Maryland native Phill Greenwalt is a National Park Service supervisor currently stationed in the Everglades, but he’s worked at George Washington Birthplace and Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park. With Rob Orrison, he’s co-founder of ECW’s sister site,
Emerging Revolutionary War
Is there a lot of Civil War history in the Everglades? If not, how’d you end up down there? You make someone mad at you?
Yes, to the last question, of course. ;-) No, in all seriousness, there are opportunities within the National Park Service to expand your knowledge, take on new and unique challenges, and grow in your career. The position I have now at Everglades National Park presented me with the chance to do all three of those things. I’m embracing a new challenge to grow within the Park Service, and hopefully one day I’ll come back to a more cultural history-centric park.
There is some Civil War history in the immediate area, though: Stephen Mallory surveyed part of the Everglades. Dry Tortugas National Park is mostly Fort Jefferson, which was one of three forts not captured by the Confederates in the South that were installations prior to the conflict. There is also a bit of Seminole Wars, World War II, and Cold War History down here. There are also a lot of connections to the Civil War throughout the state to explore—one just has to look.
You have a background in both Civil War history and Revolutionary War-era history. Do you see a connection between those two periods?
Absolutely. Paraphrasing the historian John Buchanan, the “Civil War was just unfinished business left over from the American Revolution.”
The fighting that erupted in the Southern colonies during the Revolutionary War was a “civil war” within the larger conflict. The questions left from the war and the peace that followed reverberated through the decades until war erupted again in 1861. What’s poignant is that there were still veterans alive in 1861 that fought in the American Revolution. What were their thoughts, seeing a county they had bled, froze, starved, and suffered for torn asunder within their lifetime?
Also, there is a reason a lot of history classes in college are titled “United States History to 1865” as the split between the two halves of the country’s history. Many Southerners called the Civil War the “Second American Revolution,” as they thought the ideals they were fighting for were akin to what their forefathers fought for. For the North, men joined to “Save the Union” that their own forefathers strived for.
To fully cement the two periods together, look at the “Battle of Baltimore”—the April 19, 1861, riots that caused the deaths of a few members of the 6th Massachusetts Infantry and a few citizens of Baltimore. The action happened on the 86th anniversary of the battles of Lexington and Concord and, interestingly, the men from the 6th Mass hailed from those two towns. These boys had grown up cloaked in the history of the Revolution. What an interesting connection there!
Each era must present its unique challenges and rewards when it comes to writing about them. What’s the biggest challenge and biggest reward for you?
If one peruses Amazon online or in-store at Barnes & Noble, you are bound to come across diaries, memoirs, autobiographies, and reminiscences from common soldiers to general officers in the Civil War. For the Revolution, primary sources for the rank-and-file are fewer and require more digging. Obviously, a few factors play into that: more soldiers fought in the Civil War than the American Revolution, there was a more literate population, and it’s closer to modern times so easier to capture memories on paper. But, constructing the history from the “bottom-up,” meaning from the common soldier, is more difficult.
But, that leads to the rewarding part: when you do you find those accounts, you can peer back through the passage of time and find out what life was like in the Continental Army or as a loyalist in the Southern colonies, for two examples. For me, the collection of personal accounts from the general population helps fill in the picture and gives a lens to look into their world.
Tell us more about Emerging Revolutionary War.
Emerging Revolutionary War
was crafted out of
Emerging Civil War
back in 2014, starting with “Rev. War Wednesday” posts. Then it grew into its own blog in 2015. We have embarked on providing the same public history forum that has made
Emerging Civil War
so popular. We have a few of the same authors who provide great posts and insights, and we’ve uncovered some great new talent to add to the group.
Our goal is to provide a portal into the Revolutionary War era, from the French and Indian War through the War of 1812—and from there, enthusiasm, understanding, and interest can grow. We look for posts that run the gambit from military to political to economic to social, from reenacting to book reviews and preservation. We also sprinkle in places that are preserved and beckoning for you to visit during your travels. Check us out at www.emergingrevolutionarywar.org!
What are your plans for ERW in the short-term future?
Our short-terms plans are to continue to provide content on the blog and grow the interest for the Revolutionary era. Also, we have our first two publications in the
Emerging Revolutionary War Series
scheduled for release in early 2018. They are:
- Victory or Death, The Battles of Trenton and Princeton, December 25, 1776 – January 3, 1777 by Mark Maloy
- A Single Blow, The Battles of Lexington and Concord and the Beginning of the American Revolution, April 19, 1775 by Phillip S. Greenwalt and Rob Orrison
A few other titles are currently in the works, as well, so stay tuned to the blog!
Who’s the most overrated person of the Civil War era?
What’s your favorite Trans-Mississippi site?
I’ve not been to many. Galveston, New Orleans, and a bit of the Red River Campaign is all I’ve seen, so far. On the bucket list, though, is Glorieta Pass, Valverde, and the sites related to Sibley’s 1862 campaign.
What’s your favorite regiment?
1st Maryland or 2nd Florida
What’s one Civil War book you would recommend as indispensable?
To not copy some of the previous months’ picks, I am going to say
1861: The Civil War Awakening
by Adam Goodheart. If I get a second,
This Republic of Suffering
by Drew Gilpin Faust or
What this Cruel War Was Over
by Chandra Manning. Okay, that’s three—oops!
What’s one question about the Civil War no one’s asked you but you wish they would?
What was it like for the men of Robert E. Lee’s Army of Northern Virginia—or any Southern armies—the day after the surrender was final? After all those months and years of service, what went through their minds as they faced their first day outside the confines of the Confederate army?