Civil War History Radio Show Seeks Participation

BackStory ( is a nationally aired public radio show that brings historical perspective to the events happening around us today. On each show, the U.S. historians Ed Ayers, Peter Onuf, and Brian Balogh tear a topic from the headlines and plumb its historical depths.

As part of its three-part Civil War Sesquicentennial series, BackStory is planning a show made up entirely of listener questions! 150 years after the fall of Fort Sumter, are there things about the conflict that still interest you? Tens of thousands of books have been written on the subject, but what makes the Civil War relevant to us today, in 2011? Has America’s involvement in recent wars been shaped by lessons from the Civil War? Should it be? How have Americans understood the Civil War in earlier generations, and how have historians’ interpretations of it changed over time? And finally — in what ways might discussion about the Civil War benefit from the BackStory “trans-century” approach?

Being a caller is really simple and takes about 15 minutes; it’s pre-taped, low-pressure, and a lot of fun! If you are interested in participating as a caller and posing a Civil War question to the History Guys, either email producer Catherine Moore ( or leave a comment on Civil War Call-In Show page ( We look forward to hearing from you!

Considering the top Civil War books written

Hats off to fellow scholar and blogger Bill Caraher for letting me know about this article from By the way, if you are even remotely interested in the ancient world and/or archaeology, check out his blog and follow him on Twitter.

The Salon article deals with the sesquicentennial of the Civil War and encourages buffs of the conflict to read a book a month for the next year and offers a list of the top 12 books on the war. I found the selections rather telling, as many were works of popular history. However, three stood out as strong works that have great influence on the historiography of the war. Among them are David Blight’s Race and Reunion, Drew Gilpin Faust’s This Republic of Suffering, and James McPherson’s Battle Cry of Freedom, all are hard-hitting monographs. The interesting observation, which Bill posed to me in a question, was that Bruce Catton’s A Stillness at Appomattox landed at number one on the list. Some may wonder, why Catton?

I believe that this is an interesting placement, and am surprised that Shelby Foote did not make the list. Catton produced some great works on the war and are deserving of high placement on must read lists. He wrote around the time of the centennial of the war and still resonates within the literature. While I generally agree with the list, I am left wondering how professional historians would alter this list. So, I leave fellow scholars with a challenge that I will also dwell upon and post. What twelve books should folks interested in the war read each month over the next year?

I hope you have all had a Merry Christmas and Happy Holiday season and I wish you all a Happy New Year. Until next time, keep researching and writing.

A new blog and new journal for 2011

As I mentioned in my last post, Brooks Simpson, has chosen to leave the group at Civil Warriors to pursue personal and professional projects. He has started his own blog up, called Crossroads, which is linked in the sidebar as well. I look forward to seeing what he produces in the coming months. His posting on the Dakota uprising that occurred in 1862-3, is particularly interesting to me given that I live in North Dakota and am within a couple of hours drive of sites associated with that conflict.

In addition to this new blog, a new journal will make its début in March. The University of North Carolina Press will publish The Journal of the Civil War Era, which will become the flagship journal of the Society of Civil War Historians. I look forward to seeing what this journal offers in terms of new directions on the war and the overall period surrounding it. I urge anyone with an interest in the conflict to consider subscribing to the journal and joining the Society.

All in all, 2011 will be a great year for Civil War studies, as we begin in earnest the 150th anniversary of secession, which will ignite some feelings, the anniversary of the Confederacy’s creation, Lincoln’s first inauguration, Bull Run, Wilson’s Creek, etc. I hope to attend a couple major reenacting events in Missouri this coming year, but we’ll see. I have a couple of items to finish this semester before I head to Illinois for Christmas, but I will attempt to remember to post later this month on South Carolina’s secession. Until next time, keep researching and studying.

Update on Grierson Days

About three years ago, I posted my visit to Grierson Days, which is held each June in Jacksonville, IL. Jacksonville is where I attended college before journeying to North Dakota to begin graduate school, so I stop there every so often when I come home to visit the folks. Well, after that post, Mr. Ron Gray, who coordinated the event, commented on the post, which resulted in a second post on the subject due to the passage of time. My main issue in the first post was the announcing during the battle reenactment, which amplified the weaponry used and, according to my father, historically inaccurate. I conceded that I wrote the first post in the heat of the moment, but was looking forward to see how they did this year when I went up on June 19.

Well, I was pleased, as there was no announcing during the battle. Rather, one of the reenactors announced before the battle, briefly explaining the three main branches of the army that would be seen that day. Though simpler than three years ago, I will say it was better than having the weapons amplified through a public address system. I also took many photos that I will upload later this week. Having been to my first reenacting event in May, I came to this event with a greater appreciation for what the guys participating go through (especially since a line of strong storms went through the area around midnight and did a bit of damage to some of their tents). Overall, I commend the Grierson Society for their work and improving the event. Had it not been so hot that weekend and had their not been (as I heard) competing events, I believe the event would have had even better attendance and participation.

On a side note to my readers, I want to apologize for the lack of content lately. I am sure this is evidenced by a drop in stats. I thank you for your support and want to let you know that I expect some new content in the coming months, as I will be finishing several book reviews for publication and freelance to this site. In addition, I also put my name into consideration to write a sesquicentennial history of one of the campaigns of the US Army in the war for the US Army Center of Military History, so wish me luck and I will keep you updated on that.