 150 years ago. So, as an education organization, the Mosby Heritage Area Association promotes the local history of these five counties so that local citizens will have an interest in saving this incredibly unique historic landscape. We cover all aspects of history to reach as wide an audience as possible, something that will help fulfill our mission. "Mosby" is sort of the glue that binds all five of the counties together, since his partisan operations ranged in the Heritage Area for the last 28 months of the Civil War.
You wrote your first book (
Shepherdstown in the Civil War
: Arcadia, 2015) when you were fresh out of college. What do you like about writing about the war?
I really like the research aspect better. Often, I find myself researching and researching and researching, and then look up and realize the deadline to write out all of this research is close at hand. But, I've really grown to love writing, too. Without having a tangible way to convey that research to an audience, what's the use of researching? That's why I like writing about the Civil War. It gives me an opportunity to explore unknown stories and to share those stories with others. That is what public history is all about. As we all know, there is never any shortage about things to write when it comes to the Civil War.
Do you think the battle of Shepherdstown remains under-appreciated? Why/why not?
The battle of Shepherdstown is still under-appreciated, I think, but a lot of progress has been made. When I first visited the Shepherdstown battlefield in 2010, the battlefield looked in bad shape. Besides a few old War Department iron tablets, there was no interpretation of the battlefield. In fact, there wasn't even a place to safely park a car. Now, when I give tours of the Shepherdstown battlefield, I see a lot of people who raise their hands at the start of each tour when I ask, "Who has ever heard of the battle of Shepherdstown?" The battlefield itself still has a ways to go, but it is definitely getting better. It's been exciting to watch.
Unfortunately for the battle of Shepherdstown, one thing that I think will continue to hold its appreciation back is that it does not fit with our understanding of the 1862 Maryland Campaign. Read any general history of the war and you basically get that the battle of Antietam was fought September 17, no one did anything on September 18 so Lee retreated back to Virginia that night, McClellan never pursued, and the campaign ended. Try telling Lee that this was a retreat, try telling McClellan that none of his forces pursued Lee, and try telling the approximately 700 casualties of the two-day battle of Shepherdstown that story, and it doesn't add up. There's a lot more to the story than that, and I hope future studies of the Civil War continue to stress that.
Lightning Round (short answers):
Who’s the most overrated person of the Civil War era?
My wife will not like this, but Stonewall Jackson
What’s your favorite Trans-Mississippi site?
As a cemetery person, I'll go with Bellefontaine Cemetery in St. Louis
What’s your favorite regiment?
28th New York Infantry
What’s one Civil War book you would recommend as indispensable?
Battle Cry of Freedom
What’s one question about the Civil War no one’s asked you but you wish they would?
“How difficult was it really to command a Civil War army on a battlefield?”
got a nice shout-out in the current issue of
America’s Civil War
. The magazine’s regular “Trailside” feature, sponsored by Civil War Trails, focused on Spotsylvania. The article, “Grant’s Gamble,” spotlighted Stevenson Ridge’s “accommodations with a period feel...where Civil War entrenchments still remain.”
just had an article published in the Fall 2017 issue of
magazine. The issue focuses on battles that resulted in the fall of capital cities. An online version can be found
presented on their
Blue & Gray
magazine article on October 12, to the Bull Run Civil War Round Table. Their article and presentation focused on the Potomac Blockade in 1861.
of Atlanta has started working on a book-study on how the
Atlanta Daily Intelligencer
, the city's premier paper of the 1860s, covered the war with its news, editorials, &c. The manuscript is due next year to the University of Tennessee Press. What will be neat about this project, according to Steve, is that his co-author is Bill Hendrick, veteran newspaper writer for the Atlanta
for three decades before his retirement. Bill thus brings his professional knowledge together with an abiding curiosity, shared with Steve, on how the
operated during the tough times of '61`-'65.
Our recent ECW Symposium keynote,
Brian Matthew Jordan
, spoke at the Houston Civil War Roundtable on his work
. He will also be speaking at the Pamplin Park Civil War Symposium, October 20-22, on Benjamin Butler, followed by a talk at Christopher Newport University on October 23 on Beast Butler, as well.
was accepted to LEAD Hampton Roads, a regional leadership program sponsored by the Hampton Roads Chamber of Commerce. Congratulations, Chris!
presented papers at the McMullen Naval History Symposium at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis on September 14. They shared a panel on leadership and discipline in the mid-nineteenth-century navy—or navies, since Dwight talked about the Confederates. The papers were well received. It’s is the second of these biennial symposiums for Chris and the fourth for Dwight.
has been taking ECW’s “
” on the road. He talk about Confederate monuments tonight with members of the Buffalo (NY) Civil War Roundtable, and next month he’ll lead a discussion for the North Carolina Civil War Roundtable in Burlington, NC. On Nov. 2, he’ll participate in a panel discussion on the topic sponsored by the School for Conflict Analysis & Resolution (SCAR) at George Mason University’s Arlington, VA, campus. And on Nov. 4, he’ll serve on a panel for Genesee Community College in Batavia, NY, that will also address the topic. (That panel will be moderated by ECW’s
, who got married (to each other!) on August 12.
Kevin also was recently in part of a documentary on the Kilpatrick-Dahlgren Raid.
Our West Coast ECW author and blogger
Meg Groeling Thompson
spoke about Civil War politics and the 1860 Presidential election to the North Bay Civil War Round Table in Santa Rosa, California on September 20, 2017. Meg also spoke to the Inland Empire Civil War Round Table at the Lincoln Memorial Shrine in Redlands, California on October 11, 2017. She spoke about her book,
Aftermath of Battle
(part of the Emerging Civil War series), and signing copies, as well.
ECWers have had a great run in the last two issues of
Civil War News
. In the October 2017 issue:
- Book reviewer Walt Abro lauded Ryan Quint’s Determined to Stand and Fight: The Battle of Monocacy as “well researched, exhaustively illustrated” and “an ideal introduction to someone new to the battle, and also a valuable companion guide for someone who wants a self-guided park tour.”
- Daniel T. Davis reviewed No Such Army Since the Days of Julius Caesar: Sherman’s Carolina’s Campaign from Fayetteville to Averasboro by Mark Smith and Wade Sokolosky.
- Chris Kolakowski reviewed The Cavalries at Stones River: An Analytical History by Dennis W. Belcher.
- Steve Davis discussed the classic American Heritage Short History of the Civil War.
In the November 2017 issue:
- The front-page article about “what’s hot in the world of Civil War books,” written by Marc Ramsey and Roger Semplak, gave ECW a great shout out: “The Emerging Civil War Series, published by Savas Beatie and edited by Chris Mackowski, is also an especially hot and popular growing batch of books right now.”
- Meg Groeling reviewed Women in the World of Frederick Douglass by Leigh Fought and The Extraordinary Life of Charles Pomeroy Stone: Soldier, Surveyor, Pasha, Engineer by Blaine Lamb.
- Book reviewer Lawrence Peterson called Dave Powell’s Battle Above the Clouds: Lifting the Siege of Chatanooga and the Battle of Lookout Mountain “another excellent addition to the Emerging Civil War Series and will be a helpful quick reference source for anyone interested in this battle. Powell’s writing makes the historic events easily readable and understood.”
- Steve Davis provided an overview of Bell Wiley and McCowat-Mercer Press.
- Brian Matthew Jordan reviewed American Ulysses: A Life of Ulysses S. Grant.
- Reviewer Robert Jenkins, Sr., offered lengthy reviews of Steve Davis’s two-volume treatment of the Atlanta Campaign, A Long and Bloody Task and All the Fighting They Want.
Sarah Kay Bierle
worked with historians in the National Park Service as she
researched American lighthouses, 19th Century maritime trade, whaling, blockade runners, and the Civil War's effects on the maritime industries and communities. Her new historical novel
presents an image of life for a lighthouse keeper's daughter in the years immediately following the Civil War.
Set in 1867, this historical novel follows Susan Rose Arnold—a lighthouse keeper’s daughter—as she discovers the Civil War’s effects which cast dark shadows two years after the conflict ended. Will the war’s secrets and loyalties tear her family apart…or draw them closer together?
Signed copies of the book are available through her online store at her website,
16th: Dave Powell, “Generals Hill and McCook at Chickamauga,” Cincinnati Civil War Round Table, Cincinnati, OH
18th: Chris Mackowski, “A Monumental Discussion,” North Carolina Civil War Roundtable, Burlington, NC