December 2022 Newsletter

From the Editor

I write this on the evening of the longest night of the year. By the time you read it, Christmas will have passed and the Hanukah lights will have been extinguished. The fat, lazy week between Christmas and the New Year will be unspooling—hopefully at a leisurely rate for you—and we’ll either be planning for our New Year’s resolutions or willfully harrumphing them away as nonsense.

One hundred and sixty years ago, Abraham Lincoln eyed the New Year with trepidation. The final Emancipation Proclamation was slated to go into effect, yet his armies had done nothing to pave the way for a firm roll-out. Ambrose Burnside’s Army of the Potomac was embarrassed at Fredericksburg, Virginia, and William T. Sherman’s forces were quickly repulsed at Chickasaw Bayou, Mississippi. In central Tennessee, Confederate forces were converging on William Rosecrans’s Army of the Cumberland.

At stake was what Lincoln later called “a new birth of freedom,” not just for the millions of men, women, and children in bondage but for the survival of the entire nation with a renewed purpose.

When I think of New Year’s resolutions, I think of that same sense of renewed purpose they represent. It is for us to be rededicated to whatever task remains before us.

Yes, I realize I’m mixing my Lincoln writings here, but of course, he saw a clear through-thread between them, and so should we. The New Year lies ahead, and as we approach it, we control our own destiny more than we sometimes recognize, through our sense of purpose and resolve. It offers us an opportunity to make ourselves better and, as it did for Lincoln 160 years ago, it offers us an opportunity to make the world better.

I wish you all the best for the New Year ahead. Maybe it be full of warm hearts, good health, and plentiful opportunities for all of us to make the world a brighter place.

— Chris Mackowski, Ph.D.

Editor-in-Chief, Emerging Civil War

Ninth Annual Emerging

Civil War Symposium at Stevenson Ridge

We’ve announced Timothy B. Smith as our keynote speaker for the Ninth Annual Emerging Civil War Symposium, but in January, we’ll start rolling out the full list of speakers and their topics. This year’s event, August 4-6, 2023, is themed “1863: The Great Task Before Us.”

You can still purchase tickets at the early bird price of $200 each before December 31, and then when the calendar flips to 2023, tickets go up to the full price of $225. For tickets, or for more information, visit our Symposium page.

ECW News and Notes

The Midwest Book Review gave a strong thumbs up to the latest title in the Emerging Civil War 10th Anniversary Series, Civil War Monuments and Memory. The review described the book thus: “Unique, special, and unreservedly recommended compendium of erudite, informative, and insightful articles by experts in their fields, Civil War Monuments and Memory: Favorite Stories and Fresh Perspectives from the Historians at Emerging Civil War must be considered a core addition to professional, community, and academic library American Civil War collections.” You can read the full review here.


For the 160th anniversary of the battle of Fredericksburg, the American Battlefield Trust featured a series on “on location” videos on YouTube and Facebook Live—with content by ECW’s Kris White, Sarah Kay Bierle, Dan Davis, and Chris Mackowski (pictured above). You can watch the full playlist here.


The fall semester has wound down and all the final papers and essays are finished and graded for Neil Chatelain. Now to catch up on some of the stack of books that need reading. On the research and writing side of things, Neil had a small article published in the October 2022 issue of North & South magazine titled "Emelius W. Fuller: The King of the Swamp."


Bert Dunkerly, Doug Crenshaw, and fellow battlefielder Bob Talbot visited Fredericksburg recently, exploring Chatham, Ferry Farm, and historic sites downtown. Bert also assisted Fredericksburg/Spotsylvania National Military Park with artillery demonstrations during the park's anniversary event. Despite being visited by Bert twice within a week's time, the town still stands. Bert and Doug also recently discussed Civil War Richmond at an American Civil War Center function, and Bert has been busy promoting his Emerging Rev War book, Unhappy Catastrophes, and his new Explorer's Guide to America's Revolutionary War in his travels.


From Meg Groeling: “The halls are decked here in Hollister, and every cat has his or her own bandana to celebrate the holidays. It has been such a nice year overall—a few hiccups, but so much better than COVID. At least no one has suggested we all do ECW Trading Cards for Christmas—maybe Hallowe'en? EEEK!! Love to all, and I hope to see some of you this coming year.”


From Frank Jastrzembski and his work with Shrouded Veterans: “Veteran headstones were placed for Col. John Wesley Horner (18th Michigan Infantry) at Osawatomie State Hospital Cemetery in Osawatomie, Kansas, and Col. Ambrose Stevens (123rd New York Infantry and 176th New York Infantry) at Batavia Cemetery in Batavia, New York. Both graves were unmarked. Horner died while a patient at the Kansas insane asylum in 1874 and was buried on the hospital’s grounds. Patients buried at the cemetery are only identified by their patient numbers. Horner is now the exception.”


Chris Kolakowski recently spoke on his Burma book to the Consortium of Indo-Pacific Researchers. Video is here.


From Brian Matthew Jordan: “In December, I delivered talks to California's Civil Warriors Round Table, as well as the Houston Civil War Roundtable. I also contributed to The Civil War Monitor's ‘Best Books of 2022’ feature (alongside fellow ECWer Cecily Zander). I'm looking forward to a busy 2023!”


Tim Talbott enjoyed a return visit to Pamplin Historical Park and the National Museum of the Civil War Soldier in Petersburg, Virginia, to share about soldiers captured during the Petersburg Campaign to the Petersburg Civil War Roundtable on December 1.

Five Questions . . . with ECW's New Website!

This month, we’re going to focus our “Five Questions” on the new ECW website, which launched in early December. To answer those questions, we welcome Managing Editor Sarah Kay Bierle, who oversaw the website transition and who oversees day-to-day operations on the blog. (And, yes, there are seven “Five Questions” here—we’re writers, not mathematicians! [well, except for Meg Groeling. She is, legit, a mathematician....])

What prompted the website redesign? 

We’ve been talking about a platform update and “new look” for several years—actually for about as long as the real Civil War lasted. 2022 was the year that the funding, the design team, and the vision all aligned for a charge into the future. There were two main reasons to update the site.


First, it’s not a good feeling whenever you have to run tech updates on a website platform and you keep wondering when the system in use will no longer be supported and the digital empire will crash.


Second, the website appearance just wasn’t “emerging” anymore. It was top-notch for 2011, but blogging has changed and website design has evolved for better visuals and web experience. To say it nicely, the ECW website looked outdated. There was always fresh content, but not a new presentation. It was time to reclaim “emerging” with a new website look!


Any inspiration for the new look?

I wanted something clean, modern, classic (not trendy). Blogging isn’t what it used to be ten years ago, but ECW has remained a strong and growing blog with usually daily content and an ever-expanding readership. We knew we were going to keep creating great content, but instead of the “blog look,” I dreamed of an online magazine appearance, with “featured” and “most recent” articles at the top. We also wanted more ways to highlight pages and our contributors. We looked around at other websites to see what things we liked and what we hated. We kept user experience for both our writers and readers first in mind. It totally made my day when one of our members called me after the new website launch and said, “My husband says it looks like an online magazine.” Mission accomplished.


Did YOU design the website?

Oh no. Chris Mackowski and I had long talks about how to go about getting a new look for the website. We concluded that our history skills and writing skills are better than our website design skills. There would have been too many late nights and probably many tears on my part if we attempted to do this level of design work “in camp.” Instead, we reached out to Childress Agency, a local, veteran-owned website design and marketing team in Fredericksburg. We had worked with their team in the past and loved the web research and concepts they brought to our early design meetings.


I acted as point-person for the project, but there were ECW team meetings about what we wanted and liked at every step of the process. This was a great example of the joy of paying the experts to be experts! We can be experts on chapters of history, but we were happy to be able to hire website design experts to create and guide us through the process.


Day-to-day changes and blog posting remains “in camp” at ECW, same as usual. Kudos to our team of all-volunteer editors who have rolled with changes to some of our processes behind the scenes over the last few weeks.


What are some of the new features you especially like? 

I’m really liking the pages for our contributors. The design is so much cleaner with their photos and bios prominently featured! (Although I’m still figuring out how to get those author photos centered. Ugh. Believe me, I’ve spent a few hours on it already and clearly have a little more adjusting to do.) I’m also a huge fan of the home page. It’s easier to navigate and find things other than new blog posts. Oh, and check out the ECW Podcast page. It’s 100 times easier to find new and previous episodes.


How will the new design make it easier for readers to access the archives? 

We’re improving the search function for the website! It is also a lot easier to browse the archives by categories. For example, are you just looking for medical blog posts? (see image, below) Select “Medical” in the category filter and you’re set for reading material not recommended to be read with spaghetti dinner. We’re not making a claim that the archives are anywhere near perfect yet, but at least they are getting easier to navigate, and we’re thinking about some other ways to improve accessibility in the coming months and years. As with most technical improvements, it’s a process, and volunteers can’t get it all done overnight.


Are there still bugs you’re working out? 

Yes. Of course. ECW has more than 7,000 blog posts already published and a couple hundred pages. Any time changes are made to a website of this size, there will be glitches. However, I can say that thanks to the skill and responsiveness of the team at Childress Agency, the issues have been minimal and most have been easily resolved. We’ve also had a lot of help from our writers who have found minor issues that we’ve been able to quickly correct or at least start exploring solutions.


While I’m answering this question, we’re still working through some challenges with our comments section and figuring out how to reformat pictures and block quotes. And in the process of checking pages, there are a hundred little areas that need content updates—missing Oxford comma, wrong date, new books to be added, etc. etc. The fun of website/blog editing is that the job never really ends. There will always be something. However, I’m incredibly thankful that the overall process for the website design and launch has been smooth and unexpectedly easy! 


Have you celebrated the new site yet?

Personally, no—not at this time of writing. I still have a list of tech bugs to deal with, and I’ve had a nagging concern that if I celebrated too soon, something would go wrong and the whole site would crash. I will be celebrating with ice cream, though! Maybe on New Year’s Eve? And I think there should be a celebration moment when the ECW crew gets together later in the winter. The “emerging” site is a milestone moment and an achievement we can all be proud of. 

ECW Multimedia

On the Emerging Civil War Podcast in December:


·     Historian Jill Ogline Titus talked about her recent book, Gettysburg 1963, offering a look at Civil Rights, Cold War politics, and historical memory in America's most famous small town.


·     ECW’s Sean Michael Chick talked about the December 1864 battle of Nashville, Tennessee, and his forthcoming Emerging Civil War Series book on the battle, They Came Only to Die.


·     Darren "Daz" Rawlings of the U.S. Civil War &. U.K. History site joined ECW’s Chris Mackowski for an across-the-Pond catch-up.


The Emerging Civil War Podcast is available through Spotify, Apple Podcasts, and wherever fine podcasts are available. You can also subscribe to our podcast through Patreon, where we are now also offering exclusive bonus content for subscribers. That’s just $3.99/month, and proceeds go toward defraying the production costs of the podcast.

In December, for Patreon-only content, we spoke with Greg Wade of the Franklin Civil War Roundtable (pictured) about the December 17, 1864, retreat of the Confederate Army of Tennessee following its loss at Nashville. The retreat brought the armies back to Franklin, still reeling from the battle there on November 30.

On the ECW YouTube page, we featured video versions of our discussions with Jill Ogline Titus, Sean Michael Chick, and Darren “Daz” Rawlings. We also:

·     Explored the store Civil War and More in Mechanicsburg, PA, for some Civil War-related holiday ideas.

·     Talked about the aftermath of the battle of Fredericksburg

You Can Help Support ECW!

Emerging Civil War is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization. If you’re interested in supporting “emerging voices” by making a tax-deductible donation, you can do so by you can do so by visiting our website:; you can mail us a check at the address below (make checks payable to "Emerging Civil War"); or you can make a gift through PayPal.


Thank you!

Emerging Civil War |

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